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Coaching Youth Soccer for Newbies (Ultimate Guide)

If this is your first time coaching youth soccer, then you are definitely in the right place. In this article, we will instill confidence in you so that you can accept the challenge and excel at it while enjoying the experience.

Below, you will find six detailed sections providing all the necessary information to get you started in the right direction plus a free download. They include:

  • Understanding Soccer Basics
  • Create a Main Objective for the Team
  • Establish Good Communication & Partnership With Parents
  • Obtain Proper Equipment
  • Run Organized Practices (Free First Practice Lesson Plan Download)
  • Proper Game Day Preparation

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1. Understanding Soccer Basics

The first step to coaching youth soccer is understanding all the parts of the field and basic concepts of the game.

Different Parts of a Soccer Field

Different parts of a soccer field

Center Spot

Where the ball is placed for the 1st and 2nd half kickoff and every time a goal is scored.

Center Circle

Except for the player conducting the kickoff, all players must remain outside the circle during a kickoff so that each kickoff is made without interference.

Center Line

Divides each side of the field and helps teams understand which side they are defending and which side they are attacking. Players must remain on their side of the field during a kickoff.

Sideline

There is a sideline on each side of the field. These sidelines determine the out-of-bounds lines for the sides of the field. If the ball touches a player and it crosses the sideline it is officially out of play.

At that point, the opposing team receives possession of the ball and conducts a throw-in from the spot where the ball went out.

Corner Arc

There are 4 corner arcs. One on each corner of the field. When the ball touches a player that is defending their side of the field and it passes the goal line, possession is given to the opposing team.

However, the opposing team places the ball at the corner arc instead of a throw-in. If the ball crossed the goal line to the right of the goal then the ball is placed at the right corner arc and vice versa.

Once the ball is placed at the corner arc, both the defending and attacking team will occupy the penalty box. One player from the attacking team will kick the ball in the direction of the penalty box.

Once the kick is made the defending team must clear the ball out of the box while the attacking team attempts to score a goal.

Penalty Box

The dimensions of a penalty box depend on the age group you are coaching. However, it should always be clearly identified. It will always be drawn on a soccer field and is the larger of the two rectangles in the goal area.

It is an area that contains many vulnerabilities for the defending team. Here are some of the most notable:

Proximity to the Goal

When the attacking team gets the ball in the penalty box, the defending team, especially their goalie, is placed under great pressure. The chances of conceding a goal elevate during these moments because the ball is so close to the goal.

Area Shrinks/Space Tightens

Space always shrinks when the ball is in the penalty box. It gets congested with defending players trying to clear the ball along with attacking players trying to score a goal.

Foul on Attacking Team Results in Penalty Kick

The defending team always has to measure their level of aggression when an attacking player is in the penalty box. If an attacking player is fouled while they are in the penalty box, it results in the referee awarding them with a penalty kick.

Hand Ball by Defending Team Results in Penalty Kick for Attacking Team

If the defending team touches the ball with any part of their hand while in the penalty box, a penalty kick is awarded to the attacking team.

Penalty Mark

It is a spot that is clearly marked within the penalty box in which all penalty kicks are made. Once a team is awarded a penalty kick, the ball is placed at this spot and one player from the attacking team gets to kick the ball without any interference.

The goalie for the defending team always stands on the goal line between both goalposts. His/her job is to block the ball once the penalty kick is taken.

Due to the penalty spot being so close to the goal, penalty kicks usually lead to a goal.

Penalty Arc

The half-circle at the top of the penalty box is where this arc is located. The purpose of this area is to keep players away from the penalty spot once a player is preparing to take a penalty kick.

During a penalty kick, all players must remain outside of the penalty box along with the penalty arc.

Goal Box

This is the small rectangle that is just outside of the goal. The rules that apply for players when inside the penalty box also apply here. The clear purpose of this box is to identify the area where a goal kick must take place.

When the defending team is awarded a goal kick, the ball is placed in the goal box, where the kick must take place.

Goal Line

There are two goal lines on a soccer field. These lines are located at both ends of the field. If the ball hits an attacking player and it passes the goal line, the defending team is awarded a goal kick.

