How To Become a Soccer Coach: Steps and Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 1, 2022

Published March 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Coaching soccer is a fulfilling career to pursue. Soccer coaches see their team grow in skills and agility through the practices they plan and game decisions they make. If you have a passion for soccer and love guiding others to success, a soccer coach may be the right occupation for you. In this article, we explain what a soccer coach is, discuss the skills needed to be a successful soccer coach and outline the steps you can take to become one.

What is a soccer coach?

A soccer coach is a professional who instructs players on the skills they need to succeed in soccer. They lead professional or amateur athletes in their soccer games, determining appropriate plays and who should be on the field. A soccer coach is both a teacher and a mentor, helping individuals learn how to be excellent team players and healthy athletes.

What does a soccer coach do?

Job duties of a soccer coach include:

  • Planning and leading practices to focus on specific skills

  • Assessing strengths and weaknesses of individual players and the team overall

  • Determining player substitutions during games

  • Educating players on soccer rules, techniques and game strategies

  • Strategizing how to play against opponents

  • Giving encouraging talks to motivate players

  • Helping players stay fit through conditioning programs

  • Ensuring player safety during activities

How to become a soccer coach

Since there are many different divisions to coach for, ranging from youth to professionals, the requirements for being a coach vary. Here are some basic steps you can take to become a soccer coach:

1. Play soccer

While not required, having a former background in playing soccer can help you understand the game better and enhance your connections with your players. Knowledge of the game allows you to take skills you learned from the field and teach them to your players. This expertise is especially important if you wish to coach at a high-paying or competitive level.

2. Consider the level at which you want to coach

Paid soccer coaches commonly work with youth, university students or, at the highest level, state and national teams. Decide whether you want a position with younger players, college athletes or another group so you know which requirements you need to meet. Higher divisions require more certifications but offer a chance for a higher salary.

3. Volunteer to coach a local recreational team

Working with a recreational team can help you gain skills needed to become a successful coach. Having experience before you apply for a job is appealing to job recruiters as well.

4. Attend coaching clinics

Coaching clinics are specialized workshops that can help you learn different coaching techniques and methods for teaching soccer. You also can learn through online classes and seminars.

5. Get certified

Soccer coaches can earn six different certifications, ranging from A to F, through the United States Youth Soccer Association. To coach at a youth club level, you must earn an E or F certification. National level coaching requires a C, B or A certification. To receive a certification, you attend state workshops and classes to learn different techniques and drills that you can implement with your teams and utilize on the certifying exam.

Another certification for soccer coaches to consider is a CPR certification. Many job applications require soccer coaches to be CPR certified in case an accident happens during a game or practice.

Related: How to Become a Sports Coach (Includes Average Salary and Job Outlook)

6. Earn a coaching license

To be a coach, you will need to earn a coaching license through the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). NSCAA provides two different licenses: a state diploma and a regional diploma.

The state diploma licensing test, which is for newer coaches who work with youth ages 6-12, teaches topics such as rules of the game, small-sided games and care and prevention of injuries. The regional diploma licensing test, for those working with players ages 12-19, teaches how technical and tactical concepts help player development. Those taking part in either program will receive a diploma and course manual upon completion.

7. Consider getting a degree

Some coaches earn bachelor's degrees in exercise and sports medicine, nutrition and fitness, physical education or sports medicine. This added knowledge can demonstrate the depth of your expertise to employers and enhance your coaching.

You may also want to consider getting a bachelor's degree and teaching certification so that you can coach at a public school. While not all public schools require their coaches to have a bachelor's degree and teaching certification, many do, so pursuing these credentials can ensure you have more coaching options.

8. Start as an assistant coach

When beginning your career as a soccer coach, you may first become an assistant coach before moving up as a head coach. Being an assistant coach allows you to work under the guidance of a more experienced coach and gain experience.

9. Apply for advanced positions

Once you gain experience, you can consider applying for more advanced positions that may allow you to lead a team on your own. Look to see if any local schools or organizations have a job opening for a head coach position.

Related: 10 Coaching Interview Questions (With Sample Answers and Tips)

Soccer coach skills

Here are some skills needed to be a soccer coach:

  • Communication: A soccer coach needs to be an effective communicator when teaching new drills. They also communicate with other teams and spectators at the game.

  • Knowledge of soccer: In order to teach the game, soccer coaches need to know how soccer works, including the rules to follow and strategies to implement.

  • Inspiration: Successful soccer coaches encourage their players to improve techniques and become the best player possible through positivity and emotional connection.

  • Organization: In order to plan helpful practices and drills, a coach needs organizational skills. They also keep records of player performance using a tracking system.

  • Patience: To work with players and help them develop certain skills, a soccer coach needs to be patient as they wait for improvement.

  • Punctuality: Because soccer coaches are role models for their players, they need to arrive early to practices and games.

Salary and job outlook for soccer coaches

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that the job opportunities for athletic coaches will grow 12% by 2029, much faster than other occupations.

Fully licensed soccer coaches make a national average of $47,228 per year, with top college divisions paying close to $140,000. Salaries depend on the size of the club or program for which you coach and whether you are a head or assistant coach.

Related: Top Coaching Careers to Pursue

What is the work environment like for a soccer coach?

A soccer coach often works irregular hours with games and practices in the evenings and on weekends. During the soccer season, they may work over 40 hours a week. Soccer coaches travel frequently for competitions and may work outdoors or inside sports facilities.

Soccer coaches can work for the following organizations:

  • Youth clubs

  • Public schools

  • Colleges or universities

  • Recreation centers

  • Professional leagues

Jobs similar to a soccer coach

If you're interested in becoming a soccer coach, here is a list of 10 similar jobs you may consider:

1. Sports anchor

2. Sports journalist

3. Referee

4. Assistant soccer coach

5. Sports analyst

6. Sports event coordinator

7. Athletic director

8. Athletic scout

9. Sports broadcaster

10. Sports editor

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