Becoming a youth soccer coach is a fulfilling and enjoyable hobby or career, especially if you love playing the sport. Let me show you how to become a youth soccer coach and coach soccer successfully to kids of all ages.
To coach youth soccer, you must learn how to demonstrate the basics of the sport to kids. Coaches must build camaraderie within the group and ensure children have fun while playing. Aspiring soccer coaches should enroll in online and in-person courses to gain more experience in their role.
Throughout this article, you’ll learn about the best way to turn your passion for soccer into a successful hobby or career as a youth soccer coach. I’ll go over some of the skills every youth soccer coach must possess, including:
- Being prepared for every training session and match.
- Having the patience to help kids of all skill levels learn the fundamentals of the sport.
- Technical know-how to ensure everyone on the team is passing, shooting, tackling, and heading correctly.
- Effective communication with players and parents.
Let’s get started!
Enroll in a Youth Soccer Course
I really enjoy coaching youth soccer.
I’ve found it’s a great way to encourage kids eager to learn, stay active during the week, and give back to the local community.
I’ve also realized, through trial and error, that there are specific steps to take if you are going to be a good youth soccer coach and perform this role to the best of your ability.
I’ll show you the best steps to take so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did!
My number one tip for anyone hoping to coach youth soccer in the United States is that you should enroll in a coaching course.
US Youth Soccer, one of the most prominent youth sports organizations in the country, helps aspiring coaches learn the skills they need to coach local teams.
The organization currently offers several online courses for aspiring coaches.
While these courses may not cover every aspect of coaching young children or teenagers, they’re an excellent way to get your feet wet in the soccer coaching world.
Some of the present course offerings from US Youth Soccer include:
- Parents Guide and Introduction to Youth Soccer
- Constructive Soccer – Principles of Play clinic
- Coaching Healthy Habits
Any parent hoping to coach their kids should enroll in the first course, while the other two are great options for aspiring or relatively inexperienced youth soccer coaches.
These courses are entirely online, and you can complete them in a matter of hours.
You may also consider becoming a youth soccer referee by enrolling in a similar online referee course. Check out my article – How to Become a Youth Soccer Referee – for more information.
Age-Specific Youth Soccer Coaching Courses
There are also four primary age-specific youth soccer coaching courses available in the United States:
- 4v4 (Under 6-8)
- 7v7 (Under 9-10)
- 9v9 (Under 11-12)
- 11v11 (Under 13+)
Different states within the country offer each of these courses. This means an aspiring coach must contact their state associations for more information about the upcoming classes.
You’ll need to take the age-specific youth soccer coaching courses in person, as they involve on-field learning.
Such courses can teach you the rules of the game, how to focus on player development over winning, specific training drills, and the ability to craft an entire session that keeps kids engaged, learning, and having fun.
Obtaining Your USSF Licenses
If you’re happy coaching young children in your local area or only want to remain a coach until your kids grow up, you’ll probably find that the above courses are more than enough for your education.
However, anyone with the ambitions of becoming a soccer coach at a high school, college, or even professional level should continue with their USSF Licenses.
The coaching pathway in the United States begins with the four age-specific courses mentioned above.
It then continues with USSF License D, C, B, A Youth, A Senior, and finally Pro.
Each of these courses involves several days or weeks of on-field training, tactical education, and eventually a test to determine whether you know the necessary skills to progress to the next level.
Make a List of Training Drills
Being a coach is a significant responsibility, and preparedness is one of the critical skills that every youth soccer coach should possess.
Showing up five minutes before starting a session and deciding what drills to conduct will lead to a frustrating experience for yourself and the kids.
I was guilty of doing this when I was younger and quickly learned from my mistake!
After you have spent time attending one or two youth soccer coaching sessions, you’ll understand the most effective drills.
Given youth players are only starting to learn the basics of the game, working with them in small groups is ideal.
Below are some types and examples of drills I recommend you incorporate into your youth soccer coaching, and for a list of my favorite drills, check out my article – 9 (Fun and Effective) Youth Soccer Drills for Kids.
Given the age groups involved in youth soccer, extensive stretching drills may not be appropriate as the kids may get bored.
A brief five-minute warmup, including jogging, dynamic stretching, and some sprinting drills, is an excellent way to get everyone ready for the rest of the session.
Try to mix up the warmup if you have daily sessions with the team, as kids may start to get bored of doing the same drills to start each session.
You can swap out some of the dynamic stretches for variety.
