Coaching Future Champions

If you are looking at coaching future champions you need to know the best coaching processes for youth players in soccer. Read the full guide

Written By: Joshua Smith, MSc (High-Performance Manager)

The journey of youth players in any sport is filled with hope, dreams, and boundless potential. To unlock their true talents and guide them towards success, the role of coaching becomes paramount. Effective coaching is not just about developing technical skills, but it involves nurturing a player’s character, fostering a growth mindset, and cultivating a love for the game.

In this article, we will explore the critical role of the coaching process for youth players, emphasizing the SMART approach to coaching, which lays the foundation for their holistic development.

Football Soccer Match for Children. Kids Playing Soccer Game Tournament. Boys Running and Kicking Football. Youth Soccer Coach in the Background

Understanding the Importance of Coaching for Youth Players

Coaching plays a crucial role in shaping the overall experience of youth players in sports. At a young age, children are highly impressionable, and their experience with coaches can significantly impact their attitude towards the game, their teammates, and even themselves. A positive coaching environment can boost confidence, instil discipline, and encourage perseverance, creating a positive ripple effect that extends beyond the field (Preston et al., 2021).

Soccer Coaching Leaders Certificate

Key Components of the Coaching Process for Youth Players

  1. Player-centred Approach: A successful coaching process for youth players revolves around the individual needs and preferences of each athlete. Recognizing that every child is unique, coaches must tailor their strategies to cater to their players’ strengths and weaknesses, thus empowering them to reach their full potential (Davies, 2010; Preston et al., 2021).
  2. Skill Development: Fundamental technical skills are the building blocks of any successful athlete. A well-structured coaching process should focus on honing these skills through age-appropriate drills and exercises, ensuring gradual progress and improvement (Vaughan et al., 2021).
  3. Character Building: Coaching is not just about creating great athletes but also shaping remarkable individuals. By instilling core values such as sportsmanship, teamwork, and respect, coaches help youth players grow as responsible and respectable members of society (Bowles & O’Dwyer, 2020).
  4. Mental Conditioning: Youth players often face moments of doubt and anxiety. A good coaching process incorporates mental conditioning techniques to teach players how to handle pressure, setbacks, and stay focused during intense competition (Bell et al., 2013; Creasy et al., 2009).

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The SMART Approach to Coaching

The SMART approach is a proven and effective methodology for guiding the coaching process and goal-setting for youth players (Doran, G. T., 1981).

  1. Specific: Goals must be well-defined and tailored to the individual needs of each player. Coaches should avoid vague objectives and ensure that their players understand precisely what is expected of them.
  2. Measurable: Progress tracking is crucial for motivation and development. Coaches should set measurable milestones that allow players to track their improvements and celebrate their successes.
  3. Achievable: Goals should challenge the players while still being attainable. Unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and disappointment, hindering a player’s growth.
  4. Relevant: Goals should align with a player’s long-term objectives and the team’s overall strategy. This ensures that players are motivated and committed to achieving their targets.
  5. Time-bound: Establishing a timeframe for achieving goals creates a sense of urgency and accountability. Players are more likely to stay committed and focused when they have a clear deadline.

Young Soccer Players Holding Trophy. Boys Celebrating Soccer Football Championship. Winning team of sport tournament for kids children. Horizontal sport background.

The Role of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in the coaching process for youth players. Praising effort, improvement, and hard work rather than solely focusing on outcomes fosters a growth mindset. Constructive feedback, delivered in a supportive manner, helps players identify areas for improvement while maintaining their self-esteem (Smith et al., 1983; Smith & Smoll, 1997).

Building Trust and Communication

A successful coaching process relies on strong relationships between coaches and players. Trust and open communication lay the foundation for a healthy coach-player dynamic. Coaches should actively listen to their players, understand their concerns, and provide guidance and support when needed (Newin et al., 2008; Saavedra, 2013).

Junior football team stacking hands before a match


The role of the coaching process in nurturing young players is of paramount importance, and its impact cannot be overstated.

This transformative journey plays a crucial role in shaping aspiring athletes into responsible, skilled, and well-rounded individuals. To ensure the coaching journey is a resounding success, the implementation of the SMART approach is key.

This structured and effective method allows coaches to tailor their strategies to meet the unique needs of each player, paving the way for their growth and success. Embracing the SMART approach empowers coaches to guide future champions on their path to excellence, not only in sports but also in life.

By instilling essential values, such as discipline, teamwork, perseverance, and resilience, coaches contribute significantly to the holistic development of young athletes. These values extend far beyond the sports arena, equipping players with the tools they need to excel in their personal and professional lives.

The investment in youth development through coaching is an investment in the future of both sports and society.

As coaches dedicate themselves to nurturing the potential of young players, they sow the seeds for a brighter future. These young athletes carry the torch of sportsmanship, leadership, and character, positively impacting communities and inspiring generations to come.

As we recognize the profound impact of the coaching process on youth players, we reaffirm our commitment to fostering a nurturing and empowering environment for the next generation. By elevating coaching standards and embracing the SMART approach, we create a strong foundation for the growth of sports and the betterment of society as a whole.

