by Glen Buckley
The concept of a Club Director of Coaching [DOC] is not original or new.
In the 1980’s, some of the bigger youth Clubs around the country started hiring full-time coaches and so the position of a club Director of Coaching was born. With every passing year, more and more clubs decided to hire a paid Director of Coaching. A couple of examples. In Georgia in 1993 there were 3 or 4 full-time DOC’s , by the year 2000 the number had swelled to 25 full time DOC’s. In Minnesota, in 1994 there were none, in 2000 the number is approaching 30 full time club DOC’s. In addition to these numbers many are employing assistants to the DOC’s also on a full time basis. The trend to employ qualified professional coaches to run the coaching programs in youth soccer is very encouraging. Every club should seriously consider hiring a full time DOC. The obvious main hurdle to overcome for most clubs is how to raise the money for a full time DOC. Before dealing with the financial issues , let’s look at the benefits of having a club DOC as well as the possible duties of such a position.
Why hire professional coaches ? It is a given that most of the player development takes place at the club level since that is where the majority of players play most of their soccer. The vast majority of youth coaches are volunteers with bundles of enthusiasm and the best of intentions. These volunteer coaches form the backbone of our youth clubs and are absolutely necessary for youth soccer to exist and flourish. However, most of these volunteers lack a strong soccer background and need professional guidance from experts in the area of player development. This is where the DOC can play a vital role. Also , once the potential talent has reached the top select levels most of the volunteer coaches can no longer challenge them. These players need to be exposed to a higher level of coaching in order for them to realize their potential. Put simply, the task of the club DOC would be to educate the coaches at the recreational and intermediate [developmental] levels and to bring in and train professional coaches for the top select levels.
This will increase the skill levels within the club. Without a qualified professional coach at the club level, the players opportunities to reach their full potential will be lessened. Youth coaches need continuing education that a DOC can provide. State Coaching licenses are an important first step in the coach education chain. These courses , for most, are a one time deal. Just as players need role models to emulate the same is true for coaches. The DOC can stimulate, encourage and inspire the volunteer coaches to seek more knowledge.
The advantages of having the volunteer coaches observe quality coaching is hard to measure, but is invaluable. A club DOC will raise standards and set new and higher goals for both coaches and players alike. Clubs will also be able to retain their better players, who in the absence of a DOC, will be more likely to migrate to other clubs that do have a DOC.
As youth soccer participation grows and soccer becomes more established, multi tiered and, therefore, more sophisticated, clubs boards spend more time discussing and arguing over myriad technical issues. Issues such as, how to organize tryouts; how to draft players; how to set coaching selection criteria; should players play up; should the club have a common playing system; which tournaments and how many; what should the training priorities of each age group be; the list goes on and on. These thorny subjects have caused many rifts in board rooms and been the major cause of splinter groups leaving to form clubs of their own. This sets up unhealthy rivalries within the same community. A club DOC can not only provide the expertise to deal with such issues, but just as importantly, act as the objective professional who is assigned to deal with the issues with the absence of any personal agendas.
To Summarize, hiring a professional DOC will raise standards of instruction given to the players and coaches. It will ensure that the coaching will be taken seriously and that there will be someone held accountable for the services. Hiring a DOC will signal the first steps toward achieving excellence.
Some of the duties the club DOC could fulfill are :
Design a set of coaches selection criteria and hire all team coaches.
Design a coaches code of conduct.
Monitor team coaches, help them plan and implement sessions.
Design a continuing education plan for all club coaches.
Administer and instruct state coaching licenses.
Conduct club coaching clinics on a regular basis.
Design manuals for the team coaches.
Bring experts such as state , regional and national staff coaches to present clinics.
Bring in experts in other fields. Sports Science, nutrition fitness etc.
Bring referee instructors to educate coaches and parents.
Act as the liaison between club and state director of coaching.
Create a club Library, books, videos, manuals etc.
Create seasonal plans to help coaches create their own.
Design and administer club tryouts.
Select and coach the top premiere team in Two genders.
Design format for recreational program, players on field 3v3 etc.
Design training priorities per age group.
Organize supplementary skill clinics and camps.
Design a Center of Excellence program for top players.
