Getting up early on Saturday after a week’s work may be a hard task for many, but when you have the enthusiasm for sport, namely under 8s football, this can be the least of a coach’s worries. Coaching kids’ football can be a most rewarding experience. This is how the story goes…. every Saturday at 8.00am the kids are ready to learn football skills, have fun and meet their friends; the coach has to encapsulate all these factors for them. The challenge of coaching these kids in their football team is fitting in a challenging step by step coaching plan within 90 minutes allocated including a period of warm up and skills training while preparing them for a 30-minute match (against another team) before the end of those 90 minutes.
The first step is the warm up where the muscles are warmed up and stretched a little. After rounding the kids up for an approximate start of 8.00am, it is time for the warm up exercise which also includes the thought of waking up their minds. The little ones can be still a little sleepy! Kids do not want training to be too serious and being 8.00am they are not they to be lectured to. The coach does not want them against him. So, for example, a great game for a warm up for coaching that always works involves the kids dribbling with the ball over a distance of 50 meters, then when the coach shouts a body part, while they are dribbling, the kids have to place that body part on the ball. This gets them familiar with the ball, but also opens their thinking to listen and perform a task. Usually the kid who is last to do the action gets a gentle kick on his bottom. It adds a little humour to proceedings. A careful check on the clock is needed as not starting dead on 8 am and this exercise running for 20 minutes or more can limit time; not forgetting the coach wants the main focus to be on learning more specifics on football.
Next is the chance for the kids to actually learn a few football skills, making sure before this that they might need a break for a drink. Naturally with the skills and warm up there has to be a transition from the last exercise where the process of coaching has to include a part that actually teaches them skills for future use. A major factor of football and coaching is passing so emphasis can be on this. For example, the coach gets the kids into pairs 3 metres apart, first demonstrating the task with a better player by using the inside of their foot to pass the ball. Next, the pairs of kids pass to each other. This can be done for 5 minutes. Then, the coach adds a bit more flavour to the exercise. They then, have to pass the ball through their friend’s legs from their 3 metres gap. Again, another 5 minutes is fine. So, the kids are now a bit more familiar with passing. To follow this is to get the kids into groups of 3s and play ‘piggy in the middle’. Two kids pass between themselves and the other has to touch the ball. Another short period is used for this. Another check of the time should be done as time is running out before the match; so to finish off the skills section the ‘piggy in the middle’ game is played again with everyone. This brings the group together to have a fun ending to this section.
Finally, the real game starts after another drink break. The team now has to be picked for the match and tactics discussed. At this lower age of players, it is not fair to baffle them with football science, so it’s the coach’s job to encourage them to have fun and enjoy playing while still keeping in mind what they have learnt beforehand. Now, the game starts. The coach needs to keep the kids’ minds active, younger kids can lose concentration and think that football is just about kicking the ball while looking at the ground. Minds do wander! Win or lose though the coach should make sure the kids tried. Once the first half is over, the coach directs the kids to their drink, then gets them back for a little positive pep talk, then leads them out for the second half. At the final whistle, both teams shake hands. Hopefully, the coach’s team walks away with a win but priority is that a great morning was had by all.
To conclude, all the warm up, skills and final match may seem a lot to do within 90 minutes but if a little preparation is done, there is never a problem. Enthusiasm for the game and the kids, plus a passion for teaching helps any coach along the way. Any new coach should learn that time spent working out a coaching plan banishes into the background by the satisfaction of a seeing the kids’ faces as they have fun training and having a match.