Always Be Prepared! Coaches should plan their sessions in advance. In fact, sometimes the planning may take longer than the actual session.
Let 'Em Play! For the final 15 minutes of your session, let your players enjoy just playing a game of soccer, but in a small-sided format such as 3 v. 3 or 4 v. 4.
Play Each Game Twice. Choose what skill, technique or strategy you will address in your session and stick to it. It is easy to get sidetracked by trying to coach too many areas of the game in one session, especially with young players. Critique and coach only within the chosen topic.
Stick To Your Topic. Introduce a game or drill by explaining the set-up. Allow the players to play for a few minutes, make a few topic-specific coaching points, then have the players replay the game. If necessary, you can allow for additional coaching points and another replay. For a 45-minute session, plan for three or four games.
Remember Kids Learn In Different Ways.
Kids (and adults, for that matter) prefer and learn through different cues.These can be summarized as:
- Auditory: 'I learn best through what I hear.'
- Visual: 'I learn best through what I see.'
- Kinesthetic: 'I learn best through what I feel/do.'
You undoubtedly will have all three types of learners on your team, so it is crucial your teaching methods and coaching points involve cues from all three learning categories.
Use The Right-Sized Playing Space.
These players may be young, but they still need space - a minimum of 15 x 15 yards. It is better to make the working area too big rather than too small. Make sure the boundaries are well marked for these youngsters. Placing a cone every five or six steps is a good guideline. When explaining the boundaries of your area, make it interesting. Calling the playing space a "magical soccer island" or 'Soccerland' - perhaps surrounded by shark-infested waters - will keep your players' attention.
Keep It Interesting!
The library of drills provided in this training plan is a jumping-off point, and can be modified through creativity and timely circumstances. Merely changing the name of a game can keep it fresh for your young players, as can adding a new component each week. It is your responsibility as a coach to alter activities if the situation calls for it. All practice sessions involve the fundamentals, but they can be progressed or differentiated for your players.
Take Water Breaks.
Breaks should be frequent but short, with no sitting down. Breaks can be used between games to split up the practice session, allowing for set up of the next activity. Dividing the session into sections allows for a smooth transition from activity to activity.
Encourage Mass Participation.
Keep all players involved in each activity. If a single player decides to sit out an activity, you may find this attitude quickly spreading to other players. Use good discretion and never force a player who really does not wish to participate into an activity.
Use Gentle Tones. Do not overwhelm players with voice commands. It is easy to scare young players by raising your voice, so keep your tone quiet and friendly. Get down to the players' physical level and talk calmly and soothingly, as if telling a story. Use excitement in your voice to add animation to what you are saying.
Favorite Games. Every group has favorite games, and you can usually determine which one your players like best within the first few sessions. You can then use these games as incentives to encourage the players to attempt an activity they think they don't or won't like.
Winners & Losers/Rewards & Punishments.
Avoid end winners and losers at this age, as the aim is to not create a competitive atmosphere. The players can work collectively to reach a group target or group score. Avoid elimination activities, which act as unproductive negative reinforcement.
Encourage parents to attend practices. Parental presence can help ease players' tensions and anxieties, and parents can help handle any minor emergencies that may arise, such as crying bouts and minor scrapes and scratches. For safety reasons, make it clear to parents that a child should always inform you - the coach - before he or she goes to see a parent.
Rules Of The Game.
Rules should be introduced at times appropriate to the age of the players. Fundamental rules for this age group are the concepts of the ball in play and the ball out of play. This concept gives the players an understanding of field markings and a framework for the space within which the game will be played. Rules of the game can be introduced in increments throughout the season. Start with the goal kick: every time the ball goes out of play, a "kick-in is used to restart play. Progress to throw-ins for balls out of play over the sidelines. Finally, progress to corner kicks, which are given to the offensive side whenever defending players kick the goal line.