Hempfield Soccer Coaching Guide for U8
The mission of Hempfield Parks and Recreation for their in-house soccer programs at the U8 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.
U8 Player Development:
The typical rec soccer player entering U8 has played 4 seasons of soccer (2 each at U5 and U6) though some players may have never played soccer before. Players will play 4 seasons of U8 before moving on to U9 or U10 either at the recreational or travel level. Players will move up in the fall. So, in fall seasons, you will have players that have never played at this level before. The goal is to build on the basic skills introduced in U5/U6. 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 with some activities in pairs
Transition considerations: U6 to U8
Players will have never played an official game with referees before
They will not know what goal kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, or free kicks are or why they happen
May be aware of basic positions, but are still not developed enough to play a formation
Characteristics of U8 players:
Play well in pairs – This is a change from U6. They will now see value in working with a partner in practices and games
Beginning to understand another’s perspective and how they are feeling
Heating and Cooling systems still not fully developed. Frequent water breaks remain a must.
Still greatly prefer playing to watching. They may learn from a demonstration, but will not have patience to watch their teammates practice or play
Attention spans increase. 20-30 seconds for listening and now up to 20 minutes while engaged in a task. This can vary greatly by player and day. Remember that these kids are going through a lot of other changes in their lives.
Still very aware of adult reactions and look for approval when attempting new tasks. Be aware of your own reactions and those of parents. It is your job to keep them trying through reassurance.
Wide range of abilities – Moreso than any other age group, U8 will have a great variation in the size, coordination, and skills of your players. Remember to match to challenge to the ability for each player.
Some will keep score – While there are no official results of our games, this is around the age when kids start to enjoy competition (Some parents will actively contribute to this). However, we should discourage any focus on outcomes at this age. Team level results for U8 players are 100% meaningless.
Developing motor memory (or muscle memory) – Proper technique starts to become teachable.
Less active imaginations – Players will start to become engaged in the game itself and won’t need (or appreciate) the silliness that U5/U6 players love.
Player Development Objectives:
Dribbling with all sides of the foot, taking on defenders 1v1
Dribble out of trouble (into space) using turns and sheilding
Shooting and passing technique
Passing to open players (finding space)
U8 players will generally have more physical ability than U5/U6 players. But, we still want them to develop at their own pace. Dribbling should remain your main focus. Players need to learn to control the ball first. Encourage your players to take chances while controlling the ball. Fight the urge to kick the ball away when trouble arises.
U8 Tactical Objectives:
NONE!! Do not teach team tactics to U8 level players. Their practice and game time should be spent on techniques, particularly dribbling. 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.
Players at this age will enjoy working in pairs. So, basic conceptual tactics can be taught through drills that feature 2v1 and 2v2 formats. Teach them to find supporting positions attacking and defending.
U8 psychological Development Objectives:
Continue to keep all practices and games 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. The role of the U8 coach is not to tell players what to do, but to get them to think about what to do. Use open ended questions to get them thinking.
Team concept – With the increased awareness in social interaction at this age comes an increased awareness of “team.” Encourage team building and spirit. Discourage negativity toward any individual.
Physical Development Objectives:
None!! It is unnecessary to have U8 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 U8 program through Hempfield Recreational Soccer is primarily focused on providing a fun environment for children in our community to learn and develop their abilities in the game of soccer. Individual ball skills are the main focus, with some basic concepts taught through work as pairs. Coaches provide positive feedback and encouragement.
And remember, YOU should be having fun too!