Developmental Phase I: 8-10 Year Old Soccer |Coaches Manual

Best Qualities of a Coach For This Age

This coach must clearly understand the capabilities and limitations of this age and appreciate the power of learning by watching. He or she must have the ability to demonstrate or to use older players to demonstrate. It is healthy and appropriate to group players according to ability level, but movement between groups should be open and fluid in order to reflect changes in ability and individual development from year to year or every six months.

Characteristics of Soccer Players at this Age

  • Attention span is a not at a “competitive” stage
  • Inclined towards small group activities.
  • Easily bruised psychologically. They will remember negative comments for a long time. Shout praise. Give “hints”.
  • They want everybody to like them.
  • Developing physical confidence.
  • Starting to imitate older players or sports heroes. Want the same “gear” as them.
  • Lack sense of pace. Some go flat out until they drop while others need encouragement to move.
  • Skeletal system growing rapidly. Often results in apparent lack of coordination.
  • Cardiovascular and temperature regulation system is not developed. Their heart rate peaks quickly and they overheat quickly. Make sure that they get adequate water breaks.
  • Limited understanding with personal evaluation. “If they try hard, they performed well” regardless of the actual performance. Thus, they need to be encouraged constantly, and asked, “Now, can you do this?”
  • Better at recognizing when the ball is out of play, and remembering what goal they are going for… but, in the heat of battle, they will sometimes still forget. They still find it difficult to really be aware of more than one thing at a time.

Things to expect:

Six, seven and eight-year-old players are a bit more compliant than their U-6 counterparts. They will be able to follow 2 or 3 step instructions and are starting to have a good understanding about what it means to play a “game”. They are also starting to cooperate more with their teammates. In fact, they now will recognize that they even have teammates by the fact that they occasionally pass the ball to a teammate. Often, they will repeat the phrase “I can’t do that!”, but, will quickly run to you to show you that they can, even when they only think that they can. Some other things that you can expect to happen during a season with this age group are:

  • Players will spend a lot of time on the ground either by bumping into one another or tripping, but, now they will usually pick themselves back up and get back.
  • The puddle in front of the goal is still too tempting to resist.
  • Some of the girls are a lot tougher than the boys.
  • They will still want to wear a training bib, even when the color is identical to their shirt.
  • It will be impossible to remember who is whose best friend as you try to make up teams.


Pirate Game – Curse of the Pugg Net

This game can be used to focus on many aspects of soccer. For younger players ages 8-11, the primary focus should be on good dribbling technique in traffic, which requires vision and awareness. The coach can also focus on transition from offense to defense if the ball is lost, or recovering from a tackle and finding safety. Defensively, this allows defenders to steal the ball from attackers and play to a particular goal or target.

Setup: Build a circle approximately the size of the center circle with a Pugg net in the middle of the circle. The actual size of the circle will vary depending on the age and skill level of the players. With all players in the playing area, dedicate 9 players with the ball, and 3 players without a ball will be the “Pirates”.

Instructions: Instruct the “Pirates” without the ball to defend the players with the balls. Once the Pirate wins the ball, they attempt to score on the Pugg net in the middle of the circle. If the Pirate Scores the goal, that player too becomes a Pirate. Play continues until the last player with the ball wins. If the pirates have a hard time getting started, the coach can help the pirates at first.

Coaching Points:

Attacking: keep the ball close with head up so the players are aware of defenders and safety areas (space). If the ball is lost, recover quickly and fight to win it back.

Defending: Transition quickly from defense to offensive and stay focused once the ball is won, and find the target.

Focus: Technical Dribbling, Tactical Defending, Tactical Attacking, Tactical Support, Tactical

Guard the Castle

This game is a great small-sided game that focuses on passing in numbers up situations.

Setup: Set up a grid that is 12 X 12 yards. Organize the team into groups of four. One of the four players should wear an alternate jersey and be the designated defender (guarder of the castle). Take a ball and place it on the top of a disc cone in the middle of the grid, this will become the “castle”. If you do not have disc cones, a tall cone will work just as good.

Instructions: It will be up to the 3 attackers to pass the ball around the defender in the grid in attempt to knock down the castle with a pass. The castle is considered knocked down when the ball is knocked off the cone or the tall cone is knocked down with a pass.


  • Depending on the age level and skill of the players, you can remove the 12 x 12 grid limitations, or make the grid smaller for very skilled players.
  • If players are standing next to the cone, you can build a 3×3 grid and not allow players to step into that small grid.
  • Require players to complete a certain number of passes before they are allowed to knock down the castle.

Coaching Points:

  • Instruct players to get their heads up to find the pass.
  • Make sure the players are passing the ball with proper weight on the ball.
  • Make sure players are moving about the grid in order to find open space. Make sure players know it is ok to dribble the ball to space or beat the defender before making the pass.
  • Make sure players are making the easiest decisions when passing.

Focus: Passing, Teamwork, Defense

Hitters and Dodgers

The Hitters and Dodgers game is designed for younger players under 5 through under 9. The game is great for teaching players to dribble and then getting their heads up to make a pass.

Setup: With disk cones, outline a grid that is about 15X15 yards. You might want to make it a bit bigger or smaller depending on the age and number of kids you have. You will need to have a ball for each player; however, only 3 players start off with balls. The remaining balls should be placed outside the grid. The three players with balls are called the “hitters”. The remaining players should start off scattered throughout the grid they are the “dodgers.”

Instructions: Instruct the “hitters” to dribble inside the grid and attempt to pass the ball to any of the “dodgers” and hit them with the ball. The “dodgers” are attempting to avoid being hit by the  “hitters”. If a “dodger” is hit, he must collect a ball from the extra balls outside the grid and join the hitters. The last “dodger” standing wins.

Coaching Points:

  • Coaches should talk to the hitters about keeping their ball close to the while getting their heads up to find the dodgers.
  • Coaches should focus on good passing form: using the inside of the foot with good pace on the ball.

Focus: Dribbling, Passing, Vision

Traffic Jam

This game is just out right fun! The kids will have a blast playing this game. This game is ideal for kids who know how to dribble but just need to learn to get their heads up and dribble under the pressures of mere congestion.

Setup: Step off a grid approximately 30X30 yards. Randomly place tall cones and training sticks (flags will work as well) in the middle of the grid. Split the group into 4 even teams who start on the corners of the grid with 1 ball per group.

Instructions: On the coach’s command, the first player from each line will race through the “Traffic Jam” (training sticks and cones) in attempt to not hit a stick, cone, or another player. Once the player makes it through the traffic jam instruct them to dribble with speed to the line they are facing and pass the ball to the first player in line. That player should immediately head towards the traffic jam with speed in attempt to get through the traffic jam first.  At first don’t keep score; simply let the players enjoy the close calls before playing the game. After 8-10 minutes, combine the two teams that are facing each other into one team. Next, have the player’s race through the traffic jam to the cone on the opposite side of the grid, around that cone and back through the traffic jam. As each player finishes the race they must sit down to signify to the group that they have completed the race. The team that has all players sitting down first wins.

Coaching Points:

  • Since all 4 players should be entering the center area at the same time make sure players are looking ahead of them with their head up.
  • Remind players to keep the ball close when entering the traffic area.
  • For younger players it might be best to start with one or two players entering the traffic jam at a time.

Focus: Dribbling, Vision