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As a coach, you need to know how to build good relationships and make your team feel welcome. Players want to know that they matter, and they want to feel understood.  

Here are some simple ways to show you care. 

  • Greet each player as they arrive at training.  
  • Ask your team about their week. 
  • Pair new starters with a buddy.  
  • Remember personal details, like where a player went on holiday or their pet’s name.  
  • Empathise with your team’s success and failures – both on and off the pitch.  
  • Ask players for their opinion and show them that you value their feedback. 

These actions will help your team feel good. And, as Maya Angelou said, ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people won’t forget how you made them feel’.  

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Whether it’s inspired by others or part of your own ‘why’, a coaching philosophy represents your values in football. Maybe you want your team to play with freedom. Maybe you want to encourage development. Or maybe you just want to see smiles on faces. 

Whatever your coaching philosophy, it’s got to be reflected in your actions. For example, if you believe in equal opportunity, don’t whack all your best players on the pitch the moment you go 1-0 down. 

When you have a coaching philosophy – and stick to it – you provide a consistent and authentic experience for your team. 

At their core, your sessions must be realistic and relevant to football. This means giving players lots of different opportunities to practise the skills they need in an actual game.  

In addition to realism, your training should: 

By promoting clear aims, inclusion, variety and autonomy, you’ll help to support your team’s development.  

Finally, don’t forget that training should be fun. For inspiration, check out our Human goalpost session.  

Think before you act

Coaching can be an emotional business – especially during matchday. You’ve got parents pacing the touchline, the opposition breathing down your neck and your players stuck in the middle. Even during the relative calm of the week, pressures of everyday life can build up. 

As a coach, try not to let these stresses impact your interactions with players. Whenever you feel frustrated, press pause, take a breath and think before you act. Blowing up only sets a bad example, and it gives players an excuse to behave the same way too. 

Embrace mistakes 

We all get things wrong. When you make a mistake, own it. When others make a mistake, be kind. 

It’s important to recognise that if players feel scared to fail, they’ll be worried about trying new things. They’ll play with less freedom, and you’ll see less creativity. 

On the flip side, building an environment that recognises mistakes as an opportunity to learn will give your team space to thrive. So: encourage your players to adopt a positive mindset. Explain that any ‘FAIL’ is simply a ‘First Attempt In Learning’.  

Provide equal opportunity 

Football is for all. Whether you’re running a session or coaching on matchday, every player deserves the chance to be part of the action. 

In training, focus on activities that include the whole group and give players the chance to experiment. For example, your keeper may be great in goal, but they might want to try outfield positions too.  

When matchday rolls around, try to give your team equal playing time. No leaving subs on the bench or prioritising your best players. 

Involve everyone 

It’s not just players who want to feel welcome. Parents, carers and volunteers should also feel like they're part of the team. Make sure you:  

  • recognise their contribution 
  • explain your coaching approach 
  • involve them in sessions and matches.  

Doing this will help build a great environment for your players – one where everyone’s onboard.  

Keep communication positive

As your team’s coach, every interaction matters. Keep communication positive – whether you’re providing feedback, celebrating a goal or arranging your next session.  

This doesn’t mean you can’t have difficult conversations. But it does mean that, when you have them, it’s important to express yourself constructively. For example, if your team concede, don’t yell criticism from the dugout. Instead, use half-time to talk through what happened and create a plan for next time. 

Remember that a throwaway comment or negative expression can stick with a player – even if it’s not aimed at them. 

In this video, Peter Augustine, FA coach development officer, demonstrates how to deliver feedback that impacts the game and makes players feel great. 

Pete Augustine - utilising your goalkeeper

Recognise that coaching is a journey 

You don’t need to know everything on day one. From soft skills to technical understanding, our abilities develop with time – and experience.  

It’s essential to recognise that coaching is a journey. And, to improve, you need to reflect. For example, when considering your training or matchday, think about: 

  • what went well 

  • what you could improve for next time 

  • whether your actions aligned with your coaching philosophy. 

Reflection helps you learn from your experiences and become a better football coach.  

Want to know more about how to support your team? Check out The FA Playmaker course – it’s free and suitable for all.