Each level of coaching brings its own set of challenges that are different from other levels.
Coaching young children (U8 and younger) is no exception. Perhaps the three biggest challenges of coaching young children are:
1. Childrens’ attention spans are shorter and their skills are less developed.
Coaches must be more patient.
They should be especially careful to always be encouraging, and they should refrain from negative comments.
They must pay special attention to fair play – the examples players see and habits players learn at this age will carry on.
2. The type of practice that is appropriate for older players is not appropriate for younger players. Practices for the younger age group should consist mostly of learning “games”. The games should follow these 4 basic principles:
They should emphasize fundamentals – Good fundamentals are the foundation for everything players will do in their soccer careers.
The younger the players, the more simple the game should be – Kids at this age are easily distracted. Keep instructions under 30 seconds. Allow kids to ask questions as necessary.
They should keep players busy – Standing around causes boredom and doesn’t help players get better. Keep the kids as busy as possible.
They should be fun
3. Finally, while it is important that coaches of young children be especially patient, they should also be especially mindful of misbehavior. There are a variety of reasons that young children will misbehave, one of which is boredom. To alleviate this:
Keep all activities relatively short
Consider establishing a “time out” area as well as a set amount time in advance. Make sure the area is properly supervised.
If several children begin to misbehave, consider changing the game.