Practice Tips for Youth Coaches (U6-U8 Coaches)

1. Practice should be fun.

Concentrate on the fun factor.  Skip "drills" and lead activities and games. Limit dead time....let them play. 


2. Be all about skill development.

At least 80% of the practice players should have the ball at their feet.  Focus on technique.


3. Positive Motivation is important 

Encourage, Encourage, Encourage.


4. Have efficient, effective trainings.  

Plan your practices, have maximum amount of touches on the ball, limit the lines kids are standing in, try to make it one ball per player until free play (scrimmage). 

(ideas borrowed from David Huddleston, April 2012)



To My Son’s Soccer Coach:

To My Son’s Soccer Coach:

Last weekend, after the final game of the season, you posed with my son and his seven teammates in front of the goal for some team pictures. There you were, one man towering over eight little boys with their arms linked like a chain, big smiles on each face. You tolerated the parent paparazzi and even humored the boys with a crazy-face picture. You didn’t complain; you just acted like a nine-year-old, too, but I’m pretty sure that you were glad when the photo session was over.

Coach, lots of kids play soccer these days, and many of them have similar pictures on the shelves in their rooms. But to my son, this picture – this team, this experience – it is all so special. This team picture represents so much more than just the hours that he spent kicking a ball around with some friends. It is bigger than his successes and his mistakes on the field. It is more significant than the assists that he made or the points that he defended or the breakaways that he finished. And every time I see that picture, Coach, I wonder if you know, if you really understand, just how much you mean to my kid.

My son is a lucky guy. He has some great men in his life, men of integrity, who are training him to be a great man, too. His dad is always cheering on the sidelines. His grandpas love him more than words. His uncles spoil him with gifts and attention. But there is something about you, the other man in his life, that matters to him so much. There is something there that is hard to explain, something special about the relationship between a boy and his coach. I don’t know if you feel it, Coach, but I know that he does, and I hear that the other boys do, too.

You should know that my son, like most little boys, complains about a lot of things. He complains about homework. He complains about taking care of the dog. He complains about brushing his teeth at night. But one thing that he never complains about is going to practice. Every cell in that kid’s body desires to work hard and play hard with his team. He is hungry to learn and to improve for himself and his friends. If he doesn’t feel well and can’t attend school, no problem, but just the thought of missing a practice or a game can reduce my little man to tears. His team gives him a drive and a purpose, and you set the positive tone for that. You teach him to sweat, to show leadership, and to strive to improve. You teach him to persevere when things aren’t easy. You teach him what the give and take of being a teammate really means. These aren’t just lessons that are important in soccer; these are lessons that will guide him for the rest of his life.

Listen, Coach, I live with two little boys, and I know how frustrating they can be. I’m guessing you’ve already noticed, but sometimes they don’t listen. Okay, let’s be honest: A lot of the time, they don’t listen. They can be looking right into your eyes, nodding in agreement, and still not be paying attention to a single word that you’ve said. I’ve been there, Coach; I get it. I also know that they are easily distracted. SO easily distracted! I imagine that if a squirrel runs by or an airplane flies overhead during practice, you probably lose ten minutes just trying to get eight little boys back on track. Then there’s that little boy thing where they can’t keep their hands off each other. I don’t understand it, but I live with them, and I know that even the simplest, quietest activity always ends in wrestle mania. And let’s not forget that sometimes little boys can be insensitive with their words while at the same time being incredibly sensitive with their feelings. Stir all of this craziness into a pot, and the fact that you accomplish anything in the short amount of time that you spend with these animals is something amazing. And you keep coming back week after week, Coach. I guess, like us parents, you also see their joy, their innocence, their loyalty, their honesty, and their pure, undefiled love of the game. Thanks, Coach, for focusing on the positive when my kid tries your patience, and I know that he and his friends sometimes do.

Your time coaching our son is busy, and our evenings are often a rush, so we don’t have many opportunities to talk to you, but I want you to know that we see what you do. You might think that we parents are judging you by the wins and the scores, but that’s not really true. Sure, we want our team to be competitive, we want to see our children grow, but we have entrusted you with our greatest treasures, so there are lots of other things that matter from the sideline. Like that time you put your arm around my son while he was sitting on the bench. Do you remember? Probably not. But I do, and I promise I won’t forget that moment. It mattered to me more than anything else in that game. I’m telling you, I notice.

Every fist bump that you’ve given him when he runs off the field.

Every pat on the back that you’ve shared when he’s having a rough game.

Every serious, one-on-one consultation on the sidelines.

Every team huddle and chant.

Every time you have stood up for a player on our team.

Every time my son has deserved your frustration but received your caring instruction instead.

And then there were the times when a player was injured and you immediately ran to his aid. Do you have any idea how agonizing it is for a mom to allow someone else to be the first responder when her child is hurt just a few feet away? But I know that my son would find comfort in you if he were suffering, and that matters more to me than the score.

