WYC 055 – Youth Soccer – Jill Kochanek talks Communicating without Talking and Soccer Without Borders

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What does it take to be a winning youth coach? Listen in as Jill Kochanek shares stories and discusses her journey to becoming a successful youth sports coach.

Jill has been a teacher and girls soccer coach at Oldfields School in Baltimore for 3 years. She was 1 of 25 award winners for the Positive Coaches Alliance Double-Goal Coach Award for 2015. Jill has been involved with and traveled to Nicaragua with the ‘Soccer without Borders’ program.  Jill also just completed her first Ironman Triathlon.

She is now studying for her PHD in Sports Psychology at the University of Minnesota.


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‘The perfect time to build confidence is in practice’

My Cringe & ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments

  • Coming from very competitive college sports as an athlete, it was a big adjustment to coach girls who were just learning the game.  But it was a good chance to reassess the goals for the team and set priorities that really come down to teaching the fundamentals and teaching the team to play for their teammates.

Teaching Children & Keeping it Fun

  • Have a theme for each practice
  • Practice format:
    • Start with a dynamic warm-up led by your captains, then always start with some type of drill that focuses on some fundamental.
    • Then do 2 or 3 drills that are building up the intensity.
    • Then let the kids do what they really want to – play the game.  Either small sided or full team scrimmages.  Minimal stoppages, but pull kids aside for one-on-one coaching as needed.
    • Then finish practice with some type of physical exercise when they’re exhausted – it’s a great time to stretch the kids physically and mentally.

Life is bigger than sports – ‘Soccer without Borders’

  • Jill has been involved with an organization in Nicaragua that gives girls in Granada the social, educational and economic support they need to overcome obstacles to success and achieve their personal goals.  Check them out: soccerwithoutborders.org


  • Her biggest takeaway from this has been the importance of communication without words – you can communicate with your actions, visually demonstrating.  This applies even when you don’t have a language barrier – your body language is critical when you’re a coach.

Self-Confidence and teaching kids to achieve peak performance


  • ‘The perfect time to build confidence is in practice’
  • Set your practices up with lots of small actions that kids can succeed at – this will build up their confidence.
  • Have some type of physical way to ‘brush off’ mistakes – It can be a trigger word – ‘next one’, or some type of physical action like brushing your shoulder off

Culture – Creating a Winning Attitude

  • Lean on your most intense players who are the hardest workers to be leaders on the team.
  • If your team is less talented and you struggle with being able to win games – keep the players motivated by establishing mini-goals within the game and practice -things that are within their control. These can be attitude-based too – Set a goal of players saying at least 5 positive things to teammates during a game.

Connecting with Kids

  • Jill had an athlete who came into the season with a little trepidation – but she totally bought-in throughout the season and really embraced being a member of the team and loved it.

Best Stolen idea

  • Passion and energy as a coach – including sensing when the team just needs a break or some fun – Jill had a coach who would occasionally back her car onto the field and play loud music during some of the drills.

The One that Got Away

  • While Jill didn’t enjoy the first couple games of her first season when they lost 8-0, 7-0, etc.  But in retrospect she realizes that failures are a part of any process – so she wouldn’t say she would want a do over.

Parting Advice

  • Communication is critical. Not just verbal communication – but your body language and passion are just as important if not more important than what you are saying.

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