Coaching kids' soccer
Dave Tutelman --
September 9, 2018
Let me be clear right up front. We're talking about recreational
for kids 7-14 here, and with most of the detail on the younger end of the spectrum. The real athletes and future
varsity players will be on club teams (traveling teams) by the time
they are 7 or 8. This is too elementary for them. There are plenty of books on
teaching "youth soccer", which usually means teenagers on club and high
school teams. There are few resources on teaching recreational soccer
to pre-teens. So let me offer a little.
I'm sticking to my own experience here. I coached in Ocean NJ's rec
soccer program for a dozen years (1978-'89), from 7-year-olds to
14-year-olds. I spent three years coaching sevens, two years each
coaching eights and nines, and one year each for the rest. Getting
little kids started in the game was my specialty.
That means teaching the basic skills and the flow of the game. Few of
your charges are likely to wind up on the high school team, much less the US
National team; that's not what we're going for here. For kids who go
through the program to age 11 or 12, they should be able to:
- Step into a pickup game and help the team they are on by playing some position.
- Watch pro soccer on TV and know (not guess, know) whether a
play was good, great, or a flub -- and often even see the right play developing
before it happens.
- Most important -- enjoy playing and even watching soccer.
Your job begins before the first practice. The "getting organized"
activities for me were:
phone call: My call covered:
- A phone call of introduction.
- A handout, given out at the first practice, including:
- Important data for the parents of the kids -- or the kids
themselves, if they're mature enough. They probably aren't until age
- What is expected of the kids and the parents for
practices and games.
The handout: Here is a scan of the handout
for my 1983 team. (By that time, I had enough experience to know what
to put into it.) It got into more detail about things I touched on in
the phone call.
- Introduction -- my name and how to get in touch with me. (Back
then, it was phone number and address. I had email in 1978, but almost
nobody else did. Email is certainly appropriate now.)
- A hint of the schedule -- not specifics, but things like:
games on Sundays, two practices a week behind the Wayside School, etc.
- Vital details for the first practice -- when, where, and
what to bring.
- My philosophy of coaching. I might as well say it here. "I am looking for the kids to
have fun and learn the basics of how to play the game (appropriate to
their age and ability). I will measure my success not in how many games
we win, but how many kids sign up for soccer next year. If this is not
what you want for your kid, it's not too late to leave the team. I can
give you the name and phone number of the coach of the traveling team
if you want."
me issue the same caveat to you, dear reader. If you don't buy into my
philosophy, there are enough books about coaching "youth soccer"
that cover higher levels of skill, athleticism, and game sense. If you
are already a club coach, you are probably beyond what I can
teach. If you are in the recreational program and would like to
duplicate the teaching of the club program, you are probably doomed to
disappointment -- but you'll discover that on your own the first
season. (The first practice, if your're paying attention.)
Attached to the handout was an important
document -- the team roster. It had the name, address, and phone number
of each team member. For convenience, I listed the names in four groups
of roughly four players each. (Team rosters were 15-18 kids.) I
selected the groups by geography -- I tried to keep the groups in the
same neighborhoods or at least the same parts of town. That would make
it useful for carpooling to practices, and for chain-calling when I
wanted a message to get out fast. Like if the game was called
because of rain. I could make four calls, one to a member of each
group, and that parent -- or kid, if they were old enough -- could call
members of their own neighborhood group.
The rest of this articleThe
rest of this article is the meat of coaching. I have included scans of
the notes I sent home to parents, because much of what I wanted to
teach can and should be reinforced by the parents. At least they would
understand what the kids could be expected to know and do, so they
wouldn't be jerks on the sidelines of the games. There are a remarkable
number of jerks among the parents; it is a point of pride that parents
from my team were never among the jerks.
The sections -- a page for each -- are:
me add a disclaimer here. I have coached boys' soccer almost
exclusively. (I had one coed 7-year-old team out of twelve years
coaching.) So I am not going to use clumsy wording to remain
gender-neutral. If you are coaching girls, I'm sure you can figure out
what I am saying and read the appropriate pronoun in your head.
- Coaching practices -- How I ran my practices.
-- I focus here on the skills I taught the younger kids. As they got older and more
skilled, they improved at different rates. So the skill teachings for
the older kids were in smaller groups of similar talent, or even individual
- Position play
-- Ever watch soccer games of 7-year-olds? They play "swarm". I made it
a point to work on position play, even for 6- and 7-year-olds. Here is
how I did it, and it makes a huge difference.
- Coaching games
-- Soccer is very different from baseball and [American] football, and
nowhere is it more different than coaching during a game. If you've
coached Little League baseball, that did nothing to teach you how to
coach soccer; it may even have taught you bad habits for soccer.
- Another point of view
-- Here is another coach's similar set of notes. You should know that
there are different ways of approaching it. I believe I am correct, of
course. But I'm not so egotistical to be sure of it, so decide for
Enjoy, and I hope this helps you.
Last modified - September 14, 2018