Academy Phase: Intro to 5-7 Year Old Soccer |Coaches Manual

Some Thoughts About This Age

These children are still young. By the end of this phase, (around eight- years-old) children are beginning to be able to apply past experience to the present situation. For example, at a simple level, they can remember what they were shown or what they tried with the ball from last practice. At the same time, this ability is not present on a consistent basis. They are still not able to imagine consequences (i.e., if you do this, what will happen?). Let them learn through experience.

Do not attempt to replicate organizational schemes that you have seen older teams doing. Seven and eight year olds are not capable of playing anything that resembles organized soccer. For example, team concepts such as combination play or positions should not be introduced at this age. Do use older players as mentors and role models. Often the younger players will learn simply by watching how the older players move or by what they can do with the ball.

Consider This:

How can the coach help all his or her players to develop to their potential? First, help your weaker players to develop their confidence with the ball. At the same time, continue to challenge your stronger players to expand their creativity and confidence. Confidence is the key. The more time they spend during practice and games with the ball at their feet, the more comfortable they will become, the more confident they will become, the more they will look to get involved, and the more fun they will have with soccer. Remember that the level of skill and competence that a 9-year-old exhibits is no indication of the skill and competence that he or she will exhibit at 16 or 18 years of age. You cannot predict which 9-year-old will develop into a real player. Therefore, work to encourage all your players to be competent and comfortable with the ball. This will give all your players the same opportunity to reach their potential. Work during practice to move all your players forward at their own pace. Do not be concerned with match results. Be concerned that all your players want the ball at their feet and they want to score. If you can accomplish this, you have successfully allowed your group to grow as soccer players. Unlike practice, you cannot add more balls/goals during games to give kids more chances with the ball. But you can emphasize certain themes for the players to focus on, such as getting involved, attacking the goal, taking chances, and then spend the length of the game reinforcing these points. This approach will give your players the green light to experiment and be creative – qualities that, unfortunately at the younger ages, are often discouraged on game day, in the name of being safe and winning.

5-7 Year Old Soccer

Soccer at these ages should be discouraged in any form other than as a fun activity for kids that happen to include a soccer ball. There should be groups of players rather than teams. Fees should be nominal. Attendance should be optional. Creating a joyful environment is mandatory. Consider This: At these young ages, the primary goal is to make the player’s experience with soccer so enjoyable that when he or she has a choice of activities, he or she choose to play soccer on his or her own.

Characteristics of Soccer Players at this Age

  • Short attention span
  • Can attend to only one problem at a time
  • May understand simple rules that are explained briefly and demonstrated.
  • May or may not understand or remember: what lines mean on the field: what team they are on; what goal they are going for. We need to be patient and laugh with them if they get “lost” on the field.
  • Easily bruised psychologically. Give praise often. Give “hints,” don’t criticize.
  • Need generous praise and to play without pressure. No extrinsic rewards (trophies, medals, etc.) should be given for winning.
  • Prefer “parallel play” (will play on a team, but will not really engage with their teammates), thus a 3 against 3 game is, in reality, a 1 against 5 game because they all want the ball at the same time.
  • Very individually oriented (me, mine, my)
  • Constantly in motion, but, with no sense of pace. They will chase something until they drop. They are easily fatigued but recover rapidly.
  • Development for boys and girls are quite similar.
  • Physical coordination limited. Eye-hand and eye-foot coordination is not developed. Need to explore qualities of a rolling ball.
  • Love to run, jump, roll, hop, etc.
  • Catching or throwing skills not developed
  • Probably canʼt balance on their feet without falling over.

Things to expect:

Some coaches say that the 6 year-old players are the most difficult to coach because of their attention span. While that may be true it can also be the most rewarding time a coach will experience. These players are the future of soccer and the things they say and do will just make you laugh. Some other things that we can expect when working with this aged player are:

  • Expect bathroom breaks.
  • Expect them to wonder off if they aren’t involved.
  • They may be shy and not willing to participate.
  • They respond better to laughter and fun than they do yelling and drills.
  • Be to the point and use simple terms because they get confused by technical talk.

Best Qualities of a Coach for This Age Player

Patience, good humor, and a willingness to see the world through a child’s eyes. Also, the ability to speak their language and accept that the children’s play will not look at all like soccer.

Games

This game should be used with younger players (U6 and U8) to introduce dribbling, looking up and properly striking the ball at a target.

