Guidelines for Coaches


Welcome to another DIFL season!

Like every year, it's about our kids having fun, learning to play together, getting to know one another, competing to win, learning how to deal with defeat and, learning to love football. Your attitude sets the scene. We've never been a win-at-all-costs tournament, but neither do we deny the competitive urge, particularly of the older children. How you manage this balance will be reflected in how the team plays and their attitude on the pitch.

The below content outlines detailed guidelines for coaches in DIFL.  Please see the concise Job Description for Coaches as well.

The coaching manual

You'll be given a coaching manual. We suggest you take it seriously. If you can recommend a better one then please do so. DIFL is built by input like this. Help us improve.

  • Leadership

    You set the scene. Be sure to turn up yourself. The kids will follow your lead. If you don't show up, or if you arrive late, we can't demand differently of the kids. Be positive; use positive reinforcement. Check out our website for additional coaching skills. Remember the children are watching you. What you say and do, are important.

  • Training

    Make sure your team players know where the training and the matches will be and at what time. Get to know the players; see they're reminded. Try to encourage a good turn out. Turn out at training depends, to a large extent, on whether the players find it useful and stimulating. Come prepared. Go back to that coaching manual. Plan how to get their attention. Plan your drills. Think about the right balance of training and playing. Make sure they leave feeling great. Turning up and getting ready Be in weekly email contact with the Team Manager and your team. Make a note of late-comers. Note too the "leaders", those who inspire others. Telephone them to make sure they know where they're supposed to be. Make sure the team knows when their games are, and where, and at what time kick off is, and what time you want them there.  For training and for games, coaches should arrive before the players – no later than 15 minutes before the kick off.  Reward those who are on time, who always turn up.

    Bring some extra water for those who forget theirs.  Make sure they wear the uniform.  Insist on shin pads.  Referees will not allow a child without shin pads to play.  Know which mum or dad is bringing the snacks.

    Make sure the players bring proper soccer shoes and shin pads. Make sure you bring the bag and that it includes all that it should. Use a permanent marker to identify your team’s balls with the team name so they’re not confused with others’. Make sure there’s a first aid kit with ice in the pad each week. If kids are injured let the parents know what happened. Make sure all the players have lifts home. Double check with them to make sure they’re safe.

  • Picking the team

    You’ll be given the team. If we get our selection process right, each team should be fairly equal – that’s our endeavour. You’ll want to have fun, give every child a chance to play the game and, hopefully, win. Don’t simply pick the strongest players and leave the weakest children on the sidelines; if we all play all our team then no one would have an undue advantage. You can substitute players at any time; just get the Ref’s attention. Be sure the players warm up before the match. Cheer them on during the match. Be positive. Don’t rubbish players. Encourage good play. Don’t humiliate kids by criticising or correcting them in from of their teammates or their parents. They’re here to have fun and to learn as well as to win.

    Set an example of good sportsmanship. No bad-mouthing the ref. He’s not trying to cheat anyone; over the course of a match both sides will suffer dodgy decisions. We deal with it. We can always have a quiet word with the refs at the end of a game.

    See to it that players aren’t dehydrated. Keep an eye out for players who are tiring or getting cranky.

    Discuss tactics; help the players develop their understanding of the game. Help them improve their skills. Help develop teamwork. Encourage a positive team spirit. Cheer them on, lift their spirits if things aren’t going their way.

  • After the game 

    Line the players up to shake hands with the opposition. Tradition says a ‘hip hip hooray’ to the opposition is a great way to develop good sportsmanship.

    Text/sms the results to the Divisional Coordinator, immediately after the matches, so we can get the scores up on the web site in time.

    Log on to and encourage your team to do the same. The results will be posted the day after the matches, or as soon as possible.

    Then plan again.

    Email the team in good time before the next match. See who can’t make it. Plan the coaching for the week ahead, and plan for your next match.

    Have a terrific season with DIFL 2018-19!

10 Things Every Coach Needs To Know

1. Know the Game

The modern game of soccer has improved significantly in all facets. Players are stronger, possess a higher level of fitness and are more educated in their daily nutritional needs.