However, if the ball touches a defending player and passes the goal line, the attacking team is awarded a corner kick.

Goal

Any time the ball fully crosses the goal line between the two goalposts, it counts as a scored goal. Each goal counts as one point for the attacking team.

There are two ways a goal can be awarded to the attacking team.

  • Attacking player scores a goal
  • Own Goal: Defending player hits the ball and accidentally forces it into his/her own goal

Basic Concepts of a Soccer Game

Basic concepts of a soccer game

Shot

Any attempt to kick the ball into the goal.

Goal (score)

When a player takes a shot and the ball crosses the goal line between the two goalposts into the net.

Point Value of a Goal

A goal is only worth 1 point.

Pass

When a player kicks the ball to a teammate.

Assist

A player receives an assist when he/she passes the ball to a teammate and after receiving the pass the teammate shoots and scores a goal.

Throw-In

This is the only time a player, other than the goalkeeper, is able to bring the ball back into the game while using their hands. A throw-in is only performed when the ball crosses the sideline on either side of the field.

The player making a throw-in must ensure that he/she maintains both feet on the ground while throwing the ball back onto the field.

Coin Toss

Before the beginning of each game, the referee will ask for the captain of each team. Elect one of your players to meet the referee along with the captain of the opposing team.

This meeting is for the ref to determine which goal each team will be playing towards and which team gets the opening kickoff.

The winning captain gets to choose which side they want to attack along with owning the 2nd half kickoff. The losing captain receives the kickoff for the 1st half.

First Half Kickoff

The ball is always placed at the center spot of the field at the beginning of the game. Teams will position themselves on opposing sides of the centerline making sure not to cross it until kickoff is made.

Additionally, except for the one player conducting the kickoff, all players must remain outside of the center circle. This rule ensures a systematic and orderly start to a game.

Second Half Kickoff

The same rules apply as the first half kickoff with the exception that teams must change sides of the field before the kickoff. More so, the team that began defending in the first half is awarded the second-half kickoff.

Fouls

A foul in the game of soccer is an act by a certain player towards an opponent that is seen in the eyes of the referee as a violation of soccer rules.

Most common soccer fouls:

  • Kicking an opponent
  • Pushing
  • Tackling an opponent
  • Tripping
  • Grabbing an opponent’s jersey
  • Holding a player
  • Handball (when a player, other than the goalie, touches the ball with their hand)

A header is an action of a player hitting the ball with their head while it’s in the air.

However, headers are not allowed for any player in the age group of 11-U or under.

The age groups of 12-U and 13-U are limited to 15-20 headers per player, per week. However, there are no header restrictions for these age groups during a game.

These recommendations were set in place by USYS (United States Youth Soccer) to educate coaches and players about head injuries and concussions.

Hand Ball

A handball foul occurs when any player other than the goalie uses their hands to touch the soccer ball while in play. The ball is placed where the handball foul took place and is awarded to the other team.

If a player on the defending team commits a handball foul while in the penalty box, a penalty kick is awarded to the attacking team.

Penalty Kick

A penalty kick is awarded to an attacking team on one of two occasions.

  • A player on the attacking team is fouled within the penalty box
  • A player on the defending team commits a handball foul within the penalty box

Once a penalty kick is awarded, a player from the attacking team stands at the penalty mark within the penalty box and places the soccer ball on the exact mark. All players must remain outside of the penalty box and arc.

Once the defending goalie is in the position, the referee will blow the whistle at which point the attacking player kicks the ball in an attempt to score. Law 14 governs the specific rules that apply to a penalty kick.

Offsides

The offsides rule avoids unfair advantages for an attacking team. Simply, offsides are called by a referee if a player from the attacking team is past the second to last defender at the moment a teammate passes him/her the ball.

Substitutions

Prior to the 15-U age group substitutions are unlimited. When you are prepared to replace a player on the field you must select which teammate is going to substitute him/her.

Once you have selected your substitution player clearly tell him/her which player they will be replacing. At that point, the substitution player must stand at the centerline of the field but out of play so that the referee can notice that you want to make a substitution. During a dead ball, the referee will stop play so that the substitution can take place.