Together, we pave the way for a future where the potential of every young athlete is unlocked, leading to a world filled with accomplished and morally grounded individuals.

Soccer Coaching Leaders Certificate

Whether you’re a seasoned senior coach, a dedicated parent, a grassroots coach, or a youth coach in an academy, you now have the opportunity to enhance your skills and knowledge from the comfort of your own home through our cutting-edge ISSPF online football coaching leaders course and ISSPF online sport & soccer science courses!

  • ISSPF serves as a premier international online coach education platform, catering to a diverse audience of coaches, students, parents, youth coaches, semi-professional, and elite-level soccer coaches. Our mission is to empower individuals to improve their coaching expertise, both in the scientific aspects of performance coaching and in their current coaching practices.
  • By enrolling in our online coaching certificate program, you’ll gain a foundational and engaging introduction to soccer practices, specifically tailored for youth players in a fun and safe environment.

Why is This Course so Important?

The Football Coaching Certificate, endorsed by ISSPF and several renowned universities and football associations globally, offers a contemporary approach to the essential skills necessary for coaching youth football.

The comprehensive course covers four key areas: the FUNdamental concepts of coaching, essential coaching process components and skills, exposure to a modern applied coaching structure, and an introduction to an integrated training approach.

Moreover, the program emphasizes the development of a positive coaching culture, player pathways, and the promotion of effective coaching sessions.

What to Expect from the COurse

  • Learn methods and practices that create a fun and safe environment for young players.
  • Gain the ability to motivate and facilitate growth in others.
  • Organize engaging and skill-building games.
  • Acquire knowledge of the basics of FUNdamentals in soccer.
  • Prepare effectively for matches, including warm-up routines.
  • Manage player expectations and create a positive learning atmosphere.
  • Explore various formats of competition and their practical application.
  • Develop players using fundamental coaching principles.

The Soccer Coaching Certificate, endorsed and accredited, shares a similar commitment to excellence, catering specifically to those involved in coaching youth soccer. Alongside the previously mentioned areas, this program also focuses on developing a coaching culture, player development pathways, and conducting effective and holistic coaching sessions.

How Can You Benefit from the Course?

  • Coaches, parents, students, and learners responsible for training and coaching youth team sports.
  • Individuals interested in expanding their knowledge of preparation, training, and development of youth team sports.

Invest in your coaching journey today with ISSPF’s online courses and unlock your potential to make a lasting impact on the players you guide and mentor.

Soccer Coaching Leaders Certificate

What Does This Course Cover?

Outline of the Soccer Coaching Leaders course:

Module 1: Fundamentals & introduction to coaching
Lecturer: David Baird (Scotland) Scottish Football Association

Module 2: Coaching Process – Part 1
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen (Wales) Lech Poznań, England Football Association

Module 3: Training the Game: A modern youth academy training structure
Lecturer: Mirko Mazzantini (Italy) ACF Fiorentina

Module 4: Coaching Process – Part 2
Lecturer: Dr. Adam Owen (Wales) Lech Poznań, England Football Association

Module 5: Coaching FUNdamentals within small-sided games (SSGs)
Lecturer: Dr. Ashley Allanson (England)

Module 6: Integrated Training: A new approach
Lecturer: Efthymios Kyprianou (Cyprus) Aspire Academy, Qatar

References (click + to expand)


Bell, J. J., Hardy, L., & Beattie, S. (2013). Enhancing mental toughness and performance under pressure in elite young cricketers: A 2-year longitudinal intervention. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 2(4), 281–297.

Bowles, R., & O’Dwyer, A. (2020). Athlete-centred coaching: Perspectives from the sideline. Sports Coaching Review, 9(3), 231–252.

Creasy, J. W., Rearick, M., Buriak, J., & Wright, L. (2009). Are You Coaching Mental Skills? Why Not? The Virginia Journal, 30(2), 13.

Davies, N. (2010). Player-Centered Coaching: Enhancing Player Game Sense. Strategies, 24(2), 24–28.

Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management Review, 70, 35–36.

Newin, J., Bloom, G. A., & Loughead, T. M. (2008). Youth Ice Hockey Coaches’ Perceptions of a Team-Building Intervention Program. The Sport Psychologist, 22(1), 54–72.

Preston, C., Allan, V., & Fraser-Thomas, J. (2021). Facilitating Positive Youth Development in Elite Youth Hockey: Exploring Coaches’ Capabilities, Opportunities, and Motivations. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 33(3), 302–320.

Saavedra, L. K. (2013). Effective Team Building: The Role of Coaches. Strategies, 26(4), 3–6.

Smith, R. E., & Smoll, F. L. (1997). Coach-mediated team building in youth sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 9(1), 114–132.

Smith, R. E., Zane, N. W. S., Smoll, F. L., & Coppel, D. B. (1983). Behavioral assessment in youth sports: Coaching behaviors and children??s attitudes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 15(3), 208???214.

Vaughan, J., Mallett, C. J., Potrac, P., López-Felip, M. A., & Davids, K. (2021). Football, Culture, Skill Development and Sport Coaching: Extending Ecological Approaches in Athlete Development Using the Skilled Intentionality Framework. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 635420.

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