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Coaching Tips | Clay County Soccer Club

Article by Steve Richards

Volume 1

Tips for the New Soccer Coach

Some coaches are skeptical when they are asked to coach their child’s soccer team.


The fear lies in the unknown. There are some important tips that will make your first time as a soccer coach a pleasant one for players, parents, and most of all you.

  1. Have FUN! Have a good time and make it FUN for the players. A coach’s interaction with the players should always be positive and the more the coach engages with the kids, the more they will respond.
  2. Be FAIR. Being fair is very important too. It’s a coach’s job to make sure each player has equal playing time, make sure players play each position, and be sure to include everyone.
  3. Be POSITIVE. Being positive includes every interaction with players, parents, officials, and other coaches. It’s always good to set this standard at the beginning of the year so that your parents and players are all on the same wave length.
  4. Ask for Parent Involvement. At the beginning of the year, ask for parent assistance during practice. This will help get parents involved with their child’s play and will help you reduce the player/coach ratio. This is especially helpful in younger players. For young players, try to keep the ratio about 4 kids to each coach. As the kids get older, the ratio can grow as much as 8 kids for each coach. This ratio will depend greatly on your kid’s age and skill.
  5. Focus on TEAMWORK. As a coach, you often will have one or two star players on your team. It is important to grow these players and make them even stronger players; however, it is important to focus on teamwork to get the work done.
  6. Set GROUND RULES. Before the season starts, meet with the team and parents and establish the ground rules. You will want to cover things such as:
    • sideline behavior – make sure they know they are welcome to cheer, but it is up to the coach and the assistant to do the coaching;
    • have players arrive to practice and games on time;
    • notify the coach if absent or late to game or practice;
    • players are to sit with the team while not in the game and not in mommy’s lap;
  7. Know what to practice. As a new coach, it is hard to come up with games that are appropriate for that level of player. Make sure you create a smooth progression in your session with fun games and ideas for your level of player. Make sure you are playing small-sided games with younger kids which will focus on game-like situations. NO LINES. Make sure you prepare properly and have everything you need to coach soccer. Cones, pinnies and appropriate age soccer balls. >
  8. Take Coaching Courses. Many associations will offer coaching education. I encourage you to spend the extra time to become educated and seek help from experienced coaches.

In closing, I simply encourage you to accept the coaching position if you are given the opportunity. It might seem scary at first, but there are many resources in which you can learn to become an effective coach. It does take some practice, so don’t expect to be perfect your first go-round. Every season will be a learning experience and make sure you learn from your mistakes.

Assigning Positions

One of the most important jobs as a coach is putting the right players in the right positions.


At the younger ages, set the initial lineup is only a starting point for the game. It is up to the coach to find each players “self-identity” and place players in the position that best matches them. I am a strong believer that players must have the opportunity to try other positions during the course of the season as your team should be flexible enough to make adjustments as necessary to match up with your opponents.

Some younger age groups might play without goal keepers, or not play with eleven aside, however, I will go through each of the positions on the field.

The Goalkeeper (keeper)
The coach must be very careful when assigning a young player to this position, and should only assign players who have had several practices playing this position and has proven qualified to play keeper. The goalkeeper should be coordinated, athletic, hands of a wide receiver and the courage of a hockey player. For younger players, players who play basketball often have good hand-eye coordination and can be a very good candidate as a keeper.

Outside Fullbacks
When assigning a player to this position, the coach should look for players who are defensive minded but pose a great attacking threat as well. The coach should clearly state the most important job of this position is to defend their goal. Their responsibilities often include man marking, closing down attackers, supporting other defenders, watching backside runs, and winning balls. These players must have strength, speed, concentration, aggressiveness, decisiveness and a good understanding of how to defend.

The sweeper’s position is basically to be a clean-up man. This player’s job is to be the last player on the field (not including the keeper) and is used as the last defensive measure.  This position requires a VERY special player who must have a natural talent for defending and being positioned in the right place at the right time. This player should have speed, strength, stamina, awareness, decisiveness, confidence and a natural tact for defending.

Stopper (center halfback)
The stopper is another defender who plays in front of the sweeper. This player’s responsibility is to “STOP” any attack coming down the middle of the field. I generally look for players who are aggressive, strong, confidence in the air, and a clearance for relieving pressure on the defense.

Center Midfielders
This player should be assigned to your play maker. The center midfielder’s primary function is to support EVERY player on the field (excluding the goalkeeper). They must be offensive and defensive minded, thus they must have outstanding fitness and good at possessing the ball. These players must have stamina, strength, speed, determination and confidence on and off the ball. I often explain this position as being the center of a wheel with an outlet to each player being a spoke on the wheel.

Outside Midfielders (winger)
This player is both offensive and defensive minded. The outside midfield player does not require physical strength, so finding a player that has good ball control, the ability to take players on and great fitness will often make great outside midfielders. This player is expected to be involved on the attack as well as defending, so this player must be fit.

