Basic Soccer Skills to Teach
The skills taught in soccer range from basic skills to more advanced skills, and further break down into either offensive or defensive skills. REMEMBER: Youth soccer players need coaches to be guides and facilitators to their individual exploration of the game. This means individual skill development. Organizational skills, like field positions and roles, are out of the grasp of the younger age groups (4-6); but gradually become understandable as the player advances in the higher age groups (7-13). The coaches' introduction page as well as the spirit and philosophy page expand upon these ideas in greater detail.
Skills for 4-6 Years Old Players
For the younger players, this soccer program is geared towards giving these young people an orientation into the joy and love for the game of soccer. The focus should remain on keeping the activity easy to grasp and fun to do. It is most important for children in this age group to learn the very basics: motor skills (ie, control over their own bodies) and becoming subsequently more and more comfortable with a ball at their feet (instead of in their hands, which is a perfectly natural tendency). The page on conducting practices for the 4-6 years old age groups goes into much greater detail on this point, but for the purposes of the skills section of the website, put your focus and emphasis on the following:
- Running: It may sound strange, but physical education instructors as high as middle school note that some of their pupils haven’t even developed a natural running stride! Having some foot races without the ball makes for a productive means of developing this very simple and fundamental skill.
- Dribbling: This is basically running with the ball. However, younger kids might be shown how to move the ball slowly at first, just to get the feel for it. Teaching kids not to handle the ball with their hands or arms (all other parts of the body are okay) goes hand-in-hand with teaching dribbling.
- Spreading Out: This is as close as you can get to “position play” in this age group. It’ll be the extent of their ability to understand the game, by and large, just to keep them spread out around the ball (or the person who has the ball).
- Kick-Off: Teach them simply to spread out on their own half of the field, some closer to the middle line and some closer to the goal line; some closer to the left side and some closer to the right! The team taking the kick can be within the center circle; the other team must stay out.
- Kick-In: When the other team kicks the ball out of bounds, your team gets to kick it back in! This simple rule replaces the throw-in, goal kick and corner kick used at more advanced levels. Of course, if a team kicks the ball out of bounds into the net, it’s a goal and the play has to start over in the middle with a kick-off.
These 5 simple skills should be taught to the players in this age group, as they are foundational skills to more advanced skills that the kids can learn as they grow with the game, and our soccer program.
Skills for 7-13 Year Old Players
Individual player soccer skills can be categorized by the purpose for which each skill is predominantly used: Offense and Defense. Because the skills for “Offense” are fundamental to the skills of “Defense,” it is best to teach those first - especially dribbling, passing, and receiving.
Players in the 7-8 age group can begin to understand some of the simpler of these skills, with older players grasping progressively advanced concepts as their bodies grow and they gain experience with the game. When teaching kids on your team, be mindful of their age group and try to develop a feel for which skills the kids are ready to learn, and which they simply need to improve and develop.
- Trapping: Taking control of a loose ball, usually from a pass (ie, “catching” the ball)
- Trap the ball with any part of the body except the arms or hands
- The ball should “settle” (land) on the ground at the player’s feet, or deflect in a direction the player wants to go with the ball
- Think “CONTROL!” Teach kids to trap softly, so the ball doesn’s carom uncontrollably
- Passing: Passing the ball to a useful location on the field or to another player
- Throw-Ins: Bringing the ball back into play once it goes out-of-bounds on the touchline
- Dribbling: Running with the ball, keeping it close to the feet - Teach kids to “keep the ball on a leash!” At more advanced levels, skilled ball handlers can really amaze the crowd with their grace and moves. Teach kids to move the ball with both the left and right foot, and with the inside or outside flat surfaces – never the toe!
- Shooting: Scoring
- Heading: Using your head to trap, pass or shoot. Children in these age groups lack the musculoskeletal maturity, growth and coordination to handle a header like an adult player. Therefore, teach kids about the header, but explain that they should not use this move. Heading the ball is deemed dangerous play, and the opponents are awarded an indirect free kick.
- Juggling: Controlling the ball without letting it touch the ground (does not include “idling,” which means to hold the ball off the ground with a part of the body other than the hands and arms)
- This is an “Advanced” skill
- Encourage kids to develop flexibility, coordination and control by practicing
- Stress the lack of importance as an actual game play skill, relative to the basics of trapping, passing and shooting
- Marking: Pressuring the attacker without over-committing and letting him by
- Tackling: Attacking the ball with legal contact with the ball or the opponent; most tackling is not permitted in this program and will be penalized (slide tackling)
- Goalkeeping: The last line of defense is the goalkeeper; these are the most difficult skills in the game to master