Soccer is a great first sport for any child to try. It teaches teamwork, hand-eye coordination, strategy, and cardio. If you’re looking for a sport to introduce your young child to, soccer is a really good choice.
Your child may not grow up to be a soccer star, but getting them involved with a sport from a young age lays great foundations for later life.
Sports like soccer will teach your child to love physical exercise and learn to look after their body and stay fit and healthy.
So let’s say you’re going to introduce your child to soccer, or perhaps you’re looking for some early introductory games that you can use to teach your child (or a group of children), the basics. If you’re wondering about this, you’ve come to the right place!
In the article below, we’re going to be taking you through everything you’ll need to know to introduce a child to soccer.
We’ve included an extensive list of fun games that will help to teach them the basics of the game, as well as a short guide on how to run sessions, and an FAQ to help answer any questions you might have. So without further ado, let’s get started!
General Tips For Coaching Soccer For Young Kids
So the first thing you’ll need to realize is that a child under the age of five is going to have difficulty learning the finer details and complexities of soccer.
They won’t understand what it means to dribble past someone, or why they should pass the ball instead of shooting at a goal.
So if you want to coach kids younger than 5 years old, then you’ll need to simplify things a bit. The main objective for each session should be fun!
If a child this age is having fun, then they’re automatically going to absorb things that they might not otherwise have done. So one of the main ways that you can teach at this age is through games.
These games should be based on skills that will be vital for soccer in later life. This allows the kids to still put on shoes, shin pads, and soccer jerseys, but without the extra complexities of the sport that would no doubt confuse them at this age.
We would advise against laying on concepts and rules too thick at this age.
Below, we’ve included some games that will help kids to understand the basic concepts, but things such as the ‘offside’ rule are better left up to when they’re older.
Besides, if you can get a child interested in soccer at the most basic of levels, then they’re bound to learn all of the rules as they grow into the sport.
Safety Guide To Teaching Kids Soccer
Before we start talking about teaching kids soccer, there’s something else you’ll need to consider – safety. There are many different types of sports out there – football, basketball, baseball, tennis, etc.
And while these sports do share certain similarities, they also differ greatly in terms of the level of danger associated with them.
For example, a child playing football could easily sustain a serious injury by being tackled hard enough to knock them off balance. A kid playing basketball could suffer a similar fate if they fall down.
But a child playing early soccer games has much less risk of sustaining major injuries because the ball doesn’t travel very far, and players aren’t expected to tackle other players. Tackling is a skill you’ll most likely want to teach later in life.
But even though soccer isn’t as dangerous as other sports, it does come with its own set of risks.
One of the biggest dangers is that children can injure themselves by falling over, tripping, or getting hit by another player.
Thankfully, when you’re coaching kids in soccer around the ages of 3-4, you’ll need to keep your eyes open for potential hazards.
You’ll need to make sure that you’re aware of where the kids are running towards, so you can watch their movements closely.
If you see a child who looks like they’re in trouble, you’ll need to take action quickly before they hurt themselves.
Another thing involving safety that you’ll want to consider is cardio. Kids under the age of 5 will no doubt struggle with long periods of excessive exercise.
Although they are likely to have energy, you’re going to want to make sure not to tire themselves out too much.
This is why the most important thing to keep an eye on is fun. Make the sessions more of a fun activity, rather than a chore.
Warming up is a vital part of soccer and anything to do with physical activity. It’s a skill that is integral for kids to learn, one that will act as a foundation for how they interact with sports in later life.
The best way to warm up is by doing simple exercises such as jumping jacks, skipping, running around the field, or just walking around.
You don’t want to overdo it though, because you don’t want to tire out the kids before the actual game starts.
Instead, aim for 10 minutes of light exercise. Let’s look into these little exercises before we move on to the bulk of coaching sessions.
- Jumping Jacks – these are easy enough for anyone to do. Simply stand with feet shoulder-width apart, bend knees slightly, jump up and down quickly. Repeat this movement for a few minutes.
- Skip – similar to the jumping jack, skip back and forth across the field.
- Running Around – Run around the field, stopping every few seconds to kick a ball.
- Walking Around – Walk around the field, kicking the ball whenever you see it. Allow them to do this for 5 minutes or so.
All of these early warm up exercises can be disguised as fun. Keep them light-hearted and allow the kids to get out any initial energy that they might have.
It’s important not to overly tire them here, make sure that it’s all fun before you start some games.
Games To Teach Basic Skills Of Soccer
Now that you’ve got the kids warmed up, it’s time to start teaching the basic skills of soccer. There are many different types of games that you could use, but we’ve compiled a list of some of the simplest, and most imaginative.
