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Can You Be A Soccer Coach Without Playing?

Can You Be A Soccer Coach Without Playing?

A coach represents a lot of things in soccer depending on the country they are working in, their level of experience, and the club they are working with among many other factors.

The key objectives of youth soccer coaches include helping soccer players enjoy the game, learn basic fair play methodologies, and generally advancing player’s technical skills without excessive pressure.

Have you ever come in contact with a soccer coach who made you more passionate about soccer? Good coaches have such an effect on soccer players and sometimes you even feel like becoming a coach yourself.

A soccer coach is talking to his players

Becoming a soccer coach doesn’t necessarily mean you must be an ex-soccer player with experience in the soccer field. Some of the qualities you need to become a great soccer coach are hard work, focus, strong passion, and local soccer teams. But, is having a playing experience one of the must-have qualities to becoming a great coach?

It is best to gain actual coaching experience before seeking coaching licenses. That will help you advance in a coaching career. As long as you are willing to learn through practice and self-study, your dreams of becoming a professional soccer coach can be actualized.

A soccer coach is tracking the training session of young players

There are many stages and levels to becoming a certified professional soccer coach and it gets tougher the higher you rise. The best soccer players seldom become great coaches after retiring from playing soccer.

Your strong interest in becoming a professional soccer coach can birth a multitude of questions especially when you don’t have playing experience. In this article, you will find the answers to all your questions.

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Can you be a soccer coach without playing?

Of course, it is possible to become a professional soccer coach without playing although it is a tedious and demanding journey. It would require you to become a whole new different person in order to bring your dream to life.

Reputable soccer coaches who never played professional soccer are not very common but they exist all over the world and some are still very active. This doesn’t make them odd or unqualified because they have led teams to win championships and highly competitive tournaments.

a young soccer coach is giving tactical guidance to the players

You should pick courage from famous soccer coaches like Arrigo Sacchi, Maurizio Sarri, Avram Grant, Julian Nagelsmann, Andre Villas-Boas, and Leonardo Jardim to name a few.

They never played top-tier soccer, yet, they now have trophies on their résumé and can comfortably handle any top-tier team.

Arrigo Sacchi from Italy

Sacchi is one of the greatest soccer coaches of his time. At 26 Sacchi got his first job as a soccer coach and wowed soccer fans with his ingenious formations.

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Before becoming the renowned soccer coach who led Italy’s National Team to the 1994 World Cup final, Arrigo Sacchi was initially a shoe salesman. He has a famous quote that says “football is the most important of the least important things in life”.

André Villas-Boas from Portugal

Andre’s story is quite intriguing and one of a kind. At the age of 16, he came into contact with ex-Porto coach Sir Bobby Robson with whom he shared impressive soccer ideas.

At just 19 years old, he earned his A license and at 21, he was already an assistant soccer coach in FC Porto under Jose Mourinho. He had a handful of failures in the early years of his career but he managed to redeem himself.

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Julian Nagelsmann from Germany

Julian studied Sports Science and Business Administration in college before his coaching career. He got his first coaching job with Hoffenheim which made him the youngest soccer coach in the history of the German Bundesliga.

He is the coach of FC Bayern (2021) and continues to lead the team to victory with an astonishing style of soccer. The 34-year-old is the youngest soccer coach in the history of the Champions League to win a knockout tie.

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Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson, the famous Manchester United head coach from 1986 to 2013 said in his autobiography that he prefers coaches who used to be soccer players before becoming coaches.

Comments like that shouldn’t discourage you from aspiring to be a coach without playing soccer as long as you are passionate about the game, focused, and goal-driven. You can achieve much more than any ex-soccer player with the right training and willingness to learn and adapt.

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Below is a detailed breakdown of the journey of attaining the status of a certified soccer coach without ever playing soccer:

Understanding the Simple Basics of the Sport 

Starting a coaching career will be more difficult for you if you don’t understand basic things about soccer, you wouldn’t even be able to get a volunteering coaching position with your local soccer club.

Read a lot about soccer, watch a lot of it on TV, and make friends with soccer players to understand their expectations from a coach. While studying the sport, pay keen attention to the rules that influence the game’s outcomes.

A man kissing the soccer ball is sitting in front of the TV

Even though soccer is not a complex sport, entry-level coaches without any playing experience often find it complicated. Some of the things you must take into consideration are how free kicks are played, penalties, substitutions, and throw-ins.

You don’t need the tutelage of a professional soccer coach to learn most of these things. There are unlimited materials on soccer available both online and offline and can accelerate your learning process.

Since the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the active body in charge of soccer globally, you must read through the rulebook to grasp the professional rules of the game.

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The rules of the game may differ based on which country you are located in. The FIFA international rulebook can be accessed online for free. It contains just 17 clearly stated rules that guide the game of soccer.

The rules wouldn’t take you more than two weeks to read and memorize. When you mentally grasp the rules of the game, you wouldn’t find it difficult learning the distinctions in another soccer league’s rulebook.

It is important to bear in mind that FIFA often releases amendments to its rules. Therefore, you need to keep your eyes peeled for such big changes.

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To morph into a professional soccer coach, you must dedicate ample time to studying other professional soccer coaches. Study what they do as well as how they do them, paying close attention to their defense and offense strategies and also in-game substitutions.

The most important tasks of a soccer coach happen before a match and during match breaks, unlike American football and basketball. Before a match, soccer coaches create roasters, plan effective strategies, train players, and delegate roles.

The players are having a tactical meeting with their coach before a match

Playing simulated soccer coaching video games can also be of immense benefit to you although it may sound funny. In fact, while waiting to secure a place in a club, video games and simulations may be the best place to get a near practical experience.

