Game-like drills keep soccer practice interesting for 4-year-old kids.

How to Coach 4 Year Old Soccer

by Shelley Frost

Four-year-old soccer players often come with more enthusiasm than raw talent and physical ability. Coordination is sometimes a challenge and the lines around the soccer field are simply decorations in a wide open field ideal for running. At the preschool level, kids need instruction on soccer basics in an engaging format the makes the sport fun instead of tedious. Hardcore drills or screaming from the coach can turn an exciting new game into a miserable activity. Focus on igniting a passion for the sport, even if it means finishing at the bottom of the youth league.

1 Touch base with all of the parents of your young players at the beginning of the season. Introduce yourself and let parents know how they can get involved to make the season a success. Examples include providing snacks after games, cheering for the team, sharing photos they take at games and playing soccer-related games at home with their kids to practice.

2 Talk to your players in an excited way so they want to listen and participate. It isn't always easy to get 4-year-old kids to stay focused, but your enthusiasm helps draw them in.

3 Plan out the soccer practices before you hit the field. Choose the skills you'll work on, and the games and drills you'll use to practice them. Include several different activities in each practice so the kids don't get bored. Incorporate breaks so the preschoolers can catch their breath and get a drink.

4 Show the young players how to do skills instead of just telling them. Preschool soccer is the first experience many of the 4-year-old kids will have with the game. They won't understand terms like corner kicks or out of bounds right away.

5 Give the kids a turn to try the skills after you model them. If possible, let each player have a ball so no one is standing around waiting for a turn. A preschooler who isn't actively engaged in practice is likely to entertain himself with something that isn't soccer related, like the dandelions on the edge of the field.

6 Play games that include soccer skills, like dribbling the ball while playing Red Light, Green Light or a version of Freeze Tag where one player without a ball tries to touch another player's ball while he dribbles. Partner activities also work well. For example, practice throw-ins by tossing the ball back and forth to a partner using the throw-in method. Practice passing with a relay where partners pass the ball back and forth while dribbling toward the goal.

7 Provide your players with guidance during the games. Since they're just learning how soccer works, they won't always know where to stand on the field or what happens when the ball goes out of bounds. Give directions from the sidelines as needed to keep them on track.

8 Praise the young players so they feel a sense of accomplishment. Point out specific skills they do well so they know what to continue.

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