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11 Tips for Coaching the Little Ones
by Mike Woitalla, March 11th, 2014 10:23PM

TAGS:  nscaa, youth boys, youth girls


By Mike Woitalla

“I got recruited to coach my kid’s soccer team. Any advice?” The most recent time I heard this question, it came from a parent of a 6-year-old. It prompted me to put an answer in writing, based on some of the best insight I’ve gotten from coaches and players I’ve interviewed and observed over the years.

11 Tips for Coaching the Little Ones
1. If all you do is set up goals and have them play as much soccer as possible during that hour of practice -- you’re doing a good job.

2. Familiarize yourself with the various age-appropriate games/exercises to facilitate individual skills -- but don’t use ones that bore the kids. And if it takes more than a minute for 6-year-olds to comprehend the activity -- it’s the wrong one. (In other words, plan your practice but be ready to improvise.)

3. No lines, no laps, no lectures.

4. Enjoy yourself! If for some reason you’re grumpy, act like you’re enjoying yourself. Kids pick up on body language and you’ll get the best out of them if they sense you like being their coach.

5. Greet each player when they arrive in a way that lets them know you’re happy to see them.

6. Always end practice on an upbeat, happy note. (Even if they drove you absolutely crazy).

7. See the game through the children's eyes. This will remind you that your main objective is helping them discover the joys of soccer. And not to expect a 6-year-old to play like a 16-year-old!

8. Do not yell instructions at them! Do not coach from the sidelines during games! This interferes severely in their learning process. It also makes you look rather silly -- an adult screaming at 6-year-olds while they’re playing.

9. Sit down during games, instead of prowling the sidelines, which only creates tension that unnerves your players.

10. Always have a first-aid kit (including ice-packs) with you.

11. Keep plastic bags in your coaching bag in case you need to pick up dog poo.

U.S. Soccer's "Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States” download HERE.
"US Youth Soccer Player Development Model"
“U.S. Soccer Curriculum” download HERE.
View the Game as an Art, not a War (Book Review: Stan Baker’s “Our Competition is the World”)

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, is co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper and co-author with Claudio Reyna of More Than Goals: The Journey from Backyard Games to World Cup Competition. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at Woitalla refs youth soccer in Northern California and coaches at East Bay United/Bay Oaks.)

Soccer America on Twitter: Follow Soccer America | Mike Woitalla

  1. Noah Garrett
    commented on: March 12, 2014 at 9:28 a.m.
    Another great post, Mike. I really enjoy your youth coaching commentary. You nailed it on No. 1 - let them play! It was a challenge coaching teens to coaching U6 girls last fall, but now in my second season at that level, I really enjoy it. One thing maybe to include are games to help each player learn the names of their teammates. They find that fun and we do little passing games where they yell out the person they pass to before kicking the ball. Two other quick pieces of advice ... have patience and a lot of it, and make sure parents/guardians stay for the entirety of practice. Thanks for the post.
  1. Erin Silks
    commented on: March 12, 2014 at 11:27 a.m.
    This is great, thank you! I've coached little kids for a while and when I'm asked for advice I usually tell people to be positive, upbeat, patient and while certainly you should come prepared with a practice plan, be prepared to throw it out the window if it isn't working. I absolutely love coaching little kids, and your point to just let them play and enjoy it is a huge one and seems to be a hard one to get across.
  1. Lee Dunne
    commented on: March 12, 2014 at 2:17 p.m.
    Further reading from Mike's post - It is crazy that we really have to put all of this down, but unfortunately there are some 'coaches' out there who are training their U6 team to win the world cup. Enjoy and share Mike's thoughts, and mine too please!
  1. Richard Weishaupt
    commented on: March 12, 2014 at 5:47 p.m.
    Great advice. Goose poop is a bigger problem and I'd add pony tail holders for players of both genders.

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