Eight tips for coaching youth soccer
This is a crash course in training a youth football team. Follow these eight tips to help your team have a winning season. The most important thing for kids is to have fun, but it’s always easier to have fun when your team wins. You will learn how to start and end each practice and how to use stick and wedge training to generate a defensive-minded team that results in wins instead of losses. This article will be especially helpful for those who want to know how to train u8 or 810 soccer, but it is applicable to all age levels.
Here are the tips for coaching a winning team:
1- Team race
Have your players line up along the goalie’s area. Have them hold hands and run to the opposite side of the court and back. Tell them that they must run as fast as the slowest player. This simple exercise builds unity and a sense of purpose.
2- Find a guard
Line up your team in midfield and have them run to the penalty line and back to help you identify the fastest from the slower players. Have them line up and throw the ball. Ask the top two or three kids who can throw the ball the furthest if they would be goalies. If not, ask them if they would be a reserve.
If you can’t find a player interested in the job, ask the top candidates if they would only play for the goalie for one half and the striker for the next. Most kids want to play the striker / striker position and score goals, so offering to run two players as a goalie one half and a striker next makes the goalie position more appealing.
3- Defense stick
Make defense a priority. Use a “stick” defense where you stack five kids in front of the goalie. The stick spins around the goalie like a hand on a clock, pointing at the opposing ball handler attacking your goal. It can extend to the center line when the ball enters the opponent’s penalty area.
In general, there is a fifty percent chance that the other team will have a star player who can dribble down the field and score. Traditional teams have three or four forwards and three or four half-backs. These lineups leave three players to defend the goal (and a half-back or two). Five defenders are better. If you are playing under 11 due to sickness or vacation, you can shorten the stick to three or four players. Even with nine players, there are still three defenders left.
Players in the stick are numbered from one to five, one being closest to the goal. You want your slower, less skilled players to play in the stick. It is important to have an older, faster player in both places to control the stick. When the ball is on the other side of the field, No.2 orders the others to move and stretch the stick. The least qualified player should be in third place where both can lead the player while they defend the goal.
The half-back or midfield positions form a three-person “corner”. The corner is sent to stop the opposing offensive and deflect the ball towards the opposing territory. The center position is flanked by a player left and right who are five feet behind and ten feet to the side of center. They travel together in search of the opposition striker. They do not cross the midfield, and act as a protective “cap” for the stick. The center, like all “first” defenders, must observe the attacker to force him to stop or slow down. The center maintains a five to ten foot cushion from the striker, pulling back as needed. The attacker should go left or right, but will likely slow down as the left or right corner player gets closer to the cross. Attacking the formation is frustrating. It’s hard to try and win seven players rather than go through a few.
If the attacking player passes to their left or right side of the formation, the right corner player becomes the center and overshadows the ball handler while the center falls behind and takes the right side. The wedge reforms when the left corner player slides and holds the left side of the wedge.
5- Two strikers
The two remaining players are flexible positions. You have to play the central striker, play as high as possible. The center-forward plays as far as possible without being offside. The other attacker plays outside the attacker and moves left or right, following the ball when in defense. The outside attacker drags close to the midfield and must receive the ball either to push onto the touchline or to pass to the center attacker.
6- The first half is all defense
This formation seems slow because it is not oriented towards the attack. The strategy of stick and corner formation is to physically exhaust the opposition in the first half, allowing the formation to move towards the opposition’s goal later in the second half.
Starting with a strong defense and adjusting to more attacking is always the right decision in youth soccer. A strong offense doesn’t do much when your team is trailing 0-2 five minutes into the game. The stick and wedge formation draws more opposing players on offense to match your number of defensive players, weakening their defense as the game progresses.
7- The weakness of each team
The weakness of almost all formations is when an opposing team moves the ball quickly over the sideline and into your penalty area. You can take an extra player to mark their star player, making them one less on the stick. The stick must not extend laterally outside the penalty area. Let their attackers tire between the penalty area and the touchline. When they cross the ball you will have a lot of defenders to challenge their attack
8- The PKs are OK
There is nothing wrong with a tie. Prepare your team for penalties. It’s fun to end your workouts with penalty drills. A great drill is to place an assistant coach in the goal with your goalie and another player. Distribute the three, each defending a third of the goal. Have your players line up in an arc around the goal and have them throw balls into the net at once. This is a great practice, and it makes a real pk easier because there will only be one goalie and not three.
Teach your children to “pass” the ball into the net with the inside of their foot rather than trying to throw it with their toe in. This is a more accurate shot at close range and almost as powerful.
This stick and wedge works and provides formation with the most defense. Start strong on defense and add more offense as needed later in the game. First find a goalie and fill the rest of your team. There is nothing wrong with a tie. You now have the knowledge to put your team in a position to win and succeed in a season!