Coaches spend an awful lot of time teaching tactics, often telling players, for instance, that they need to stay in their positions. But what's sometimes lost is the fact that soccer is a free-flowing expression of how you want to see the game unfold.
As a coach, clearly you need to keep helping players understand positioning and spatial awareness. But the last thing you want to do is lock players into specific and rigid roles by saying, "You stay here and you stay there." That's not the way the game ought to be played.
For instance, one thing I hate to see in training is a long line of girls waiting for their turn to go through a maze to practice dribbling. This methodology is totally unnecessary because players can do all the dribbling they need through free movement, where everybody's learning to be aware of space by being creative and improvising. That's how the actual game of soccer is played.
There are, however, specific activities I'd suggest as teaching tools. You can teach passing, for instance, by having the kids stand and pass the ball back and forth, but it's going to get pretty boring for them rather quickly. Instead, you can say, "OK, here's the game. We're going to see how many passes you can get back and forth between you and your teammate in 30 seconds. You're going to keep your own score. I expect everybody to be honest with the score and if the ball goes wild, you've got to go get it together and continue playing from your new location."
What you've done is set up a little competition and it becomes fun. There's also a little bit of intensity and an urgency to their play. It's not just a boring drill, it's now a competition. And to spice it up a little, don't always make it a matter of the girls competing against each other. Sometimes you can have them compete against the previous high score, the coach, or even the scores of their parents.
STRATEGY. With young children, strategy and the tactics of the game will come later rather than sooner. My youngest son, who's 10 years old, is playing 11v11 soccer now, and his coaches asked me to have a chalk talk with them.
As we talked about what systems of play I might share with the team, I said, "At this age group, you're really teaching technique rather than strategy. It may cost you some games in terms of wins and losses, but right now it's better to teach the techniques of the game much more often than putting them out on the field and telling them where to run and when to run there. Anyone can teach tactics. But you can't learn technique overnight."
(Excerpted from "Catch Them Being Good: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Coach Girls" by Tony DiCicco, Colleen Hacker & Charles Salzberg courtesy of Penguin Books.)
Tony DiCicco coached the U.S. women's national team to the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal and the 1999 Women's World Cup title. DiCicco, founder and director of SoccerPlus Camps , will be the Boston Breakers head coach when the club begins play in April of 2009 in the new women's professional soccer league. He is currently coach of the U.S. U-20 women's national team.