As a soccer coach, your bag of tricks doesn’t have to be huge, but it should be well-stocked
| 4 min read
Grassroots soccer coaches come in all stripes — from the comically underprepared, who show up empty-handed, still dressed from work, to the type A overachiever, toting six duffle bags full of gear, looking like they themselves are ready to step onto the field at the World Cup. We’re here to help you find a happy medium — prepared and ready for anything, but not over the top.
After all, this is youth soccer.
MOJO asked long-time youth soccer coach Mike Singleton about the gear you do and don’t need for the first practice.
Sure, your enthusiastic players will probably show up with their shiny new soccer balls, but it’s important to have a few extras in case anyone forgets. They don’t have to be fancy as long as they’re functional. Consider purchasing a netted ball bag to transport balls to and from practice without them rolling all over your car.
You can assemble a first aid kit from your bathroom closet, or buy a new one. Just make sure you have the following essentials for basic mishaps at practice:
“You should have this at every practice for your whole coaching career,” says Singleton.
A disc cone is like a pointy orange traffic cone… but smaller and flatter. Like a disc. Get it? Disc cones are pretty essential, in that they are used to create boundaries, small gates and goals.
Singleton recommends having at least 20 available, saying less than that may limit the types of activities and games you can do. Expect to pay about $10 for a set of 20 cones.
No, not the shiny coins in your wallet. Pinnies are practice jerseys that designate special players or groups for activities. These are used most often when scrimmaging. Singleton recommends six to 12 pinnies, based on how many players you have. “The days of shirts and skins are long passed,” he jokes. Make sure to pick youth sizes, not adult. A set of pinnies will set you back around $20.
Go ahead and assume a ball will go flat at some point this season. But don’t feel the need to haul your large pump out of your garage. Instead, Singleton recommends getting a small and handy pump with tiny tubes that fit into a backpack for practices. “They are really simple and about as big as a tube of toothpaste,” he says. If you are pumping up an entire bag of balls, do it at home before practice.
Choose athletic clothes that are comfortable and easy to move around in. Coaches don’t really need cleats, but rather comfortable athletic shoes.
And don’t forget your mask, which Singleton says has pretty much been expected on all practices and games he’s participated in since the pandemic started. “Coaches are typically recommended to keep masks on all the time, but some states don’t force them to,” he says.
Your phone should be on, working and with you at all times, not stashed in your car six fields away, Singleton says. Having it on your person or in your bag will be easiest in an emergency, such as an injury, or if someone’s running late for pickup. (Bonus: If you’re using MOJO, you’ve got it in the palm of your hand anyway.)
A whistle. You are not herding or corralling animals, Singleton says. Especially if you are working with younger kids, using your voice and their names is much more personal and effective than a shrill whistle, which can be as alarming as it is annoying. “If you are trying to make it fun and catch attention really quickly that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be used as a controller.”