I am always being asked by parents who are keen for their child to play soccer (football) from an early age, "How do I start my own team of 4/5 year olds?" Use the following soccer coaching tips to make the experience fun for the children and rewarding for the coach.
1. Keep games small
If you put your players into small groups of seven or less it is easier for you to keep control and the kids see more of the ball and have more fun. Have as many assistants help out as possible – two or three parents make excellent assistant coaches. Tell them from the very beginning that in soccer a key coaching tip is: NO HANDS!
2. Twos or threes
Play 2X2 or 3X3 lead-up games. You can put one parent on each team to help direct the game, give them strict instructions as to what they can or cannot do (one touch, no tackles, and not in goal) and show what the helpers are doing to the players. Explain the skills and fundamentals of soccer during practice.
3. Buy basic sports equipment
Invest in cones, hoops, speed ladders, making sure you don’t have long lines of children waiting to take their turn. This is when problems occur. It may sound obvious but you must have enough balls for all the players to use. Prepare a few simple activities and try to maximize time on task (show-tell-show-practice). Avoid lengthy explanations. Whenever you think about game strategy, relax and let it go, that comes later. Trying to teach children to play positions is a long term thing. They all want to be striker, so switch them around.
4. Can they kick it?
Try and get your kids to kick with the side of the foot not to toe punt. Try this soccer drill: (1) Start from a standing position with a stationary ball, (2) kick stationary ball with the kids moving slowly, (3) kick moving ball while in stationary position (you roll it too them), (4) kick moving ball while moving (again you roll it to them).
5. It’s also a social event
Allow plenty of drinks breaks and allocate time for socialising before and after training. Make sure the kids know you have allocated this time and that during training chatting about last night’s TV is out.
Keep them quiet! Avoid excessive cheering when a goal is scored so it's no big deal when they lose a goal. Remember, it’s a fun thing.
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