Knock Out

Setup: Build a grid 20X30 (may adjust if needed). Every player must be in the grid with a ball.

Instructions: The coach jogs around in the grid and players try to kick their balls and hit coach.

The players get a point each time they hit the coach. The coach should yell OUCH each time they are hit to make the game FUN. Make sure the players are striking the ball with the proper part of the foot.

Coaching Points:

  • If the players are struggling to hit the coach, the coach should stop for a couple seconds to give the players a chance.
  • Use different parts of the foot: Inside, Instep, Right and Left foot.

Focus: Dribbling

Soccer Tag

This is a fun soccer game that allows players to gain confidence on the ball while getting a lot of touches.

Setup: Build a grid that is approximately 20X20 (or larger depending on the number of players involved). Each player should have a ball and position them inside the grid.

Instructions: Instruct the players to tag (touch) other players within the grid. Once player gets tagged they must hold that area of the body that was tagged while still dribbling while avoiding other tags and attempting to tag others. If players are tagged a 2nd time they must hold both tagged areas while dribbling. If the player is tagged a 3rd time, the player must move to the outside of the grid and perform an exercise such as 10 toe touches, 4 juggles, or 5 push-ups before rejoining the game.

Coaching Points:

  • Keeping the ball close to the player.
  • Head up where they can see ball and players.
  • Use all parts of the foot while dribbling (inside, outside, bottom, heal, top)

Focus: Dribbling, Vision

Cat & Mouse

This game focuses on the U6 and U8 player and their ability to dribble out of pressure. The game can also be used to focus on the player using their body to protect the ball by placing their body in between the ball and the defender.

Setup: Build a grid approximately 20X25 yards this field should be adjusted based on the skill level and number of players participating. Each player should have a ball except for 2 cats.

Instructions: The players with balls (the mice) start at one end of the field and dribble to the other end. While dribbling the mice attempt to protect their ball from the two “cats”. The cats attempt to gain possession and knock the mouse’s ball out of the grid. Once this happens, the mouse becomes a cat and can run around the grid in the next round. Each cat can only get one ball per round. The last mouse remaining is the winner.

Variations:

  • Players only use left foot to dribble.
  • Players use outside of feet to dribble.
  • Players use sole of feet to dribble.

Coaching Points:

  • Keep the dribblers under control and encourage them not to panic as the cats get near them.
  • Inform players to keep the ball close within playing distance.

Focus: Dribbling, Defending, Attacking, Possession, Vision

Red Light Green Light

For U6 and U8 Players. This game focuses on dribbling with the ball close in order to stop quickly.

Setup: Create a starting line for each of the players, and the coach should move 15-20 yards away.

Instructions:

With the coaches back to the players, he yells GREEN LIGHT and the players try to dribble to the coach. When the coach yells RED LIGHT, he waits a moment and then turns to face the players. Anyone who is not stopped has to go back to the farthest person from the coach.

Variations:

  • Have the players dribble with only the right or left foot.
  • Have them make goofy poses or faces when they are stopped
  • Change into “Simon says”

Coaching Points:

  • Make sure the players keep the ball close so they can stop quickly.

Focus: Dribbling

Shark & Minnow

This game focuses on the U6 and U8 player and their ability to dribble out of pressure. The game can be used to focus on the player using their body to protect the ball by placing their body in between the ball and the defender.

Setup: Build a grid approximately 20X25 yards this field should be adjusted based on the skill level and number of players participating. Each player should have a ball except for 2 sharks.

Instructions: The players with balls (the minnows) dribble inside the grid and attempt to protect their ball from the two “Sharks”. The Sharks attempt to gain possession and knock the minnows (ball) out of the grid. Once this happens, the minnow can run around the grid once and return to the game. Each minnow has two chances, and the last 2 minnows remaining become the sharks in the next round.

Variations:

  • Players only use left foot to dribble.
  • Players use outside of feet to dribble.
  • Players use sole of feet to dribble.

Coaching Points:

  • Keep the dribblers under control and encourage them not to panic as the cats get near them.
  • Inform players to keep the ball close within playing distance.

Focus: Dribbling, Defending, Attacking, Possession, Vision

Soccer is still all about having fun with the ball and encouraging the children to want to have the ball at their feet. The numbers should still be one and two players to a ball.