Goal Kick

A goal kick is awarded to a defending team if a player from the attacking team kicks the ball and it passes the goal line on either side of the goalposts. At that point, the ball must be placed within the goal box and kicked back in to play, usually by the goalie.

Free Kick

A free-kick is awarded once a foul is committed. The ball is placed at the exact spot where the foul was committed. The ball is awarded to the team that received the foul.

Once the ball is placed on the spot where the foul took place it is then introduced back into the game by passing or kicking the ball.

Yellow Card

In younger age groups yellow cards are not common because referees understand that players are learning the rules of the game. However, a yellow card can be used in any age group if a foul was committed that the referee felt warrants a yellow card.

A yellow card is used to caution a player that they committed an aggressive foul. If a player receives two yellow cards in one game he/she then receives a red card and is removed from the game.

Red Card

As stated before, a red card is given after a player has received two yellow cards in one game. However, a player can receive a straight red card if a foul is committed that was violent or severe in nature.

Once a player receives a red card he/she is removed from the game and the team is left with one less player on the field. You cannot replace the player with a substitute and must play the rest of the game with one less player.

Clear Distinction of Goalie

Each team’s goalie must clearly stand out from the rest of the team.

In youth soccer, the easiest way to create a distinction is simply by having your goalie wear a pinny over his/her jersey while in play.

2. Create a Main Objective for the Team

The absolute worst objective to create for any youth soccer team is one that revolves around winning.

From Day 1 it should be made very clear that the main objective should be their development as soccer players and for them to fall in love with the game and enjoy themselves in the process.

Create Team Rules To Maintain Order and Focus

What has been found is that although these four simple rules seem so basic they usually lead to something great while coaching youth soccer. It creates a team bond and more often than not you will find yourself winning games even though your main objective is to develop players.

Here are four simple rules that you should establish from day one while coaching youth soccer:

Respect

You should convey to your young players the importance of showing respect to themselves, the coach, their parents, their teammates, their commitment to the team, any opponents they may face, the referees on game day, and as a general rule just anyone they come in contact with.

This is a concept that isn’t emphasized enough in youth sports. Following this rule not only helps them achieve their goals within the team but goals in general. Teaching the importance of respect from a young age is crucial for the development of any youth soccer player.

Teamwork

The team grows as a whole not one player at a time. It is very common for youth players to operate as an individual and not as a teammate.

Your players need to understand the importance of teamwork. It does take some work at first but the more you keep reminding them the quicker it sets in. Establishing teamwork drills amongst your players helps speed the process of them working as a team and not as individuals.

Give 100% At All Times

Hard work does pay off. You need to help your players understand the concept of giving 100% to every commitment toward the team which includes following any team rules, vision, and objectives to the best of their abilities.

Most youth players like to cut corners and take the path of least resistance when it comes to anything that will challenge them. You must help them understand that if they work hard and train properly it will show on game days.

Have Fun

Most coaches have this rule as their first but I leave it for last. The reason is that I am a big believer in setting the aforementioned rules first.

If you can teach your kids to be respectful in every aspect of the game, to work as a team and not as individuals, and to give 100% to the team they will quickly find themselves thoroughly enjoying the process.

3. Establish Good Communication & Partnership With Parents

youth soccer parent

Most coaches realize that one of the difficulties of coaching youth soccer is dealing with parents. Most parents are willing to trust you with the development of their son/daughter. However, there are some parents that will always provide some pushback.

Team Parent Meeting

The best way to set the tone and create a clear understanding of your approach with the team is to schedule a team parent meeting at the beginning of the season.

Obtaining support from the parents so that they reinforce your discipline policies is very important. You should set a clear image of what your expectations of player behavior should be on and off the field.

Team Objectives and Main Goals

It would be helpful to have a printed word document outlining all the team rules, objections, vision, goals, and priorities in that meeting. Along with handing each parent a copy of that printed document, this would be the time to go over all the information.

The team parent meeting is extremely important because it gives you an opportunity to educate the parents on your main objective as a youth soccer coach. Answer any questions to the best of your abilities and if you don’t know the answer simply say “I do not know but I will find out and get back to you on that”.

Parent Involvement

You will quickly realize that you won’t be able to do everything on your own. While coaching youth soccer, your main focus should be on training and developing your players. Therefore, requesting the help of a couple of other parents on the team will be crucial for your sanity and peace of mind.

