It is the first day of your kid’s new soccer season, and by now you are probably wondering what you were thinking when you gave in to your son or daughter and said yes to coaching their team. Fear not, organizing a group of six or seven-year-olds into a well-oiled soccer machine is not stressful as it may seem. Here are a series of ideas, tips and tricks that you can use during practices and games to keep the little ones engaged, having fun, and hopefully scoring some goals on Saturday morning.
Filling an hour and keeping seven or eight little kids engaged and focused during this time can seem like a daunting task. However, there are several great games and drills that you can do during practices to keep the kids having fun and learning important soccer skills. These include:
Mr. Fox: A great start to practice. You begin in the middle of the field, while the kids line up on the end line with their soccer balls. The kids start by asking you “what time is it, Mr. Fox?” You reply with a time, say 7 o’clock, and the kids then kick their ball forward seven paces. Continue until the kids get close to you. Then, when they ask what time it is say “Dinner time!” and chase them back to the end line. Whoever crosses the end line with their ball gets to keep playing. Those who get “caught” become the new foxes. Continue until everyone is caught.
Passing Drills: One of the hardest things to get across to new soccer players is passing. Kids like to focus on the ball once they have it and not give it up. This drill is designed to get them familiar with the pass. Have the kids line up in two separate single file lines, facing the goal or end line. One player starts with the ball, then passes it to their partner in the other line. That player then dribbles the ball up a few steps, passes it back to the original player who then kicks the ball towards the goal.
Around the World: This dribbling exercise starts in one corner of the field. Set up four squares with cones in each corner of half the field. Each square gets a name. It can be a city, a state, or a country. Call out the name of the location and the kids then dribble the ball to that location. Mix it up and move around to different squares, the keeping the kids guessing on where to go next.
After a few practices, you’ll be faced with game day. This is the moment where all of your hard work is put on display and the other parents will be watching and seeing the great habits and skills you have been imparting their son or daughter. The best approach is to let everyone play and have fun. You should have fun too, celebrate good plays and be sure to encourage your team throughout the game. Here are a few other pointers to remember on game day.
Build a Sense of Team: Team cheers, high fives, and cheering on your teammates are all critical parts of the game that also help to build everyone’s self-esteem and sense of teamwork. Take a few moments before the game starts to call your team over and perform a group cheer. Have one of the players lead the cheer starting with the second game, after you have established the ritual. During the game, make sure those kids that are sitting out cheer on their teammates and stay engaged in the game.
Mix-Up Your Line-Ups: Every team is going to be made up of players of all different sizes, skill levels, and abilities. Given this condition, it is important for you to change up the team’s line-up throughout the game and make sure that the same players don’t always play together. Take five minutes before the game to plan out a line-up for each quarter, ensuring that you rotate the players around and everyone has a chance to play an equal amount.
Be a Good Sport: Cheer for goals by the other team, and congratulate players on both sides.
Coaching your kid’s soccer team can be a fun and rewarding experience. The tips and ideas above are intended to help get you started and take away a bit of the fear that may creep in when you are unsure what to do for practices and during games. Always remember to let the kids have fun and enjoy the experience. You will too.