"Coaches, how to organize warm ups, strategies and lineups for
youth soccer games"

Game day

I like for my U9's and U10's to show up for their soccer games 30 min prior to kick off to start their soccer warm up to get ready for game time.

The soccer coach could probably make it 15-20 min for the little ones. Depending on the age of the player the coach should design a warm up that is suitable for the age group. There are many ways to approach soccer warm ups.

I love soccer warm ups that include...

  • fun soccer games
  • Working on soccer dribbling moves that were practiced during the week.
  • Playing a shooting game.

The kids should be loose and having fun before they take the soccer field. By this time we are ready to check in with the referee and get going.

I hear lots of coaches say "get your game face on" or "focus" along with a myriad of other things to get the players ready. To me pregame is not for correcting soccer technique and yelling at the players. The longer I have coached the more I move away from getting into players!

 In dealing with very young players like four and five years old's I just keep the warm up fun with small, fun soccer games.

Otherwise, I give the players their soccer positions and 3 things to focus on for the first half of the soccer game. Keep it brief and simple.

Team organization

Here are some key points they must work on in learning to be better in their positions or shape.

  • Always face the ball.
  • Take a touch.
  • Get your head up when dribbling.
  • Win the 50/50 balls or tackles.
  • Don't let the ball bounce.

I call this organization!!

All these little phrases and terms help the players if they understand what the phrases mean. There is obviously a lot the players can learn above and beyond these organizational points...this is a good start for the younger players.


Manage subs...

The team is playing a 50 min game or 25 minute halves, divide the game in thirds and let the players play for 8 min at a time before subbing.

Coaching and communication points...

Coaches, tell the players where they are going and what you are looking for from them while in the game. Make sure you tell the players coming off the field that they did a good job.

Let the players play and get into a rhythm to help develop the players. The number one concern I hear from coaches is that "I can't focus on the game while I am subbing.

Is subbing on the soccer field an issue?

Coaches, assign an assistant to keep time and organize the subs.The assistant can let you know when it is time to sub. This way you can help your team on the soccer field.

Once again keep it positive!

Sideline soccer coaching

Do as much coaching as you want during the game..

just keep it positive and try and let your soccer players have some room to breath as the players try soccer dribbling moves or soccer passes out. Be very positive and reward the players when they accomplish or get something right in the soccer games.

Some mistakes are technical or skill mishaps...especially with young players. The mistakes happen because they do not use good technique when controlling, dribbling or shooting the soccer ball. So, how do we eliminate the kick ball mentality?

The coach has to be able to pick up on whether the player is making a technical or tactical mistake. Young players have lots of break downs because they are still perfecting technique when the players are trying to put into motion what you as a coach have taught them, be patient. When you stick to your philosophy you will get the results you are looking for from your players at the soccer games.

Team shape

Players that chase the soccer ball  will pull themselves out of position which is very common with young players. The coach will have to guide by teaching them a basic shape or positions if you like.This is a real catch 22... letting the players have freedom to play or being to structured!

As the young soccer players learn what their roles are in the soccer shape the soccer games will look much more like a soccer game and instead of chaos. In these soccer formations we always start with the goalkeeper, the defenders, midfielders and then the forwards.

  • When the team is playing 6v6 they can line up in a gk-2-1-2, gk-2-2-1 soccer shape or a gk-3-2
  • When the soccer team is playing an 8v8 shape at their soccer games they can line up in a gk-3-3-1 or a gk-2-3-2 and finally a gk-3-1-3.

Want more on how to effectively teach young players positions and soccer shape? Click here!

Restarts-throw ins,corners and free kicks

Getting the ball back in play is called a restart, but the kids have to be very skillful to pull them off. They have to be able to control, pass and strike the ball very well. So, my point is work on technique before you go crazy with restarts.

Corner kicks have to be served into the box with accuracy, and the players in the box have to be able to strike the ball very well with a shot, volley or header. Chances of young players getting on the end of a cross are remote. Teaching the players to keep the ball in play by dribbling, passing and controlling the ball will insure they will have lots fun at their soccer games.

At 4-5 years of age playing 3v3 or 4v4 the players should not be worrying about restarts depending on if your league plays with throw ins, goal kicks and corners at this young age.

My experience is no keepers and the new ball method. Once the players get to 6v6 and 8v8 restarts will come into play and the coach can introduce some basic corners and thrown ins.

Half time talk...

When half time begins...

Coaches, let the kids have a chance to get something to drink before you start talking. I see too many coaches go into their half time speech with half the team not listening, still getting water or talking to each other.

Get their attention before you speak. You could say "eyes on me".

Keep it brief...three points or less and not all over the board. If the players are getting a long winded speech they are going to tune the coach out.

Be positive!

If you are struggling to get your points across set small goals for the kids to accomplish so they are building some success. We want to win every 50/50 ball that we challenge for or we want to try the moves we have been working on in the practice.

Post game
soccer speeches

I am not a big fan of long post game soccer speeches - keep it brief!

leave the soccer players alone and don't say anything silly because you might regret what you have said later.

Think about what has happened and devise a way to help your players during the soccer practice, which is good soccer communication. This is probably the best place to correct and help the young soccer players.

When the young soccer players are doing very well in their soccer games that means you can push the team a little more in the soccer practices...still keeping it fun!

When the team is struggling take a different approach and have even more soccer fun while teaching the players.

Enjoy your coaching!

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