Every coach should posses a basic knowledge of the principles of the game in areas such as skills, tactics, laws, safety, management, nutrition, fitness, health and Sports First Aid.

However, coaching is not just about knowledge; it demands great organizational skills along with the ability to deliver your message in a fun, enthusiastic and concise manner.

It involves handling issues with players and parents such as playing time and behavioural expectations on the sidelines. It is the attention to detail in areas such as pre-game, half time and post game preparation.

It encompasses a wide variety of topics, which are crucial to the harmony, and structure of the team. In addition, every coach and player should understand the laws of the game. There are also tactical implications to consider in regards to the laws of the game, such as substitutions, field size and set plays.

2. Know that your players are people.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that players come first. Remember, each time your player performs in practice or a game that their self-esteem is at stake. Never damage their self-esteem.

Be supportive, cheer, and use plenty of positive reinforcement. To perform to the best of their abilities, players need your unconditional support, whether they play great or have an off day.

Keep an eye on your players to make sure that they are handling stress effectively from the various activities in their life. Encourage your players maintain a focus on schoolwork, relationships and the other things in life besides soccer.

If your players have come off the field after they have has lost, but they have played their best, help them to see this as a "win". Remind them that they are to focus on "process" and not "results".

Their fun and satisfaction must be derived from "striving to win" and not on “winning at all costs”.

Soccer should not be larger than life for you. Do remember that your relationship will continue with your players long after their competitive soccer days are over.

3. Know that "basics are best"

Bobby Robson, coach of Newcastle United has a catch phrase he uses regularly in training, “basic is best”.

Even at the highest levels of soccer the premium is place on the fundamentals. The legendary Bill Shankly from Liverpool said, "Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple." The art of coaching is making the game simpler, not more complex.

4. Know how to be gracious in victory and humble in defeat.

A good coach has control over their emotions. Arguing with officials, opposing coaches or opponents is often simply a misguided effort at "letting off steam" in the heat of competition.

A good coach understands that emotions can get in the way of a good performance. A good coach knows how to walk away from a game in either victory or defeat. Whether your team plays better, or whether they play worse, the coach with good sportsmanship does not use the occasion to put the other team down.

In the field of competition respect for opponents is central to good sportsmanship. If an opponent out-performs you, then you accept it, learn from it, offer no excuses and moves on. If you out-perform an opponent, you should enjoy the victory, but do not gloat, do not belittle, and do not minimize the opponent's effort.

When the game is over, blaming, correcting, sulking, threatening, cajoling, have no place in the life of a good coach, who emphasizes the joy of participating, regardless of outcome.

5. Know how to listen.

A good coach listens to their player’s problems and concerns. They encourage feedback regarding games and training sessions. Often when coaching, we are obsessed with our message and how to express ourselves. Sometimes, this focus impedes our listening.

Remember, that we were born with two ears and just one mouth. By implication: we should listen twice as much as we speak! While we are blessed with ears to hear with, listening is more than just hearing. Believe it or not, Listening is a learned skill. Listening involves an active engagement.

All communication is received ... but 70-90% of the data is screened out or altered by the receiver. So what you hear is NOT necessarily what the listener says. We have a strong cultural tendency to tune out. Our minds go forward (What do I say next? How do I defend myself? What shall I do for practice tomorrow?).

Rates of speaking / listening: We listen at 1,000-1,200 words a minute. We speak at 300 words a minute. Thus, our minds wander. We can become better listeners once we set our mind and ears to it. So hang out your "Hear Here" sign, follow this sound advice and listen for success!

6. Know that “failing to prepare, is preparing to fail”

Preparation is Key - be organized. Organization of the practice session is one of the most important responsibilities of the coach. It covers many aspects, from securing a field, to preparing a written plan for the practice. You must plan ahead of time and always prepare for the unexpected. Never arrive at a practice or a game without considering all the elements of organization. Players will recognize immediately when a coach is unprepared. Good planning and thorough organization translates into confidence - for you and your Team.