Here are two very important roles that you can assign to two parents that will greatly help you during the season:

Assistant Coach

Having one parent volunteer as an assistant coach is very helpful, especially on practice days. Their main task will be to help reinforce what you are trying to teach and help you keep the players focused on instruction.

Team Manager

Selecting a very responsible and dedicated parent to be the team manager is extremely important. The team manager will be a liaison between you and the parents. A lot of communication needs to take place to keep parents involved during the season.

Although parents are welcome to approach you during practices and games to discuss team matters, the team manager should be able to help parents with most questions they may have during the season.

Tip: You should create a group chat with all parents so that communication can flow easier.

4. Obtain Proper Equipment

youth soccer equipment

While coaching youth soccer it becomes clear early on that in order to train your youth soccer players properly, obtaining some soccer equipment is necessary. Most soccer leagues purchase minimal equipment every year to supply their volunteer coaches with.

Therefore, before purchasing anything check with your league director to determine if they can assign you some equipment. Although there are hundreds of soccer training equipment products on the market you only need a few to get started.

Here is a shortlist of soccer training equipment:

5. Run Organized Practices

Running an organized youth soccer practice

The greatest impact that you make while coaching youth soccer is during your practice sessions with the team. At practice, you implement your philosophy and fine-tune the technical skills you are trying to teach your players.

With this in mind, it is crucial to understand that your practices should be organized and planned beforehand. Most youth soccer practices are about 1 hour long. Believe it or not, it is not enough time to teach your players properly and it does go by very quickly. However, if you create a practice lesson plan things will flow more naturally and more will get accomplished.

The first element of running an organized practice has to do with you showing up on the field at least 15 minutes before practice. This step is very important because it gives you time to set up any cones or portable goals, check soccer ball pressure, check field conditions, etc. The key is that once your players start arriving there should be no downtime and should get to work right away. Therefore, maximizing every single minute you spend with your players will help accelerate their development.

Tip: You should always send a message to all parents on practice days in the morning to remind them. You should also remind them to always have their child bring a water bottle, soccer ball, soccer cleats, and shin guards.

Free Download – Youth Soccer First Practice Lesson Plan

To get you started coaching youth soccer, I have prepared a free downloadable First Practice Lesson Plan so you can get an idea of how structured and organized your practices should be. Every minute should be accounted for so there is no wasted time.

6. Proper Game Day Preparation

youth soccer game day

Coaching youth soccer requires a certain level of preparation and consistency. Being prepared and having a game-day routine creates consistency. It is important to have a checklist so that everything goes according to plan. Here is a list of things you should do to get you and the team ready for game days.

  • Remind parents of game time and location one day before
  • Remind parents to make sure that players bring their cleats, shin guards, soccer ball, and water bottle
  • As the coach, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before your kickoff time
  • Players should also arrive at least 30 minutes before kickoff time
  • Warmups and stretching drills should start 20 minutes before game time
  • Bring the team in for a pre-game huddle chant to get them pumped and ready for the game
  • Remind the players of the team rules before every game which are respect, teamwork, giving 100%, and having fun
  • Have a roster so that you know who your starting players are
  • Make sure to sub players in and out so that every player on your team gets equal playing time
  • Stay active during the game helping players understand where they need to be and providing encouragement
  • After the game bring the team in for a post-game huddle chant
  • Congratulate each player before they leave and make them feel like they played a critical role in the development of the team game-day plan

In Summary

The first step to coaching youth soccer is understanding all the parts of the field and basic concepts of the game. Creating a main objective for the team should be the next order of business. From Day 1 it should be made very clear that the main objective should be their development as soccer players and for them to fall in love with the game and enjoy themselves in the process.

Additionally, establishing a good line of communication and understanding with the parents will provide clarity and give parents reason to trust you with their child’s development. Obtaining proper equipment is also very important along with running organized practices. Finally, being prepared to manage game days effectively will help make game days fun and smooth.

Coaching youth soccer is not as difficult as it seems even though you may not understand the sport. With the information provided in this very detailed article, you should feel better prepared to do a great job.

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