To defeat your opponent, you have to be able to read their strategy and come up with a counter-strategy. Coaches are referred to as managers in the European soccer scene.

Getting an undergraduate degree in this field will boost your coach certification process and is also capable of helping you skip some levels of certification depending on which country you are in.

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During a sports management degree, you will be trained on effective ways of marketing yourself in the world of sports, successfully managing a team, and the economics of sports among other lists of essential knowledge.

Even if your country’s certification process doesn’t accept sports management degrees, you will acquire a lot of knowledge that can help you excel in your career.

Getting Necessary Coaching Certifications

Different countries have different certification processes for soccer coaches. All professional soccer leagues have their distinct certification process which makes it difficult to become a professional soccer coach without proper certification.

You can’t get certified as a soccer coach without being educated at a coaching school. A paid online entry-level coaching course can take you some hours or a day to complete a session depending on your dedication.

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After securing an entry-level certificate, you will be allowed to coach recreational soccer clubs, manage youth leagues, and work as a coach’s assistant depending on which country you are resident.

Level 1 certification has different names in different countries. In England, it is called an FA coaching certificate while in America it is known as the National Youth License A certificate.

Attend classes and take your studies seriously without skipping through topics. The focus of the initial certification is basically on mastering soccer rules, team management, and working with soccer players.

The soccer players are listening attentively to their coach

The initial certificate permits you to manage local youth teams. Once you have gotten the certificate, find a local youth team in your area and start gaining field experience.

Volunteering should be the next thing on your to-do list after getting your certificate. Volunteer to coach summer camp soccer teams, local park teams, and American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) league players.

Coaching youth soccer teams will expose you to the rudiments of coaching such as team motivation, roaster preparation, and general team management. Before seeking to coach amateur soccer clubs, try coaching youth teams for at least a year.

The soccer coach is working with the young player

You must understand that youth soccer is usually about enjoying the game and not winning trophies. You can also work with children if you pass a background check.

In this career path, studying lasts for a lifetime. You will have to update your certificates from time to time according to changing rules. The only way to stay ahead of your colleagues as a coach is to keep building your knowledge through adequate learning.

It may take you 2-5 years to secure all necessary certifications and licenses before you can be allowed to coach professionally. Discuss your next plans with the certification instructor to have a clearer picture.


In some countries, you get options to earn specialized certificates in specific branches of the game such as lineup design and free-kick strategies. If such options are available in your country of residence, secure as many of them as you could because they increase your worth and competence.

Coaching certifications are divided into “pro” and “grassroots” in the United States. You must get all grassroots certifications before you can qualify for the pro certifications.

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Becoming the Head Coach

Arm yourself with all your earned coaching certificates and seek openings in amateur clubs, high schools, and colleges. Some available positions may be unpaid but it’s a good way to earn real-life experience.

In high schools, you will be possibly offered the position of an assistant coach because head coaches are often well-known teachers in the school.

Most big soccer leagues like Serie A and English Premier League have smaller leagues where young players prepare for professional soccer careers. Send them a well-written cover letter clearly stating your intentions and attach your complete portfolio and earned certificates.

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Don’t get despaired by a few rejections, just focus on what you stand to gain if you secure a spot with one of the minor leagues. Be sure that you are not using the same generic cover letter for all your applications. Always customize them to suit their purpose.

Most professional minor league soccer clubs will first offer you low-level assistant positions to test your proficiency no matter your level of experience. Take any position offered by a minor league club and work your way up from there.

It may take many years to reach the very top but it would happen if you play your cards right. You stand better chances with low-ranked teams than outstanding teams.

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When allowed to be part of a club’s coaching team, don’t take it for granted. Do everything possible to establish authority in any position you occupy.

Building positive relationships and friendships should be one of your top priorities. It may take many years to elevate to the position of head coach in your minor league but once you get there, you have increased chances of breaking into the big leagues.

While working for your minor league club, don’t forget to always send applications to big clubs at every opportunity that presents itself. Seek out big-league coaching team staff and network with them.

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Sending applications to low-ranked professional clubs is more potent than applying with saturated top-rated professional soccer clubs.

Securing a contract with a big club might take a very long time so you must be patient. While you do your best at lower-level coaching positions, make sure you maintain a positive mindset.

A positive mindset, patience, hard work, and a percentage of luck may be all you need to become the next biggest coach in professional soccer.

The soccer coach is appeasing his team

Advantages of Becoming a Soccer Coach Without Playing

  • It transforms you into a more responsible and dedicated individual
  • It properly prepares you for leadership roles
  • Coming from a reserved background, coaching can help build your communication skills and confidence
  • It improves your general physical fitness and health
  • Gives a sense of accomplishment
  • Access to modern soccer thinking more easily
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Characteristics of a Good Soccer Coach

  • Treats all players equally and creates avenues for proper bonding among team members
  • A good role model and obedience to rules and regulations
  • Always adequately prepared
  • A team motivator
  • A keen observer of soccer player’s development
  • Good communication skills
  • Always optimistic
  • A knack for discovering talent
  • Kind listening ears
  • Knows when to be stern and when to be friendly with players
  • A great teacher
  • Fully certified and licensed


In your journey to becoming a soccer coach, always remember that getting a big break takes many years of hard work, trials, disappointments, little wins, and dedication. At the inception of your coaching career, most teams will only offer you opportunities if you would work for free.

Take those opportunities and use them in building your resume and on-field experience. Have a few other side hustles or income sources that would help you in managing your basic needs while you chase your passion. The big break will most likely come when you least expect it.