Principles of Youth Coaching

Coaches Activities Checklist

Characteristics of u-6 Players

Involving the Parents

Things You Can Expect

Coaching Rationale

Typical Training Session


        Individual Activities

        Play the Game

        Warm-Down & Homework



The following guidelines are to be used for the U-6 Instructional Division:


1. CONCEPT. The main focus will be on playing and having fun with the ball. All coaching emphasis will be on familiarizing players with the concepts of soccer, basic rules, and individual ball control. There will be no set teams and no scores kept. The goalkeeper position will not be used. Scrimmages will be 3 v 3 format on a rotational basis. Players coming out of U-6 should have a good feeling about soccer, unencumbered by excessive rules and no pressure to score goals or to win. Players should gain a basic understanding of simple rules and have acquired an appreciation for ball control and kicking (shooting). No referees will be used and coaches will control the scrimmages from the middle of the field and only point out gross infringements or show simple game restarts. Coaches will use basic hand signals for calls made so players become familiar with them. Coaches should still attend the basic level clinics we offer in order to get a good understanding of the basic techniques.

NOTE: If a coach will not be available for a session, he or she is responsible for finding a parent or coach from his/her session or timeslot to fill in. If a replacement cannot be found, the coach should notify the U-6 coordinator in advance so that other arrangements can be made.


2. RULES. USYSA rules will be followed with these exceptions:

a. No offsides, direct kicks, penalty shots, or slide tackles.

b. No goalkeeper.

c. No penalty for incorrect throw-in. Player to be shown correct method and throw-in repeated.

d. No scores are kept. Each goal will result in a standard game restart (kickoff).

e. Every player must wear shinguards or he/she cannot participate. Uniform socks should cover the shinguards.

f. No open-toed shoes or jewelry allowed. Cleats of any sort are discouraged at this age. Glasses should have a band. Mouth guards are recommended.


3. FIELDS. Small-sided game-sized fields will be used (20 x 30) with 2 yd wide goals (use flags). Fields will be outlined by lines or by use of flat cones. No corner flags. Coaches should check the field conditions before the session for unsafe articles (glass, loose rocks, holes, etc.).


4. EQUIPMENT. The parents responsible for field set-up should arrive 15 minutes early to set up the fields. The fields should be ready by the first session. After the final session, the equipment will be returned to the shed. Players should be inspected to ensure they have their shin guards on correctly, shoes tied, and for other safety-related equipment. Soccer balls must be kept at the proper pressure.


5. PRACTICE PERIOD. A 30 minute warm-up and fun games period will precede the scrimmages. Groups should be evenly spread across the fields with each coach performing the same set of practice instructions. It shall consist of:

  1. A 15 minute warm-up, with juggling, ball control/kicking techniques, limited stretches (for habit only), and
  2. 15 minutes of fun games, which emphasize ball control and kicking.

Coaches should use this period to get to know the players, determine relative skills and offer special instruction to those that need it. Be sure to give plenty of praise for any attempts and reinforce successful accomplishments with a lot of encouragement. Keep the kids active and moving, and no one will be bored!

Encourage Parent Participation!

For each group of 10 players, at least 2 or 3 parents should help out on the field.

Donít be shy about courteously asking for more help!



  1. Teams of 3 will be formed from whoever shows up for that session. Scrimmage vests will be worn by one "team" on each field. Extra players will sit out the first scrimmage and join in the next. Extra players should be involved with an instructional activity during that time.
  2. Scrimmages will last ten minutes. A "team" of 3 will then rotate to play against a different "team" of 3 for the next scrimmage. A maximum of three scrimmages will be played. No player shall sit out for more than ten minutes per week.
  3. At least one (two preferred) coach will be assigned to each 3 v 3 scrimmage and will keep the game moving. The coach will point out infractions and show what to do. No other coaching should be done during the scrimmages. If there are any extra players out, there can be a stop in play at each 5 minute mark to allow substitutions. Restart will be by throw-in. One coach or parent must take responsibility for keeping time and directing the rotation to the next scrimmage.
  4. At the end of each scrimmage, "teams" will shake hands before rotating.


