Unfortunately, there are many people in the youth soccer world who “steal a living.” They act as coaches or club directors but do nothing that is truly in the best interest of the children and families they serve. In the end, their only interest is in themselves, and most of the families that have crossed their path are in worse situations because of it. We call these people “con artist coaches.”
Unfortunately, con artist coaches are very good at what they do. To an untrained eye, they seem like they have everything figured out and can be very appealing to parents and children, which is why they are so dangerous. To help us avoid becoming victims to con artist coaches, below are seven warning signs that a coach might in fact be a con artist.
1. Big Promises
If a coach ever promises or guarantees that a child will receive college or professional offers if he/she plays for his team or club, immediately run the other way – fast! No one can promise these things. So many factors go into how and why players end up on college or professional rosters. Con artist coaches use this as bait, and these promises are almost always unfulfilled. Even if a child does end up playing in college, it is usually done on their own merit, not because of the con artist coach.
Good coaches: Honest coaches will help their players through the process of playing at a higher level, but they will never promise an outcome. Especially to 9-year olds. Honest coaches can even boast the success of former players – but again, they will never guarantee the same for other children.
2. Stealing Players
Parents ought to ask questions about the previous experiences of their children’s coaches. If a coach has left a former club, it might be good to know why. If a coach has left a former club and taken players with him, get out of there! Con artist coaches are notorious for leaving clubs and stabbing people in the back by stealing players. There is nothing wrong with leaving a club – but taking families and getting them wrapped up in personal drama is inappropriate and unprofessional. So if a coach left a former club, and if a bunch of players followed, stay away!
Good coaches: Honest coaches might leave a club, but they will tell their players and families to stay and/or make a decision for themselves. They will not openly bad-mouth the club (even if they deserve it) and will not persuade others to go with them.
3. Poaching Players
If a coach ever casually mentions an interest in your child joining his team while knowing that your child is currently playing somewhere else, that’s a red flag! Even if it seems innocent or genuine, this shows a lack of integrity. Think of interacting with the stereotypical dishonest used car salesman – they come off friendly, but they push us toward something we’re not totally comfortable with or give us a feeling something’s not quite right… Con artist coaches work in a very similar manner.
Good coaches: Honest coaches might be friendly or compliment a player’s performance. But they will not try to persuade anyone to leave a team.
4. Just Win, Baby!
Con artist coaches only emphasize winning. Their justification for how good their coaching is or how successful they are is how many youth tournaments and leagues they have won. When you read their bio online, it highlights their win/loss record or how many championships they’ve won. They will likely even promise that your child will win competitions. They also run up the score against weaker teams and speak about it as a positive. Any of these situations are major red flags.
Good coaches: Honest coaches are proud of their teams’ successes, but they realize that it’s about more than winning. They also realize that running up a score does not help anyone and is not something to brag about.
5. Spending Too Much Time with Parents
If a coach spends a significant amount of time at every or most practices speaking to parents, beware. Coaches have a very limited amount of time to work with the kids. None of it should be wasted. If a coach has a tendency to neglect the kids and speak to parents during this limited practice time, it is a clear sign of mixed-up priorities. Why is this coach more concerned about schmoozing with parents than coaching the kids? Because he knows that parents have the paychecks and make the decisions, and he wants to charm them. Or at best, this coach simply does not realize how precious this limited practice time is.
Good coaches: Honest coaches will address concerns and build relationships with parents. But never at the expense of the kids. If there needs to be an occasional parent meeting, that is okay. However, spur-of-the-moment, prolonged chatting with parents is unprofessional and quite possibly devious.
6. Full of “Opportunities"
As you can imagine, con artist coaches are always scheming. So if a coach approaches us about a financial situation not directly related to the team, it is a major red flag. If the coach is in college and fundraising for a cause, it is likely innocent. But if the coach mentions a need for investors for some sort of project or mentions a financial “opportunity,” he is likely a con artist. Also, a coach who claims to have some sort of charity is also a red flag. Surely, coaches can be philanthropists, but too many times, con artist coaches have used this tactic to selfishly make money.
Good coaches: Honest coaches might donate to charity or help fundraise for a cause. They also might be savvy investors. But they also understand boundaries and professionalism.
7. Unprofessional Coaching Methods
There’s something not right about coaches who claim to have high-level licenses yet coach like an amateur. Yet this is the reality of most con artist coaches. They will dishonestly advertise their licenses and/or playing experience (like, ALL the time), but when they coach, they do things that are “deadly sins.” Such actions might include relentlessly yelling, constantly “joy sticking” players (non-stop “coaching” is unnecessary and detrimental), or conducting fitness with young kids (hurdles, ladders, sprints, laps – any and all of it is unprofessional for 10-year olds).
Good coaches: Honest coaches are truthful about their experience and humble about it. They also do their best to learn new ways to coach and try to do their best for their players.
So if we see any of these warning signs, we must proceed with caution. Although a single sign is not a guarantee that a coach is a con artist, it is surely worth further investigation. The more signs we identify, the more likely we are dealing with a con artist coach.