Alert State and regional staff of potential players in your club.
Design players and parents code of conduct.
Create team travel policy that will address logistical, supervision and behavior issues while traveling to tournaments.
Assist club in implementing a Risk Management policy.
Educate players and parents about other playing opportunities beyond the club such as ODP, and encourage the best players to try out for ODP.
Design an evaluation/feedback process that guides coaches in how and when to provide feedback to the players.
Create a college recruiting information program
Design a Parent education program.
Report to a Coaching committee, and assist with its duties.
Report to the club board and attend meetings.
Promote the club within the community.
Represent the club at state, regional and national workshops.
It is important to mention the duties that were NOT listed above. Duties such as maintaining the fields and facilities, cutting grass, scheduling fields and referees, lining fields, administering fund raising events \ directing tournaments etc. These were excluded for a reason. In many clubs the DOC will be the only full time employee, and so it is tempting to pass on these administrative tasks to the full time employee. After all he/she is paid to work for the club and is always available while everyone else is a volunteer with a busy life. Many DOC’s will agree to take on these tasks to impress perspective employees. Dumping these tasks on the DOC is not an effective way of utilizing their expertise. This is not to suggest that these tasks are below the DOC, but clubs must remember why they hired a DOC. The DOC should focus all his /her energy in coaching and player development fields.
As mentioned before, it is important for the club DOC to be in charge of all coaching and training aspects of ALL levels in the club. The recreational / in house programs should not be neglected. This does not mean they coach recreational teams. It means that the DOC should design the technical details of the recreational program, such as playing formats, coaching education, parent education and training priorities. The DOC can delegate the task of recruiting volunteer coaches to age group commissioners, but he/she must monitor those volunteers and have the power to remove the unsuitable ones.
Another issue that normally arises is whether the DOC should coach a team. One thing for certain if the interviewed applicant is only concerned with coaching a few teams, they should be dropped from the process.
It is impossible for any one person to coach multiple teams and still have the energy left to carry out the rest of the DOC duties, however it would be a good idea for the DOC to coach one team, for a number of reasons.
Even experienced coaches never stop learning. For a coach to keep abreast of new coaching methods and continue his/her personal growth they need to constantly solve problems within the coaching cycle of training, observation and match analysis. Coaching a team will stimulate the DOC to challenge themselves as a coach. Good practical advise will be given to his/her coaches derived at from a hands on perspective from being in the trenches with the coaches. The DOC should be careful which team they choose to coach. Selecting the best team could lead to resentment from other coaches.
The DOC should be a role model and lead by example by projecting themselves as a team player, so they can demand the same from their staff.
The following qualifications should be considered when searching:
Possess a USSF A or B license or equivalent. A strong playing background is preferred but not always necessary. Candidates possessing the NSCAA License or foreign license should also be considered. Regardless of the license clubs should verify the license by calling USSF.
Possess the National Youth License. This is the latest license offered by USSF and is geared toward the U6 through U10 Coaches. The license is extremely beneficial to a club DOC as it is more effective than the traditional licenses in preparing age appropriate development opportunities for the youngest age groups.
Possess strong practical coaching experience at youth levels.
Demonstrate the ability to communicate with all young players of varying levelsfrom rec to premiere.
Possess strong practical playing ability at the professional, semi-professional and or College varsity level.
Possess strong interpersonal skills with solid written and oral communication skills.
Possess proven ability to influence adults and articulate concepts to large audiences.
Demonstrate leadership qualities.
Experience in instructing coaching courses to adults.
Possess integrity and follow morally and ethically sound standards.
Possess good organizational skills and administrative skills with good time management.
Have a dynamic personality with innovative ideas and strong motivational skills.
Possess a player development policy that is in line with the clubs mission statement.
Be responsible with a mature personality.
Committed to working non traditional hours, nights and weekends.
This now leaves one item to cover. How to raise the money to employ a DOC.
It is easier to raise the money if the club is whole- heartedly behind the project. Some club boards are not totally convinced there is value in hiring a paid coach when we have so many volunteers that are willing to coach for free. Undoubtedly, there are some board members who believe volunteering ones time to coach kids is a noble and worthy community service and. Therefore, regard paid coaches with suspicion. Hence the need for the club to convince itself and the membership of the need to hire a paid coach.
