Coaching kids can sometimes be a thankless task. You’re expected to find the balance between winning and having fun, while almost each and every parent thinks their child should be playing all the time. Trying to keep everyone happy in that respect is a fool’s errand.
But at the same time, coaching kids can also be very rewarding. For that to be the case, you need to maximise your limited time on the training field. Different aged kids demand varied approaches – younger ones aren’t likely to have the understanding of the game yet to know the offside rule, for example.
At the end of the day, if you remember that they’re there first and foremost to play football, then you should be on the right track. But to help you get there, we’ve got a few tips which will hopefully aid you.
Know Your Audience
“Children” is a rather broad term. It can refer to kids anywhere from four years of age all the way to 16. There’s a huge difference between the needs and desires of children depending on their age, so it’s vital that you know how adapt to them. Know your audience. For example, a five-year-old’s attention span isn’t going to be as long as a 14-year-old’s. Therefore, the younger the group is, the more different drills and games you’ll need to be doing, otherwise they’ll get bored and eventually stop turning up.
No Thrills in Drills
In some ways, it’s almost easy to forget that kids go to football training just to play football. Many of them aren’t actually going to be that bothered about specific bits of tactical training. That match at the end of the evening is all they’re bothered about. However, that’s generally because of the perception they have of “drills”. So, with that in mind, make sure any “drills” you set up are stylised as games instead and keep balls at the centre of pretty much everything. Even fitness training can revolve around ball use, you just have to know which games to use.
Keep it Competitive
These days there’s a lot of debate about whether kids should be focusing on winning or just actually enjoying playing football. Enjoyment is certainly key, but a degree of competitiveness is also vital if you’re hoping for actual progression. After all, you want the kids to get better as footballers. So, regardless of how much emphasis you put on winning at the weekends, at training you should try to keep things competitive because that’s how they’ll improve. Ease off on the pressure, though.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Everyone gets bored of the same old routine. Of course repetition is the key to mastering anything, but at some point you need to challenge yourself and take a leap forward. The same principles apply in football. For example, you’ll get better at passing with your weaker foot if you practise, but you’ll only improve your shooting with that foot if you work on that as well. As coach you need to keep training fresh, forward-thinking and different. Try to avoid your sessions becoming predictable and regimented. Worked on corners this week? Well, work on free-kick routines next time.
Boo to Queues
The different attention spans of varying age groups is something we’ve already looked at. But something that’s universally disliked among kids is queueing. No child wants to give up their evening to spend a quarter of a training session in a long queue. Therefore, as coach you need to develop games that involve as many of them as possible. If that means setting up several different games at a time and getting the kids to switch between them, so be it! At least that’ll get them working on a variety of attributes.