Coaching Guidelines

The most fundamental skill in soccer is individual mastery of the ball and the creativity that comes with it. This should be a priority in training and games, especially in the early years. As this skill is mastered, the rest of the game becomes easier - both to teach and to learn. Practices should be built around facilitating the development of the skills necessary to move and control the ball well. As these individual skills and the creativity to make them come alive in the game are developed to a level of competence, the finer points, first of passing skill and later of team organization can be taught.

The town and club coaches who work with our youth and junior players on a daily basis play a fundamental role in the development of soccer players in this country. Towns and clubs should strive to place experienced coaches who have a clear understanding of the value of teaching technique at the youth and early junior levels. Equally important is the coach’s personality and character. Working with 6- to 14-year-old children requires patience, kindness and respect. Coaching soccer can be confusing at times because the game changes dramatically as the players improve in both skill and physical ability. When coaching young, developing players, as well as the adolescent players, U.S. Soccer feels it is helpful to keep the following ideas at the forefront of your mind:

  1. Set up situations where the players can learn by playing the game.
  2. Coaches can often be more helpful to a young player’s development by organizing less, saying less and allowing the players to do more. Set up a game and let the kids play.
  3. Teaching and learning the game of soccer is a process: make your goals seasonal, as well as daily and weekly.
  4. Set age-appropriate goals i.e., know what the child is able to do at that age.
  5. From a developmental standpoint, the young ages are the best ones for learning skills.
  6. Do not expect games and practices to look like professional soccer.
  7. Recognize and understand how the skills learned at each age are connected to preparing the player to move into the next phase of his or her development.
  8. Allow your players to develop these requisite skills in an environment where the main goal is to have fun with the ball.
  9. The value of matches is that they provide youngsters with an opportunity to showcase their newly acquired skill and creativity. It is always nice to win, however that should not be your focus at the younger age groups (through 14 years).
  10. Have a clear idea of what it is you want to accomplish at practice.
  11. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best.
  12. Remember that the game is the best teacher for the players.

 

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