Hempfield Soccer Coaching Guide for U5/U6
The mission of Hempfield Parks and Recreation for their in-house soccer programs at the U5/U6 level is to provide a fun and safe environment for kids to learn the game of soccer.
Learning the Game: Our goal is to teach all players to play to the best of their ability. That means that all players are given equal opportunities to play and equal attention during practice.
Having Fun: The difference between players that continue to play and those that stop wanting to play is having fun. To achieve this, we ask that you encourage participation, try to match challenges to abilities for all players, and set goals for performance instead of outcome.
Safety First: It is the coach’s job to ensure that the activities and environment are safe and age appropriate for all sessions.
U5/U6 Player Development:
The typical rec soccer player will start at age 4 and play 2 seasons each at U5 and U6 before moving up to U8. They will likely have never played soccer (or any organized sports program) in the past. The goal of the U5/U6 program is to ensure that all players learn the basic skills of soccer before moving to the next level. As a coach, don’t expect every player to learn everything in one season. Instead, be consistent in your coaching so that players can develop at their own pace.
Provide a fun and rewarding experience for players, coaches, and parents.
Teach basic skills of the game
Give every player as many touches on the ball as possible
Focus on individual play
Characteristics of U5/U6 players:
Focused on scoring goals over defending
Probably won’t understand field boundaries
Focused on themselves – are not capable of considering others
Heating and cooling systems are not as efficient as adults – kids need regular drink breaks
Do not enjoy watching – want to be doing at all times and will see no value in observation
Limited attention spans – 15-30 seconds for explanation, 10-15 minutes for activities
Readily equate effort with performance – they will believe that they have done well if they tried hard (we want them to continue believing this for as long as possible)
Very active imaginations – Allowing them to use their imaginations will cause them to focus longer during practices and find more enjoyment in the experience
Will seek adult approval – You will hear “watch me” or “look at what I can do” a lot. Be aware of your reactions and remember to encourage effort.
Minds can not abstract – Trying to stop them from “bunching” is futile. They are not capable of seeing the value in anything other than getting the ball.
Will fall down because its fun – They have plenty of time to grow out of this habit. It also means that they are enjoying themselves.
Will be unaware of score during gameplay – Some kids will think they know the score, but are usually wrong. Others will ask “did we win?” Shift focus to moments of positive effort and participation.
Player Development Objectives:
Learning to dribble:
Use all sides of both feet
Dribble out of trouble (find open space)
Dribble past a defender (1 v 1 drills)
Shielding the ball
Learning to pass/shoot:
Proper shooting technique (no toes, bend the knee)
Proper passing technique (inside/outside of the foot)
Reminder that players will not develop all at once. You don’t need to stop a player to correct improper technique. Instead, offer simple reminders while praising effort. The main goal of your practices should be getting all the players as many touches on the ball as possible. The most important thing a young player can develop is a confidence in controlling the ball. Encourage their creativity on the ball.
Tactical Development Objectives:
None!! Do not attempt to teach U5/U6 players any type of tactics. They are not capable of learning anything meaningful from tactical instruction. While it may feel good to teach your team a nifty trick play for kick-offs or throw-ins, there is no developmental benefit for the kids. Even teaching kids about basic positional concepts (forwards/backs/ect) is not necessary. These concepts are easy to learn later and kids won’t play in any type of formation at this age no matter how hard you try to get them to do so. Bunching during gameplay is not only inevitable, it has benefits as well. When players jostle for the ball in a bunch, they learn and experience the physicality of the game. Encourage this enthusiastic engagement.
Psychological Development Objectives:
Keep all practices and gameplay sessions fun - A recreational athletic program for children should first and foremost provide enjoyment to the participants. There is no point in a child getting “better” at something they don’t enjoy.
Continuous positive coaching - Provide them the positive feedback and approval that they crave. Be especially encouraging of imagination and creativity. This is the beginning of their on-field decision making. The role of the youth coach is not to tell players what to do, but to encourage them to think about what to do.
Physical Development Objectives:
None!! It is unnecessary to have U5/U6 players engage in any type of stretching, conditioning, or strength development activities. Time spent on these activities takes away from time players could be working on their skills and confidence. The act of playing soccer and being actively involved in the practices will provide players with all the physical development that they need.
The U5 and U6 programs through Hempfield Recreational Soccer are primarily focused on providing a fun environment for children in our community to discover and learn the game of soccer. Individual ball skills and confidence are taught by providing all players with as many touches on the ball as possible while coaches provide positive feedback and encouragement.
And remember, YOU should be having fun too!