As soccer coaches, we often get fixated on the core skills (dribbling, passing, shooting), tactics, and other stuff. Sometimes we forget that it’s often the little things that can make a difference, even ones we think are obvious – but to the kids, they’re not. So here are some little things to keep in mind, especially if you’re a new coach just getting started and trying to learn as you go…

  • Don’t let your defense stand at the top of the goal box. You give the opposing team too much room to maneuver, and they can bring the ball too close to your goal with little resistance. Have them push up towards midfield on the attack, even if there is no offside (Just say no to cherry picking!)
  • Put your fastest/best ball handlers on defense more often than not. The opposing team will struggle to score, and it helps boost the confidence of your average players to be up front. Give your defenders permission to make runs at the goal, knowing their teammates are there to back them up.
  • Discourage taking goal kicks from the corner of the goal box. Players will instinctively run directly along the side line of the goal box, making it difficult to direct the ball at an angle. Instead have them place the ball 1-2ft away from the corner along the top of the box. Then they’ll have to line up however they feel most comfortable instead of being drawn to run along the line when they kick.
  • When you are talking with your team late on a sunny day, make sure you’re the one facing the sun, not them. They’ll pay more attention to you.
  • Anytime you do something like toe taps, stretching, jumping jacks, etc. where you would count, have the kids count instead. Loudly. This helps them get over being shy about yelling out on the soccer field during matches.
  • If you have your team do toe taps during warmups, stress that they look you in the eye. Even better, instead of counting off the taps (once they get over their shyness), hold up your hand and have then shout out how many fingers you have up – change every 3-4 seconds. Do this with dribbling drills as well – great way to keep their heads up.
  • If appropriate to your plan for the practice, have them put pinnies on at the beginning of practice as they arrive to save time later splitting up the team for a scrimmage or other team oriented drill.
  • Instruct your players to always place the ball where the arc intersects the touch or end lines on corner kicks. Kids always want to put it in the middle of the arc, then can’t figure out why the corner flag is in their way. Putting it at the intersection gets them the farthest away from the flag.

These are just a few off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ll add more. For those of you that coach, what other ‘little things’ would you add to this list that can make a big difference in a players development or during a game?