How to coach soccer for young children

I really like the WordPress service for blogging. The UI is clean and easy to use and several times a day they update the stats that tell me who is using my blog. And they tell me what terms people type into a search engine to find my posts. What this tells me is that nearly every day some types a phrase like “how to coach soccer for X year olds” into a search engine and somehow or other they end up reading some of my ramblings . So I figured I’d do a few posts about how I coach my teams. For those who don’t care much about soccer don’t worry, I’ll still mock other parents and point out my bad parenting behavior as well.

I’m not a great coach if you weant to learn the fine points of soccer. I’ve written previously that I still don’t really know all the rules and terminology of soccer. On the other hand parents have told me that their kids enjoy our practices and that they think I’m doing a good job. And I think they’re being genuine when they say that so maybe I have one or two useful things to say to others who find themselves coaching young kids.

I currently have two teams I’m coaching, one for 4 and 5 year old boys and girls and one for 6 and 7 year old boys. Each team practices once a week for somewhere around 45-60 minutes. We start each practice with a little stretching and a couple laps around the field at a slow run. We do this mainly to build in the routine for when they’re older and more prone to injury if they don’t stretch.

The first half of each practice we do a little dribbling/ ball control and then work on one other game-related skill. It might be throw-ins , corner kicks, goal kicks, how to tend goal, etc. I try to do a couple different drills and we do them en masse wherever we can. I hate lines and I will do everything I can to avoid putting the kids into lines for a drill. Lines mean that one kid is practicing a skill and 5-6 others are waiting. Waiting is a killer for young kids so we don’t do that. All it takes is a little creativity and a few good suggestions to come up with group-drills. Here’s where I put in a plug for the AYSO Coaches guides, which has some excellent suggestions for drills, even though their web site is really hard to navigate around.

So we spend the first half of our time practicing one skill, in a couple different ways. The second half is a scrimmage. We scrimmage every practice because nothing teaches a game like playing the game. So we play 3 on 3 or 4 on 4, no goalies. If something happens during the game that would be a good teaching point we’ll stop and practice a particular skill in a game setting. But mostly our scrimmages are to let the kids play the game.

The last 5 minutes of most practices are kids vs parents. I ask all the parents who are willing to come out onto the field. Most of them do and they’re pretty good about playing well with the kids. This is the part of practice that all the kids absolutely love. The parents used to be really tentative about playing with the kids but as the kids have gotten more aggressive about playing the parents have started taking it up a notch. The kids like this even more, they can tell when the parents are trying hard and they love to beat the big people.

Practice ends with congratulations and a review of when we’ll meet next, typically a game on Saturday. We review who’s bringing snacks and then we break up. I try to talk to each child as we disperse and let them know that they did a great job in practice, usually I try to compliment them on something they did well. My philospophy is that kids can never hear “thank you”, “you did a great job today”, and “I’m so proud of you” too many times.

I’ll try to write up some basic drills that we do in later posts. But I think that’s enough soccer for now, let’s get back to my battles with raccoons and skunks next …

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