Skip to main content

What to look for in a soccer coach – great coaching traits

soccer coach

Every soccer coach has their unique personality and strengths, but there are certain coaching traits that should be seen across the board. Here are the fifteen of the most important traits that we believe every coach should have.

Excellent communicator

A soccer coach must be able to give clear instructions to their players. They must explain each drill and tactic, and then how to apply it in the game. It’s not enough to orally teach the skill, being able to demonstrate is what makes a soccer coach great.

It doesn’t just stop with effectively communicating how to play soccer; a coach should be able to communicate how to work through the mental and emotional side of the game. This requires fostering an environment of open communication.

Build strong and disciplined mindsets

The mental side of the game can’t be forgotten. Mindsets will determine how a player performs on and off the field. What a player believes about themselves, their team, and anything else in life, determines their actions and consequently their habits. If a coach can train a player’s brain, they distinguish them from those who haven’t focussed on the mental side.

A soccer coach is able to give a player a huge head-start when they know how to build disciplined and strong mindsets.

Excellent Motivator

Players should enjoy training and matches. It’s up to the coach to motivate players to practice the drills with accuracy, to train harder – even at home; to reach higher in their goals; to believe they can improve.

This is especially true when the going gets tough. It’s up to the coach to cultivate an atmosphere of encouragement and belief that things will improve.

Authority and observation

A coach should know how to maintain control. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it’s more challenging, but knowing how to keep players focussed is a skill every great coach possesses. Often it takes observing the player’s behaviour and understanding how to deal with each personality type.

Learning the ways to maintain authority and gain the focus of the players is often a skill learnt on the job.

soccer coach

Listens well

A great soccer coach knows how to listen to their players. Asking questions and drawing out the answers is key to the player’s development. Sometimes it takes a little digging and verbalising back and forth for a player to fully understand the lesson. What did they learn from the training, or the match? How would they do it differently? Do they see a solution for a problem they’re facing? These kinds of questions should be asked often.

It is only through listening that the coach can best respond to the individual. If a coach jumps to conclusions without listening, they might get the wrong end of the stick.

Builds resilience and inspires

If a player fails, and then fails again, it takes a great soccer coach to get that player back onto the field with the belief that they can do the skill, or the drill, or win the match. It’s important to coach players how to bounce back from adversity, not just on the field, but off the field too. Great coaches use tact and courage, but it starts in the mind, and a great coach knows how to train the mind.

Builds trust between the players and between the coaches and players

Forging tight bonds between players, and between the players and the soccer coach takes time because building trust takes time. Why is this important? Because trust is the bedrock of any relationship – professional or non-professional. A great soccer team is a team that trusts each other. It also takes trust to listen and apply what the coach says.

A soccer coach that is trustworthy can build trust. Some simple things to look for are universal: a coach must be punctual, show up prepared, have confidence in their players, be humble enough to apologise when they’re wrong and to listen.

Knows the game

It almost goes without saying, but we think it’s important to state anyway – soccer coaches can’t just be great players, they must be players who are aware of how to become a great player within a team. This takes studying the game, knowing the techniques and drills to apply to each part of the player’s development, and keeping current. Since we all know the game changes often and different tactics are applied, coaches must keep abreast of the changing tide.

Knows the three-stage process of motor skill learning

IQ Football’s brain-centred curriculum uses the understanding of Fitts and Posner’s three stage process of motor skill learning. This process is paramount to a player developing football intelligence. These are termed: cognitive, associative, and autonomous (1). Without taking a player through these stages, there is a risk of a player becoming skillful but not having football intelligence. A great coach understands the science behind these three stages and provides the correct drills, instruction, and correction in each stage.

Knows how to train football intelligence

As previously discussed, it’s vital that players are able to practice their technique so that it becomes autonomous by working through Fitts and Posner’s three-stage process of motor skill learning. It’s imperative that a player has been able to grow in confidence in their first touch, turns, passing, and dribbling. As the pressure on a player increases to receive the ball and make the pass, or dribble to the right space, decision-making comes into play. Coaches should know this and know how to train a player in football intelligence.

Well prepared

Just knowing the game doesn’t make a coach great. It’s about having a vision and preparing for that vision with each session. A coach has to show up with a thought-through set of drills, uniquely tailored to each group. It can’t just be any set of drills either; they should fit into a plan that brings the team closer to the vision.

Great role model

A soccer coach may know the game and how to develop players, but if they aren’t a person with good values and a great attitude, they can do a lot of damage. Coaches are authority figures in the lives of the players they train. Naturally, players will pick up on their coach’s behaviour. The coach sets the tone and the atmosphere of the training for better or worse. If a coach is impatient and angry, players will probably act out that way in training and matches. Great coaches are people you want to respect.


A coach might have a vision, but it takes a whole lot of patience to see it come to pass. This is especially true when the players are feeling tired, or they’re going through a slump. Player development takes time, especially when it comes to youth or the very little ones just starting out. Mistakes are made often and sometimes the players don’t improve at the rate the coach had envisioned. It’s paramount for the coach to be careful not to take their frustration out on the players and end up discouraging the team.

Doesn’t just love the game, but loves coaching

Great soccer coaching is all about the players. If a coach is prideful, they are thinking too much about themselves. A great soccer coach is sacrificial, even nurturing. They want the very best for each player and for the team as a whole. They are essentially creating a family. Families have a set of values, they do things a certain way, and the great ones usually have some sort of vision in mind. They deal with conflict, and when they go through great times, or hard times, they’re in it together. It’s the same for a soccer team. A coach should show a passion for raising the player to be all he or she can be.

soccer coach

Lives out the culture of the soccer academy or club

A coach should introduce and maintain the culture of the club or academy. Great soccer coaching looks like encouraging players when they live out the culture of the club and dealing with behaviour that goes against the club’s values.

Closing thoughts

A great coach might be really strong in communication, and less so in building bonds between the players. Just like in life, everyone has their dominant strengths, so to find a coach who equally excels in all thirteen of the traits is rare. It’s about looking for a coach who demonstrates the majority of them, and is willing to work on the areas they’re not as strong in.

Related tag: soccer training academy



Brain-boosting tips, coaching traits, Football, football academy, IQ Football, Mindset, Soccer, Soccer Academy, soccer club, soccer coach

Sean Szabo

Recognised as a leading brain-centred football coach in Gauteng, Sean Szabo is an English FA qualified coach who has worked internationally assisting player’s motor and technical football skills, as well as their cognitive development on and off the field. IQ Football was founded in 2015 by Sean as an amalgamation of his passion for football coaching, mentoring, and brain-centred research.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.