So your rambunctious 5-year old is finally ready to tie up the laces of her brand new Copa Mundial cleats, put on those Nike soccer shorts and t-shirt and play the simplest game on earth. You’ve seen a few of those soccer games on Telemundo and figured it can’t be that difficult to make your ever-so-talented child into a soccer pro…then play for the national team in the year, say…2012. In fact, you volunteer to coach the team and get her started on the right foot.
Ten minutes before the first practice: “Let’s see, we’ll start off with some conditioning, then we’ll work on some overlapping runs and then for fun we’ll scrimmage two-touch with the losers doing 50 laps and 100 push-ups.
Ten minutes after the first practice: “They’re terrible, they can’t make a pass, they cry at anything, they can’t run, they don’t pay attention, they look bored, what am I doing wrong?”
Welcome to youth soccer. Practice for 5-year olds is not meant to teach these kids very advanced skills. It is to introduce them to a great sport and let them enjoy it.
THEY ARE NOT… ADULTS.
THEY ARE NOT… COLLEGE PLAYERS.
THEY ARE NOT… HIGH-SCHOOL PLAYERS.
THEY ARE NOT… IN MIDDLE SCHOOL.
They are 5 and 6 year olds, who may not yet know a soccer ball from the capital of South Dakota.
As much as we would like to make them all superstars by seven, it rarely happens..actually it never happens. If your 5-6 year olds are going to like soccer down the road, remember three words. MAKE IT FUN!
Whatever you learned from your high school coach, or from watching Phil Jackson or Bobby Knight about coaching, brush it all under the rug and start thinking like a 5 year old.
At this age, keep the game simple. Work mostly on dribbling, and kicking with laces.If they kick it with their toe, don’t worry about it. and don’t criticize it. Teach them when the ball is in and out of play, that they are not supposed to kick each other and that except for throw-ins, they can not use their hands.
And break it up every so often with “Tag”, or “Simon Says”, or “Follow the Leader”.
If little Suzie can not pass very well yet, don’t worry about it. Don’t expect her or any 5-year old to pass very well. At this young age, I don’t recall many 5 years olds wanting to give up their favorite toy, especially when it took so long to get it in the first place. Would you?
This is a great time to learn to unknowingly control the ball (dribbling), keep the ball away from others (shielding) and kick the ball. Just let them play the game and it will happen.
Kids at this age relate to about 2-4 kids at a time so keep all your activities in small groups. DO NOT play 11 against 11.
I repeat. DO NOT play 11 verses 11. Even seven against seven is a lot. 3 vs 3 is ideal to learn most soccer principles. If you need to, make 2 fields and have some parents watch one game and you watch the other. Involve all players and just let them play.
Try to be creative by using small games to work on a certain skill. Make the games short and fun. Kids will work hard for a few minutes and then get bored, so play a game take a break, play a new game. It takes work to set this up, but to develop your child’s body and mind, you need to make the investment in time to do it right. This it where it all starts. If they enjoy soccer here then maybe in 2030, it will be your kid playing in the World Cup.