Game 1 – Hot Potato
Hot potato is a great, fun game that we’ve chosen because it will teach your child the basics of passing, receiving, and shooting. All three of these skills are essential for success in soccer.
To play hot potato, simply take turns throwing the ball between two players who are standing about 6 meters away from each other.
Each player must catch the ball and run towards their opponent while keeping hold of the ball.
The person whose turn it is next has to throw the ball again, until one player fails to catch the ball. The winner is the last person to fail to catch the ball.
This is a great game for younger children, because there isn’t much strategy involved.
It’s more about getting used to the feeling of being able to pass, receive, and shoot. If you’re looking for something a bit more strategic, try our second game instead.
Game 2 – Duck And Cover
Duck and cover is another fun game that teaches your child the basics of defending themselves.
In this game, both players line up about 8 meters away from each other, then each player takes a turn to shoot at the other.
When they shoot, the defender runs behind an object like a tree, wall, car, etc., and hides behind it.
Once he/she has hidden, the shooter cannot score. This continues until someone scores a goal.
The reason why this game works so well is because it forces the defenders to think ahead.
They need to consider where they’ll hide when they shoot, which means that they’re thinking strategically.
For older children, you may want to add in a rule that says that if the defender gets hit by the shot, they’re out. This adds a little strategy into the mix, and makes it even harder to defend against.
Game 3 – Red Light, Green Light
Red light, green light is a simple game that teaches your child how to dribble with control. Simply stand facing each other about 10 meters apart, and place a small cone on the ground in front of you.
On the count of three, the first player to touch the cone with his foot wins the round. You can also change the rules to include a penalty kick after a foul, or a free kick after a red card.
These changes would require a few modifications to the game itself, but they’d still work just fine.
Red light, green light is perfect for younger children, because it doesn’t involve too many tactics or strategies. It’s just about learning to dribble with control and using your head.
As your child grows, you might want to introduce them to the concept of “stopping” the ball before taking a shot. However, this should be done gradually, as it requires a lot of practice and patience.
Game 4 – Soccer Ball Trickery
Soccer trickery is a fun game that teaches your young child how to fake a shot. To play this game, have your child stand about 5 meters away from you.
Then, on the count of three, you will call out a number. Your child will then pretend to shoot the ball, but instead, he/she will quickly move towards you, and attempt to knock the ball over your shoulder.
If your child succeeds, he/she wins the round. If not, the round goes back to the beginning.
As your child becomes more experienced, you can increase the difficulty level by increasing the distance between you and him/her.
Also, make sure to vary the numbers called out, so that your child won’t get bored.
Game 5 – Shooting Into Open Goals
This is a simple game that gives kids a chance to score goals! You can do this with or without a goalkeeper, but the idea is to get them used to kicking the ball and hitting the back of the net.
You can do it with a soccer ball, tennis ball, basketball, football, etc. The only thing you need is a goal post.
To start the game, simply set up two lines of cones, one at either end of the field. Make sure that there are no obstructions between the cones, such as trees, bushes, poles, etc.
Then, have your child take a running jump, and try to put the ball through the middle of the cones. If he/she does, he/she scores a point.
If you want to make things a bit more challenging, you can give your child an extra point for scoring past the goalie.
In addition, you could make the goalie wear a different colored jersey than the rest of the team. That way, your child has to figure out who the goalie is, and what color their jersey is.
If your child wants to play a more competitive version of this game, you can use a smaller goal, and the cones can be closer together. This makes it harder to hit the back of the net, so your child must learn to aim better.
Game 6 – Soccer Goalie Challenge
This is another great game for teaching your child how to become a good goalie. All you need is a soccer ball, a couple of cones, and some tape.
First, tape the soccer ball to your child’s chest. Next, tape the ball to the top of the cones. Finally, tape the balls to the bottom of the cones.
Now, your child needs to run around the cones, trying to keep the ball in place. He/she can kick the ball, throw it, bounce it, etc., but he/she cannot touch the ground. If he/she touches the ground, he/she loses the challenge.
You can also add a little competition to this game. For example, you can tell your child that if they keep the ball in place for 10 minutes, they win a prize. Or you can say that if they lose the ball, they lose a turn.
Game 7 – Freeze
Freeze is a classic game that teaches your child all about defense. Stand face to face about 5 meters apart, and make sure that you have a clear view of the entire field.
Then, on the count of three, freeze! Your opponent will do the same thing, and the first person to move loses the round. While this sounds easy enough, it actually takes a lot of skill to win.
Players need to anticipate what their opponents are going to do, and react quickly enough to stop them.
