Win your first game in charge

Your first game in youth soccer can be terrifying with the weight of parents’ expectations hanging over a coach. Although every coach should know that winning isn’t everything in grassroots football, there’s no underestimating the confidence boost that winning your first game can bring. Make no mistake about it, even the guys at the top of the Premier League prepare thoroughly for their first game – and you should be too if you’re taking on a new team this season.

The most important thing for any new coach to do is to familiarise themselves with the players they have at their disposal as soon as possible. Work closely with them as a group, identifying the natural leaders, the game changers and the hardest working members of the squad.

Marcelo Bielsa in charge of Leeds Utd for the first time

If you have three or four leaders, bring them together and tell them you need them to help you out by setting an example and stress that while there will be only one named captain, they will all be performing a captain’s role.

Do the same for each group, emphasising how important their role is. Then, if you can, have a word with players individually. That will make each one feel like a vital cog in the team wheel, while at the same time allowing you to extract as much information about them as a player and a person as you can. Make sure the message you’re getting across is that you need them to help you by performing the best they can to win that first game.

Getting to know your team quickly isn’t easy to do but it is really worthwhile. Hopefully it also will have allowed you to project your own personality and establish a solid working relationship with all or most of your team. They will trust you, respect your authority, and know you are approachable.

If you can do all this before a competitive ball is kicked, half the battle has been won.


    > In all teams some players get on better with the coach than others. When you meet your new team, make it clear they all start equal.
    > Ask your players to tell you how they have been set up tactically in the past and explain any changes you are thinking of making.
    > Be aware of any cliques that have developed before you arrived and do what you can to deal with them as soon as possible.
    > Base your team selection on how players have performed since you arrived. Disregard reputations and reward players on merit.
    > Make sure your skipper is respected by the team and that the vast majority are happy with who you choose.
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