Proper conditioning is essential for any soccer player, even younger children.
While you cannot expect children aged 6 to 12 to run five or six miles during a game as professional players do, they should become comfortable spending a lot of time running around the soccer field.
There are two areas where your conditioning workouts should focus:
- teaching proper running technique
- and improving your players’ stamina.
Young kids don’t always have the best running technique, especially if a previous coach or PE teacher never taught them.
Watch all the players during the first session when you ask them to do some sprinting drills, and make a list of those who don’t have the best technique.
Try to work on their technique one-on-one while the others are engaged in some other drill.
Pointing out flaws in a kid’s running technique in front of the whole group will almost certainly embarrass them and set them back rather than push them forward.
Conditioning drills can be as simple as running straight lines from one end of the field to another.
Alternatively, you can make them appealing by mixing up the distances or conducting relay races with the larger group split into four or five mini-teams.
You can find some examples in my article – Soccer Fitness Workouts.
Ball Control Drill
Ball control drills for kids can be as simple as giving each player a ball and asking them to move it from one foot to the other.
Such a drill is ideal when you have kids who are new to the sport, as they get familiar with the feel of the ball at their feet.
If there are more advanced players within the group, you can pair them up and then have them take one touch before passing the ball to their partner.
Start with short distances, and then ask them to go further apart if they complete ten successful “touch and pass” motions.
Keeping everything simple during training is essential when coaching a group of kids.
There’s a temptation to try and teach them complex drills to help them with their first touch and drilling. However, challenging drills often confuse young kids, especially those who haven’t played that much soccer previously.
Team Dynamics Drill
Getting your players working together is essential if you want to have success as a soccer coach.
Even kids as young as eight or nine must learn that soccer is a team sport and that individual skill can only take them so far.
One drill that I always find thrills players is the “man in the middle” drill, where you have one player in the middle of a circle surrounded by four or five other players.
The players in the circle are passing the ball to each other, taking one or two touches depending on the group’s skill level.
The player in the middle must attempt to win back the ball, and their place in the circle goes to whoever misplaces a pass.
If one person is having a hard time winning back the ball from their teammates in the circle, try conducting the drill using two players in the middle.
For more soccer drills, check out my article – 10 Best Soccer Drills for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide, or My Top 10 Soccer Coaching Drills.
Invest in the Appropriate Soccer Equipment
Having the correct equipment to perform soccer drills is crucial to succeeding as a youth coach.
Depending on where you’re coaching, some equipment may already be available. Ask the local school or organization to show you the items they already have in storage.
Go through the supplies to see if there are enough balls, cones, poles, bibs, first aid kits, water bottles, and other accessories that may come in handy during training sessions.
The general rule is that you should have one ball for each kid during a training session.
The Champion Sports Retro Soccer Ball on Amazon is an outstanding option if you’re short on soccer balls. The ball comes in sizes 3, 4, and 5, with the smaller sizes helpful if you’re coaching kids aged six to eight.
Having smaller portable soccer nets can help improve the quality of your training sessions, as larger nets are often too big for young kids.
The Franklin Sports Blackhawk Portable Goal on Amazon is a good choice for a portable net. It is made of durable, weather-resistant material and includes tie-down stakes for greater stability.
Check out my article – The 6 Essential Pieces of Equipment for Soccer – to find out exactly what every player needs.
Demonstrate the Correct Techniques in Training
Telling young children to do something isn’t enough to get them to listen.
Sometimes you must demonstrate why a particular step or action is necessary because that is the only way they realize you’re offering them helpful advice.
Don’t be afraid to get involved in training, especially if you have a group that is at a beginner level.
If someone continues to pass the ball incorrectly, step up, show them how to make an accurate pass, and demonstrate how bad technique results in less power and accuracy in a pass.
The same goes for shooting, tackling, and heading.
When players see their coach performing something correctly, and to a high standard, they gain respect for that coach and try to emulate the same drill or action.
One of the challenges for a coach is to tread the line between demonstrating the correct way to perform a drill and showing off.
You don’t want to make a training session all about you because the purpose of every session and game is for the kids to have fun and become better soccer players.
Set Short Term Goals
Short-term goals help to motivate everyone involved in youth soccer, from parents to coaches to the players.
Setting short-term goals can help to motivate and reward kids during each practice session or game.
Setting lofty goals is tempting, but you must remember that you’re coaching a youth soccer team.