This is a very difficult task, especially for young kids. That’s why we recommend starting off with smaller fields, such as 20x20m.
As your child gets better at playing freeze, you can start introducing him/her to some of the basic concepts of soccer. The most important one is to teach them to “play through the middle”.
By doing this, they’ll learn to play the ball with confidence, knowing that no matter what happens, they’ll always have options available. Another concept to teach is that of passing.
If you watch any professional soccer matches, you’ll see that every single team passes the ball around constantly.
This is because it allows everyone to get involved, and gives them the opportunity to create scoring opportunities.
Game 8 – Tunnel Pass
Tunnel pass is another great game that helps develop your child’s ability to pass. Start the game by placing two cones on either side of a 20 meter line.
Place an additional cone in the center of the field. Make sure that you have a good view of the entire field, and then tell your child to take a step forward.
When he does, they must run towards the nearest cone, and try to pass the ball over it.
They have 60 seconds to complete the pass, and if he fails, he loses the round. Once again, this is a great way to help your kid improve his skills.
The next step up from tunnel pass is the “tournament style” version. Instead of having only two cones, there are now four.
Also, instead of running toward the nearest cone, players must run towards the closest cone.
They have 30 seconds to complete the pass. If they fail, they lose the round. Tournament style is a bit more challenging than the previous versions, but it also makes the game more fun.
Essential Gear For Coaching Kids Soccer
Here is a short list of some equipment you can buy to help teach soccer to young kids.
5′ x 3.1′ Portable Soccer Net
This is a soft and easy-to-set-up soccer goal. It’s a good size and safe for kids to use.
Franklin Sports Soccer Ball
This is a great introductory soccer ball to pick because of its size and weight.
So there you have it! Those were six games to introduce a child (or group of children) to the wonders of soccer.
If you start with these, it won’t be long until you’ll be able to start guiding them towards a full game of soccer.
It’s important that you choose games that are appropriate for your child’s age and skill level.
As you progress, you may find yourself playing more advanced versions of these games, which means that you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
If you still have some questions, keep reading for our Frequently Asked Questions section.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Time Should Your Child Spend Practicing?
It depends on your child’s age and his/her skill level. Generally speaking, younger kids will benefit from shorter sessions, while older kids will probably need longer ones.
However, even though practice time varies, we recommend spending 30 minutes per day for each session.
What About My Child’s Other Activities?
We understand that many parents don’t have enough time to devote to their child’s soccer development.
- But, if you do have the time, then by all means, go ahead and do it. Just remember to consider the following:
- Don’t overdo it. You’re not going to get results if you force your child to practice too much.
- Make sure you’re giving your child plenty of breaks. During one break, you might ask him/her to draw or read a book. Another option would be to let your child play outside for a few minutes.
- Be consistent. Your child needs consistency in order to develop. So, if you’re going to practice every day, stick to it. Otherwise, you might as well forget about it.
- Keep track of your child’s progress. When you notice that your child has improved, reward him/her with something special. This could mean taking him/her out for ice cream, buying him/her new shoes, or whatever else you think would make him/her happy.
- Remember that practice doesn’t always equal improvement. Some days your child just isn’t very interested in soccer. In those cases, give him/her a break and try again later.
How Old Does My Child Need To Be Before He/She Can Start Playing Soccer?
We recommend starting at an early age. The earlier you begin, the better. That said, there is no set age when your child must start playing soccer.
It really depends on how fast your child learns and develops. That said, they probably won’t be able to play a full junior game until they are 6 or 7 years old.
Should My Child Wear Shin Guards?
Shin guards can help protect your child’s shins during falls. However, shin guards aren’t necessary for young players.
They’re usually worn by adults who want to protect themselves against knee injuries, and to protect against soccer cleats with studs.
However, once they start playing more serious games it is a good idea to get a pair.
Can I Play With My Child?
Of course you can. We encourage you to spend quality time together. After all, this is what being a parent is all about.
Can I Teach My Child How To Play Soccer?
Yes, you absolutely can! There are lots of ways to teach your child how to play soccer.
For example, you can teach them basic skills like dribbling, passing, and shooting. Or, you can teach them how to score goals.
Is It Possible To Become A Professional Player?
Yes, it is possible. There are thousands of professional athletes around the world. And, some of them were once children just like yours.
If you work hard and dedicate yourself to improving your skills, then you’ll eventually become a pro.
What Is The Best Way To Learn Soccer Skills?
There are two main methods of learning soccer skills. One way is through drills. Drills involve practicing specific movements over and over again.
Another method is through watching videos. Videos allow you to watch someone perform a skill while he/she explains exactly what he/she did.