How do I survive coaching first time players as a first time coach?
by USSF “A” Licensed Coach Sheldon Cipriani

You have registered your 6 year old son or daughter to play on a recreational team or in an academy. You have been kind enough to volunteer your time as the coach and the first day of practice is upon you. You spent hours planning a session and you feel prepared, but it is not what you thought.

You have exhausted all of the activities you know and you still have 45 minutes left in your practice. The players do not listen, they are not receptive to instruction, some are crying, others are playing with butterflies, and there is at least one kid whose sugar consumption before practice has altered his behavior significantly. You are asking yourself what have I got myself into this season?

If you knew what the most important thing was at this age group, I am sure you would breathe a sigh of relief. It would also help you invest your time more economically when planning sessions. The most important function of the coach in this age group is keeping the game fun while developing body coordination and a sound technical foundation.

If the kids are having fun, then they are motivated to invest time in the sport. Improvement is inevitable. Improvement is accompanied by self esteem and the desire to be competitive. So basically, if the kids have fun doing the right things in practice, the rest takes care of itself. I am sure you would like to know what are the right things to do at practice.

Before you start thinking about a practice session, it is important that you understand the characteristics of the players you are working with. Cognitive ability and physical limitations are the two most important factors to consider when planning activities.

Tactics and fitness are non existent in this age group, so save yourself the frustration of trying to include this in your practice. The golden rules to follow are: no lines, no laps, and no lectures. If you adhere to this, your life will be much easier.

The players must engage in fun activities that help develop coordination, agility and speed of reaction. Some should be without a ball, but most must include the use of a ball. Training with balls of different sizes and textures, should be used in all body coordination activities

This helps the players develop a refined feel for the ball. Participation by the parents is encouraged, especially those with playing experience. The kids love this. Technical development is continued through the use of fun educational games, as well as small sided games with small goals. No keepers please. Get more of Sheldon’s Practice Advice