When children are first introduced to soccer, their style of play can be best described as a swarm of bees attacking a ball. Coaches call this the “beehive” formation. At the start of a game, all the players are positioned in proper formation. When the whistle is blown, 20 children start chasing the ball without rhyme or reason. At this point all the children are out of the formation taught to them in practice and they immediately swarm after the ball like bees around a beehive. When the ball gets kicked into the center of the hive, all players who are in the vicinity try to kick it.
For spectators, the swarming approach to the game is entertaining. It’s actually normal for kids to play this way at a young age. It’s also normal for a frustrated coach to constantly yell to the players to get into their proper positions but at such a young age the kids don’t listen. To make matters worse, supportive parents shout to their sons and daughters commands like “kick it” and “way to go that’s how you do it!” If you’re new to youth coaching, you’re going to have this confusing experience. Eventually, the “swarming” phase passes and players get the right idea in time. As a coach, just accept this behavior as a characteristic of the age group.
Is Swarming Just What Kids Do?
Accepting the fact that “this is just what young kids do” will go a long way to help you keep your sanity. Remember that very young children don’t know much about the team concept. Yes, they’re on a “team” but the word “team” doesn’t mean much to them at this point. It can be argued that they are in fact not yet a team at all. At this age, it’s normal for kids to be selfish in their game. Some are so young they can’t tell you what town they live in! Because they are very “me” oriented they often won’t even practice with someone else’s ball. Expecting children of this mindset to understand teamwork is probably a losing battle.
Bunching Actually Helps Build Soccer Skills
During a game they are attracted to the ball like a moth to a flame. So let them go after the ball. It’s not wasted time because they are building the soccer instincts to be used in games when they’re older and the concept of a team has meaning to them. As a coach, you’ll need to adjust the player’s instincts as they grow. You’ll find that the game itself will educate them as they continue to play more often.
Believe it or not, “bunching” has some value in building soccer players. Kids in the middle of the scrum are learning at an early age how to play in tight spaces and lose their fear of contact with other players. These will be valuable skills that will become second nature to them when they’re older and adapting to specific positions.
So to make a long story short, don’t worry about teaching young kids not to bunch up. If you ask any child development expert, they will tell you they’re not mentally capable or ready to grasp the team concept. That will come with time and you shouldn’t force the issue or you’ll just create more negative vibes than good ones.