To this day when I teach younger players ages 4-7 motor skills, I can still remember the time I learned this exercise called the icky shuffle. I remember how hard it was at first, but once the muscle memory picks it up, you literally start to go faster and faster in just seconds. Just remember that it’s not about speed yet, it’s all about doing it slow and correct. For some athletes, you will have to remind them to go slow and teach the muscle memory. In this they learn that practice makes perfect. It’s hard to make sports movements perfect, but that is a great phrase that stuck with me growing up. Remember to be patient with the young ones and have fun with it. You can adapt what you learn from me.
Learning early helps athletes as they grow
A firm foundation will give players correct form when they are older. The main goal for ages 4-7 is for them to have an enjoyable experience through soccer. Also to learn the correct skills for their age. When the time comes for them to choose a sport or activity, we want soccer to be one of them. If the players can learn to do the basics they’ll do just fine. Besides that keep it simple and make sure they are practicing trapping and short passes with the inside of the foot.
If you’re like others who want to save time and not be overwhelmed with what to teach get my 5 video lessons, called ‘The Basics. Once these are done correctly, I highly recommend you get my advanced skills course. The Advanced is a mix of aerial and ground control. These are lessons every player needs to become good at.The right coordination drills at a young age will help kids become better athletes when they're older.Click To Tweet
Working on motor skills and playing small-sided games is extremely beneficial. I don’t see enough youth coaches teaching motor skills. This is not something that is hard to do, and can even be done as the warm-up. Coaches I see only do scrimmage and dribbling drills, but that’s not going to build a firm foundation of motor skills. Learning basic motor skills at a young age can help them to be more athletic than they were naturally meant to be.
Coordination with and without the soccer ball
Coordination drills are great for younger kids muscles and confidence but also their brain’s love the stimulation. I highly recommend kids all the way up to age 9 focus on coordination in any sport! Scientist say crossword puzzles are good for older people and Legos are good for young kids and also say that coordination is a compliment to multifunctional brain stimulation & muscle memory. The right coordination drills at a young age will help them become better athletes when they are older.
The main goal for ages 4-7 is for them to have an enjoyable experience through soccer so that when the time comes for them to choose a sport or activity, soccer is one of them.
Listed below + video are the basic motor & ball skills that should be repetitiously addressed from ages 4-7 especially. These skills do not remain relegated to one age group but grow in scope and practice throughout the player’s career. Each age group has overlapping technical skills.
These drills below help boost player confidence, skill & enjoyment which ALL parents want for their kids!
Ages 6-7: Basic ball control
- All of the curriculum components for ages 4-5
- Dribbling and controlling the ball with different parts of the foot. Get my ‘The Basics’ Course here, which is great for all ages. Once this is easy you can purchase my advanced skills course.
- Receiving with the inside of the foot, toe up
- Practice throw-ins making sure the ball goes behind the head and keep both feet down even after the ball is released
- Practice receiving throw-ins b/c it’s not something even the older kids get great at but, it is something that happens in games a lot so get used to it
- Basic Turning skills using the inside, outside and sole of the foot
Ages 6-7: Motor skills
- Agility ladder is great for this age. Here are 3 examples:
- High knee 1 foot in each square
- Bunny hops
- sideways 2 feet in each square
- High knees w/o ladder
- High heels or butt kicks some would say. For this age I use the term High Heels so they don’t act silly or get offended.
- Hopscotch type drills are great for motor skills [coordination] all ages!
- Jumping over something higher than a rope. You can tie a string or jump over tall cones. (Be careful using a ball b/c if they don’t clear the ball they could land on it and end up landing on their back or head)
- Jogging slow backwards on grass 1st b/c you don’t want them to fall back on a hard surface and bump the back of their head.
Soccer IQ [that is, understanding the game as it is played and for its importance as a motor skill developer as well as a social skill set developer] is very important at these young ages. Not only should kids be taught the rules of the game but how the game should be played in terms of etiquette, respect, and potential for life skills and relationship opportunities. This is an area that parents need to also understand beginning when their child is young. The single most important thing a parent should know and remember is that soccer should be FUN.
Ages 4-5: Motor skills
- Jumping over a cone or rope is great for this age all the way up to age 8. Obviously the older they get the better they get. Tell the child to pretend they are jumping over a creek or river to make it fun. At this age they still have a great imagination.
- Jumping Jacks or hopscotch introduction games
- Side Shuffle left & right walking & if they can do that have them shuffle (let them know it’s not easy for their age & that it will get easier)
- Walk backwards slow and watch how they have to really focus on not falling back or tripping.
Ages 4-5: Ball skills
- Passing & receiving. Most are natural at either the inside of the foot or the top of the foot. Same for passing & receiving so be patient and let them grow into soccer. Later you can worry about mechanics.
- Toe taps which is tapping the bottom of the foot one at a time on top of the ball.
- Tick tocks / Foundations / bells which is just tapping the ball back & forth left to right foot.
- 1v1 and 3v3 scrimmage type games will help with so many elements of the game.
- Goal scoring & please don’t worry if they toe poke it at this age, just let them score goals from close up and be excited for them.
- Fun drills that facilitate athletic movements.
When to save & when to invest
Ages (4-6) Private lessons will help but players have a hard time keeping focus the whole time and also they don’t improve as quickly as when they are 7+ years old. In my opinion maybe buy a few, but save your money and keep them involved with group setting till they are at least 6. Ages 4 & 5 who cares about quick development in terms of doing private lessons!
Very few kids age 6 will focus one hour in private individual, but even if they can get 45 mins of solid development that’s enough. Then the other 15 minutes can be fun games that involve the ball or coordination [motor skills]. Silly games are still very fun for them:) But some of the best 13 year old kids I know now are kids who were doing private lessons at age 6.
Golden years for soccer players development
Ages 7-11 are optimal for development because kids have the highest desire to learn so the energy is amazing. This age has the highest level of wanting to learn! And really they can do about anything you show them if it’s in a private or small group. Once they turn 12+ yrs old many start to lose the desire to keep learning and improving on the same things which is how you master the fundamentals. So only the serious kids who really want to keep improving are going to continue to be sponges and keep soaking in the training like when they were ages 7-11.
Learning basic soccer fundamentals at home for ages 4-7
Before the golden years come it’s important to get kids ages 4-7 comfortable with the ball. When they can control the ball they want the ball, making soccer more fun. This prepares them for playing on a team. Even if they end up on a team with a coach that doesn’t know much the kid will still do well, because they already know how to control the ball.
“The GFT online ball control courses gave us a guide to work with our kids at home. This not only gave them great skill early on, but also gave us more time to be home together. So happy we found you – Thanks!” – Chad [Soccer Dad]