Welcome to the coaches corner! Below documents and links that provide coaching ideas and practices. These are references that have been compiled for your use.
- VYSA U6-U19 Training Priorities
- Jeff Pill Online – National team coach’s youth practices
- Footy 4 Kids
- SOCCER-COACH-L Basic Coaching Manual
Considerations for Developing Goalkeepers
- Goalkeeper Training – Great goal keeping material
- UEFA.com – European Football site with good information for players and coaches
- J.A. King’s Strongsoccer.com – Video collection of different soccer moves
- United States Soccer Federation: US Soccer is the national governing body for soccer in the United States. US Soccer is also the FIFA representative for soccer in the US and is responsible for officiating, coaching schools and licensing and our National Teams program.
- FIFA: The international governing body for soccer.
- UEFA: The regional governing body of FIFA that represents the nations of Europe.
- NSCAA: An educational organization that hosts the annual NSCAA coaches convention and also offers various coaching certificates.
- Virginia Youth Soccer Association
- US Youth Soccer
Coaching U5 and U6 Soccer
Thank you for volunteering to coach for Richmond Strikers. We have worked very hard to create an environment focused on fun and learning. This general attitude is especially important with kids of this age. This has been put together to help those that do not have much coaching experience or Soccer experience. Hopefully it will serve as a starting point for you to come up with your own creative ways to make soccer a fun and positive experience for our kids.
Introduction: Just Go Out and Have Fun
If you've never coached or played soccer, you might have an advantage over people that have. Experienced players have a vision in their mind of how the game is to be played. Many of them can have problems bringing it down to the level of a 4 or 5 year old.
On the other hand, a parent who understands children will usually be a very successful coach, because they have no expectations of what these kids can do in relation to soccer. They go out, play a few games, kick the ball around, joke with the kids, and just have a good time.
Another key to success at this age group is to bring your intellect down to that of a 4 or 5 year old. Their behavior is both pretty simple and pretty silly.
Now, the secret weapon.
Mark your goal with a mascot. Get a bungee cord and strap a mascot to the goal you want them to shoot at. "Always shoot at the Shark (or whatever you tell them)." It prevents most of those "wrong way" goals.
Note: “Wrong way” goals are a bigger deal for the parents than the kids. Don’t make a big deal out of it, and if it is the only goal the child has scored this year, give him a big cheer.
5 Rules to Live By
- You don’t need to know much about soccer. Pick a game kids love and incorporate a soccer ball. Tag, gather the cones, red rover, animal sounds, body freeze, get the coach, etc. These all become “soccer games” when you add a ball.
- Don’t worry about passing, positions on the field, or proper technique. Demonstrate the correct way to perform a skill with the kids but don’t waste time with repetitive technique drills. Pick “coaching moments” when you can make a point that helps the whole team.
- Kids want their own ball and don’t want to share it. Tell the parents that their child needs to bring a ball to practice. Every child should constantly have a ball at their feet during practice. Avoid drills that use lines and always keep the kids busy, their attention spans are short or nonexistent.
- Emphasize players spreading out and not taking the ball from their own teammate. This is a coaching point you should make 100 times a game and constantly when you scrimmage during practice.
- Always play with the kids. If you’re having fun, so are they.
Always pass out a sheet with all the players and parents names. This helps them get to know each other and makes the season more fun. Also pass out a sheet that outlines some of the basics skills we'll be working on.
Discuss the developmental difference between children
Remind your parents that all kids develop differently. The child who is a daisy picker this season may blossom into a tiger over the course of a few months. At times you can even see the light go on in their heads when they finally "get it". Also, either now or during the season if needed, make sure parents know that they don't need to be embarrassed if their child is one who "doesn't quite get it" I have done this numerous times and the parents always look relieved when I broach the subject. It is very important they stay positive with the child.
Encourage the parents to cheer for all the kids, and to follow your lead on what the kids are doing right. Oddly enough, you usually shouldn’t cheer to loud for a goal. They get enough of that from everyone else. Cheer loudest for the child that does something exceptional, like taking the ball cleanly from an opponent, running back hard on defence, or helping up a teammate who has fallen down.
