Coaching a youth soccer team can range in terms of responsibility. At the younger ages most volunteer coaches are simply managing crowd control while trying to keep players engaged with practice or a match.
As the players progress coaches can get wrapped up in teaching techniques, game flow, strategy, and handling emotions across a team. With all of this comes the need for some gear, to help with each situation and to keep players excited.
The list below are our most used accessories over multiple seasons. Beyond these there are dozens more items that can help, but this is the core list that we always have in the bag.
While nearly anything can function as a goal, including having an actual net makes things real. Large goals are not necessary, but a smaller set of 4ft to 6ft pop up goals are useful for all ages. Even at elite levels players train with mini goals. They can function as actual goals, especially for ages 5u and 6u which play on small nets or as targets for various drills to control where passes should go.
Boundaries are necessary to keep players focused and drills contained. One of the most versatile pieces of equipment for this are simple cones. Low profiles ones can help highlight target areas for drills or create a temporary boundary for any activity that needs one (our favorite is sharks and minnows for youth players).
We encourage each player to have and bring their own ball. On a practical level this ensures a ball always shows up and means that when not at practice a player can have some to drill with at home. First time players and those on a budget may not have an easy pump handy. Kicking a softer ball can be rewarding, it can be easier to control, but maintaining a good ball for practice and games is critical. A simple hand pump is all that necessary, but for coaches who partake in other hobbies like biking, a standing pump with a needle attachment is a great piece to lug along.
First Aid Kits
A coaches bag is not complete until it can handle at least simple injuries. While no one likes that players get hurt, it is inevitable that something will come up. At the youngest ages, like 6u, this might just mean a bruised ego and skinned knee from bumping into another player but as players progress things can become more serious. Having a plan for what to do, and where to go, for major issues is the best preparation. As for carrying a medical kit, things like band-aids, ice packs, gauze, and medical tape can go a long way to mitigating the issues of cuts and scapes. Splints, tweezers, epi-pens, and nose bleed plugs round out the set. Amazon offers dozens of great options for coaching medical kits or you can build one yourself.
It is easy to think that a coach or a manager just paces the sidelines and barks out orders, until you get out on the pitch. Ask any youth coach and they’ll tell you that be able to interact with the players is crucial to making a connection and communication drills and practice plans. This means coaches are exposed to all the same conditions as players. Before blowing out an ACL or falling embarrassingly in front of a group of parents it’s a good idea to pick up some study cleats. As players progress these will not be needed on the sidelines of games, but having them for practice makes it easier to jump into the mix easily and without worrying about falling.
Splitting up teams is a requirement for nearly any practice. It’s possible to just designate which players will be on a team, but having highlighted stand out jerseys simplifies the process and ensures that players have the visual feedback they will expect from a game situation. A pinny, or a bib, is just s simple scrimmage vest but they are offered in variety of colors and with printing to help differentiate players during drills and practice games.
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