7. END OF SESSION. Plenty of praise and encouragement should be given. Give the players one technique to practice at home before the next week. Juggling and dribbling are prime examples. Players will be given the opportunity to demonstrate this technique at the next session.


8. COORDINATOR. One parent or coach is needed to be a U-6 Coordinator and attend the monthly Board Meetings. The coordinator will be the focal point for passing out information and handling situations such as notifying coaches of new schedules, ensuring enough coaches will be present each week and handling any personal problems.


9. TIME SLOTS. We will have up to 4 sessions to handle the number of players who signed up. They are: 12:30 PM, 1:30 PM, 2:30 PM, and 3:30 PM. The same coaches and players will be assigned to the same time slot each week (this avoids schedules).


10. UNIFORMS. Each player will receive a uniform before the first session. Certified coaches will receive coaches' shirt and should wear it during the sessions.


11. CANCELLATIONS. The Vice President of Recreation or his representative will update the toll-free number if games are canceled for any reason. Do not assume a game is canceled just because it is raining, has been raining or looks like rain. Call the toll-free number within 1 hour of playing time.

Once a session begins, it is up to the coaches to decide if a session should be terminated because playing conditions threaten the health or safety of the players.


Principles of Youth Coaching

        Developmentally appropriate.

        Clear, concise & correct information:




        Simple to Complex.

        Safe & appropriate training area.

        Does child feel comfortable enough to take a risk (psychological aspect)

        Decision making.

        Do they have to think?

        How does it relate to the game?

        Implications for the game.

        3 L's - No LINES, No LAPS, No LECTURES


Coaches Activities Checklist

        Are the activities fun?

        Are the activities organized?

        Are all the players involved in the activities?

        Is creativity & decision making being used?

        Are the spaces used appropriately?

        Is the coaches' feedback appropriate?

        Are there implications for the game?


Characteristics of U-6 Players

        Short attention span.

        Can attend to only one problem at a time.

        May understand simple rules that are explained briefly and demonstrated.

        May or may not understand or remember: what lines mean on the field; what team they are on; what goal they are going for. We need to be patient and laugh with them as they get 'lost' on the field.

        Easily bruised psychologically. Shout praise often. Give "hints", don't criticize.

        Need generous praise and to play without pressure. No extrinsic rewards (trophies, medals, etc.) should be given for winning.

        Prefer "parallel play" (Will play on a team, but will not really engage with their teammates. Thus, a 3 against 3 game is, in reality, a 1 against 5 game because they all want the ball at the same time.

        Very individually oriented (me, mine, my).

        Constantly in motion, but, with no sense of pace. They will chase something until they drop. They are easily fatigued but recover rapidly.

        Development for boys and girls are quite similar.

        Physical coordination limited. Eye - hand and eye - foot coordination is not developed. Need to explore qualities of a rolling ball.

        Love to run, jump, roll, hop, etc.

        Prefer large, soft balls.

        Catching or throwing skills not developed.

        Can balance on their "good" foot.


Involving the Parents

It is imperative that coaches get the parents involved. Not only are they a major resource for your team, but the U-6 player still views their parents as the most significant people in their lives. A pre-season meeting should be held with the parents so that objectives and team policies can be addressed. Some topics that you may want to address at this meeting are:

        Identifying the team manager-someone to handle all of the details (phone calls, orange list).

        Discuss the laws of the game.

        Carpool needs.

        Training and game schedules. How you feel about starting and ending on time, what your attendance expectations are, what you think is a good excuse to miss training.

        What each player should bring to training: inflated ball, filled water bottle, soccer attire, shin guards (Cleats are not mandatory.)

        Most importantly, your philosophy about coaching U-6 players. Let them know that everyone plays; that the game does not look like the older player's games; that you are there to ensure that their player is safe and has a good time, as well as learn about soccer.

        What your expectations for them are during game time. How do you want them to cheer? Do they know that they should not coach from the sidelines?

        Above all, try to enjoy yourself. If you do they probably will too.



