Fundamental Youth Soccer

What Can You Expect From Children?

By Brenda Read, British Council of Physical Education
Loughborough University

General Principles

You will not be able to expect very much if you do not reduce the importance of the outcome of the game. Children do not respond well to highly critical adults; their anxiety levels increase and their decision making becomes less effective, so it is important that you do not become another problem to be overcome while the child is playing.

The children, of all ages, should be able to show respect and the common courtesies to all the players, adults, game leaders and officials involved in soccer. You should be able to expect simple good manners from all children.

All children should be able to recognize the equipment used and their own playing equipment. They should recognize the importance of care for all equipment used, including their own.

You should continually ask yourself, “does it somehow look like soccer?” In essence, this means answering “YES” to the following questions:

  • Is the team in possession of the ball generally trying to score?
  • Is the team not in possession generally attempting to prevent scoring?
  • Is there a realization that the situation has changed when possession moves from one team to the other?

If this is so, then you should merely reinforce what is occurring in front of you. If it is not, then the solution will invariably lie in either reducing the numbers on each team or increasing the playing area, or both.

From 6 to 11 years, children are essentially self-oriented. They begin by relating and cooperating with one or two friends and teammates. As they near 11 years of age they can cooperate with four or five individuals – you need to be aware of this fact. The increase in team size should be gradual and reflect the age range of the team.

Coaches invariably wish to place children into positions. However, children under 10 years have great difficulty in understanding the priorities associated with such positions and it is therefore, unhelpful to give positions to children in this age group.

Soccer is fast, fun and physically demanding at each child’s own level; the time it takes for a successful game to be completed is, therefore, relatively short. Ten minutes is recommended for the younger children and 20 minutes for the older age group. Half-times are not essential, but are recommended.

The game will be the teacher, the children will organize their experiences and build upon them. Above all, children will want to be active; action is one of the main attractions of soccer because it is stimulating and exciting. Don’t stop the play unless you have to; let the children enjoy the game.

It should be remembered that all children are individuals and will develop at different rates. The process of development from 6 – 11 years is based upon assessing what is in the best interest of the child and by fitting the game to the child’s needs – and not vice versa.

The process of building upon the individual child’s experience is vital, the game provides the teaching and the role of the adult is to reinforce the successful discoveries the child makes.

Koach Karl’s Note:
Be patient, do not expect the impossible from children – they are not small adults. This is their play time not their performance time. Always remember that this will be their only childhood.