United Soccer Coaches Board of Directors’ David Carr on Why We Need Better Training for Coaches, especially in Rec Soccer
Dr. David Carr was elected to the United Soccer Coaches Board of Directors at the 2019 Convention in Chicago.
United Soccer Coaches is the largest community for soccer coaches in the world.
Soccer News: Dr. David Carr has been coaching for 45 years and is a nationally recognized coaching educator. As Associate Professor and Coordinator of Coaching Education at Ohio University, Carr has pioneered coaching education for decades.
Carr’s coaching career has covered all levels of the game, including recreation, club, high school, college and professional over the span of more than four decades in the game.
As the newest board member of United Soccer Coaches, Carr has already begun his 6-year journey as Vice-President, when he won the election earlier this month.
SoccerToday Interview with David Carr
Diane Scavuzzo: As the newly elected United Soccer Coaches’ board member and future president, how do you believe your experience can help the organization?
Dr. David Carr: I’ve been a member for 45 years and I’ve watched this association grow.
Obviously, I am a coaching educator with a long history of coaching as well as working with coaches, developing coaching programs, and teaching methodology.
I’m a sports pedagogy guy, so the methodology and the theory behind it I think are really important. In the last 15 years, my focus has been on the youth level — developing a better framework for youth coaches and creating a better environment for the players.
My focus is on getting the kids off to a good start so they enjoy the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you recommend?
Dr. David Carr: One of my mantras with my students is that we have a tendency, and it’s not just in soccer, it’s across all sport, to replicate things that we sort of outlawed when we realized that they weren’t very effective ways of teaching players.
Even when we recognize things decades ago we still see evidence of these bad practice today, because most volunteers don’t have a background in the game. Many volunteers didn’t play soccer before they’ve taken on the role of coach.
My concern is that we haven’t done a particularly good job of preparing volunteers for the role of being a coach.
We are afraid of the word mandate. So we don’t require anybody to have any level of coaching understanding, even if it’s a two-hour level one course.
There are some things that work with six-year-olds and eight-year-olds and there are some things that simply don’t work as well.
In recreational soccer, we’ve basically signed people up who said yes when we’ve called them and said, “We really need you as coach.” We hand them a schedule and we say, “Good luck. Have a good time.”
Diane Scavuzzo: That does not sound like a prescription for success.
Dr. David Carr: It is not. We need to give volunteer coaches better tools.
The question I always ask about a coaching program is:
Is it an athlete-centered approach? That’s a critical one for me.
We’ve had the tendency, across the board, to put the coach at center with the coach making all the decisions.
I subscribe strongly to an athlete-centered structure for kids which allows them to make decisions and gives kids an opportunity to engage in the game on their terms. The coach acts as more as a facilitator, creates the right environment and enhances learning in lots of different ways but involves the kids in a lot of the decisions that go into how they play.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why did you to join United Soccer Coaches?
Dr. David Carr: I was playing in college, at the University of Maine and I was a physical education major.
My plan, my goal was to teach physical education at the high school level and coach high school sports, soccer being one of them.
My coach was a member of the NSCAA at the time and we used to hang out in his office almost every day. He had the Soccer Journal on a coffee table in the corner of his office. I thought, “That is really cool, there is a magazine that talked about how to coach.” I got excited and joined and I have been a member since 1974. It was one of the best things I ever did, professionally.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you see as the role of the United Soccer Coaches Organization?
Dr. David Carr: For most of its existence, it’s been an association of coaches promoting coaching the game. We have grown the association in many different ways. We’ve become an advocacy organization which has a lot of positives. We are doing more to build the game at the youth level than ever before.
In the future, I would like to see us focus more on the 12-years of age and under player as opposed to 13-years of age and over.
We have really good coaching education courses for the advanced coach and the advanced player. I’m more interested in building better models and better programs for the youth coach. The clear majority of players in the country are 12-years old and under. Therefore the majority of coaches are working with players with kids 12 and under.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you see is the greatest challenge in coaching education?
Dr. David Carr: To create a better environment where kids will continue to want to play.
There’s a lot of issues — one of my concerns is how we very early on put labels on a kid’s abilities.
We turn kids off by, basically, telling them, “Sorry, you’re not good enough,” even before we know if they can play or not.
That’s a big concern
Diane Scavuzzo: What can we do about that?
Dr. David Carr: The first thing is to create a discussion with the people who are making the decisions about how the game is structured.
I go back 25 years ago, when we started the National Youth License, and we asked the coaches in the room how they would describe the landscape of soccer for 6, 7, 8-year-olds? In almost every case, the landscape was playing 11 v 11 on a full-size field with full-size goals. We’ve made remarkable changes in that landscape to get to small sided games on more reasonable sized spaces with modified rules that make sense for kids.
We’ve made a lot of progress but where we haven’t made as much progress is the activities that we have kids do that foster learning and using the game as the vehicle for growth and development.
That’s an area of focus for me and my colleagues. How do we better prepare coaches to work with kids of different ages, different backgrounds, different environments, and different cultures — to learn the game and have some fun with it?
Basically, how do we get kids to stay in the game for longer periods of time?