People sign up for coaching licenses for a number of reasons. Primarily having a new qualification may give you access to increased standing in your club or state. This could lead to an increase in pay (if your club has a scale that includes reward for license level), the chance to coach higher level teams (if your club has minimum levels for teams in higher divisions), or the opportunity to work for other clubs in the area as your resume grows.
There are however a wide range of other reasons to take a coaching course that reach far beyond the impact of the piece of paper at the end. First of all you are likely to learn a great deal that will improve your understanding of the game and how to coach it. There is little doubt that some course are more useful than others but we have never attended one where we didn’t learn something. Often it is the more obscure courses that end up being the most challenging. For example, the USSF Y license has a section where you are videoed and then the class watches and critiques you. This was a real eye-opening moment to seeing faults and learning to improve your delivery.
Generally courses will improve your technical and tactical knowledge of the game and give you more ways to teach them. They also give you access to some great minds and we encourage you to ask questions throughout the time you have in order to learn as much as you can, and to develop a relationship with the instructors. You can also learn from other candidates. Sometimes there will be people with you who have more experience than everyone else combined, people with high level certifications from other countries or with great coaching resumes who never got licenses before. No matter what their background they have chosen to be here too so probably have a great deal of interest in the game that they want to talk about. Being around so many people with a similar desire is a great opportunity to brainstorm and all come away smarter.
Related to the last idea is the transformation you can experience through a coaching course. Often at the end of seasons coaches are tired and have plateaued with their motivation. Practices can become somewhere stale and repetitive. Going on a coaching course gives people the chance to discover new ideas, which in turn excites them again about going back to try them with their players. If you take good notes you could also come away with a whole new season’s worth of plans to explore with your team. It is important to take good notes and get photocopies of everyone’s plans so the knowledge is shared.
Often the enthusiasm at the end of a coaching course (or relief that it is over) can extend to you immediately wanting to sign up for another course too.
Coming into contact with other coaches you might be able to find solutions to problems you were having with your team that were reducing your enjoyment of it. Often other coaches will have been through similar situations and can tell you what they did to overcome them. Watching great coaches at work will sometimes inspire coaches to work harder and with more passion too, as they set a goal to reach that same level of quality.
Some of our closest friends in soccer have been found through spending time with them on coaching courses. On the USSF A-C licenses you will be living with a group of people, all day, every day, for over a week. This gives you a crash immersion course in making new friends and learning to work together with them. Keep in mind that if you slack off for them, you can expect the same level of effort when you get to your final practical test at the end of the week. I once took a course with a couple of former pro players from another country, who spent the entire week sunbathing with ice on their knees. At the end of the week everyone mysteriously got injured for their final exam.
Work hard of course and karma might come back to you. Support people outside of class and you might make friends for life! We encourage connecting with people on Facebook, Linked In and other social media as you never know when you might need help with something or need a connection somewhere.
If nothing else, the longer coaching courses tend to provide you with some excellent physical exercise. Playing for 8-10 hours per day can be a shock to the system and leave you first limping then feeling much better about your fitness by the end. Many coaches wear sports clothing to practice then stand around coaching but feel like because they wore exercise clothing they somehow worked out! This leads to a steady decline in their physical condition as they ‘reward’ themselves with a big meal or drinks. As a role model for your players (and to help you live longer) it is better to lead by example with a healthy lifestyle including a good diet and regular exercise. Why not pay $1000 to spend a week on a coaching course running around for other adults?!
Food at coaching courses can be very hit or miss. Definitely consider this when you sign up. We have been to great places (NSCAA courses in Ft Lauderdale and Stanford University) and terrible ones (Weber State, Lake Forest etc). Similarly the sleeping accommodation can vary in each place, from nice hotel rooms, to lumpy dorm beds; air conditioned with en-suite bathrooms, to stuffy hot military-style barracks. Choose your location wisely as it could impact your physical health during the week!