How to Coach a Soccer Team
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Coaching soccer well takes knowledge of the sport, and the application of that knowledge, in a fashion that will retain the "fun" in the game while advancing the skill of the players. When you look at a team of U-8's compared to a team of U-16's there isn't a whole lot of difference in what needs to improve. Basically the skill set is the same its the level of the skill that your going to see the difference. U-8 will need to focus on controlling the ball while in stride and U-16 will be looking at controlling the ball while in stride and passing the ball accurately.
What defines a successful coach is his/her interest in the team. An interested coach will focus on what they do before practice and a game and after. The actual practicing, and improvement of the players skill set, relies on the coach and the efforts towards putting thoughtful time and effort into organizing the practice plan, contacting the team members with practice times and dates, arriving at the practice field ahead of time (ten to fifteen minutes is good), setting up the soccer drills so they're ready when the players arrive, making sure each player has a ball to practice with and the coach should use their energy to inspire the players to unleash their energy.
All of these activities set the stage for the entire team and their moral about their team. Set your team to a positive, energetic tone and that is what they will give you back. Set your team off with a less than energetic attitude and that is exactly what you will get back.
Rules of the Game
The teams are set up by age. The day parents take their kids in for sign-ups it will be determined which age group to put them in. This is figured by how old the player wase on the last July 31? If its October 1st and the player was 10 on the previous July 31 then the child will remain in the Under 10's. Occasionally you will get a big child, for their age group, if their birthday falls just after July 31st.
The world soccer organization (FIFA -Federation Internationale de Football Association) publishes the "official" soccer rules annually. All the rules will not apply to your team if they are playing in the younger groups such as the U-6 and U-8 and U-10 & U12's. For these age groups the field size, ball size and the length of the game is also adjusted accordingly. The ball size will be; U-6 & 8 use a size 3; U-10 & 12 use a size 4; and U-13 use a size 5.
With these age groups you'll be focusing on skills such as:
- Not touching the ball with their hands - Especially first years. Regardless of their age, first time players want to touch or pick up the ball. In a game the referee will call them on this. Choose practice drills that will emphasis the "no hands" rule. Example: Have the players hold a water balloon on top of their head while they practice passing and dribbling.
- Don't intentionally kick another player. This was one of the biggest problems I encountered as a referee. As a matter of fact this is the only offense I had to pull a yellow card (warning flag) for and then a red card(removal from the game and next game) on a player U-10 for.
- Play inside the lines.
- Score points by putting the ball in the net
- Don't kick the ball when the goalie is on it, near it or has a finger on it.
With the U-12 thru U18 the referee will be enforcing all the rules of the game. Most kids know the rules by now, but you would be surprised how many don't. Incorporate the rules into practice can clear up any fog a player may have. This is also good way to teach a first year player the rules and have fun doing it, and players that are too embarrassed to say they don't know, have the opportunity to pay attention and learn it right.
One rule that will be enforced in the U-12 thru U-18 is the "off-side" rule. The "off-side" rule is often misunderstood and the player that commits the infraction is sometimes surprise by it because they don't know they are doing it. They will go "off-side" again and again not knowing what they are doing wrong. "Off-side" means "The player is off his side of the field" hence "off-side". ("Off-sides" is incorrect). Look at the diagram below. This may help in explaining this rule:
These are some of rules that I have found get confused with the players.
- The Direct Kick - If there is a foul such as kicking intentionally, tackling, tripping, hitting, etc, a direct kick is give to the offended player. The direct kick is taken from in front of the goal with only the player and the goalie involved.
- The Indirect Kick - Unsportsmanlike conduct such as attempting to shove, kick or tackle the opponent. Also if a yellow or red card is pulled on a player and they are not give the direct kick then they will be give the indirect kick. The indirect kick is taken from the corner of the playing field and another playing must touch the ball before going into the goal hence the term "indirect".
Infractions by the Goalie that will invoke an indirect kick (must occur inside the goal box) include:
- Handling the ball for more than six (6) seconds before releasing it back into play
- Catching or picking up the ball directly from a throw in.
- Touching the ball with his hand when it is intentionally kicked to him by a teammate.
The last one is a no, no that I saw often. It is against the rules for a player to intentionally kick the ball to his own goalie if the goalie touches it with his hand.
Direct Kick & Indirect Kick
Equipment, Coach & Parent Rules
What does apply to all the players, regardless of age, is the equipment rules. The equipment will be checked by the referee at the beginning of the game. Both teams line up at the center of the field and the referee or his assistant will walk down the line of players looking for these items:
- Shinguard's - Every practice and every game this must be worn with the hard surface of the shinguard covered with a sock.
- Cleats - A soccer cleat does not have a cleat on the front toe part (baseball & football cleats do). They must be made of rubber. The cleats must be fixed, not screw-in type.
- Jewelry - All jewelry including earrings must be removed.
The rules for the coaches apply to the parents as well.
- There is no yelling or conversations allowed between the coach and the other team
- Coaches and parents may not come onto the field or step on the line during a game with out permission from the referee
- Coaches and parents must not stand on the sidelines or go behind the end lines (the lines that mark the end of the field). stand two steps back from the line so the line referee can see and pass by easily. There is a coach's box right on the side lines. Your best bet is to stand within that.
- Never criticize the referee. This can be a tough job. If you feel a mistake needs to be appealed talk to the referee after the game or the Director of Referees.
If your the coach for your child's soccer team do your best to make it a fun experience for the players as well as the parents. The way the parents and spectators react depends a lot on how the coach reacts.