Over the past twenty years, Soccer coaching has evolved from mainly volunteer hobby based activity to a bona fide profession. Before any field of endeavor can rightfully gain the status of a PROFESSION, certain basic elements must exist within that field. Elements such as a formal Nationally recognized certification program with a standard testing procedure, a professional association, a governing body that monitors good standings. A code of ethics, an ethics and grievances hearing process and a demand for advanced knowledge in the field. All of these elements now exist for soccer coaching and, therefore, legitimize it as a profession. Coaching youth soccer is now a legitimate professional endeavor. Aspiring professional coaches spend a lifetime immersed in the game, obtaining licenses and becoming keen students of the game.
Qualified coaches have gone to great lengths to educate themselves and are now in a position to offer their knowledge for appropriate remuneration.
One would not expect lawyers, teachers or other professionals to offer their services for free, the same can be said for qualified coaches.
This is not to say that a volunteer can not do the job of a DOC. If a club is lucky enough to have a person with the required qualifications and that person is willing to do the job for free then they should grab that person with open arms. Reality says that such a person is very rare.
What is the going salary for a club DOC?
As of the year 2000, base salaries for full time youth coaches nationwide typically range from $28,00 to $45,000, depending on experience, size of club, and the local cost of living. Salaries for part time coaches vary from 6,000 to 20,000. In the case of full time coaches clubs must also remember to budget for employee benefits, such as medical and dental insurance as well as unemployment insurance and taxes. Other expenses associated with a coaching director could include travel, and an allocation for attendance at local and National symposiums and conventions. Large clubs of 700 to 1,000 players should be able to levy an additional fee to cover the DOC cost. For example a club with 1,000 travel players and 300 recreational players could raise $30,000 by charging rec players an additional $15, and travel players an additional $50 dollars. Charging more for travel reflects the difference between commitment levels of the two groups. Medium sized clubs could also levy an additional fee from the players, plus in order to allow the DOC to bring the wage to full time levels, allow the DOC to run camps for the club where the profit is shared on a pre determined scale, of say 60% – 40%.
Small sized clubs could combine the DOC duties with administrative duties. Small clubs could also join forces and each contribute to the salary, and the time divided between the two or three clubs, thus joining forces to form a bigger , stronger unified club, better able to pay the wages. Smaller clubs could allow the DOC , to be a paid coach for one of the teams adding to the income. The DOC could also work as an ODP Coach and become a state instructor for the local state association thus adding to his/her income. The club could also give the DOC 4 to 6 weeks off a year to search out other income opportunities. It is recommended that these extra earning opportunities are only done by the smaller clubs. It is not recommended to allow the DOC moonlighting with other clubs, as this could be construed as a conflict of interest.
Clubs who decide to hire a DOC can advertise both locally and nationally, some even advertise in Europe. Soccer America, Soccer Journal are good starting points. The State DOC can help in screening candidates.
How much authority should the DOC have ?
Many clubs have a problem with this. The boards are caught between the need to leave the technical matters to the technician and the reluctance to relinquish power. Clubs must remember why they hired the DOC in the first place. Which is to benefit from his technical expertise. If they second guess the DOC and restrict their power to do the job properly, what is the point of hiring a professional. The DOC should be given the authority to :
Hire and fire coaches with the approval of the coaching committee.
Organize the tryout process and have the final say on player placement.
Have the final say on player development issues such as players playing up, playing format, training priorities, implementing club wide coaching standards and policies.
Have a say on how many teams to register in any age group, based on the talent level available.
Directors of coaching who feel restricted in their capacity to perform their duties will lose the motivation to impact the program and just go through the motions, and eventually quit and go where they feel appreciated.
It goes without saying that clubs should do their homework and check the background of potential candidates. If they hire the wrong candidate it can cause long lasting damage to the club, and add fuel to the arguments of those that were initially opposed to the hiring of a full time coach. However the hiring of the correct person can have a long lasting effect on the many players that come in to contact with the DOC. The club can be shaped into a fun, safe developmentally correct environment where children are given the opportunity to excel in the greatest of all games: Soccer.