How to choose a soccer assistant coach?

Do I even need an assistant coach?

Yes, you do! Every famous coach was once a soccer assistant coach and had assistants themselves. It is not a coincidence. The only way to truly reward the soccer coach is to transfer all the knowledge you have. However, you should also learn from them, as much as you can.

First of all, you are a human. You need somebody to keep you in check and make sure your biases are not driving the wrong decisions. I know a coach that was so biased towards big players. His tryouts could have been performed without a ball, just by measuring the height and weight of the players. Another coach hated when players appeared lazy. He wanted to not offer a spot to his best striker, and made up so many reasons why that should happen – confirmation bias at its best.

Secondly, you are a true coach if you coach another coach. You truly believe in the work that you do. Then you want your philosophies, about soccer and life to spread everywhere. As painful as it is, you might have to do it one by one. Coaching a player is very different from coaching a coach. However, it’s equally satisfying to see how the mind meld happens right in front of you.

Thirdly, you don’t want to do this alone. It is way more fun to work together with other coaches and can really make everything better. I have had many assistant coaches and I have been an assistant on occasions, and I can say that I consider all of them friends.

Factors in choosing an assistant

1. Do you like the person?

As simple as it is, the question here is if you like each other as human beings in order to work together. Otherwise, seeing them at every practice and game will make everything less pleasant and it will make you a worse coach. If the secret to work happiness is to do what you like with people you like, you have to hold both of them true. Don’t overlook it as a factor, in fact, we’re keeping it at the top of the list.

2. Does our view of soccer overlap enough that we can work together?

If you cheer for two rival clubs, that is not a deal breaker. However, if you insist on coaching tiki-taka with rondos and the other coach insists on a kick-and-run style of soccer, that will not end well. You need to have the same idea of what you want to teach your players and how you want them to play. Then sit down together and be crystal clear about the language to use to communicate that with them. If you use the same keywords with your players, at practices and at games, that will amplify the message. However, if you use a different language, it will just frustrate them.

3. Does the soccer assistant coach complement me in any way?

I was at a game where the opposing coach had two assistant coaches. Whenever the left back would get the ball, all three of them will scream “Mark!”. Whenever their striker will get the ball, they will all yell “Cory!”. It is not only that their chants were useless and ignored by the players, but also there was no value in having assistants if they don’t offer something different. Soccer-wise, the assistant might be better at coaching technical skills while I coach tactical skills. On the other hand, I might be more serious while he keeps a good atmosphere. That balance is important both for the parents and the players.

4. Do you have similar goals for the team?

They don’t have to perfectly align, but they have to be roughly the same. I once had a head coach of a team in my club that just wanted the kids to have fun and wanted practices to be at least 50% of the time just games. His assistant coach was a father who thought that his 8-year-old son should win every game that season or stop playing soccer forever. You can guess – it didn’t work out well.

5. Can this coach be a head coach one day?

This question is important for two reasons. Firstly, you might need to transition to doing other things, such as taking over another team. Several times coaches have not planned for succession and that has often resulted in either overcommitting to leading more teams than a coach can handle, or leaving the team in chaos and losing the best players by the end of the year. Secondly, if the other coach has the ambition and the potential to be a head coach, you should work with them to achieve that. At some practices or friendly matches, you take the role of an assistant.

Also, start thinking about who should take the assistant coach role of the team one day. It is unlikely that the assistant will leave if they are a parent of a player on the team and just became an assistant coach to coach their kid.

Selecting the right soccer assistant coach requires careful consideration and evaluation. Do it right and you will have a forever mentor-mentee relationship.