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:
'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
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
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
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
Parental Observations. 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
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.