This is the second in a three-part series on coaching children at this young age. Look back to the previous month to view the first part.
Children at these ages are being introduced to just how much FUN it is to play soccer. By providing a safe and fun environment you can ensure a positive experience for the children.
You are coaching because you care for children. You may not even know much about soccer (well, not yet anyway), and that is OK! What you bring to the soccer field as their coach is your personality! Your enthusiasm for them will show through any misgivings you might have about your soccer coaching abilities. Remember that these children may not remember what you teach them about soccer, but they will always remember how you make them feel.
Games, games and more games!
The children love to play games. As they arrive at the field have them immediately engage in some type of game.
- For younger children, it could be something like “Beehive” where they can show you their totally awesome dribbling skills.
- For older children, it could be starting out with the first two players arriving playing a little 1v1 game. Then when more players arrive, they are added to the game up to 3v3. Then start another game so everyone is playing in a “small sided” game (SSG).
- Small sided games work best for all ages. You want the children to get the most possible touches on the ball. Keep your small sided games to no more than 4v4 if you can.
- At these ages, there are no goalkeepers. Everyone is to play as a field player without using their hands.
- Check out the many games available on the MOTI app. These are all age-appropriate for your team.
- Your club or organization may or may not have a “league” schedule for you to play against other teams. If they do, remember that no score is to be kept (although the kids will all know it :). Be careful as a coach that you do not get caught up in wins and losses. Begin your training now to be a much bigger and better coach than that. Look for small victories within the games and train your parents to also look for small victories. There is nothing more a child wants to hear from their coach or parent than these little 5 words, “I love watching you play.” (John O’Sullivan, Changing the game in youth sport) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXw0XGOVQvw
One of your responsibilities as a coach is to help each child have fun. A large part of having fun for a child is experiencing success. You can help them experience success on the soccer field by helping them discover some of the basic tried and true soccer skills.
At these ages, there are about a half dozen ball control and dribbling skills and one very important passing skill for them to discover and have success doing. You can help them learn these skills by using the MOTI App either at practice or at home (if their parent will download the free app).
Every practice you should plan on having a game where the children are given a chance to show you how great they are getting at learning their soccer skills. Lots of praise and encouragement is in store for them, especially when you see them execute one of these skills in a game situation under pressure.
This is what makes coaching so much fun! When you see something you worked on in practice being executed by a child in a game situation, you know that you are doing your job. That is when you get excited as a coach.
Next month we will discuss passing at this young age and behavior issues that may arise.
Brad has coached a variety of sports in the community, middle school, and high school for 40 years including coaching the MN 2021 Class A State High School Champion. He has coached soccer from U6 at the recreational level to U19 at the club level and all age groups at the high school level, including 11 years as a head coach. He holds a USSF “B” coaching license and USC diplomas.