Help Your Soccer Team Develop Bonds and Friendships

Soccer is best played amongst friends! - (Photo: Franklinmatters.org)

Especially at the youth level of soccer, it can be difficult for players to make friends with one another.  Often shy around the ages of 6 or 7, players sometimes haven’t really developed the social skills necessary to make good friends.  Nevertheless, as a soccer coach, you will definitely want to put the team into a position where they can really develop solid bonds and friendships amongst one another.  Not only will everyone have a greater enjoyment throughout the season when that is the case, but you will also see an improved product on the field that fights harder and cares more for one another.  Here are some tips that could help bring your soccer team together:

The name game – Most soccer coaches perform this ritual on the first day of practice to help ensure that everyone knows each other’s names, but with up to 20 players on a team, those names will get forgotten very quickly.  Knowing another’s name is the first step to ensuring that a friendship can develop.  As coach, you can greatly help your players out in this area.  Make sure you know everyone’s name and then continuously call them by their name throughout the season.  This way, the other players will constantly hear that person’s name and be able to eventually get their name sunk in.  Another bonus with this method is that the players will listen and respond to your direction more positively when they are called out by name!

Keep the team jovial – There’s nothing worse than youth soccer coaches who take themselves too seriously.  These are little kids, remember.  This isn’t World Cup qualification here, so there’s no need to put undue pressure on them to succeed.  Of course you want the players to score lots of goals and win games, but don’t let those aspirations get in the way of helping your players grow as sportsmen and individuals.

Organize team-building activities – A good way to get the friendly juices flowing is to organize a non-soccer related activity to help the players bond.  Perhaps after the 3rd week, surprise the kids with a postgame or post practice outing for ice cream.  Or you could organize a trip to watch the local high school or college soccer team!  What these events do is they let the players engage with one another in an activity not directly related to them playing soccer.  Many young players struggle to make friends on soccer teams because they are too focused on performing and become very competitive.  It is hard to develop meaningful relationships under such surroundings every day.  By taking the players out for some fun, they will bond with one another and can actually start getting to know one another.  This can be a wonderful experience and make the team start to click a lot better.

And so in many ways, your primary goal as a soccer coach needs to be fostering happy times and helping the players grow as people.  Part of that comes down to building valuable relationships, and by enabling the players to make friends, you will be aiding them as human beings.  So next time you suspect your players engaging in some jovial bantering during practice, let it flourish and develop into a friendship.  Chances are that your team will benefit as a whole as well!


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