One of the delights of youth soccer coaching is taking on a team of youngsters and watching them develop into great people and players during a number of years.
The pleasure lies in witnessing how children, who were as shy or didn’t know how to kick the ball, grow into confident persons and learn new skills.
However, staying with the same team for a longer period has its flaws too. Getting to know your players quite well has its drawbacks since “favorite players” will arise from the crowd. As a result of this fact, it may become difficult to make unbiased decisions about these individuals.
Training routines can also become past its best over time. It is only natural that a coach can stick to the same structure and even play the same games week after week. This lazy approach will in most cases be justified by saying: “My players like doing it this way and they like these games”, but coaches should be on guard because players might be bored or even annoyed by dull and repetitive formats of the game.
Boredom at youth soccer training sessions presents itself by misbehavior and, eventually, absence from the game. If your authority doesn’t affect players and some are turning up infrequently without a valid reason, it’s time for a spring clean!
Very Young Children
The biggest problem with four to six-year-olds is that they have relatively short attention spans. Even if a task seems quite interesting to them, expect a young child to stay focused on it for up to 10 minutes.
On the contrary, a four-year-old who thinks that an activity is uninteresting or tough will stay “on task” not longer than 30 seconds before trying to find something more satisfying to do. Playing with mud or goofing around, for example.
The best recipe for such difficulties is to plan new activities every 10 minutes, at most. Which means that the coach should have lots of different, engaging and easy to explain coaching games in his “back pocket”.
As mentioned above, the first indication that your coaching sessions are becoming uninteresting is an escalation of “undesirable” behavior among players.
Continual chatting, squabbles and players not trying hard enough are a clear sign that you need to rethink your soccer coaching sessions. You need to discern if they are child-friendly, and if too much time is being spent on technical training rather than playing the game, and the like.
A solution for this, however, exists, and its name is Honesty. Don’t be the arrogant know-it-all and ask your players where the problem is.
Just sit them down and explain your concerns. State how troubled you are about their lack of focus, ask them if they are disinterested and try collectively to find a solution.
Whatever the outcome may be, always consider your priorities. Your decision should involve the interests of your players but must also have sense to you as their coach and to them, as growing soccer stars.
Here are a couple of ways to blow away the cobwebs from dull coaching sessions:
- Add diversity to their training sessions by inviting other coaches to participate in the planning and executing process.
- Sometimes it’s beneficial to stay away for a day, and hand over the reins. Let your players once in a while decide what they want to do. This will motivate them to outperform themselves. As a coach, use this situation to observe their game and evaluate their development.
- Your coaching sessions must be progressive and challenging. Do not allow boredom to set on your turf and reinvent training sessions to keep things fresh.
- Since children come to coaching sessions to play soccer games (not drills) try to adhere to the rule of FUN. Establish an ambience that recreates a good time for all parties involved.
- Acceptance of competition is crucial. You should gracefully stress the fact that football is about winning and losing. The earlier they acknowledge this, the better they will face it.
- Lastly, don’t shy away from unconventional approaches to youth soccer coaching. What is “normal” to colleagues shouldn’t be standard to you. Try finding different ways, but NEVER forget to accustom them to the needs of your players.