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Some of our earliest memories of being involved in organized soccer coaching are probably around the age of 6 years old. We will take a look at the best ways to coach soccer to 6 year old kids, so they can get the most out of the sport at that age. Coaching soccer has some fundamentals for all ages. We can break them down into 5 areas and start to adapt them for any age group and skill level.
Coaching Technical Soccer Skills to 6 Year Olds.
Many coaches and parents think that teaching the technical aspects of soccer is the most important thing to teach at this age. However, coaching soccer skills at this age is not necessarily the most important thing for a child of 6 years old, as they may have other doubts and fears that override skill acquisition.
Of course, coaching a 6 year old soccer player should be like any other age and every player should have a ball at their feet. Also, you should design drills and exercises that maximize touches and involvement. There is nothing worse than seeing 6 year old players at training standing around for minutes as a drill is going on around them.
If you design your coaching session with maximum amount of contact with the ball, mostly dribbling and passing, then the 6 year old will naturally develop technical aspects of the game. Giving them problems to solve that suit their level will also force them to use different techniques of manipulating the ball. The coach should stay away from overt technical drills that isolate the player from others and do not give them problems to solve.
Coaching Tactical Skills to 6 Year Old Soccer Players.
Some people think you can not teach tactical aspects of the game to 6 year old soccer players, but it is all about diluting the game. By understanding the key principles of the game we can reduce the game down to its most important aspects to deliver them to kids in the most simple way possible. In doing so, we can move up the age groups while consistently building on top of the same fundamental tactics and strategies of the game.
Giving 6 year olds problems to solve that align with very basic ideas that we see game to game will help them realize early that they are trying to achieve something at every point of the game. Most children only think about scoring goals and not having goals scored against without knowing what to do with smaller challenges all over the pitch. This often leads to players not understanding how to score goals or how to stop them being scored against them, which is the whole reason for coaching soccer.
Physical Aspects of Coaching Soccer to 6 Year Olds.
The physical side of coaching 6 year olds soccer is unavoidable but lacking in importance overall. A 6 year old is not thinking about their body at all when playing soccer, so as a coach you do not need to add extra information about it at this point.
As coaches of 6 year old players we need to think about safety in case of an emergency 1st and foremost. We then need to think about the environment, like is it too cold, wet or too hot to have a coaching session. Then we need to pick exercises that will not cause injury. Being hurt at this age can be traumatizing as many 6 year olds at coaching sessions may not have a parent present.
Mental Side of Coaching Soccer to 6 Year Olds.
The mental side of coaching 6 year olds soccer is more about problem solving. A coach should not give 6 year olds tasks that are too difficult to complete. The fulfillment of completing tasks at 6 years old is much more important than later in life and negative experiences also weigh heavier on their mind.
Having a child of 6 years old realize they have accomplished 3 challenges during an individual session should be the goal. This means they are more likely to have had a positive experience and want to come back and learn more.
Social Aspect of Coaching 6 Year Olds Soccer.
Understanding the social aspects of coaching soccer to 6 year olds is one of the most important parts of the job. They are starting to be placed into groups at school and in sports teams at this age, and this can have a different effect on each child. How they learn is dependent on the social environment before, during and after practise.
Spending time for each 6 year old to find comfortable social groups within a training session can help them in the long term. On the other hand, forming cliques and groups can also get out of control. Look out for lone children as they may need help socially to help them enjoy soccer. This is obviously a minefield and serious consideration is needed, but a great social environment created by the coach can have a huge impact on coaching 6 year olds soccer.
Soccer Coaching Tips for 6 Year Olds.
Scale is the most important tip for coaching soccer to 6 year olds. The reason is because it reduces pressure and weight of situations that impact the mental and social sides of the game while also improving tactical and technical areas at the same time.
Scale refers to the size of equipment and the shape of the playing area. This should be considered for all drills and not just a final game at the end of the session.
Balls, goals, team sizes, pitch dimensions (pretty much anything being used) should be the correct size for a 6 year old. All these aspects will help every other part of the game. Small areas will improve involvement and touches on the ball. Smaller balls will improve ball manipulation and be physically easier to kick. Smaller teams will improve tactical problem solving and reduce social pressures.
