There is a real joy to coaching a group of very young soccer players. About the youngest most of us will ever take on are Under Sixes – in other words, five year old kids. Things that makes this age group such a pleasure to coach are their untainted enthusiasm; their willingness to learn, their capacity to fall over from the strangest position – even when just standing still. The tendency of Under Sixes to regard their coach as some kind of idol is pretty soothing for the ego as well. Of course, with youngsters of this age the coach needs to be more than knowledgeable about soccer – rather an understanding of child development helps the kids to get the most out of well planned sessions. After all, a thorough understanding of My Little Pony and the latest toys will help pass the time while Jenny or Johnny find their lost boot, or mom holds up the session to wipe away a tear or do up a bootlace. Besides a look at the psychology and tools, this blog post will also go through some basic u6 soccer drills for kids.
Emotional Development in Soccer for Kids
Five year olds are still developmentally egocentric – it’s why games often turn into honey pots with the ball surrounded by a swarm of flies buzzing mostly in the same direction. Children of this age see things very literally, so the kind of instruction such as ‘I want you to run as far as you can,’ might have unintended, Forrest Gump-like consequences. We aim to give clear, precise instructions: ‘Run to that tree, then back to me.’
Attention span is limited (coaches of older kids will know that this doesn’t improve much as their players get bigger) so talk should be kept to a minimum, and always be positive. Children of this age cannot hold and process complex instructions, so we try to keep each of the u6 soccer drills to two elements – three at most.
U6 Soccer Drill 1– Developing Spatial Awareness/Warm Up
Numerous different shapes of cones, perhaps mannequins if the club has them and spongy balls or cubes make this activity even more fun. A set of bibs or tag belts makes the organization easier.
While the squad arrives, set up a 20 x 20 m grid and place inside it the cones etc, randomly spaced. Each child dons a tag belt except the player (or two) who is ‘on’. Players must run around the grid without touching any of the objects while the ‘Pirate’ attempts to pull off their tags. When both tags are removed, that player too becomes ‘on’. If no tags are available, then the Pirate can wear a bib, and it becomes a touch game.
Play two or three rounds, ending the last one with an instruction for everybody to collect a couple of the objects and bring them to the coach.
U6 Soccer Drill 2– Developing Co-Ordination
A very simple drill. Set up lines of cones around two metres apart, over a ten metre stretch. Spread the players out with two at one end and one opposite them. The players simply dribble the ball as straight as they can to the person opposite, who dribbles it back, and so forth. Keep reminding the players to stay within the cones. As they improve at the activity, the idea of dribbling smoothly using the laces to propel the ball can be introduced.
Stress that the activity is not a race.
U6 Soccer Drill 3– Developing Team Work
Cat and Mouse
Teamwork is a tough concept to a five year old. This simple but fun activity helps the children to learn how using their team mates can make them more successful.
Divide the players into four or five groups and line them up facing towards a central ‘circle’ inside a ten metre grid. Nominate one player as the cat, another as the mouse. The cat must try to catch the mouse inside the grid. By ‘catch’ we mean touch (a five year old might interpret the word somewhat more literally). The mouse can escape by moving to the front of any of the lines, at which point, the player at the back becomes the new mouse.
U6 Soccer Drill 4 – Skill Development
With good u6 soccer drills for improving technique, the children will find more success if they use the instep and get their weight over the ball. Use a coach or adult to oversee each group of eight, and stress positivity and fun, while the adult uses constant reminders to employ the correct technique.
Five cones are placed around two metres apart in a line. Eight players are used in each of the u6 soccer drills. They stand opposite each other in two lines of four, level with the gaps in the cones. The adult shouts a name and the player with the ball passes through the relevant cones to this person, then runs to the space they have passed to.
So the drill continues.
U6 Soccer Drill Five – Teamwork and spatial awareness
This activity is a mixture between netball, hand ball and soccer. As players become more adept, soccer skills are used increasingly. However, the aim is to develop team play and also a sense of space.
A twenty by ten metre grid is used. One player from each team is the ‘goal’. They patrol one of the end lines, and a goal is scored when they receive the ball while on the line.
Start with throws rather than kicking, since this is a simpler activity for very young children to enact. Players cannot run with the ball, but must propel it up the pitch with throws to their team mates.
Early on, each pass can be made to the coach, who then passes to another player; this helps to embed the idea of finding space with movement. As the skill level of the players improves, throwing is replaced by kicking, although tackling is still not allowed, as this puts to much time limitation on the player in possession, slowing down skill development.
As we said at the outset, coaching Under Sixes is terrific fun and very rewarding. It is also hard work, with sessions needing careful planning with lots of different activities. Something very much worth the effort.
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