As General Manager of the Tallahassee Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Lindsay Taylor has her hands full. Not only does she coach the competitive U-19 women’s side, the U-15 girls, and manage the Tots program, but she also oversees corporate sponsorship, staffing for the grassroots initiatives and periodization for the senior teams.
But that’s not enough for the former Winthrop University midfielder. For now, Taylor is intent on obtaining her U.S. Soccer National B License. For the future, she has bigger career goals.
In April, Taylor was one of 34 coaches who completed their second meeting of the B License course, which began in February and runs through July.
“Meeting with Bonnie Young (Chicago Red Stars assistant coach), who is also taking the course, and with a few collegiate coaches, and working with Florida State University one day a week and being able to go to their training and shadow Mark Krikorian (head coach) and Mike Bristol (assistant coach), it’s been an amazing experience,” Taylor told ussoccer.com this week. “I finally kind of realize that I ultimately want to coach at a high-collegiate program, and the ultimate goal is to coach for our National Teams.”
Taylor, who previously coached in the New York Red Bulls Academy, acquired her D license in 2011 and C license in 2015. This year, she was selected to continue on to the next phase of the coaching education pathway.
Unlike the previous license courses, candidates must apply and be selected to take the B course, which focuses on developing the skills of coaching in general as well as the long-term development of players and the team in particular. Coaches eligible for the B license course must be coaching youth or senior players and teams playing 11v11.
“The big difference that separates this course is the fact that this is a more holistic approach,” said U.S. Soccer B-License Instructor Neal Ellis. “We are looking at the whole environment – how do you coach, how do you communicate, how do you lead, how do you talk to your team, to the individuals, to the parents. So we cover everything in this course.”
The B course begins with an initial meeting followed by a two-month development period where instructors get to know the coaches through regular communication and by each coach submitting assignments focused on leadership, player interviews and prioritization.
“Every single one of them comes in with their own experience, with their own deficiencies,” said Ellis, who is also Director of Coaching for the South Texas Youth Soccer Association. “So our job within the development period is to assess where the candidate is right now, and where do we need to take each individual candidate.”
The process is fluid, and by the time the coaches reach the second course meeting, they’ve received standards and feedback, which in theory lead to continuous improvement.
“The expectation for the second meeting is that we are looking for them to be more efficient in their coaching, in the delivery of information, and set up of the activity has to be correct,” added Ellis. “The emphasis is how can we push the coaching to another level.”
Count Taylor as one who has embraced the process.
“The way it’s been broken up has been so much more comprehensive than the C course,” Taylor said. “The different techniques that we’ve learned over the last two months with the player interviews and how to approach certain things to get to know your players a little better, and managing the entire environment not just as a manager but as a leader – and to understand the difference. You don’t really think about things like that until you discuss them with other people.”
As she approaches the second development period before the final assessment, Taylor reflected on two key takeaways to date.
“The big thing that I took from the last meeting is that it’s really helpful to be open-minded and be able to talk candidly with your instructor and with other coaches,” she said. “But the emphasis on technique is a really big deal. The instructors are asking us to learn to recognize and be very specific and clear with the players. It’s been one thing I’ve been trying to focus on a lot – to not just sweep over concepts, but to really dive in and get my players to understand why we do certain things.”
Ellis says that each coach will be required to complete four new assignments in their own environment during the upcoming development period. One task requires coaches to videotape a coaching session while wearing a microphone so they can go over the session with their instructor.
“Those moments are the most important,” Taylor said of the forthcoming evaluation. “You can get so caught up in your training session where you may not realize what exactly you say, or if everybody is engaged, or if your coaching position should be moved or fixed, and being able to watch yourself coach is super important.”
Other assignments will focus on leadership, becoming a role model and improving the team. After completing the development period, the coaches will once again gather for their final assessment meeting.
“I hope what they get out of this course is that coaching is a process, that it’s going to be constant learning,” said Ellis. “Each coach has to submit a personal development plan, and I think that the coaches that take that development plan to heart are going to continue to improve because they’re going to look at the long-term.
Taylor has that part down.
“Obviously you’re learning a lot about different ways to approach coaching, because you’re exposed not only to the instructors and their coaching styles, but you’re also surrounded by other coaches, and you get to observe and be engaged in their training sessions, their style, and how effective they are,” she added.
“I found that making the connection with these coaches – in the B course especially, since we’ve been able to meet multiple times – I’m getting to know these coaches and establish relationships. That’s what keeps me motivated and striving to be a better coach – because I’m surrounded by people who want to improve soccer in the United States. That’s motivating to me, that’s inspiring, and that’s why I continue to go back (to take courses).”