The Bottom Line
Get to know the kids, pretend like you are a kid, and you’ll have a great time. Always demonstrate good sportsmanship and if your team is crushing the other team make adjustments to help level the playing field.
Stuff to bring to your practice:
- A whistle: It can be helpful to get the kids attention, especially if your voice doesn’t carry real well.
- An extra set of shinguards: Kids have to have them to practice, and it can save a kid from missing a practice because he forgot.
- Some cones or pylons: These give you something to use as a marker when you start to invent games.
- First Aid Kit: Bee sting stick
- Treats: The single most important secret to being the best coach ever. 5 years from now, they'll only remember the treats. Practice treats are not provided, so I suggest getting the parents to help restore your stockpile as the season continues. I always have enough treats for siblings that had to sit through the practice also. It makes the parent’s life easier.
First Training Session - Getting Started
1. Introduce yourself to players and parents as they show up
Teach players to shake hands and introduce themselves to each other as they show up. You’ll have to carry them through this. They are very undeveloped socially.
Just let them goof around until the rest of the team shows up.
Talk to them and joke around with them, remember, some of them are first timers.
2. Gather the kids around.......
Tell them how the practices will go. You’ll play a few games, do some drills and then a scrimmage.
Ask them if they know the most important rule (having fun and being nice).
Introduce them to their mascot, and tell them the name of the team
3. First Thing
This is a drill to have them do in order to learn all the names on their team. This should usually take the first three practices or until they seem to get it right.
- Circle passing drill - Emphasis is on learning each other's names. Spread them around into a circle. (A surprisingly difficult task!) Instruct them to yell their names as they kick the ball to someone else. After they have had a chance to yell their own names a few times. Have them yell the name of the teammate they are kicking it to.
4. Second Thing
This is a secret weapon for maintaining order and bringing the kids together for instruction. Basically, whenever you bark out the command “Endline”, they are supposed to run to the endline next to the goal, and stand on the line with their arms extended sideways (Spread your wings). This puts them all in one spot, and keeps them spread out so they can’t touch, poke and bother each other.
- Endline Drill - This is used to keep them in order during practice.
- Have them dribble around in a predefined area.
- Blow your whistle and shout “Endline, Endline, Endline”
- Chase them to the line, help them spread out. Tell them “good job”
- As soon as they are set, have them go out, dribble around, and do it again. Repeat until they seem to get it.
*Assume Nothing* As you start the soccer season with these kids, assume nothing. Some of them may have no idea of the meaning of “dribble” or “out of bounds” etc...
ATTENTION SPANS Once you have them on the line, you have about 28 seconds to explain whatever comes next. With they’re attention spans, if you can’t explain it in 28 seconds, you’re doomed to fail.
5. Third Thing - Soccer Basics
Soccer is wonderful in that it can really be distilled down to a very simple game. This is one of the reasons it is such a great sport for children. At this age, the key is to keep it as simple as possible. Emphasize the following points:
- Take the ball away from the other team and put it in our goal. Pretty simple, huh? But that’s it. Remind them that our goal is the one that has the mascot in it. I will repeat this objective constantly the first few practices, and get them to chant it back to me before every game.
- No Hands! Bounce the ball off their knees, heads, etc... and ask them if it’s ok to hit the ball with that part of their body. They say “YES” Do we ever touch the ball with our hands? NO
- Be nice! Go over the concept of cheering for teammates and encouraging them.
Some things to keep in mind on this first day
Listen to what you tell them
Be very loud, and as precise with your instructions as possible. 9 out of 10 times, if the kids have not done what you asked of them, it is because you did not do a good job of telling them exactly what you wanted them to do. IE... If you yell "OK, Everyone line up", they will mill around, look at their buddy, and presume they are lined up just fine with him.
However, if you yell, "everyone line up on the endline with your balls and spread your wings", they will do exactly that and be happy to do so.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Never, Never, Get frustrated with the level of soccer play. Always be loud in a positive way
Never get loud in a negative way.
