Since 2008 I have helped players, coaches and parents from the rec soccer association groups, up to travel/select clubs, college and pro. All of these levels are very different in what should be taught. Depending on the age and level, coaches need to know how, when and what to teach these youth soccer players. The content below will guide new and experienced coaches on some of the best ways to develop these kids. Not only should the methods be appropriate, but also the communication.
Rec soccer association practice plans
Set up your practice into 3 parts, 20-30 mins each.
- Part 1: (skills) Dribbling is key for this age/level. Also short passing using the inside of both feet. Make sure as the coach that you are reminding the kids to keep their toes up on most passes. There are times when players have to adjust and pass with different technique.
- Part 2: Work on formation and movement off the ball. Getting the ball wide, staying spread out, overlaps, checking to and away, through balls. Also add in 1v1s allowing freedom with the ball and teaching how to defend 1v1, 2v2s and teach them how to step and cover – in this short video teaching in zones using 4 v 4. You can also teach how to step and cover in 2v2 opposed settings. Finally rondos are great for all ages and levels.
- Part 3: Scrimmage or shooting drills. Kids love to play and score goals!
Game day warm up for rec soccer association
Let’s start with the pre-game warm-up.
If you go out and watch a team before the game starts, you’ll see 90% do the same drill.
Worst drill: 1 line in the middle of the field. Pass the ball the coach, who passes back to the player, who then goes to score a goal.
There are way better drills!
Instead, as coaches we should get rid of the lines.
Therefore, make 3-4 stations with 2-3 players at each station…
Once the “drill” is going there won’t even be a line of 3 players because they will all be moving [some walking, others running].
The key is that the players are not standing in a line.
3 warm up ideas on game day
- Have 3 stations. Station #1 starts with a throw-in from the sideline and halfline. The first player throws the ball down the line to the player at station #2, who then turns and dribbles down the field to then cross the ball to station #3. The player at station #3 is making a run down the middle of the field to then score a goal from the pass/cross from station #2.
- Scrimmage or 1v1s. Depending on the age, just let them play. If it’s younger kids ages 6-7 who are playing 4v4 matches just let them either do 1v1s, 2v2s, 3v3s or 2v2+1. The 1 in this case would be neutral [all time offense]. For older players ages 8-11, just let them play possession or scrimmage 5v5 or 7v7 depending on how many kids you have on the roster.
- 2v1 overlapping runs [Diagrams below] ending with a cross and hopefully a shot on goal. This drill works on movement off the ball, knowing when and where to pass the ball + a shot on goal. You can have 1 defender rotate after 5 “plays”. This gives a chance for different defenders. The Yellow dot represents the defender. Orange starts with the ball, passing to Blue, followed with a overlap. Blue then takes a few touches inside and passes the ball wide and in front of the overlapping Orange Player. The Blue Player makes a run towards the goal in wait for the Orange to cross the ball inside.
How to communicate to players during soccer games
In 2020 and 2021 I was asked by the local soccer association to coach my daughters team…
I was shocked to see that over 50% of the coaches literally screamed the whole game. Not only did they yell, it was inappropriate.
A 8 year old doesn’t need a coach yelling at them “NO, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!”
Imagine learning to play soccer, not knowing the rules, how to control the ball or what to do in most cases…
What if you had a coach yelling at you every movement shaming you?
This is discouraging and why many kids quit playing before age 11.
Kids are smarter than we think… They need to be taught in practice where to be and then know that in the games, mistakes are going to happen.
Gameday is where much of the learning comes. It’s hard to replicate in practice what happens in the game.
Learning the terms at practice is key, so that in the games coaches and players can communicate without chaos.
Best “skills” to teach for rec soccer association teams
Everyone knows toe taps and foundations… These are good for warming the players up and waking up their feet.
One way to make it fun is by turning it into a competition…
See how many touches each player can get in 20 seconds. They’ll enjoy it.
Before or after they do the competition have them do it the right way…
Not every player needs to do it fast. It’s more important that they learn it the correct way slow, then build up speed as they get better.
My basic online ball control courses are great for teaching players how to move each direction with both feet.
I recommend the ‘basics courses’ for all novice players!
Even older select players do this and many of them need to improve.
Teaching character and life lessons in soccer
Being able to teach her and the team not just soccer skills and tactics, but also character.
How to win, lose and never give up.
It’s amazing to see kids faces when they’re told you believe in them, especially during difficult moments.
One game, the team I coached was losing by 2 or 3 goals and at halftime…
I told them that we are going to score goals and win the game. It gave them courage and strength to belief in themselves and each other.
In the second half they went out and won the game:) These are the great moments in sports!
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