Forwards (strikers)
This player is considered the main thrust of the attack and should be the player that naturally scores goals. These players must work closely together and share in the responsibility as feeder and goal scorer. When assigning this position, look for players who demonstrate good attacking ability but not much inclination towards defending. This player needs speed and strength.

Volume 2

Making a Soccer Lesson Plan

When making a lesson plan remember the following points:


  • Design your session for age and the number of players on the team.
  • Make sure your drills and activities are age specific.
  • Design activities to flow from simple to complex – add elements of the game as you progress.
  • Design session to include: Explanation to the player, Start, middle and where you are going with the drill.
    1. Warm-up.
    2. Small-sided activity (e.g. 4v2 keep away).
    3. Expanded small-sided activity, with discretion.
    4. 6v6 (5v5 plus keepers) to two large goals.
  • Use progression for teaching techniques or tactics as a guide for planning session.
  • Use the appropriate space on the lesson plan to diagram your activity, describe the organization and list the key coaching points.
  • Include the objectives of the game or exercise and the method of scoring.
  • If using restrictions, make sure they are applicable to your objective and topic.
  • Include the general dimensions for the playing area – you should be prepared to adjust the size during your session if needed.
  • Use the area of the field that is most applicable to your topic if possible to provide a clearer reference for your players.
  • Make sure your activities are realistic to the game.

When diagramming, remember the following points:

  • Keep diagrams simple.
  • Use a straight line for a pass – a dotted line for a run – a scribbled line for a dribble.
  • Indicate size of the area on lesson plan next to diagram.
  • Indicate neutral players with an N.

Make sure your practice makes sense:

  • Does it look like soccer?
  • Will your players understand where the practice fits in the game?
  • Are the objectives you set for the players to achieve realistic?
  • Are your instructions clear and to the point?
  • Does the activity or practice bring out the actual elements of the game?

Volume 3

Should Soccer Players Warm Up & Cool Down for Practices?

Soccer players of all ages should warm up before EVERY soccer event and cool down after EVERY soccer event.


The number one reason revolves around reducing the likelihood of a soccer related injury. Although warming up is often overlooked by coaches of younger players, a good warm up and cool down should become part of  a teams routine.

Basically when a player warms up, it does two things. Helps players avoid injury as well as improving the players performance. We call it warming up because it actually increases temperature of the player’s muscles. It also increases the flow of oxygen to muscles, speeds nerve impulses and helps increase range of motion.

Good warm ups typically consists of light jogs, stretching, along with light soccer related warm up such as light dribbling, skill work, or passing at short distances. Each warm up should be between 15 and 30 minutes depending on age group and level of play and should be followed almost immediately with more intense practice drills.

The benefits of a good cool down after training also revolves around reducing injury and boosting performance. The cool down does this by gradually lowering the heart rate, helping oxygen levels in the muscles return to the condition they were in before the practice began, while removing waste such as lactic acid. A good cool down also helps reduce muscle soreness after an intense training session.

A good cool down typically consists of a light jog followed by light stretching.

So to answer the question posed earlier "Should Soccer Players Warm up & Cool Down for Practices?" is a definite yes. There are great benefits to getting your team into a good routine while warming up as well as cooling down before and after training sessions. I recommend introducing a good warm up and cool down with under 6 players to build the routine now so they don't think twice about a good warm up or cool down when they get older.

Warm up Drill

The Pirate Game - Curse of the Pugg Net

This drill is a good drill that can be used to focus on many aspects of the game. For younger players ages 8-11, the primary focus should be on good dribbling technique in traffic which requires vision and awareness. The coach can also focus on transition from offense to defense if the ball is lost, or recovering from a tackle and finding safety. Defensively, this allows defenders to steal the ball from attackers and play to a particular goal or target.


Drill Info:

This is for ages U6, U8, U10, U12, U14, U16.  It is best ran with at least 8 players but no more than 20 players. The drill should be ran approximately 20 minutes  on a 1/2 field. The coach will also make sure they have the following equipment: cones, goals, alternate jersey, .


Build a circle approximately the size of the center circle with a Pugg net in the middle of the circle. The actual size of the circle will vary depending on the age and skill level of the players. With all players in the playing area, dedicate 9 players with the ball, and 3 players without a ball will be the "Pirates".


Instruct the "Pirates" without the ball to defend the players with the balls. Once the Pirate wins the ball, they attempt to score on the Pugg net in the middle of the circle. If the Pirate scores the goal, that player too becomes a Pirate. Play continues until the last player with the ball wins. If the pirates have a hard time getting started, the coach can help the pirates at first.

Coaching Points:

Attacking: keep the ball close with head up so the players are aware of defenders and safety areas (space). If the ball is lost, recover quickly and fight to win it back.
Defending: Transition quickly from defense to offensive and stay focused once the ball is won, and find the target.


