How to help new or weaker players

One problem that often causes problems for youth soccer coaches is pitching the session at the right level, so that it has something for everyone – the new or weaker players, the “average” players and the most skilful players.

If your coaching sessions follow the traditional pattern of technical instruction/demonstration, followed by unopposed or 1v1 practice, then a small-sided game (SSG) and finally a scrimmage (match), there are some things you can do to keep all your players – no matter what their level of skill – fully engaged.

The technical instruction phase should be as short as possible. All children will soon get bored with being told what to do (they get enough of that at school all day!) and the more skilled players will get bored and switch off very quickly indeed.

When you practise a skill, pair your players up according to their ability, for example, weaker v weaker, stronger v stronger. This will enable all the players to achieve some success and it won’t allow the better players to relax. You could also play 2v1 instead of 1v1 with two average players pitted against one stronger player.

Small-sided games are the best way to provide something for everyone. If you have some players that are naturally more gifted, these children will come to life when presented with a football-like game to use their skills in, while all the players will enjoy the game itself.

You just need to be careful how you pick the teams when you are concentrating on keeping children of varying abilities equally happy. Don’t allow all the better players to play together and if your team selection for the small-sided games causes arguments, add the condition that whoever scores a goal, immediately changes sides.