“Kids’ football (soccer) is all about the individual loving the game: dribbling and shooting, playing games and scoring goals, experimenting and copying. It is very simple and lots of fun.
Adult football is all about the team and results. It is physical, tactical, complicated and very serious.”
Tom Statham of Manchester United Academy
Perhaps the most important ‘key’ to successful youth soccer coaching is this:
Always aim to make the training sessions fun for everyone – including you!
But…you can only do this with the aid of careful planning. Always think about what you want your team to achieve in the long term as well as today. Have a plan.
It is important that your training sessions take the ages and capabilities of your children into account but most soccer coaching sessions follow this pattern:
- a warm up to raise the heart rate of your children, stretch their muscles and get them focused on the session;
- a quick and simple demonstration of the skill/technique that you want them to learn**
**Don’t forget to ASK them what they think is the best way to pass or shoot or keep the ball etc. rather than TELL them why you think they should do it that way.
- some fun games that will allow them to practice what you’ve just shown them. Play lots of SSGs – small sided games are better than 6 or 7 a side;
- a small sided game (scrimmage) with no intervention from you to finish the session.
|Don’t be tempted to adopt a ‘P.E’ style of coaching – while it’s important to plan your sessions be careful not to make them too rigid. Be prepared to adapt according to what you see and hear on the practice field. Above all, don’t be afraid to let your children play!
Don’t try to pack too much in – remember to allow time for discussion, setting up, drinks, arguments etc!
Don’t persevere with a plan that obviously isn’t working. Have a couple of tried and tested alternatives up your sleeve and work out what went wrong afterwards.
Don’t use drills that involve children standing in lines for more than a few seconds – they’ll soon get bored and bored children are trouble!
Don’t train children on your own. Always have at least one assistant, even if all they do is tie laces and fetch balls. There is also an important health and safety consideration here: who will look after your children if you have to take one of them to hospital?
Do treat your players with respect. They like you to listen and take notice of their feelings and opinions. Find out what they want from you and agree some clear ground rules. If you still have have trouble with discipline issues, read this.
Also, you must consider child protection issues, especially if you’re training a mixed group of boys and girls. I always have a female assistant if I’m training girls.