Knowing what drills to choose for practice depends on the age group of the players (U4 to U16) and their skill level (never played soccer before to experienced). Choosing age-appropriate soccer drills also depends on whether you are playing competitive or recreational soccer, indoor or outdoor.
If you are playing indoor recreational soccer, you generally will have one practice before the set of games. Arenas usually have to be paid for by the hour, and extra practice sessions scheduled in advance. Outdoor soccer fields usually have to be reserved.
It helps to know ahead of the first practice who has soccer experience and how much. If soccer teams are chosen by tryout, you already will know.
Younger players (U10) are more likely to have a mixed bag of experience, while the older set is likely to have played, or played together as a team, for a number of years. Small-sided games are always preferable to individual drills for the U10s, and small-sided or full games are always preferable for the older players. Why? Being thrown right into the fray creates confidence. It’s like on-the-job training.
For recreational youth soccer, play each player at every position so they get experience. Focus on dribbling, passing, kicking, receiving the ball, goaltending, offense, and defense. Controlling the ball takes practice and players usually run it hard, on their own, until they learn to pass the ball off strategically. Some parents call it “playground soccer.” As a coach, you want minimal or no down time, and every player touching the ball, so the players keep active and interested.
Competitive youth soccer demands more structure, an understanding of such rules as offsides, greater finesse, and strategic knowledge of the game. The greater goal competitively is winning, not just having fun playing. Play is more aggressive, so the drills have to be more aggressive. The basics are already in place, so playing full field games will give the competitive players their edge.
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