In my opinion, rec soccer is for FUN. A fun introduction to a great sport. A fun way to play and a fun way to learn some basics. I see select or traveling league soccer as just SOCCER! It's way too competitive, the parents are competitive, the coaches are competitive and the kids can be down right nasty. What about the kids who want to have fun AND learn advanced skills and play against more advanced players like themselves without the ridiculous pressure of select, tryouts and the time constraints of traveling?
Here are some coaching tips that have worked for me:
1. Get the players involved in the practice (remember, I coach U-10).
During warmups, I have 2 players (I rotate) pick a dribbling move or juggling skill and demonstrate it to the rest of the team. They all practice it for a while. I stay out of it completely.
2. For the last 10 minutes of practice, I selelct a "coach of the day" and let him/her decide what to do. They have always chosen scrimmaging!! Gee, don't you want to do drills? I let them layout the cones for the field. They can choose to have the traditional 2 goals, or they can set up goals all around the field. They choose the teams ( I do stress that they be fair) and they set the rules. I ref if it's needed. They have a blast!!
3. Sometimes when we scrimmage, we have what we call continuous-play ball. We do this if I'm not planning on stopping the game for teaching purposes. We get all of our soccer balls and place them all around the outside of the field. When a ball is kicked out of play, we don't take the time to chase it, we grab the closest ball and get it back in play as quickly as possible. The parents chase the balls and put them back around the field. It calls for quick reactions and a lot of stamina.
4. I know at the rec level, everyone should be playing every position. But this year, I've done something different with the kids who have never played before. I've learned that it does not boost a kid's self-esteem to be put into a position where they feel really vulnerable. Goalie, striker, and center half I have found can be too intimaditing for inexperienced players and confusing. I play a striker, left half, center half, right half and 2 fulbacks. My inexperienced players play left or right half or I pair them up at fulback with an experienced player. As halfbacks, they learn to take throw-ins, they learn to hustle back on defense and they learn to center the ball on offense and score. They also take corner kicks. They know what they will be playing and what their responsibilities are without the pressure of
one of the "higher profile" positions. I have really seen their
self-confidence grow this season. One of my new players had an awesome
assist last weekend off her throw-in! She is so good at placing the
throw-ins now and to see a goal come off one, she could hardly contain
5. We have 2 practices a week. 1 hour on Tuesdays and 30 minutes on
Fridays. The Friday practices are for scrimmaging against ourselves. That's it. No breaks, no drills, no stops for instruction. If there are parents who want to play they can. If there are other kids at the playground around the field who want to play, they can too. Last Friday we had 5 year olds, 7 year olds, 13 year olds and parents playing! There aren't goalies - everyone is on the field. They don't have to play set positions if they don't want to. They really have a good time and they are relaxed for the game on Saturday.