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How to Coach Pee Wee Soccer

By Juliet Myfanwy Johnson

Pee wee kids, depending where you come from, are somewhere between the ages of 4 to 8 years old. The younger ones have never played sports before and may spend most of their time digging in the dirt until an errant soccer ball comes their way followed by a stampede of chasing feet. How in the world do you coach a gaggle of pre- and early schoolers into becoming a team?

Teach them to have fun playing the game. Remember that little kids will love two things best about playing soccer--the snacks and trophies. The uniforms are cool, too. However, those granola bars and crispy rice treats after every game are the greatest. And the trophy is almost as tall as they are. It may only be the parents that want them to experience more.

Over and over again, help them understand that you don’t touch the ball with your hands. Soccer is played with the feet. Don’t even get into the major contradiction--the goalie--until they’ve mastered the concept of only using their feet.

Stand them in a circle and have them kick to each other, then have them skip every other person and then skip every two players until they can aim their kicks. Then have them learn to run in tandem with another kid, passing the ball back and forth. Let the older kids, who have played before, mentor the younger ones. Get as many practices in as the league will allow.

Teach the concept of lanes--a difficult concept even for the older kids. Everyone wants to follow the ball. Make three imaginary lanes across the field. The center stays in the center and the wings hold the outer lanes until everyone converges on the goal and kicks. Make sure the defensive players know to stay back near their own goal. Teach throwing the ball in from out of bounds. Toward the end of practices you may want to have mock games with you and an assistant each taking a side and yelling out instructions and moving bodies around to demonstrate finesse points.

Let only your more skilled players play goalie. Not to try to win the game (most pee wee soccer leagues don’t even keep score, although the coaches and rabid parents usually do), but rather to protect little kids from being in the tougher goalie position where they are set up to fail and will be mortified. Because the better athletes on your team will clamor to get their turn in goal, the younger kids will think that they need to clamor, too. But don’t let them unless they are in some state of readiness. Be open to changing your mind later in the season and try kids who are really understanding the goalie position.

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