Understand that some kids are not mature enough to "get" what is going on. The mark of a good coach is to work to make sure that these kids have fun too. Please don't get frustrated with them, instead, try to be amused by whatever is going on in this child's head. As a coach, you want to make sure this child is having fun, and he wants to come back the next day and the next year and play. As long as he keeps having fun, he will continue to come back until the day he finally does “get it”.
This gets kind of confusing when you introduce throw-ins. “Do we ever use our hands?” “NO, except for throw-ins.”
Finally, remind players that they are expected to thank their parents for bringing them to practice. They listen to this from me every practice before I give them their treats. Remember to give siblings treats if you have enough. It keeps a car fight from erupting on the way home.
More Concepts to work into your Training Beginning of Practice Routine
Stretches: This is really just to get them in the habit and all in one place at the start of practice. These kids are already more flexible than you would be with three hours of stretching. Make it quick and easy. You should try toe touches, jumping jacks, and flamingos, (Quad Stretches)
Ball Rollies: Rolling the ball back and forth and side to side with the bottom of the foot
Ball Steppies: This is a basic foot coordination skill. Stand in front of the ball and with a small hop; touch the ball with the ball of the foot. Bring foot back to ground. Repeat. The idea is to just tap the ball without moving it.
After a while, you might move up to alternating feet with each hop....(good luck) After a while, you might have them try it without looking at the ball.
This skill is made into a drill by asking them to count how many they can do in 10 seconds. Then have them do it again and see if they can beat their own record. (This seems like a great idea until you realize that half of them can’t count.)
Basic Rules Understanding Drills
- Out of Bounds - Some kids won’t have a good grasp on “in-bounds”. The first practice or two, run laps around the field yelling “in bounds- out of bounds” and have them run on that side of the line.
- Throw-Ins - Keep it basic. When the ball is kicked out of bounds on either side, it necessitates a throw-in. The simplest way to teach this is:
- Have the kids put their toes on the line
- Grab the ball with both hands
- Pull it back over their head
- Touch the back of their neck with the ball
- Throw it at your goal. (...or your mascot)
- Both arms come over together
- Both feet stay on the ground on the line.
- Goal Kick & Corner Kicks - Sorry....Still working on an easy way to get this point across to 4 year olds - good luck!
- Take a knee drill - This is to teach the kids to immediately take a knee when play is stopped for an injury. Have them dribble around until I yell take a knee. They are to stop and get on one knee as fast as they can. It’s kinda silly, but they need to learn it.
- “Get up fast when you fall down” drill. If you thought the last one was silly........ I started this in response to kids falling down in games and just laying there. We talk about how you can’t play soccer if you are laying down, and you can’t help your teammates. Basically, have them dribble around, and they are all supposed to fall down whenever you blow the whistle. As soon as they hit the ground, start yelling, “Pop up, pop up pop up as fast as you can”. We’ll do this a few times until they get bored. It makes a surprising difference in the way some kids act during a game.
Miscellaneous Drills and Games
Red Light Green Light
The classic kids game. Sometimes throw in blue light and make them cluck like a chicken. Emphasize that they are to take “Tiny Kicks” and keep the ball close to their body. On red lights, they are supposed to stop the ball with their foot. If the ball is not close to them, they can’t stop it.
Candy by the flamingos
Place a pink flamingo with candy beneath it at the other end of the complex and have them dribble to it and back. The emphasis here is to keep the ball kind of close to their body and kind of in control. Dribble along with them and yell encouragement. Have them use “tiny kicks’ to keep the ball close.
Sharks and Minnows
Classic Kids game. One kid starts without a ball, and he chases the other kids around trying to kick their ball away from them. If their ball goes out of bounds, they become a shark and have to help trying to kick other kids balls away.
Dribbling through Gates.
Set up a series of cones in random locations kind of close together. Set the cones in pairs (gates) about 2 feet apart. Tell the kids they have to dribble through the gates, and count how many gates that they get through in 30 seconds. Tell them they can’t go through the same one twice in a row.
Then do it again and tell the kids to try to get more gates than they did last time.
Follow the leader.
Have them follow you around. The intent is to practice dribbling and to take breaks to work on minor skills. Every 20 steps or so, do something like “take a knee” or “right shoe with your laces only” or anything bizarre you can think of.
