This is the last in a three-part series on coaching children at this young age. Look back to the previous months to view the first and second parts.
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 insure 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.
To Pass or not to Pass?
Passing is a necessary skill in soccer. However, you may find that at the U6 age level and younger it is a very hard concept for a child to grasp. Remember that they are still very possessive of the ball and do not want to give it up.
Passing also takes a lot of decision making on the part of the child. When is it a good time to pass? If I have a clear path in front of me to dribble, should I dribble or pass?
If you are coaching U6 children and younger do not get too hung up on teaching them passing. Instead use games that focus on dribbling and control, advancing the ball with the dribble when there is an opening to do so, taking on an opponent if you think you can beat them with the dribble, and pass only if your way forward is blocked so you can give a teammate the opportunity to advance the ball. You may need to train the parents of your U6 team also about passing, for you will certainly hear them yelling from the sidelines, “pass the ball” or even worse “kick the ball.”
Attitude and Behavior start with YOU!
Hey Coach! Here’s a shock. Your behavior needs to be GREAT! You should not argue with anyone, including the referees. Encourage every player, even players on the other team. Build everyone up. And don’t let your parents get away with bad behavior. Be gentile but firm.
What does good behavior look like for the children?
- Play with your feet, not your hands. This is a hard one at the beginning, as soccer is the only major sport where hands are not used as an integral part of the game.
- Play hard. Run hard. Soccer players love to run. Running is so important to soccer that it is looked on as a positive attribute. On a side note, because running is positive never use running as a consequence for bad behavior.
- Work together with your teammates. Have fun playing with each other and against your opponent. Then, at the end of the game, build each other up – and the opponent also! Begin teaching them good sportsmanship.
What might negative behavior look like?
- What if the child does not do what I want them to do? You will see this a lot with children who are not as engaged as you would like them to be. Remember safety first and make sure they are not being harmful to others. Then if a child does not want to become engaged in the activity, don’t push them. Encourage them to play but do not force them into playing.
- Sometimes you may have a child that is being harmful to teammates or others. Hitting, pushing, negative language, etc. are all inappropriate in soccer (and in life). If this occurs, it is best to stop the action and address it immediately through a calm conversation. You may need them to sit with their parents to give them a chance to calm down. You do not need any further consequences. Just missing the fun of playing soccer is enough for them.
Remember to praise positive behavior, especially if it occurs after you have had to deal with some negative behavior.
Now here is what is so crazy about coaching soccer. What I learned about coaching as I have gone through many soccer seasons and taken many soccer coaching courses, I was easily able to transfer over to coaching other sports. As I coached middle school basketball and high school baseball, I used this same philosophy to create a safe and fun environment for the players. Sure, the skill set is different, but the ideas of how to put together a training session remain the same. And, of course, I always loved watching them play.
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.