Most of our coaches at the club are simply parents who volunteer. We have many coaches with no experience who have coached and do great! The biggest attribute a new coach needs to have is enthusiasm. Most literature about coaching young soccer players is they just need time and games to play with the ball. The coaches job is really just to quickly teach them the games, and keep them excited and motivated while they play.
Many of the points about Soccer Coaching that require more knowledge of the game, such as positions, goal keeper, and teamwork only start to evolve at the U10 – Middle School levels.
U6 and U8 games are designed to be bunch ball style games. Each coach should remember this is Recreational soccer and the point is for all kids, from both teams, to have fun at games. Kids should not be told to play positions or defend, but encouraged to try to get the ball and dribble it to the goal and score. After a kid scores 2 goals, that’s a great time to substitute them and let another kid have a chance. Practicing scrimmages this way will help all kids get more confident doing this by the end of the season.
Coaches will always have both fields available at games (even weekday games). Coaches should try to make sure they have a certified assistant available, and split into two teams, with 4 players from each team on each field. At times if a coach needs to support both teams on a field, that’s fine.
It’s a good idea for both teams to start with their 4 most talented kids on one field, and another 4 kids on the other. The point of this is to try to ensure kids have a chance to get the ball and dribble. If the 8 most talented matchup is unbalanced, you can take 1-2 kids from the winning side and give them a break, and sub them for 2 kids to give the other team a chance to do better, or mix it up by quarters if subs are limited. Even a 3v3 and 4v4, or 2 3v3 games will be better than one 4v4 game with no subs. If it works for the teams and gives a great experience, a 3v4 game might even be worth trying. You can add breaks in every 5-6 minutes if you have no subs, but the total playing time should be 30-40 minutes.
In an ideal game, every kid would have a chance to dribble and score. This creates a great experience for them, and also helps them develop ball control and dribbling abilities. Any kid who can score at well can then be encouraged to pass for an assist, which isn’t always easy. But always keep an up beat attitude, and just celebrate their assists and passes, even when it doesn’t result in the team mate getting a goal. When the kids get to U10 they all can start focusing on team work and passing more, with U8 starting to introduce passing and other team play concepts.
Sample Practice Agenda
The following agenda should be adjusted with sections lengthened or shortened based on kids enthusiasm, but always come back to redo some of the same drills or games next practice so your kids can build confidence they are improving. You also swap in other games of the same type in future practices if you notice some of your kids get bored with a game, and then you can bring a old game back the practice after or in the future.
Remember, the goal at younger levels is to give the kids as much time as you can to play with the soccer ball in different ways. The less you talk and the more you just encourage the better! We want them to build muscle memory to learn to dribble and shoot at this age.
6PM – Kick The coach (*Or other Dribbling/Kicking/Shooting Games Game)
6:10 – Ball Touches (Some sort of Dribbling or Ball Touches should be done at every practice)
6:20 – Water Break
6:22 – Split teams up and scrimmage
6:38 – Water Break
6:40 – Junkyard (*Or other Shooting / Dribbling / Passing game)
6:50 – Sharks and Minows (*Or other fun game to end practice)
7:00 – Gather for quick Team Cheer, announcements (to the parents) and end practice.
More Practice Plans
8 Week Soccer Practice Plan – Drills and such for 8 weeks you can follow
Another 8 Week Plan – More drills and more practices in case you don’t like something else.
More Drills – Collection of activities good for younger players.
Video with a full U8 Practice of Drills
Many of the drills below are links to youtube videos.
Kicking / Shooting Games
Easter Egg Hunt – Kick all the balls to one side of the field (Have the kids help), line up at the middle or other side of the field by a goal. When you say go, kids find their ball, dribble back to the goal, and shoot the ball hard.
Kick the Coach – Walk around a grassy area, kids dribble and kick the ball at you, occasionally run away when they bunch up too much so they have to catch you. The animal sounds part is optional, the kids get into it plenty without that.
Junkyard – Make two teams on either side of a line, have a ball for each player. When you say go, they keep finding balls and kick them as far as they can over the line. The goal is to try to keep all balls on the other side of the field.
Ball Touches / Dribbling Drills
Try to do at least 5 minutes of ball touches at each practice! You don’t have to do everything listed below every practice, but you should be consistent in doing some of these 4-5 practices in a row so they can build on their success and keep improving.
For ball touches, it’s good to practice these yourself so you can show your kids how to do it. You can start the explanation by asking if any of your kids know how to do ball touches and have them show off to you and the team the different types of touching drills they know how to do. Also point out older kids when they do their touches which will excite and inspire them to keep wanting to do touches..
