A lot of youth soccer coaches complain that their young players start slowly in matches and take at least five or ten minutes before they start to play, so these soccer coaching tips are designed to help combat this problem.
To deal with this, I suggest changing the pre-match routine and using a simple tactic that will supercharge the way your players start their game.
Having used these soccer coaching tactics with my team, I know they work. The girls don’t always finish up winning the match but at least I can relax a bit more when the whistle blows to start the game!
1. Warm up effectively
The pre-match warm-up is key. Your team is not going to be in the right frame of mind when the match starts if you allow your players to turn up five minutes before kick off and your warm-up consists of a few lazy kicks into the goal.
Make it clear to your parents that you need their sons or daughters at the pitch no later than 30 minutes before kick off.
When your players arrive, keep the balls in the bag. If you allow them to kick a ball about before you’ve had a chance to warm them up, don’t be surprised if they come back to you complaining of aches and pulled muscles.
A simple warm-up routine
Set up two parallel lines of 10 cones about five yards apart. Line your players up in pairs in between the lines of cones.
All these exercises are done in pairs.
- Slow jog to end cones and return (a bit quicker) down the outside. Three repetitions.
- Jog with knees up high and return. Two repetitions.
- Jog with heels up and return. Two repetitions.
- Jog forwards to third cone, jog backwards to second cone then forwards to the end cone and return. Two repetitions.
- Jog to first cone. Jump shoulder to shoulder with your partner. Repeat at second cone and continue to the end of the line. Return.
You can add a number of other exercises and stretches (such as hip rotations) to these but as useful as this sort of warm-up is, don’t spend too long on it. Your players need to get some touches on the ball as soon as possible.
But I always play keepaway for at least 10 minutes. Play 4v1, 6v2 or 7v3, depending on how many players you have. Put the defenders in bibs and challenge the rest of the players to string at least 10, 15, 20 passes together before they lose possession.
Make sure they pass and move immediately. I tell my players to move to a new patch of grass each time they pass the ball.
Start in a large space (the width of the pitch) then increase the pressure by moving your players into a smaller space marked out with cones.
Set up a couple of cone goals and finish the warm-up with a short match between your outfield players. If they are old enough, limit them to two or three touches and play without anyone in goal.
If you see a good touch or pass during the warm-up, compliment your players. Always tell them how well they are doing. Have a quiet word with individuals while they are playing. Listen to them. Join in the warm-up yourself. Have fun, smile and look confident.
Timing is very important. You should aim to finish the warm-up a minute or so before your players are due on the pitch. You only need enough time for them to have a quick drink and listen to your final few words of encouragement.
If you finish too soon, all the energy you’ve generated in your players will dissipate and you’ll be back to square one.
2. A little psychology
One of the reasons youth soccer teams start their matches slowly is often the pressure players feel from their parents. Parents often don’t realise the effect they can have if young players hear them saying such things as “another win today and we’ll be second in the league” or “you’re much better than the other team – get out there and score me five goals!”.
Explain to your players’ parents that their children will play better on match days – and have a bigger smile on their faces – if they just let them play without the “encouragement”. When parental comments are confined to “where shall we go for lunch today?” instead of “you need to get stuck in more, you’re not playing tough enough”, you’ll see a big difference in your players’ approach to the game.
If you want your team to score an early goal you have to put your opponents under pressure straight from the kick off.
A simple way to do this is for one of your wide midfielders to run down the line as soon as the whistle blows. The players taking the kick off should then kick the ball hard in the direction of the running player and immediately run towards the goal.
If the midfielder manages to control the ball, great, she is in a good position to cross the ball towards the two players who are now arriving in the box.
If she fails to control the ball and it goes out for a throw in, that’s a good result too. Your opponents will have a throw near to their goal line and they may well find it difficult to get the ball away.
It’s a tactic that has worked for me on more than one occasion. Give it a try!
Plan your pre-match warm-up routine carefully, explain to your parents how their well-meaning comments can stop their child from playing to their potential and practise putting the opposition on the back foot as soon as the ref blows the whistle.
Your supercharged team will soon be racing around the field!