When doing drills with the children, be careful not to squash them, or more likely, to trip and fall and hurt yourself.
Steal and Turns.
Do this to try to get the kids to understand turning the ball around after they take it from the other team. Get all the kids lined up on the endline, and stand next to them and the goal with the ball. Then dribble out, and after a few steps, yell out one of their names. They are supposed to chase you down, steal the ball, and take the ball back to the goal to score. You should give them the appropriate amount of resistance based on their own skill. This is a good drill to have another parent help with. They can then take half the kids to the other side of the goal.
Dribbling in a square / Simon says
Set out a 20’ x 20’ square. (You can change the size as needed.) Have the kids dribble around inside the square without hitting anyone else or anyone else’s ball. After they get comfortable with this, yell out different commands.
Do 10 steppies...Take a knee..Touch the ball with your knee...Cluck like a chicken.
A variation of this is to make it like “Simon says.” They have to keep dribbling until you say “Simon Says”. Instead of making those who make a mistake having to sit out, make them dribble to a cone at the other end of the field and come back to be in the game.
Count your dribbles
One of those drills that works well with kids that can count. Have them dribble down to a cone as fast as they can and come back. Have them count their kicks. Do it again, and tell the kids to try to beat their own record by kicking it more times than before. You are trying to teach them to take small kicks and control the ball, but still move quickly.
Ask the kids what games they play at school. Try to create a soccer variation of these games for practice.
Avoid having anyone “sit out”
Avoid games where someone has to sit out. Instead, make them do something else like dribble to a cone that’s about 20 yards away, and then come back and into the game.
Scrimmages are the most important part of your practice. That is what the kids want to do. At this age, make sure you scrimmage every practice. At this age, it doesn’t matter if it is Boys vs. Boys, boys vs. girls, etc.....Talk to the other coaches that are practicing on your night and make sure everyone gets a fair shot at scrimmaging.
Make it a learning experience, and teach both teams, not just your own. Don’t be afraid to stop the game to make a point, just don’t do it so much that it takes away from the game. Try not to single out someone’s mistake, but focus on the concept of what is correct. IE....Who knows why we stopped? That’s right, it went out of bounds. What do we do next?“ That’s right, a throw in, because it went out on the side.”
Game Time - Keep it Simple
Remind them of the basics:
What are we going to do? Take the ball away from the other team and kick it in our goal. Are we going to use our hands? NO
Are we going to play nice? YES
Usually just round robin the players in and out based on _ of a quarter increments. This is where having a watch comes in real handy. You can make the kids stand next to you, but most of them want to go to their parents for water and compliments. Do whatever makes sense to you.
Some Comments about Games
They won't pass. They don’t want to pass. They have been waiting all week to kick the ball, and once they get, it the last thing on their mind is to give it to someone else. Don't make them pass unless you have some really exceptional kids. The only time I really promote passing is when we are slaughtering the other team and I am trying to slow my kids down.
Pushing and Shoving
If too much of this goes on in a practice or game, make the offender play with their thumbs stuck in their waistband . This keeps them from being pushy or using their hands too much.
When they fall or cry, don't panic. Tell parents that they are welcome to run onto the field if they think their child is hurt. Most of the “injuries” in this age group are for getting attention or embarrassment from a mistake. If you feel that a child is using this to seek attention, give him all the attention he needs....On the sideline. Give the requisite amount of sympathy, and then have them sit out an extra two or three shifts. Explain that you are afraid to put them back in since they were “hurt” This usually drives them nuts, as they were planning on a quick "recovery" as soon as the attention died down. It tends to cause a tapering off effect in the amount of “injuries” we sustain over the course of a season.
End of the Season Ideas
Last practice should be parents vs. kids. This is often the highlight of the season for the kids. Caution your parents to be careful. They are most prone to injure from tripping over a child and then trying to do something unnatural to keep the child from being landed upon.
Second to Last Game
Get some spray hair paint to match your uniforms and paint their hair. They love this. Don’t wait till the last game because if it rains, the stuff is a mess. Also, get parents permission before you paint their hair. This stuff only comes out easy about 98% of the time.