There were highlights this season, moments when my son’s skills shined and his contributions made a huge difference to his team’s success. You were the first one to congratulate him on those occasions, and that meant so much. And there were times, like every player experiences, when he did not play his best. We all saw it, Coach. I don’t know why he was having a bad day, but I do know that he didn’t want to disappoint you. I saw how you treated him when he was already down. You saw him for what he is, a kid with skills that are still developing, a kid who doesn’t always perform on cue. He could have been an easy target for a frustrated coach, but you didn’t even yell at him. You encouraged him. You instructed him. You motivated him to keep trying and to want to improve at the game that he loves.

Here’s the thing, Coach. We aren’t trying to raise a world-class athlete here, although we do encourage our boys to follow their dreams. We are trying to raise a man, a man who works hard and plays fair, a man who learns from his mistakes and always perseveres, a man who encourages others and shows compassion and shares grace. A man like his dad and his granddads. A man like you.

Thank you for showing my kid that soccer, as much as he loves it, is just a game, but being a part of a productive, positive team can be his real life.

Thank you for being a part of OUR team.


A Soccer Mom



U12 Training Format

Typical U-12 Training Session

  • 1 hour and 30 minutes or less.
  • Warm-up, small group activities, dynamic stretching, include ball as often as possible. (15 min)
  • Soccer Activities, introduce large group/team activities (6 to 8 players). Continue with directional games. Play to targets and/or zones. (30 min)
  • Free Play, small-sided game of 8v8, two goals with goalkeepers. (25-35 min)
  • Cool down activity, including static stretching (5-10 min)

Find more formats here:





Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is. [Johan Cruyff] 




U10 Training Format

Typical U-10 Training Session

  • 1 hour and 15 minutes or less. 
  • Warm-up, partner and small group activities, dynamic stretching. (15 min)
  • Soccer Activities, individual and partner activities, introduce small group activities (4 to 6 players). Add more directional games. Play to targets and/or zones. (20-25 min)
  • Free Play, small-sided game of 6v6, two goals with goalkeepers. (20-25 min)
  • Cool Down (5-10 min)

The end of each training session should be devoted to playing 4v4, 5v5 and 6v6 practice games. Fun games involving smaller numbers can be played, especially 1v1, 2v1 and 3v2 or 5v3 leading up to a final training activity.

Find more formats here:



Responding to Mistakes

How to react to mistakes:

Give encouragement immediately after a mistake

If the player knows how to correct the mistake encouragement alone is sufficient

When appropriate, give corrective instruction after a mistake, but always do so in an encouraging and positive way



Be Positive!

  1. Give a lot of positive feedback

  2. Set realistic expectations

  3. Give positive feedback for desirable behavior as soon as it occurs

  4. Praise effort as much as you praise results 




A Good Pass


What makes a good pass? 

The weight of the pass. The accuracy.  The intention behind the pass.  Most would answer all of the above.  

But what about a pass to feet?  

I often hear coaches call a pass to feet a "good pass" and a pass not to feet a "bad pass".  I would encourage you to rethink the communication of this idea.  Main reason...its limiting.  To teach a young player that the only "good pass" is a pass to feet you are teaching them a way of playing soccer that limits their play.  A pass into space, a pass to where the player is headed or a pass encouraging the player to move into space are examples of passes that are actually quite good even though they are not to feet.  Limit the "rules" and give players freedom for creativity and  expression on the pitch.  




Training Format

When putting together your training session, keep a standard format in mind.  For example:


  • 45 minutes or less.
  • Every player should have a ball.
  • Warm-up, including movement, use of ball, fun games and challenges (15 min)
  • Soccer Activities, individual and partner activities, game like situations (15 min)
  • Free Play, finish with a 3v3 game with two goals, no goalkeepers (15 min)

The end of each training session should be devoted to playing 3v3 practice games. Fun games involving 1v1, 2v1, 1v2 and 2v2 can lead into the final activity of 3v3. Coaches can use this time to teach the rules of the game, discuss spacing, and game situations.

Coaches, use a games approach to learning. Make sure each player has a ball as the increased number of touches on the ball will more quickly develop players. Have a selection of game-like activities planned, avoid being drill oriented and focus on fun.

Find more formats here:




Character and Training

Danielle Slaton, a former U.S. Soccer women’s national team player, explains how to weave together character-education themes for youth with specific training activities in practice. The goal is to have activities that contribute to enhancing player skills but also reinforce messages about character, leadership and how to continue to develop as a person.



Importance of Tactics


Tactics are so important because everybody has to know what they have to do on the pitch. The relationships and behaviours off the pitch between team-mates have to be as good as possible. [Pep Guardiola] 



Athlete Centered Coaching - Question Asking

The 90+ Project believes in an ATHLETE CENTERED Coaching Approach.  Everything is oriented toward developing the child as a player and a person and the coaching philosophy has the training and learning centered on them.  

A key to this approach is coaches having a set of well developed questions to ask the athlete.  Asking open and probing questions leads to growth.  

As a model the GROW approach to question asking can provide a sequence that coaches can use to develop the types of questions to ask:

G - What is your Goal? (what are you wanting to achieve etc)
R - Reality – what is happening now?
O - Options – what options do you have?
W- What Will you do now? – What are you going to do? (then loop around to the goal again) 

Coacjhes, center your training on your athletes and ask good open ended questions for them to process and learn.