soccer coaching and the very young
Coaching children under six years of age
presents some additional challenges due to their immaturity, short
attention span, and less developed muscles. You will also need to deal
with a great variation between personalities, physical size, and
abilities. Your objective should be for all of the kids to have fun, make
friends, and learn some soccer skills that will help them should they
decide to continue to the next level. You should not expect to win all of
your games or expect everyone to listen to long lectures. Your goal is to
introduce them to basic concepts like dribbling and kicking and make it
enough fun that they want to keep playing as their bodies and minds
mature. Go down to their level of thinking. Don't try to bring them up to
yours. What was fun when you were four years old? The kid who is watching
seagulls will tell you were the greatest coach in the world if he had fun.
He will have fun when he kicks the ball or at least when he makes an
attempt and gets praise instead of criticism.
Here are some good principles to follow:
Keep practices and matches fun. Play
"games" that cause kids to learn skills, not "drills." If practice is
fun, the kids will want to attend. If it is not fun, their parents will
sometimes have to force them to attend and a potential star may drop
Maximize touches on the ball per
player in practice. Avoid lines - the kids won't behave well while
waiting for their turn to play the ball.
Minimize lecturing - they have very
short attention spans. You have maybe ten seconds to make your point.
Play lots of small-sided games. 3v3 is
ideal for this age. Why doesn't 7v7 or 11v11 work at this age? Imagine
putting 14 or 22 six-year-olds on the field to share one toy. When
Billie finally gets the ball, will he pass it? No, because he knows he
won't get it back! And shy Freddie may play a whole game and get only
two touches on the ball.
Concentrate on improving individual
skills, i.e., dribbling, trapping, shielding the ball, shooting, getting
around an opponent, etc. You will develop more skilful players this way
and win more games in the process. Some passing will develop naturally
if you play small-sided games, but you will get frustrated if you try to
force it. Do not let anyone on your sideline yell, "Pass the ball!"
Don't keep standings or statistics.
The kids will be having fun playing something else an hour after the
game, win or lose. Only the parents and coaches will still be replaying
the goals and mistakes in their minds the next day!
2. Organization (items
of particular interest to the U6 coach)
It's important to make sure parents
understand what you are trying to accomplish and how you will be going
about it. So, explain the objectives to the parents at the beginning of
the season and get agreement. Some of the parents will be new to soccer,
so (In addition to following the guidelines on the pre-season meeting) give the parents a written
summary containing the following:
safety rules (e.g. spikes and
shinguards required at games and practices),
the names of all children on the
roster (this will help the kids get to know each other),
the coach's rules or the additional
guidelines that you ask the parents to commit to.
Some that are appropriate for very young
need to make sure kids go to the
bathroom just before leaving the house,
you should have one ball for each
child plus one for yourself. You should ask the kids to bring their own
balls as most associations only give out a ball for every two kids At
this age group, it is more important than ever to get a couple or more
parents to help with the practice. Believe me, you will need extra help
to chase balls, tie shoes, and wipe noses to allow you to move among the
kids to ensure they are practicing what you instructed. Ideally, you
will have at most two or three kids per parent/coach.
Keep things moving quickly. Participate
in all of the warm-ups and drills -in fact; exaggerate your motions to
illustrate the proper procedure. Do the actions at the same time as you
are explaining a stretch or a drill (not after).
Do the same warm-ups and stretches each practice. It is
less important to do a lot of stretches with U7s. A warm-up regime may
consist of 5 each of inside right, inside left, outside right, outside
left passes and 5 gentle chest traps.
Encourage 15 min of practice at home on the days we do
not practice. You may encourage the parents to participate in the warm-up
exercises with their own child. This allows the coach to teach the proper
technique to the parents, too, so that if they work with their child, they
will reinforce proper technique. The coach my give the parents others
suggestions for at home practice, i.e. dribbling and passing (working on
leading your partner).
Have the kids hold a ball for the stretches where it is
appropriate. This increases the fun and familiarizes them with the ball so
they won't be alarmed when the balls comes their way on game day.
Avoid drills with line-ups. Try to incorporate skill
development into soccer related games. They each should have the ball at
their feet almost all of the time. Success is related to the attempt not
the outcome. As a coach you must get excited about the attempt, not the
outcome (if the attempt is genuine the outcomes will continually get
better). This is difficult, because we as coaches (and parents) are
conditioned to see the end results. Emphasize technique rather than speed.