Team Get Together
Organizing this is a job for the team manager. Pizza, ice cream, or a cookout are the usual activities. Something you might consider if you are ambitious is having this at the beginning of the season so that everyone gets to know each other.
We hope this helps you get prepared for the season. If you have any suggestions or comments regarding things that have worked for you, please let us know, and we'll add to this handout for future seasons.
More Practice Games
- Gather the cones: spread cones out across the field, kids have to gather them (while dribbling their ball), then bring them back to you one cone at a time.
- Freeze tag: players dribble while you try to tag them. If you tag them, they sit on their ball until a teammate “unfreezes” them.
- Body parts or animal sounds: these are a variation of the same game. Kids dribble and you call out an animal and they must imitate the animal. Or you call out a body part and they must touch it to the ball.
- Kick the coach: they have to dribble and try to shoot the ball and hit you while you are running around. This forces them to pick up their head and look around while dribbling, and also shoot while the ball is moving.
- Red Rover: kids line up and you say “red rover, red rover, come on over” and they try to dribble to the other side of the field, while you try to knock their ball away. Similar to sharks and minnows.
- Gates: Set up gates around the field and say go, and the kids try to dribble through them. Scatter the gates so there is no pattern and the kids decide where to go for themselves. Yell “stop” and as them how many gates they’ve gone through. You can also play where they gates are goals and have the parents be the goalies.
- Hot Potato: Divide the kids into two teams and put all the balls in the middle. Make a halfway line and each team doesn’t want any balls on their half when you yell stop. You can also play this game by telling the kids to try and gather all the balls on their half.
- Scrimmages, relay races, and keep away are also good for this age.
Parent & Fan Expectations
- Coaching from the Sidelines (adopted from CRSA parent letter) - When parents tell players what to do, kids don't make their own decisions and often act the opposite of what they learn in training, thus hindering their development. Some examples of coaching and how it actually may be translated:
- Go get the ball -- dive in (wrong).
- Shoot -- don't look up to see what your options are (wrong).
- Dribble -- keep your head down and run into pressure (wrong).
- Boot it -- don't be calm under pressure and play kickball (wrong).
- Pressure - go toward the opponent regardless of what you're leaving behind (wrong).
- We teach players to make their own decisions, according to the situation and their abilities at that moment (they may be tired, for example). The best way to do that is to provide some information but not make decisions for them. Examples of instructions:
- "Time" - player is getting the ball and has no defenders around
- "Man on" - player has a defender right behind him/her
- Look up - player is dribbling without pressure but keeps the head down
- Please give plenty of praise and keep any negative comments for yourself, whether you're talking about your own child or not. Coaches and kids love hearing when parents shout "good effort," or "you'll get it next time," or praise for any decision that kids make on their own.
- There MUST not be any negative interaction with the referees or other parents coming from sidelines. If anyone has hard time controlling themselves in this regard, it's better to stay home. If it still happens, we WILL ask you to stay home. I hope that everyone realizes how traumatic experience it is for a kid when a parent misbehaves on the sideline.
- Be a role-model for your children. We expect good sportsmanship. We try and model this and expect for you to do the same.
- Let the coaches do their job. Of course you want the best for your son(s). The fact is that we evaluate talent everyday and try to put what we feel is the best group on the field at one time. If we are spending time dealing with parents, we won't be dealing with the players.
- Encourage your son(s) to talk with the coaches if they have questions about playing time or other soccer-related questions. We know that these things are important to the growth of our players, this is a crucial time for them to begin/continue to fight their own battles.
- If you want to be involved in the program as more than a spectator, please ask how you can help. We can always use an extra hand during clinic registrations, videotaping of games, lining up meals for road trips, organizing pre-game meals, etc.
- Naturally, we don't see or know about everything that is going on with our players, especially outside of team events. Please know that coach’s can use your help by you just being an extra set of eyes and ears. If you think players are doing things that would frown upon, a quick email or phone call IS appropriate, however, as explained above this doesn't apply to what you THINK is happening or should/shouldn't be going on.