Soccer Coaching Principles for 6 Year Olds.
Principles of play can be boiled down to teach any age, and as a coach, the job is to take large concepts and translate them to 6 year old soccer players. Simple ideas like dribbling when you have no defender in front of you and passing to your teammate when you can not dribble any further. These actions alone dictate some of the technical aspects that need to be taught for these very decisions.
Maybe having less defenders than attackers in a drill can encourage players to make the right decisions. So by setting up your area and team size appropriately, you can encourage achievement of a basic aspect of dribbling or not, or passing or not. This may seem simple but it is a complex decision for a 6 year old soccer player, and is actually a mistake still many professional players make on a regular basis.
Teaching the defending principle of protecting the most important area of the pitch can be difficult for children but will stop them chasing after the ball. A common issue for this age group is that they bunch up together when chasing the ball all over the pitch. Smaller numbers per team can stop this, but also teaching kids that the goal is the most important thing to protect will make defenders stay back, and thus improve attackers spacing and ball movement. These minor tactical ideas can have a big impact in the way young players play the game.
Warm Up Drills for Coaching Soccer to 6 Year Olds.
A few basic soccer drills for coaching 6 year olds should be linked to a few key points. Make sure everyone has a ball and everyone is included. Starting slow and making the drill more and more dynamic. If the drill becomes more dynamic, reduce the amount of balls per player as they may need time to catch their breath. Basically, if the coach works to these parameters they will have a good warm up.
Remember that achievement should be higher than failure so do not make the exercises too hard. Make sure if there is failure, recovery is easy or else the player will be in a bad mood for the rest of the session.
2 Simple Drills for 6 Year Old Soccer Players.
Circle dribbling is simple. Just set up a circle with cones for players to dribble inside of. This will teach ball manipulation as they will try to stay inside the circle and not hit other players. A coach can remove 1-2-3 balls from players making them become defenders where they will need to take balls from other dribblers to get a ball back. This should be monitored in case the same player always ends up without a ball and finds it hard to get a ball back for a long period.
Circle passing just has players on the outside of the circle without a ball and players in the middle with a ball. Players inside pass to the outside and switch positions with players on outside of the circle. Players on the inside can pass to the outside player and go and search for another pass from another player on the outside. There are some other variations but it is dynamic enough to have the players constantly passing and touching the ball.
These 2 exercises are easy because it is one setup for both important skills and it is easy for the coach to monitor kids progress, behaviors and moods.
Soccer Coaching Drills for 6 Year Olds.
After the warm up a coach should move towards more soccer specific problem solving exercises. When coaching 6 year olds soccer, these exercises should be small groups with an emphasis on a single principle of the game. Monitor the drill to see how successful they are. If they are too successful, make it harder, and if they are not successful, make it easier.
Principles such as width can be taught in this part of the training session. A coach could choose a 3v2 dynamic with goals where 2 attackers have to stand just outside the sideline of the pitch area. This would force the 1 attacker in the middle to use the attackers on the outside to pass the ball across the pitch area. If it is too difficult for the attacker in the middle to score then reduce the game to 3v1. Rotate all players after a few minutes each.
It is important at this age group to only focus on 1 principle of the game at any time. Major principles of width and depth should be addressed separately. While sub-principles of the game like dribbling or passing, and ideas of defensive shape should not be added to an exercise. Keeping the exercise limited to 1 point will make it clear when a child has succeeded or not. A mistake is giving too many outcomes and a 6 year old being confused if they succeeded or not at the exercise.
Main Problem With Coaching Soccer to 6 Year Olds.
In order to create the best environment for coaching soccer to 6 year olds it is important to understand what is important for them. They are still developing many social tools to deal with being placed in groups that will set them up for later life. Not understanding social and mental cues from 6 year olds can impact them in more than just soccer. This may also make them dislike soccer if they feel this is a reason for social anxiety and want to avoid it in the future.
As coaches, we want to provide the best environment to keep 6 year old players wanting to come back and improve. They need to feel the benefits of problem solving and understand the role of failure. A lot of people overuse the word FUN when coaching kids soccer, but we have to look at what fun is and how it is created and maintained over time.