I just finished my first season as a pee-wee soccer coach. This was my second stint as a coach. I also coached Cecilia’s basketball team last winter and I learned some similar lessons about both myself and the kids.
I think I’m going to really enjoy coaching, but my personality is probably better suited to older kids. At this younger age or with kids just starting an activity, having fun and enjoying the physical exercise is way more important than any strategy or technique.
I’m hoping this year with basketball, the girls are a little older and willing to mix some fun with some more serious drills, but with a bunch of four and five year olds, some never touching a soccer ball before that was way too much to ask.
I needed to really tamp down my teaching expectations and just help the kids have a good time. If they had fun, they would keep coming back, if they keep coming back and develop a love for the sport, they will want to learn and play it better.
All of the basics should be almost disguised within games. Not everything even needs to be about building skills for the sport. Let the kids run around. Let them be active.
When talking to people and poking around online, the best advice I received was to not have the kids stand in line, but always try to do activities where they used their own ball. Touches and learning to control and get a feel for the ball with their feet should be the focus at this age. We never talked about passing and barely talked about shooting. It was all about dribbling and having fun.
If you are a coach or thinking about coaching young kids here are the 10 activities that worked best for me:
Always start with a warm-up
Kids at this age really don’t need to warm up much, if at all, but this gets them together, gets them listening and gets that initial burst of nerves or shyness out. It also allows the coach to warm up, someone who definitely needs it. A few favorites: jumping jacks, standing on one foot (helps coordination) and stretching quads, butterfly stretch, coach says (simon says), pretend the ball is an egg and tap the top of the ball with your foot (don’t break the egg!). Every few drills I liked to jog (be an airplane!) to another part of the field and continue with a few more warm-ups. Standing in one place is not easy for little kids!
Walk the puppy
Hand out (pretend) leashes to each child. Tell them their ball is no longer a ball, but a puppy. They need to take their puppy on a walk. They can’t let their puppy get too far away, they need to keep the puppy on their leash. They need to keep it close. Have them dribble (with the inside of their feet, you may need to have them all reach down and touch the part of the foot that is used for dribbling) across the field or across a set area.
This is a variation of red light, green light. I added a few extra lights. Red (stop) and green (go) are obvious, but yellow to slow down and purple to change direction add some variety. The kids also really liked the disco light which meant stop and dance!
Hit the coach
A big favorite. Set up a square, not too big and have all the kids dribble around inside and try to hit the coach with the ball. Whoever hits the coach gets to pick an animal for the coach to imitate. This is usually good for at least 5 minutes of chaotic fun
Sharks & Minnows
The opposite of Hit the Coach. This time the coach has the ball inside the square and tries to hit the kids. If a kid is hit, they lay down on the ground. To get back up, a teammate has to jump over them
Similar to sharks and minnows. In this one, one coach is the germ, if the coach hits a kid inside the square the kid is infected and has to go to the “hospital” before coming back into the game. The hospital is a separate area where another coach or parent gives out quick tasks like jumping jacks or ball skills before sending them back into the game.
Plant a tree
Hand out a cone to each child (this is their tree) and have them go off and “plant” the tree somewhere in the field and come back. Now have them dribble their ball to their tree. Now have them switch and dribble to a neighbor’s tree. Now tell them they are no longer kids, but monsters and have them dribble to a new cone and knock it over. Finally, have them collect the cones and bring them back to you.
Little, little, big
This one was helpful for dribbling down the field during the “game” portion each week. Have the kids line up on a line and then dribble forward with two small touches and then a big touch where they push it further. Do this to one side of the field then back.
This was one of the few games/activities that I did that involved shooting. Take a number of cones and line them up across the goal line (I’m assuming you are using the smaller kid-sized goals). Have the kids shoot and try to knock down the cones. You can have two teams and two goals, so more kids are participating at once and see which teams knocks down the cones first. Make sure to have them kick with their laces, not their big toe!
Go to score!
Finally, a simple one, but everyone likes to score. Have the kids dribble their balls into the goal. Pick up the goal and run with it to another part of the field. Have the kids dribble to the goal again. Repeat as long as they are interested.
These variety of short (many last 3-5 minutes) activities allowed each child to control their own ball (not standing in line waiting), have fun, get active, and learn a little something about the game of soccer. I don’t think you can ask much more of a pee-wee soccer coach. Except to make sure someone is bringing popsicles for after the game!