Dan's comments are especially good tips for competitive, select and travel soccer coaches. Dan Metcalfe is one of the top soccer teachers in the U.S. and was Nike Youth Coach of the Year for 2004/2005. We highly recommend Dan's "Super Soccer Skills" and "Just Kickin' It" DVD's.
Dan's Resume is extensive:
Nike Youth Coach of the Year 2004/2005
Played at Pro Clubs in England
Head Coach, Olympic Development Program, CYSA-S
"Soccer Dan" from the upcoming Will Ferrell Kicking and Screaming Movie, May 2005
Choreographed and Coached all the soccer on the Kicking and Screaming Movie - May 16th, 2005 release date, Universal Pictures.
College Coach - Ventura City College
Club Coach - Nationally #1 Boys U15 2004
Creator of the Super Soccer Skills training series, including Just Kicking It and Advancing the Skills.
Soccer Specialist for numerous commercials and Movies, on and off camera.
A USSF licensed Coach
AYSO/Recreational Guest Coach
Camp Director - 13 Years
Interview With Dan Metcalfe:
We asked Dan: "What should coaches of players age 13 and younger emphasize in practice?"
Here is Dan's advice to youth coaches:
"Always remember that you are not building to win today, but building so that the players can be successful when it really counts at the older age group. You may not see all the winning while you Coach, but when players reach the highest levels at on older age, there will always be a part of you with them on the field. Without the "Early Age Coaches" who help the players love the game, build their individual skills and teach them the value in development, we would not have the great players in the USA that we now have. So thank you to all the Recreational and AYSO Coaches, you are doing a great job.
I believe that Coaching players under the age of 13 really needs to be broken down even more. From 10 and under the main emphasis has to be on skill development and freedom to learn to play with a ball. The training should always have a large percentage of time dedicated to 1 player 1 ball. 2 players 1 ball is also invaluable, working on the ability to release a ball to a target with accuracy and confidence. Games should be small sided games of 1v1, 2v2,3v3 or 4v4. This allows more individual play and higher opportunities for all players to develop attack minded decisions as an individual. Adding more than 2 goals is good too, as players will see the best option to attack rather than all rushing to the same target, either defending or attacking. This creates space, which allows time for skills to be used.
The more individually competitive the games are as the skills develop, the better the confidence of the player. The best feeling for young players is the sense of achievement, accomplishing a challenge the Coach sets. However, the Coach needs to be creative in the challenges to keep the fun and the goal/target reachable.
The beginning years of individual play will soon get broken down when the TEAM concept is introduced, so the foundation years of ball control and ability to beat players dribbling needs to be ingrained by the age of 10. The ability for a player to "fail" with a fake, and yet be supported by a Coach who allows them to confidently try again until they find ways to be successful is paramount to a players progression into the next phase of their young soccer lives.
At the age of 10 the team concept can be introduced slowly over the next few years. Understanding the tactical concept of "opening up" and finding space to receive the ball. Seeing the field and finding teammates. Recognizing opportunities to penetrate the opponents through passing, dribbling or shooting needs to be emphasized using the skills they have developed prior to this age.
However, individual skill still needs to be continually worked on as players begin to grow and become uncoordinated in their early teen years. "Big" players often fall into the trap, along with their Coaches, that they can push their way to success. Make the bigger players work even harder as their advantage is taken away by 15 years of age and without technical abilities, those players will fade away as their confidence plummets.
A big part of the game that is missing in America is the ability of players to communicate. This is often a result of not knowing what to say, or being too shy to stand out. Any time you can introduce the communication part of the game in drills/play, using praise when players do communicate, you are actually allowing players to become more involved in the whole game, and not just when they have the ball. We all see players on the field who are "open" but never get the ball. We all hear Coaches shouting to their players to "TALK", but this needs to be brought confidently to the players in training and not just in games, where stress, pressure and opponents can cause a player to "HIDE'.
So introduce talking. Here are some ideas: have a player demand a pass before a player is allowed to give them the ball, or have a player tell another player to switch the ball even though they are not in the immediate play. Or even have players walk during practice and a "CAPTAIN" tell each player who to pass to until they get to goal - this will help players see the field and be confident enough to lead in a game. Of course, all the above drills are done with no pressure of opponents.
Finally, allow yourself to be creative as a Coach. Listen to the kids and their favorite topics. Try and adapt drills into fun games, as on SoccerHelp. Let the players know they can laugh, but then they also have to know when to focus. Keep the practices moving and always have a plan written down going in to practice. You can always change it, but a pre-thought out training plan is a great security blanket when the kids are full of energy and you have to come up with more games or skill challenges.