Technical Dribbling, Tactical Defending, Tactical Attacking, Tactical Support, Tactical Possession, Tactical Transition, Tactical Vision

Warm up drill

Red Light, Green Light

For U6 and U8 Players. This drill will focus on dribbling with the ball close in order to stop quickly.

Drill Info:

This is for ages U6, U8.  It is best run with at least 4 players but no more than 10 players. The drill should be run approximately 15 minutes on a small field. The coach will also make sure they have the following equipment: cones,



Create a starting line for each of the players, and the coach should move 15-20 yards away.


With the coaches back to the players, he yells GREEN LIGHT and the players try to dribble to the coach. When the coach yells RED LIGHT, he waits a moment and then turns to face the players. Anyone who is not stopped has to go back to the farthest person from the coach.


* Have the players dribble with only the right or left foot.

Coaching Points:

* Make sure the players keep the ball close so they can stop quickly.


Technical Dribbling

Why Do Young Players Quit Soccer?



These are the top reasons young players stop playing soccer.

Release Date: 09/15/2007

From research and studies conducted by US Youth Soccer, the following are the top reasons why young players drop out of soccer.

1. Criticism and yelling
2. No playing time
3. Over-emphasis on winning
4. Poor communication
5. Fear of making mistakes
6. Boredom
7. Not learning

Notice that the top reason why kids stop playing soccer is Criticism and Yelling. Parents and coaches of young soccer players need to member these simple reasons why players stop playing. It is ok to get excited and to cheer during a game. But, consider what is you are cheering for. Reward and acknowledge hard work and good play. Remember what our parents taught us, "if you do not have anything positive to say, do not say anything at all". From your children's standpoint, it is much better to be a silent observer than it is to criticize.

Do not over emphasis the win or the loss. Rather emphasis the fun of the game, the hard play and the kids working together on an off the field. If a player makes a mistake, let them learn from it. 99% of the time, the player that makes a mistake knows they did and already feels bad enough. Making them relive it again after the game will only cause them to fear making the same mistake in the future and will cause them to play safe. As parents and coaches we need to encourage players to try new things and to learn from their mistakes. It will only help them to make better decisions in the future.

How Coaches Expectations Affect Player Performance

Article by Eric Steege


Whether you know it or not, the expectations you form as a coach about players on your team affects not only your own behavior toward them but also the feelings and performance of those players. Having such an influence on your players' athletic experience and development is a huge responsibility and a process every coach should understand.

Here's how the process works.

all coaches form expectations of players on their team. For example, often coaches have higher expectations for players that they feel are more athletic. When sources of information allow accurate evaluation of athletic potential and ability, there is no problem. However, inaccurate expectations (either too high or too low) especially when the expectations are too rigid and inflexible, often lead to unsuitable behaviors by the coach. This leads us to the second step -- coaches' expectations influence their behaviors.

Most coaches behave differently if they have high or low expectations of a specific player and these behaviors normally fit into one of three categories:
1) Quality and amount of interactions with an athlete. Coaches spend more time talking and working with "high-expectation" players because they expect more of them. Coaches show more caring and positive emotions toward high-expectation athletes.
2) Quality and amount of instruction toward an athlete. Coaches lower their expectations of what skills a "low-expectation" athlete can learn/execute and thus establish a lower standard of performance. Coaches provide a "low-expectation" athlete correspondingly less time in practice drills. Coaches are less patient in teaching challenging skills to low-expectation players.
3) Type and amount of feedback toward an athlete. Coaches give high-expectation athletes more instructional and informational feedback. Coaches provide more positive reinforcement and praise for high-expectation athletes after a successful performance.

it is easy to see why athletes who consistently receive more positive and instructional feedback from a coach will show more effort, improvement, and enjoyment in soccer. As a coach, it is also easy to take credit for how your positive coaching behaviors directed toward high-expectation players positively affect performance. However, it is more difficult to see how coaching behaviors directed toward low-expectation players might be negatively affecting performance. Read the following and see if you can think of times when your expectations/behaviors as a coach might have unknowingly affected a player's performance in a negative way:
* Low-expectation players often receive less playing time and less effective reinforcement and as a result have poorer performances.
* Low-expectation athletes attribute their failures to a lack of ability reinforcing the notion that they aren't good and may never have future success.
* Low-expectation players demonstrate lower levels of self-confidence and perceived ability.

Often an athlete's performance adds confirmation to a coach's initial evaluation of the athlete's ability and potential. However, few coaches are actually aware that their own expectations and behaviors helped produce this self-fulfilling performance result in their athletes. Thus, it is absolutely critical that all coaches understand the cyclical relationship between their expectations and players' performance - players' athletic development and enjoyment are dependent on this knowledge.

About the Author: ERIC STEEGE, a performance consultant with the International Center of Performance Excellence at West Virginia University, is currently in the doctoral program for Sport and Exercise Psychology.