Have you ever thought about becoming a youth soccer coach? Soccer is the sport that is played the most by kids under 8. At some point the majority of parents in the US will have a son or daughter playing soccer. Many parents hesitate to coach due to a lack of experience with the game of soccer. They think that coaching a young group of kids will be too much for them to handle. It is not as complicated as you may think or as others like to make it appear. Soccer is a simple sport that is made difficult by the defense. You should also know that “the game is the best teacher”.
Here are some tips to help you get started in becoming a youth soccer coach and coach your first young team, U5 – U8.
1. Let them play! At this age the kids are looking to just have fun. They are not interested in your organized tactics. They are there because kicking a soccer ball is fun. So you may want to keep your Barcelona Soccer Drills at home. I am a huge proponent of “Free Play”, in case you haven’t realized that yet through my Podcast. You can easily find a ton of soccer drills, try them all, your kids may like one or two, but don’t focus solely on that.
2. Chaos is part of the game. Don’t expect every activity you try with the kids to be perfect. They are going to run around because they don’t understand the activity half of the time. Do not take this as a sign of incompetence on your part. You must understand that they have a difficult time understanding soccer tactics, no matter how you explain it. Also remember that chaos is part of soccer, don’t expect everything to be perf. It’s not Football where everyone lines up and gets set before each play. Soccer is a game of transition, back and forth, with teams getting organized and attacking or defending. It is rare that you get set pieces where you can restart play in soccer.
3. Forget Soccer Tactics. As mentioned earlier, the kids are not interested in winning or losing. They may ask if they won or lost, but they are not training to beat the next opponent. They are there to kick the ball around with their friends. Don’t waste your time trying to teach kids tactics at this age. You have to understand that tactics can only be learned after they have mastered the dribbling, passing, receiving, and shooting. You can spend a year explaining tactics to a 5 year old, but when the ball is passed to his feet, if he can’t control, there is nothing he can do and you just wasted a year of development.
4. Focus on Soccer Player development. If you truly care about any players you coach, and you want them to be successful when they get older, then you must assist in developing them. If you take this approach, you are not necessarily “coaching the team” but rather “developing players”. Your wins will be every time a player can dribble with the ball close to them, or pass and receive with the inside part of his/her foot. That’s how good coaches of young players measure success, by the development of players. It does not help if your team is winning every game because there is one player that runs past everyone and scores all the goals. The rest of the kids have to develop as well, but they can’t do it by just watching, they have to get involved.
5. Practice is more important than games. Many parents think that the actual game is what helps develop kids and what will make them good players. You must understand that their development happens during practice and free play. It is during practice that each child can have a ball and play with it, compared to a game with 14 kids and only one ball. Remind parents about the importance of practice if they care about development. It would be better to miss a game instead of practice. Unfortunately, parents will miss practice first before they miss a game.
6. Drills are overrated. Don’t look at soccer drills as a way to optimize player development. Remember that too much structure is bad. One of the funnest games or activities that I have found that kids enjoy is just plain old keep away or 3 v 3. They each get a ball and the big bad coach tries to take it from them. It’s just that simple. Remember that before we decided that we could manufacture players, there were already great players. Where did they learn to play? They learned to play at home and on the streets. Remember that most of the big names you know of today, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Messi, Ronaldo, were all very poor kids growing up. They did not have great coaches, equipment, clubs, teams, or drills. They all had a passion for soccer that was developed through their environment. Through their passion to play, they developed into great players. They all started playing at very small clubs, and eventually sold to larger clubs.
7. Create the nurturing environment. As stated earlier, all the great players were part of a great soccer environment. They were not trained by Mourhino or Pep Guardiola, they were trained and developed by their environment and their passion. This combination is what creates great players. As a coach, you want to create the best environment for players to develop. You want the young soccer players to keep playing after they leave your team because that’s the only way they will continue to learn and develop into good soccer players. Development is a process and will end when you are done. But you need to either plant that seed or keep nurturing it so that it can blossom. The environment for young soccer players should be positive, all inclusive, and fun.
8. They look up to you. Remember that kids this age look up to all adults. They don’t know weather you’ve played professional soccer or can’t even spell soccer. They won’t discriminate, they just want to have fun. Be confident and show them a good time. Whenever they do something special, they are looking for reinforcement from you, make sure you praise them.
Do you need help implementing this program? Email me at Ernesto@youthsoccerevolution.com