Basic Touches – Starts with basic touches 00:12 – 00:24 in video. Your kids might not hop like they do, but so long as they are alternating their feet touching the top of the ball, they are improving. They’ll get better and faster as they practice.
Front Pushes/Rolls – Video 2 – 00:33 – 00:37 – Have them push the ball forward until they get back to the line. Important coaching kick is they aren’t kicking the ball, they are touching the top and rolling it forward. Again, don’t worry about speed for your beginners, they will get better as they improve.
Foundation / Tick Tocks – 00:37 – 00:54 – Keep the ball in between their feet. I like to pick a line and have them practice trying to keep the ball on the line while they do it.
Pull Backs – 2:00 – 2:22 – Touch the top and push the ball forward and pull it back while it is under their foot the whole time.
Zig Zag double touch dribble – 2:22 – Touch the ball twice with the inside of their foot moving sideways, then switch feet and go the otherwise. They should go sideways more and move the ball only about a foot or less with each touch. Have them dribble to a spot. They can dribble back.
Side Rolls – Kids face sideways and pull the ball sideways.
Red Light Green Light – They go on green light and stop on red light. Biggest coaching point with this is they have to keep the ball close and stop it. Kids at all ages have a tendency to kick the ball to hard / far away while dribbling, this attempts to address that.
Driving around town – Kids dribble in a small area pretending they are cars. When they get near another kid, they say “beep beep”, and go around that person.
Everybody’s It – Like driving around town, but kids try to tag other kids while dribbling and not get tagged. Works on evasion and getting their head up / vision while dribbling
Blind Mice – Needs an even number of kids. They pair up and hold hands, one closes their eyes and dribbles while their partner leads them while also dribbling the ball.
1v1 / Scrimmages
Called Out 1v1s – Have the kids line up at two ends of the field, their goal is to get the ball and dribble towards the goal and shoot from within the 6. Call two names and roll the ball to the center. Mix up who they go against, but also try to keep it challenging for both of them. You can also mix in calling 2 or 3 names per team so they do a small scrimmage. Try not to do this too much if you have 10 or more kids, but works great with 6.
Paired 1v1 then switch – U8+ – Pair your players off, have 3 pairs go towards one net (left touchline, center, and right), 3 other pairs go towards the other goal. One player starts with the ball, with their partner in between them and their target goal. The defender tries to stop them and take the ball while the attacker tries to score. Once they either score or loose the ball, they switch roles and the defender becomes the attacker. Try to make sure you pair your kids of equal ability. I was able to do this with U8’s, might be a bit much for U6.
Scrimmages – Scrimmaging is just making them play a short soccer game. Also you can stop every so often if you need to point something out, but the real goal is to just let them play. Gives them experience so they are ready for games.
Beat 3 then Shoot – Have 3 kids practice defending, they should each have a line they guard 5-10 yards apart. The rest of the kids line up and take turns trying to get past all 3 defenders. Once they pass a defender, the defender prepares for the next one, so the next kid can go while the previous kid is at defender 3. After beating the third defender the player shoots a goal. Once they loose their ball or shoot, they get their ball and go to the back of the line. Swap players to defender, try to keep your tougher defenders at the third spot. U10+ you can have a goally practice blocking shots too.
Fun Ending Games
Set up a boundary of an appropriate size for each one of these games.
Sharks and Minnows – Pick a kid to be the shark, they try to steal a kids ball as they dribble to the other line and kick it out to the side of the field. Any kid who looses their ball becomes a shark. When you get down to one or two kids, they are the winners, and start the next run of the game as the sharks. Generally I’ll go sideways using half a field for the boundaries on this.
Shark Attack – Variation on Sharks and minnows, you use cones or something else to make an island or safe area. Kids go out to sea to fish, when the sharks yell “Shark Attack” as loud as they can and then go get kids balls. This variation forces kids to keep their balls closer as they have to get to the island with their ball.
Freeze Tag – One kid is it. When they tag someone that person is it. The frozen player spreads their leg to be a gate, someone has to pass the ball through their legs to unfreeze them. Change the it if they get everyone, or after a few minutes.
Hospital Tag – Kids try to tag each other while dribbling, they need to have their ball with them. After being tagged they hold that part of their body with a hand, second tag they hold two spots. After being tagged a third time they go to the Doctor (coach) who gives them something to do for a cure (e.g. 30 ball touches, dribble to the fence and back, etc.) and they rejoin the game.
Pac Man – 2 Kids are it and are the only ones that start with balls. They try to kick the balls at players, when they hit one, that player is it as well and gets a ball. Make sure the kids are responsible while kicking the ball and not blasting it.