The key to success when working with children is a coach’s manner. In junior soccer, the interaction with children is more important that actual knowledge of the game.
Children can become frustrated easily. Too long at certain exercises can lead to boredom, whereas rushing through a drill can be just as bad. In order to keep an appropriate balance, the coach must give consideration to providing a session which allows for an equal distribution of time between skill practices and related games. Prior to a session, I always right down a rough plan of the drill. These are just short bullet points to remind me of what my plan is so I can take a quick glance and know where I am with the session. Sessions should always also be progressive. Do not jump from topic to topic in a session. Choose your session for the night, tell the players what they will be looking at and then have 3 stages to your session - Unopposed, Opposed, Fun/Game related.
Every effort should be made, before the start of a session, to prepare the area to be used. This gives off a great impression to players that the coach is professional and paying attention to detail. An organized area will provide better time management. Coaches can easily become confused when trying to set up playing areas whilst children are waiting.
Each session should begin with some form of warm-up or introductory activity. Good habits, acquired early, will become an integral part of a player development in soccer. Players should not necessarily have a football during the warm up. Activities which are intrinsic to the game such as turning and jumping should be included. Stretching should also be encouraged from an early age. Up until the age of 10, stretching should be very gentle and done principally to promote the habit. Keep this in a circle so everyone is visible.
Action as soon as possible
Avoid long-winded explanation of the activity. ‘A picture paints a thousand words!’ - Give a short, sharp, explanation of the drill before demonstrating and re-emphasising points whilst demonstrating.
Select a suitable demonstration position. Coach must be able to see every player. Do not begin to speak until all are in front, standing still and paying attention. You can also make players take a knee whilst you talk which helps with their attention or if they are standing with a ball, refuse to start until all players are stood with their foot on top of the ball, looking at you.
Players should not be facing into the sun, it is always better to address a group with their backs to the sun.
Speaking with authority is extremely key. Only one person speaks at a time. Tell players when coach is talking, you want complete silence. If anyone has a question or comment they must raise their hand. Whenever you ask a question, always tell them first ‘Hands up who can tell me . . . ‘
Speak When Still
If demonstrating, try not to speak while you are moving. A short explanation before and after is desirable. Do not overwhelm players with too much information, give them the basics first, you can always bring in addition stipulations as the drill progresses. If talking when demonstrating, do so when you are still, or demonstrate this drill at a slow pace.
Whenever children are practising, give them as many opportunities as possible to repeat the skill.
Organise participation groups into small, manageable numbers.
Avoid drills where kids are in long queues, as these hinder a child’s development and can induce boredom.
All children should be involved in practices and games.
Proper Management of Area
When attempting to acquire skill, children need space. Intrusion by other children into their working area can hinder learning. Proper use of the whole area is very important.
Very often, coaches organize skill practices or drills, then take an outside observational spot. It is vital that coaches are active and move around the drill to ensure players are using the right technique at all times.
It is very important that individual players receive feedback during the drill of what they are doing well and where they are perhaps going wrong. Tell them what you like and what they need to work on. Emphasise on the positive points.
At the end of the drill, call all players in and re-emphasise the coaching points. Question players on the drills, what they learnt, where it could be useful etc. Tell them what you liked about the drill and what it is important that they do in their games related to the drill.