Things You Can Expect

As coaches of these younger players there are things that we know that we can expect during training and games. If we know what to expect, we will be more effective in dealing with the hundreds of situations that come up. This will help us relax, and, in turn, allow us to enjoy the unpredictable nature of working with these children even more. Here are some of the things that we can expect.

        Most players cry immediately when something is hurt. Some cry even when something is not hurt.

        No matter how loud we shout, or how much we "practice" it, they can not or will not pass the ball.

        Somebody will come off the field in need of a toilet. Somebody will stay on the field in need of a toilet.

        Twenty seconds after the start of a game, every player will be within 5 yards of the ball.

        Several players will slap at the ball with their hands, or pick it up. Several parents will yell at them not to do that.

        A model rocket that is launched from a nearby field will get 100% of the player's attention. By all means, stop whatever you are doing and go watch for a couple of minutes!

        During a season, you will end up tying at least 40 - 50 shoe laces.

        They will do something that is absolutely hysterical. Make sure that you laugh!


Coaching Rationale

It is important to understand at the outset that players coming to any sport prior to the age of 6 years old, in general, do not do so by their own choice. As a result, their coaches need to give them something about which to get excited. Further, at this age, learning to play soccer is secondary to most other things in their lives.

With the above assumptions, lets look at some things that we can do to energize the U-6 players, and, hopefully, get them to the point where they will enthusiastically initiate the sign up for next year!

        Each session should be geared around touching the ball as many times as possible. Involve the ball in as many activities as possible. Basic movements such as running, skipping, hopping, etc. need to be emphasized. If these can be done while kicking, catching, rolling, or dribbling a ball... all the better!

        Training should not last for more than one hour. This is primarily due to physical fatigue and attention span considerations. Any more than this may lead to their and your burnout.

        Have as many different kinds of activities ready as you can get into one hour. Emphasis needs to be placed on what is FUN!.

        Every player should bring his or her own size #3 ball.

        Remember, although they may have very similar birthdates, their physical and/or mental maturity my vary as much as 36 months. Activities need to accommodate these individual differences whenever possible.

        Team play and passing is an alien concept to these players. They know that if they pass the ball, they may never get it back. In fact, they often will steal it from their own teammates. Do not get uptight if they do not pass, let them dribble to their heart's content.

        Plan for at least 4, 90 second drink breaks, especially in warmer weather. Their "cooling system" is not as efficient as in older players.


Typical Training Session

Here are some items that should be included in a U-6 training session:


Warm-Up: A brief warm-up is appropriate in order to get the players thinking about soccer and to prepare them physically for the time ahead. This should involve individual body activities that may or may not involve the ball. They can chase their ball as it is thrown by the coach, bringing it back with different parts of their body. Or, they can chase someone with their ball at their feet. Static stretching is also appropriate at this time, again, hopefully done with the ball. "Soccernastics" activities are very appropriate, like: rolling the ball with the bottom of their feet, with their elbows, backwards, with the back of their neck while holding on to it; throwing it up and catching it; keeping it up with their feet while sitting.


Individual Activities: Follow the warm-up with some kind of individual activity, not a real 1 v 1 game, but some kind of activity where players act as individuals in a game environment. An example would be a kind of tag game, or "Red Light - Green Light", or a game where players are trying to knock their ball through gates. Keep players in motion at all times. Avoid having them wait on lines. Play games of "inclusion" instead of games where the "loser sits".


Play the Game: Move on to the real game, but, make sure it is a 2 v 2, 3 v 3, or 4 v 4 game. Switch the game every 5 minutes or so. Be creative. Play with 4 goals, or 2 balls. Play with or without boundaries. Use cones if you don't have real goals. Keep players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. It is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible.


Warm-Down & Homework: Finish the session with a warm down. Give them some more stretches to do with the ball. You may want to review what you started the session with. Also, give them some homework so that they practice on their own. Think of some ball trick that you would like to see them try to do, like, bounce it off their thigh and then catch it. It is important to finish on time. This is especially essential if the players are really into it. Stop at this point and you will get an enthusiastic return.