If you are coaching - or about to start coaching - players in the 5 to 8 year old age range, pay attention.
I'd like to show you how you can engage your players, introduce essential soccer skills and - most importantly - create a safe and friendly place for young children to learn and have fun.
You can get all this from my new coaching book Fun Soccer Games for 5 to 8 Year Olds.
I'm Keith Boanas, an English Football Association Coach Educator and Head Coach for Surrey County Football Association. After 29 years coaching kids I've brought together some of my favourite games with new themes that I'm sure will energise your coaching sessions.
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This is a game taken from my new soccer coaching book Fun Soccer Games for 5 to 8 Year Olds. Get Ghostbusters and 24 more fun games for just £12 (that's just
48p a game!).
Have you ever tried to run a drill for a group of 5 year old children? Did it go well?
I doubt it.
You see, they're called drills for a reason. What young player would want to spend their time passing a ball back and forth in a straight line?
You will be lucky if you can run a drill for 5 minutes before their interest has disappeared completely.
Start your session by telling your players that you are going to do some technical drills and it will probably go something like this:
“We are going to do some passing drills today”
A hand shoots up from one of your players.
“When are we going to play a game?”
“Not yet, we've got to do these drills first”
If they don't have fun, they won't come back
Children view drills for exactly what they are, boring and monotonous. If you keep running drills not only will you lose your player's interest, ultimately, you will lose your players. No child is going to come to your sessions week after week if they are not having fun.
So, how do you overcome this? The answer is simple, play games.
What can Fun Soccer Games for 5 to 8 Year Olds do for your players?
- Teach basic soccer skills
- Let them have fun
- Engage young children
- Promote teamwork
- Fire their creativity
- Keep them coming back
Let's look at each of these:
Teach basic soccer skills
Games are the best way to teach a range of basic soccer skills. In Fun Soccer Games for 5 to 8 Year Olds I have covered all of the basic skills such as passing, shooting, dribbling, heading and even goalkeeping.
Let them have fun
At this age, above all else, children want to have fun. That's why the soccer authorities in the UK and United States back the idea of fun games.
Games are fun which is why we continue to play them well into adulthood. Top soccer matches are still games, they've just developed a more competitive, and commercial, edge.
Engage young children
How do you get a child to buy into your games? Make them engaging.
The games in Fun Soccer Games for 5 to 8 Year Olds are based on things that every child can relate to, they use spaceships, pirates, tigers, monkeys, aliens and aeroplanes and a whole host of other ideas as inspiration (see column, right for a list of game names).
Games can educate your players beyond the learning of basic soccer skills. My games are based on simple sets of rules and educate players in simple ideas such as right and wrong. They are introduced in a fun environment and with achievable, desirable objectives.
Young children can be selfish, they're not always keen to share their toys and they strive to achieve objectives independently.
Give them a ball and they'll want to keep it.
Fun Soccer Games for 5 to 8 Year Olds introduces teamwork in a variety of ways.
- Working independently.
- Working in pairs.
- Working as a group.
The majority of games in my book require one ball per player so that everyone can be involved even though the games are all team based.
Fire their creativity
I've used these games over and over again and I know that they work. However, I'm never afraid to make changes, to the rules, to the playing area, or even to the premise of the game.
If your children would rather be a fighter pilot than a spaceman, go for it. Based around a simple set of rules the children can put whatever spin they like on each game. If they want to be medieval jousters, that's not a problem.
You can even let them change the rules. It's a case of how would they like to play the game as much as how should they play the game.
Keep them coming back
If young children play a game and enjoy it you can be sure they'll want to keep on playing – ever played peek-a-boo with a baby? Ever seen a baby get bored of it? Your children are going to latch on to these games and want to play them over and over again.
At a very young age you don't need to introduce endless variety. Ask the children what game they want to play and off you go. They'll be back week after week, there's a big difference between consistent fun and monotony.