When you are creating and developing a youth soccer program, the most important thing to keep in mind are your coaches. Who are they? What are their unique skills? Which coach will work best with each age/gender? What are the outcomes you want to see – soccer skills, social skills, education?
These answers will help you design a program that meets your desired outcomes and ensures that your players have the most positive experiences possible. The Global Team, in recognizing the important ‘mentor’ role of the coach, aims to provide these leaders with best practices not only on the sport of soccer, but age-appropriate tips, learning across ages/genders and the importance of fostering a culture of trust and respect on the field. Read a few of our tips below:
Non-Directive Coaching for Younger Players: In this setting, coaches act as a story-teller, playing at the kids level and taking on the role of the facilitator. The key is for the soccer skills to be disguised in a story and for the game to be the coach.
Youth Aged 5-7: At these ages, children have little to no logical progression in their thoughts, are self-centered, imaginative and can be easily confused. Coaches at these ages want to give simple problems and directions for players to think through, provide stories to the activity, focus on individual play and provide concrete examples of the desired skill.
Youth 8-11: Players are slowly forming concrete thoughts and can realize structure in groups (i.e. positions). They are starting to understand team play and spacial awareness. Additionally, they are focused on building friendships and look for structure in the session. Coaches should look to move to small-sided play and begin to introduce positions and roles.
As you continue to think about the role of the coach in your program, ESPN has an interesting article on the role of women as coaches in the United States and at elite levels. While this may not be directly applicable for your program, it may help highlight the stereotypes that exist for coaches and the need to really reflect on your choices matching coaches with teams. For the article: click here.