A lot of coaches write to me asking what they should teach
their players and in what order.
This article summarises what I consider to be the eight
most important skills and techniques to teach 8 to 10 year olds (or any
child who has been playing for about two years).
It's not an exhaustive list and you may well have your own
ideas! If so, I would be glad to hear them...send
Generally, it is not imperative that your players learn these
skills in a particular order or that they master one before moving on to
the next, only that they follow the principles and have a basic
understanding of them through games and exercises.
Don't spend more than a couple of minutes talking about these objectives.
Your players aren't interested in what YOU want to do! They are there to
They will learn what you want them to learn over time and by playing
games, not by listening to lectures.
After you've briefly demonstrated
the basics, try
to use small sided games (or SSGs) to
reinforce them. Check out the ideas
on this page (especially
Cooper's SSG Handbook)
and don't be afraid to adapt them for your own purposes.
And if you need any help or advice
regarding any aspect of youth soccer coaching, I recommend that you join
footy4kids soccer coaching forums. They are full of experienced
coaches just waiting to give you the benefit of their experience!
Objective 1: getting used to a dynamic warm up
Dynamic (or functional stretching) is
warming up the muscles specifically for the movements that will be used in
the activities of the training session.
Each of the exercises below should be
performed over a 15-20 yard area with a walking or jogging recovery.
• Lunge Walk - loosens up the hips.
Lunge walk is when you take large steps keeping the chest up, looking
straight ahead and moving the arms and legs together.
• High Knees - for hip flexor and
ankle strength. Extend up to the toes and lift each thigh to a parallel
position with the ground as you move forward.
• Calf Walk - for lower limb strength
and Achilles flexibility. Extend the ankle on each step will warm up the
calf muscles and Achilles tendons.
• Sideways running - for lower limb
strength, agility and flexibility.
• Backwards skipping - same as above
and works on strengthening quads and calf muscles.
more warm up activities
Objective 2: developing a good first touch
There are two key elements of good ball
a) The receiver's first touch should protect
the ball from challenging players and not give them a chance to regain
b) the receiving player should play the ball
into available space to allow for the next touch and to gain or keep
A poor first-touch will risk taking the
momentum out of play and increase the possibility of losing possession.
Some players at this age make the mistake of killing the ball dead and not
concentrating on getting it out of their feet. The first touch should
ensure that a time wasting second touch is not needed to get the ball out
ready for the next action.
Objective 3: understanding and practicing various kicking, passing and
how to kick a football (soccer ball) correctly
how to kick a football
(soccer) ball (part 2)
the push pass
how to teach the laces kick and driven pass
shooting - teaching
shooting technique and power
Objective 4: principles of defending
With young players, the hardest, and
in my opinion, the most important single aspect to get across is that the
closest person to the opponent with the football DOES NOT have the
responsibility to win the ball! Once defenders understand this, about 90%
of diving in is eliminated and the attackers job becomes much harder.
It also reinforces the next most important concept: that
somebody had BETTER be moving to cover the space behind the closest
defender! That is the player who will, most often, wind up winning the
You can demonstrate this quite easily by selecting the best
defensive soccer player on the team, placing that player isolated out on
the pitch, point to a goal for him or her to defend, and then tell them to
"get the ball" from you. Then, simply dribble up to the player, push the
ball past, into space, and run onto it. If you can get the defender to
step towards you, you can do this quite easily.
introduction to defending
the job of a defender
Defensive Principles and Positioning
Objective 5: learn how to shield the ball
perhaps, the most important skill you can teach your players! You need to
demonstrate how to put your body
between the opponent and the ball, so that your players can gain time to
give the ball to a team-mate or take advantage of a mistake by the
defender to get past her.
how to teach shielding the ball
understanding the role of goalkeeper.
many children want to play in goal but all children should be taught the
basics of goalkeeping so that you can play your regular 'keeper out of
goal now and again.
See: goalkeeper coaching for
young soccer players
Games and drills that improve
Objective 7: understand the basics of positional play
"designated positions" are not appropriate for six or seven year old
players but eight or nine year olds may be able to understand the basics
of formations and positional play.
Be careful though - it
is not necessarily being in a designated "position" or being a part of a
formation that helps the players solve the problem/situations in the game,
but rather the ability of the player to read visually the cues, that is
the movement of the ball, movement of the teammates and opponents, and
quickly execute a movement/decision that will be effective.
After all, Soccer is a game where players are constantly changing their
movement and activity patterns. The game demands fluidity,
interchangeability, unpredictability, quick thought and execution.
Adherence to fixed formations will not help your team meet these demands.
that is required is to
get your players to
learn to spread out on attacks, pack the middle of the field on defence
and to learn to make quick passes to get rid of the ball before they can
Read: Is the 'swarm' a legitimate
the swarm - a guide to teaching formations and positional 'sense'
Try: shadow play
Objective 8: defending and attacking goal kicks.
Goal kicks are dangerous for the team in possession if the players do not
understand that they must be first to the ball!
Explaining how to take up a position in alongside or behind an opponent
and then to step in front of them when the kick is taken is simple yet
vital if you are not to give the ball back to the other team every time
you get a goal kick.
Teaching your players that they can (and should) use their bodies to gain
an advantage helps build self confidence and assertiveness on the field.
Games that get your players used to the physical aspects of soccer: