As a soccer player in
high school and on into college, I always, in
the back of my mind, thought I might like to
coach one day. Although I am not currently
coaching now, I have had the opportunity to
coach kids from the ages 5 to 19. Moreover,
for an American, I think I was fairly good at
it, not great, but good.
Although what I am about to talk about may
not apply to some of my international readers
(since America is still in its infancy in
international competition) I would like to
spend a few minutes to give a little advice
to anyone who might find themselves coaching
a youth soccer team for the first time.
One of the first ideas that is important
is that of respect. Often times it is
difficult to tip-toe the line between
authority figure and friend, especially for
younger coaches. For myself, this could be
more of a problem than it has been in the
past considering my young age. I am currently
25 years-old, but began coaching when I was
Kids can tell when you're trying to come
off a little too "chummy," and can
take advantage of this. This goes for the
youngest of kids, not only the teen-agers.
Make it clear that you are in control on the
field, but, off the field, you don't mind
kidding around. You don't want the team to be
scared of you, so you don't want to come off
as a hard-ass all the time. . .just when it's
Another thing new soccer coaches don't
understand when they first begin coaching is
the idea of movement. In any practice, there
should be very little standing around. Too
many times coaches set up drills where one or
two kids are either shooting, dribbling or
passing and the rest are standing around flat
As many coaches know, this can really be
a problem with younger kids with limited
attention span. Try and involve the team in
drills where everyone is in motion. 4V4 games
seem to work best. Set up a small field,
maybe 25 yards wide by 40 yards long, and
separate the players into teams of four. If
you have 12 or more players, you may need to
make three teams, but, if these drills are
done right, no one will stand around very
Have the teams of four compete against
each other in different variations of soccer.
One game that works the best is to set
attainable goals. For instance, when a team
scores when they complete 10 passes without
losing possession. This teaches the
importance of passing, as well as movement
without the ball. 4v4 games teach players
that they cannot stand around and wait for
the ball to come to them. Finding space to
run into is a skill rarely taught in youth
and neighborhood leagues around the US.
Another place where practices break down
is shooting drills. Many times, coaches have
their players line up and practice shooting
onto a goal with the ball at a dead stop.
This never happens in a game. Power finesse
is another drill that makes kids react and
move while allowing for a little bit of fun
and competition as well.
To play, separate the team into two lines
even with each goal post about 30-35 yards
out from goal. Have one coach deliver a ball
to a player in one line, as he strikes it
with power from 20-25 yards out, deliver a
slower ball 10-15 yards in front of goal.
After the player strikes the first ball, he
must collect himself, and deliver an accurate
shot on goal from close range. Alternate
lines after each player has taken a turn. It
sounds easy, but it is much tougher than it
For more tips on coaching youth soccer,
check the following links.
US Youth Soccer Home Page
National Soccer Coaches Association
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