Teach little ones to stretch and warm up before each game.

How to Coach Pre-K Soccer

by Molly Thompson

So you're the coach of your little one's peewee soccer team? Don't worry if you've never played the game: teaching preschoolers to play soccer is much more a mixture of herding cats and cheerleading than it is actual coaching. Keep it simple. Give up any thoughts of teaching strategy or anything beyond the most rudimentary skills. At this age, all the kids want to do is kick the ball into a goal -- and they're not very picky about which one. They all want to get the ball and will all go after it at once, creating a little clump of kids with a ball somewhere in the middle -- hence the "horde ball" or "magnet ball" characterization of preschool soccer. Encourage the kids to have fun and be prepared to offer up a lot of "attaboys" and "attagirls" as your little soccer stars learn the basics of this popular worldwide sport.

1 Talk to the kids -- and their parents -- at the first practice. Tell them you're going to teach them to play soccer, to have fun doing it and to be good sports. The kids will probably be more interested in what color their T-shirts will be, whether they'll get snacks at every game and what their team name is. Let the kids help you come up with a fun name for the team. Then line the kids up and lead them in some simple stretches. Next, let them run up and down the length of the field a few times to warm up.

2 Divide the players into two groups. Enlist another parent to help. With each group at a different end of the field, show the kids how to use the inside of their foot to kick the ball. Let them all try it a few times. Demonstrate how to pass the ball to their teammates and remind them that is a key skill in soccer. Have them practice kicking the ball back and forth for short distances across the width of the field until they start to get the hang of it. Acknowledge their efforts so no one gets too upset if they keep missing the ball.

3 Point out the boundary lines around the field, and tell them the whole game is inside those lines. Remind them to use their feet to keep the ball from going outside the lines. Show them the goal at each end and explain that they should try to get the ball there to score points for their team. They must prevent the other team from kicking a ball into their goal, so one player should always stay in front of the goal to kick away the ball. To keep boredom at bay, let them wear an over-sized, colorful goalie shirt, and make sure each kid takes a turn being the goalie over the course of several games.

4 Remind them often that they can't use their hands to touch the ball -- or any of the other players. Show them the only time it's okay to use their hands -- when they're doing an overhead throw from the sidelines to put the ball back in play. A couple of the kids might have seen pro players bouncing the ball off their heads and will of course want to demonstrate their soccer prowess by doing the same. This is not a good idea at their age, so tell the kids this isn't allowed in their games.

5 Substitute players in and out of the game on a regular basis so all the kids learn about taking turns playing and sitting out. At this age, some kids will have far superior motor skills than others, but make sure all kids play the same amount of time so no one feels left out. The only time to alter the equal playing time approach is for a kid that repeatedly kicks, hits or pushes another player. Tell the kids from the first day that anyone who shows bad sportsmanship like this will lose his privilege to stay in the game. Tell them to think of it as a sports version of time-out.

Tips

  • Tie a piece of cloth or crepe paper streamer to each goal. The colors should match the kids' T-shirts, so they know which goal to move towards and where to kick the ball. As they're running around the field and trying to get the ball, it's easy for them to get mixed up about which goal to aim for; the colored marker helps them keep track.
  • Require that all players wear shin guards during soccer to avoid getting hurt by the inevitable misplaced kicks.

Photo Credits

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