U4/U5/U6 Teaching Objectives
To Introduce the Athletes to:
Basic motor skills such as running, stopping, twisting, turning, jumping, leaping, bending, and stretching.
Body control for agility, balance, and coordination.
Introduce the 4 surfaces of the foot that can be used for dribbling and controlling the ball (inside, instep, outside, sole)
Kicking the ball with the instep of both feet.
The rules of the game:
No use of hands on the field of play
Ball in and out of play
The basic strategy when in possession of the ball – to score a goal.
The basic strategy when the opponent has the ball – prevent them from scoring.
The Role of the Coach:
The role of the U4/U5/U6 coaches is to be a facilitator and create the correct environment so that the players have fun and learn. You will need to create an environment that allows individual players to freely express themselves without fear of negative criticism. Coaches need to be patient, creative, enthusiastic, and organized. If the coach is having fun, chances are the players will as well.
Planning your Practice
One thing to keep in mind when working with young players is that the younger they are the more organized you need to be. Since you are coaching the youngest players in the program you will need to be very organized. It cannot be stressed enough that you need to plan ahead what you will do at practice. Being able to move quickly from one activity to the next will help the players keep their focus and keep them on tasks. Practices for this age group should last about 50-60 minutes. Remembering that these young players have a short attention span and need lots of variety in a practice, let’s look at how to put a practice together.
There are a few methods of organizing a practice, but for simplicity’s sake we will focus on just one. When organizing a practice using this method there are three phases:
The purpose of the warm up is to get the players excited about being at practice and to get them moving. One or two activities should suffice here. Remembering the teaching objectives for this age group, this is a perfect place for using activities that develop the players’ basic motor skills. These activities can be done with or without a ball, but I would suggest using the ball more often than not. This phase should last approximately 10 minutes.
This is the main part of the session where we introduce the players to the surfaces of the foot that are used in soccer to control or kick the ball. Two or three activities in which the players are dribbling and kicking the ball will form this phase of the practice. This is where the coach can give positive corrective feedback to the players, which at this age group consists of giving positive encouragement and friendly reminders of which parts of the foot to use. This phase should last between 15 and 20 minutes.
You should end each practice with a game of Micro-Soccer so that the players experience the game and learn the laws of the game. This is where the players learn the basic strategies of the game; to score a goal for their team and to prevent the other team from scoring a goal. This phase should last 20-25 minutes.
If you plan your practice as outlined above, not only will you be organized and helping keep your players focused, but you will be well on your way to making sure you are achieving the teaching objectives for this age group. For ideas of the types of activities to use, see the sample activities included in this supplement.
Every practice should begin with various types of stretching (reaching up high, touching their toes, jumping jacks, touching the ground with their legs about 2 feet apart, stretching side to side, etc) and a little jogging in order to warm up their muscles.
Next you could choose a couple of the following games:
The Wizards – In a grid, (rectangle) have 2 player act as Wizards (give them a penny to wear) and they possess the power to turn people into stone. The Wizards chase after the other players and try to touch them. When one of the players is touched, they become a statue and must stand motionless. They can resume playing only if another free player touches them and sets them free. You can play for a set period of time or until all players have been turned to stone.
Catch Me If You Can - 2 teams of equal number of players line up on opposite sides of a grid. Each player is assigned a number and positions along a straight line opposite their opponent. One team is designated as the attacking team and should wear the pennies. When the coach calls out a number, the 2 players with that number sprint out from their line. The penny player tries to get across the other player’s line without the other player touching him. One point is awarded every time the attacking player manages to get to their opponents’ line without being touched. The players can switch roles after a set number of repetitions. One variation is for the coach to call out 2 or 3 numbers at a time.
Chain Tag – In a grid, one player is designated “It” (Penny). The other players try to avoid being tagged by “It”. (The coach may want to be “it” the first time you play.) Once they are tagged, they hold hands with the original “It” and then try to tag another player while continuing to hold hands. As more players are tagged they join the chain of players until 1 player is left, who is the winner. The chain should remain intact, although with younger players you may allow the chain to break when players are being tagged.
Soccer Dodge Ball – In a grid, every player but 2 have a soccer ball. The players without soccer balls are the Artful Dodgers. They have to run around the grid and avoid being hit by the soccer balls. Everyone else attempts to hit the artful Dodgers below the knees by passing the soccer ball with the inside of the foot. The Artful Dodgers cannot jump to avoid being hit by the soccer balls, they can only stop, spread their legs or change direction. Each game lasts 1-2 minutes. Players have to hit both Artful Dodgers to win, or give 10 points for every hit, the player who scores the most points wins.