At this age, there is less emphasis on progression than
with older groups because they are too young to put several moves together
successfully and they will get bored if there is not much variation
between drills. For example, you may progress a drill to do it with the
other foot, or complete a drill and then take a shot on goal, but much more
than this will bore them. However, a new drill or soccer related game can
work on the same type of skill. An example might be:
Dribble across the field.
Dribble through some cones.
Play "Pirate", all the kids dribble the ball in a
marked area and the coach tries to kick a ball out.
Skills should be broken down into smaller components.
For example, passing may be learned by one child rolling the ball to another, who tries to pass it back. Then have the
children slowly push the
balls with the inside of their feet and finally have them pass it back and
forth at regular speed.
4. Soccer drills for small children
Drills for small children must be tailored to their
abilities and promote the development of individual skills rather than
team skills, which will come later. We've included
a short collection of good soccer-related drills for children under 6.
Soccer-related games put the fun in
learning soccer skills and teamwork so we've put together
a collection of good soccer-related games for children under 6. Dennis
Mueller has also allowed us to use
some suggestions for games and activities.
more match day
Ensure you are familiar with your association rules
Some of the kids may lose their concentration as soon as
the game starts. The short attention span of children this age is why
kindergarten programs are generally for a half day. Kids lose focus is if
they do not get to handle the ball enough. Smaller rosters and smaller
sides help solve this problem. If your association rules call for a large
number of players, say 7 or more, per side, try to get agreement from the
other coach to play fewer players to allow all players more opportunity to
handle to ball. To accomplish this, you will need some help from other
coaches and parents. An ideal set-up for U5 is 4 vs 4 with no goalkeepers.
Put any difficult children in at the start of the game.
That way, as they start to lose focus they can come off and you can put in
more mature children who will be focused for the duration of the game.
There should be unlimited substitutions at this age. Have the parents help
with substitutions so you can concentrate on the game.
Depending on your local club rules, at this age both
coaches may be on the field for games. Note this is an exception to normal
guideline of no coaches on the field. For the first couple of games you
will have to give some direction ("the goal is the other way, Johnny") but
you should reduce this as soon as possible to allow the kids to find their
own. At the beginning, to get them to actively participate you may only
need to point at the ball or tell them to "go get it".
However remember that it is not your game! Avoid active
coaching on the field as it only encourages the kind of shouting that
continues on into older age groups. If the coach does the thinking for
them, they will never learn to do it for themselves. Same principle
applies for doing the talking for them.
As the adults on the field, both coaches should assist
kids on both teams. Each coach should cover one half of the field. Try to
rotate throw-ins and free kicks among all of the kids, and give the ball
to a nearby kid to reduce the time wasted. It serves no purpose at this
level to call most fouls as they would be called at higher levels.
Allowing the play to continue keeps the kids interested and provides a
much better learning experience than for the players whistling down every
foul and lining up for free kicks. At this level, the idea of "keep it
safe, keep it fair, keep it moving" generally applies.
Don't spend too much time setting up formations at the
beginning of the game or set plays. A simple "spread out" or "give five
big steps for the free kick" is enough. At this age there is a universal
tendency for the kids to bunch-up around the ball. You will see a swarm of
kids move around with the ball popping out occasionally. This is normal
and there is nothing you can do to prevent it, so don't worry about it or
try to correct it. You may assign some kids to defensive duties but they
are likely to make a run for the ball like the rest when they see it.
Some advice on how to "coach the bunch" is found in the
section on teaching basic positional play.
Under 5 (3 or 4 years old) is generally too young to
expect any teamwork. Even Under 6 is pushing it! If you see a pass, it is
more likely than not an errant shot on goal. The USYSA mandates no keepers
for up through U8. Where goalies are used, the selection of a goalkeeper
may create some competition among the kids. In general, let every kid have
a chance in practice. For games, putting a kid who is not capable in goal
may hurt their confidence and cause resentment from the other players.
Tell the players that goalie is an important position and you will watch
them playing and select the kid who you believe is trying the hardest. If
you chance the goalie, tell him or her they did well in net and now you
want them to help the team by scoring some goals. Remember the objective:
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