If you have a well thought out plan and you are certain about how your objectives are to be achieved your players will respond appropriately. Organization of the practice session is one of the most important responsibilities of the coach. It covers many aspects, from securing a field, to preparing a written plan for the practice. You should plan ahead of time and always prepare for the unexpected.

Never arrive at a practice or a game without considering all the elements of organization. Players will recognize immediately when a coach is unprepared. Good planning and thorough organization translates into confidence. If you have a well thought out plan and you are certain about how your objectives are to be achieved your players will respond appropriately, when the time comes.

7. Know where you’re going with the team - Goal setting.

Goal setting is a powerful tool you can use as a coach to help your players and team achieve the things you want. Learning to set goals will give them the ability to develop a clear picture of where they need to go and how to get there.

Set performance goals not outcome goals. Outcome goals are often not entirely under you control. For example, "we are going to win the next game" Performance goals are stated to give your players control and take responsibility. For example, "I will work harder on my defensive skills".

Set challenging but realistic goals. Know your team’s ability and current level of performance and set goals that extend your players. Set specific goals in measurable and behavioural terms.

Set short-term goals as well as long term goals. Short range goals provide the opportunity to see immediate improvement. They help to motivate and are usually steps toward your long range goals. Set positive goals. Post your goals in the locker room to state what you are going to do.

Identify target dates for goal attainment.

State the strategies you will use to reach your goal. Strategies answer the question, 'How?' Set goals for practice and competition. Practice goals let your team take the responsibility for what you get from practice sessions. Practice goals are often critical to the achievement of competition / game goals. Set daily goals. Make a positive statement of what you are going to do today. You can use daily goals to improve the quality of your practice time. Put your goals down in writing. Writing your goals down on paper makes your commitment to achieving them stronger. The final goals must be the goals that are important to you as the coach and the team!

8. Know how the top clubs operate.

Competition is a fact of soccer. "It keeps you on your toes and reminds you that you can't slack off. Soccer at high levels is like any battlefield. If you want to win the war, you have to know who you're up against. Analyzing your competitions strength off the field is something many coaches overlook.

Part of developing a successful team depends on identifying--and standing out from--your rivals. If only your competitors would share their secret formula!

While that won’t happen, there are ways to gather valuable information on your competition:

Take a look at the top teams in your league. What are they doing that you are not? How are they developing their players? How does their arrangement compare to yours? Do they work harder than you?

All of these areas are important to compare and these are fundamental things that you need to know about your competition in order for you to put yourself in a position to be successful. Learn what you can and see if what they are doing is something you should be doing.

Once you have gathered information on your competitors, make a list of all the qualities they have that makes them successful and make a second list of your teams qualities. Cross out everything that is the same.

What’s left over are the things that differentiate you from them? In the end, you don’t want to be the same as your competitors - you want to be better. To be consistently successful you must stay ahead of the competition. You must continue to get better and better. Your competition will also copy what is working for you. A perfect example of this is the Wendy’s Rs.99 menu. Wendy’s has offered it for over 10 years but within the last year, both McDonald’s and Burger King followed in Wendy’s footsteps. By breaking away from the competition, you shift from acting defensively to becoming a force to be reckoned with.

9. Know the level and capabilities of the players you are coaching.

It is important to always keep a perspective on the level and abilities of the players you are coaching.

Practice sessions should be age, space and time appropriate for your players.

Don’t treat them as professionals if they are recreational players.

There is a time for development and a time to stress winning.

10. Know when to move on.

And finally, know when to move on. Everything has its “shelf life” and coaching is no different. At some point you ask yourself “is it time for me to move onto another team?” Only you will know the answer to that, but here are few signs that may help you in the decision-making;

  • Are your players responding with enthusiasm?
  • Do you still have the energy you had when you first took over the team?
  • Are there outside factors that prohibit you from doing your job?
  • Can they be changed?
  • At the end of the day, was it fun?
  • Is your heart truly in it?
  • Letting go is often the hardest thing to do, but as the saying goes “when one door closes, two others open”. Good luck in all your endeavours as a coach.

Coaches: check out skills training on this website: