A quick survey of TOPSoccer programs across the country would reveal that our coaches are not often people who would consider themselves to be soccer coaches. TOPSoccer coaches are often parents, college or graduate students, physical therapists, occupational therapists, special education teachers, social workers, or speech language pathologists. Programs are also fortunate to have licensed soccer coaches, who in addition to the travel, club, high school, or college teams they coach, have chosen to coach TOPSoccer athletes. This diverse backgrounds of TOPSoccer coaches enable athletes with varying abilities to have a rich experience in the sport- and all bring a unique perspective to TOPSoccer
The TOPSoccer coach’s role goes beyond teaching the game of soccer. Depending on the TOPSoccer program structure, a coach could have responsibilities that begin long before the players and buddies arrive to the field. A coach may be responsible for communicating with the team or program players and buddies and other volunteers. The coach is responsible for designing the training session, which can include individual skill stations, exercise and activities that are and can be easily modified for the TOPSoccer players. The coach relays the details of the session to the buddies to prepare them for the session ahead. Once the players have arrived, the coach facilitates the exercise and activities, while also being available to help manage anything that may arise during a session including managing behaviors or modifying activities for an athlete.
While the TOPSoccer coach can wear many hats before, during and after a session, TOPSoccer coaches consider their involvement in the program one of the most special and important parts of their week. While no TOPSoccer session is ever perfect, the beauty of watching the players and buddies interacting is worth all their planning and time. It is certainly a labor of love and passion. For coaches who are also parents, the time on the field is an opportunity for them to connect with their child through sport and witness the benefits of sport. For coaches who may work with TOPSoccer players in their professional roles (PTs, OTs, SLPs), the opportunity to facilitate a sport experience can bring their therapeutic work to a natural and real-world environment. A simple example would be to consider a physical therapist, whose focus in a clinic or school setting is to improve strength, balance, coordination, mobility and gross motor skills. For these PTs, the soccer field provides an opportunity for the players to incorporate all these things within a session. For a speech language pathologist, they can see and facilitate their patients/students interact and communicate with their buddies and teammates while on the field. For licensed/professional soccer coaches, coaching TOPSoccer provides an opportunity to enhance and hone their coaching skill set which translates to intangibles they can bring back to their other teams and athletes.
There are numerous resources available to anyone wanting to get started in being a TOPSoccer coach. There are TOPSoccer Coaching courses available through the state associations or US Youth Soccer, as well as a bank of resources on the US Youth Soccer webpage. In additional to the National TOPSoccer Committee, led by chair Dave Robinson, US Youth Soccer has four regional TOPSoccer chairs (East, South, Midwest, and West). Beyond the regional chairs, each state association has a TOPSoccer chair. These chairs are a fantastic resource for those who want to get involved with TOPSoccer as a coach, whether they are looking to join an existing program or start their own. Many state associations and some local TOPSoccer programs also have created banks of resources to share with TOPSoccer coaches. In addition to the TOPSoccer coaching courses, each year, there are TOPSoccer symposiums either at the Regional or National level that allow TOPSoccer personnel to gather to learn from each other and network. The support for TOPSoccer coaches is abundant.
Coaching TOPSoccer is one of the best experiences and one that does not necessarily require one to have experience as a coach. Anyone can become a TOPSoccer coach, if they are prepared to do so with and from the heart. The X’s and O’s will fall into place after that.