These aren’t high school or college kids who can understand the concept of an entire season.
Kids are thinking about the moment they’re experiencing, so your goals should be easy to understand and achieve.
Brainstorm goals the night before each session and explain them to the group as everyone warms up.
Examples of short term goals for youth soccer teams include:
- Beating the previous best time for group relay races.
- Scoring a set number of goals during 4v4 or 5v5 scrimmage matches at the end of training.
- Performing a particular drill correctly a specific number of times.
Such goals are clear to the kids and will increase their desire to perform at their best.
Try to pair short-term goals with rewards.
An example of this that I found effective is setting aside more time in the next training session for drills with the ball instead of conditioning drills.
Be Patient With Parents
Youth coaches often feel overwhelmed when a group of parents wants to talk about a recent training session or game.
From experience, I know that it feels as though each parent is an expert at the game, yet they all have their own ideas about how you should be doing your job.
If there’s one rule you should never forget as a soccer coach, it is – never get angry at a parent.
Remain calm and relaxed, even if you’re dealing with an agitated or upset parent.
Listen to their concern, explain your side, and provide assurances that you’ll consider their feedback.
I found maintaining an open dialogue with parents is often the best way to keep them on your side. The more they understand your perspective and goals for the team and their kids, the more they’ll respect your position.
Consider using my guide to the 11 ways to be a great soccer parent to help them understand how they can best support their child.
US Youth Soccer promotes the saying: “TEAM. Together Everyone Achieves More.”
Such a saying may sound cheesy to you and me, but they often work with children.
Point out the most successful club and international teams in the sport. Ask your players how those teams won trophies and achieve such success.
Did those professionals play the game for themselves, or were they sacrificing for the greater cause?
Teamwork drills, such as the one I mentioned earlier in the guide, can help build chemistry within the team.
There are other ways to encourage your players to think of the whole group rather than themselves. These steps include:
- Asking players to check on each other if someone goes down with an apparent injury.
- Cheering for one another if some people are doing drills while others are waiting for their turn.
- Stipulate that during 4v4 or 5v5 scrimmages, a team must pass the ball between themselves ten times before they can take a shot at the goal.
- Ask for input on what drills the team wants to do in future sessions.
Youth soccer isn’t the place where you want certain players getting a lot more game time than others. Even if you’re trying to improve the team you coach, your number one priority is the children.
Everyone on the team should have significant involvement during training and matches. Having a few weaker players is typical for any youth soccer team.
Rather than sidelining those players, you can help improve their game by involving them even more.
Give them opportunities to shine, and encourage them when they make mistakes during games.
Let Your Players Have Fun
The desire to win is present in everyone who plays or coaches sports. Balancing the desire to win with the well-being of your players is so important.
As a coach, you will feel disappointed when your team underperforms. You may even find fault in your coaching as you look back on the game.
If your team is coming off a poor result, you may think about pushing them even harder in training.
Rather than making each session more difficult, step back and let the kids have some fun.
Rather than dwelling on losing one or two games, you must focus on the bigger picture of improving every player’s skill set while they are on your team.
- Organize more enjoyable drills,
- get everyone laughing and working together,
- and spend more of the session playing fun scrimmages rather than doing sprinting drills.
Youth soccer coaching can be an intimidating role to take on without any prior experience. By understanding the fundamentals of your role, you can continue to evolve as a coach with each training session and game.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes during your first session. Kids have short memories, and coaches who are willing to learn from their missteps are the ones who have the most long-term success.
The technical coaching, leadership, guidance, and enthusiasm you bring as a coach can have a lasting impact on your players.
By following my tips and tricks above, you can be a successful youth soccer coach!
For more helpful information for youth soccer coaches, have a look at one of my previous articles:
- The Rules of Soccer: A Beginners Guide
- Youth Soccer Positions: Everything You Need to Know
- Youth Soccer Field: Dimensions, Length, and Width
Vertimax: 7 Most Effective Soccer Drills for Kids
Coach Mag: How To Warm Up Before Playing Football
UK Coaching: A Guide to Coaching Mini Soccer and Youth Football
US Soccer: US Soccer Coaching Education
US Youth Soccer: First-Time Coaches
US Youth Soccer: Online Education Courses
Soccer Coach Weekly: Skills and tips for successful youth soccer coaching
Footy4Kids: 15 top soccer coaching tips
Soccer Coach Weekly: How to become a soccer coach
Sideline Soccer: Monkey in the Middle