Coaching Points: Use the correct surface of the foot; hit the center of the ball to keep it low, move the ball around for a good attempt at the Artful Dodgers.
Teaching the Skills
The following is a list of drill and/or games you can do with your athletes that will teach them various skills. (passing, dribbling, trapping, shooting, etc.)
The Inside of the Foot Pass: Have the athlete bring one foot forward and plant it a few inches to the side of the ball. Make sure his foot points in the direction he wants the ball to go. Have him bring back his kicking foot and that it is turned so his toes point to the outside. Tell his to keep his ankle still and his eyes focused on the ball as he kicks. He is to swing his leg forward and strike the ball with the inside of his foot, just below the ankle. He is to try and hit the ball in the middle. (make sure he brings his foot up a little after kicking the ball)
Under the Bridge Passes: Put the athletes in groups of three and space them out so they are in a straight line about 5 feet apart from each other. The athlete in the middle opens his legs, and the athlete in front of the middle athlete passes the ball through his legs to the athlete behind the middle athlete. The kicker then moves to the middle and faces the third athlete. The third athlete passes the ball through and then takes the middle spot.
Cone Man the Barbarian – In a grid, each player has a ball. The players dribble their ball around the grid while the cone man (the coach) tries to capture the balls by placing a cone on top of the players’ soccer balls. Once caught, the player stands with their ball on top of their head and the feet spread apart. Another player can release them by passing their soccer ball between the player’s legs.
Coaching Points: Head up for vision, close control of the ball, screening (shielding) the ball, changes in speed and direction.
Variations: Use helpers so that there are 2 or 3 Cone Men
The Inside Trap – To trap the ball with the inside of the foot the athlete needs to point their other foot in the direction from which the ball is coming. Next he should turn his catching foot toes out- just like he did on the inside of the foot pass. As the ball strikes his foot he needs to pull his foot back (This takes some of the bounce out of a fast-moving ball)
The Bottom of the Foot Trap – Have the athlete turn so that both feet point toward the ball. As the ball arrives, he lifts his catching foot a few inches off the ground and points his foot up a bit so his toes are higher than his heel. As the ball rolls under his toes it wedges between his foot and the ground.
Have athletes get in pairs and pass/trap the ball to each other. They should work on accurate passes and accurate traps.
Dribble Tag – Mark off a small circle. Each player takes a soccer ball and dribbles in the circle, while watching everyone else. Instead of choosing one player to be IT, anyone can make a tag. A person who is tagged must stand still, but he is not out of the game. If someone else gets too close to him, the frozen person can tag him. Now he stands still as she goes back into dribbling action. Set a time limit for this game.
Cone dribbling – Set up between 5-10 cones in a line and have the athletes dribble in and out of the cones. Be sure to allow enough spacing between players.
Musical Soccer Balls – In a grid, every player but one has a soccer ball. The coach can play music, sing, hum, or call “change”, players must stop their soccer ball and go and find another one and continue dribbling. The player who does not end up with a soccer ball jogs around until the next time to stop and change.
Coaching Points: Head up for vision, close control of the ball, changes in directions.
Variations: Have the players perform a physical movement such as a star jump or a somersault before getting another ball, have the players run around a cone outside the grid before they get another ball
Body Parts – In a grid, each player starts dribbling a ball within the space. The coach calls out a body part such as “right knee”. The players must stop the ball as fast as they can with that body part. Be creative and try “left eyebrow,” “nose,” “right ear,” “chin,” “bottom” etc.
Coaching Points : keep your head up to avoid collisions, keep close control of the ball, encourage change of speed and direction, vary timing of when you stop them so they work on reaction time and listening skills.
Use the cone dribbling drill above, and have them shoot the ball into the goal as they finish going through the cones.
Have athletes stand about 20 yards out from the goal and the coach stand about 10 yards from the goal. The coach passes the ball in front of the goal and the athlete runs up and shoots the ball while the ball is still moving. (You will probably need to have the athlete begin running towards the goal before you pass the ball)
All athletes love to play!! It is extremely important that they get to scrimmage at each practice. You can play a 6v6, 5v5 or even 3v3 depending on the number of athletes at the practice. It is during the game that you can encourage the athletes to work on their skills. Feel free to get out there and play with them – they love it!! (just make sure you help both teams at various times)