Most Important Things to Teach Youth Soccer Players
Soccer Positions Basics and Kick-Offs
Assigning Soccer Positions
How to Teach Soccer Positions
How to Teach Soccer Formations
How Our Soccer Practice Games are Different
How to Best Navigate the 1,200 Pages on Premium

There is a free version of a simplified version of the article located at and an expanded version of it at Premium Most Important Things to Teach.

Most Important Things To Teach Part 1 (these apply mostly to Rec teams and young travel teams):

  1. If you are a beginning coach, for U-8 or older and your team plays positions and uses a formation, the most important things for you to read might be this article and: Positions Basics & Kick-Offs, Formations and Assigning Positions Tips, Assigning Positions Rules, Assigning Soccer Positions, Formations, 22 Coaching Rules (especially Coaching Rule No. 3), How To Teach Soccer Positions, and Styles of Play.

  2. If you coach ages 3 to 8, click this link: How to Coach U-4, U-6 and U-8

  3. If your team is losing all of its games, it may be important to you to try some things that can quickly cause a big improvement. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win, as long as you don't sacrifice good sportsmanship or fun to do so. My experience is that by U-8 most players and parents prefer winning to losing. First, read Stopper Importance, this tip can be worth 3 goals per game. If you want to try some ideas that can result in a quick improvement, try "Quick Team Improvement Program", "22 Coaching Rules" and "23 Of The Best SoccerHelp Tips & Tactics" at SoccerHelp Premium. Also, consider whether the "Formation" and "Style of Play" you use suits your team. See "Formations" on Premium, "Quick Team Improvement Program" section no. 9, "How To Teach Soccer Positions" and "How To Teach Soccer Formations".
  4. If you define "important" as teaching your players the basic skills and concepts that they need to become good players, then we recommend teaching at a minimum:

    1. Dribbling, Turns, Shielding the Ball and "Strength on the Ball". We believe being able to dribble and shield the ball is perhaps the most important soccer skill. Your players will have a lot more confidence and will play with more enthusiasm if they know they can dribble and protect the ball (phrased differently, a player can't be confident with the ball unless he or she can dribble in a crowd and protect the ball when under pressure). The Premium Version of the "Dribble Across A Square Game" is the best way to teach control dribbling, speed dribbling and turns and we strongly recommend you play it 3 times to start every practice. The "Shoulder Tackle & Strength On The Ball Game" and "Attack & Defend Ball Tag" are a great way to teach shielding and strength on the ball. There are many other good Premium Practice Games that teach dribbling, such as "Dribble Around A Cone & Back Relay Race", and the "2 Team Keep Away" game is a great way to practice controlling the ball in a crowd and while under pressure and also involves a lot of "transitions" from offense to defense and from defense to offense. These are available at SoccerHelp or SoccerHelp Premium, and Premium provides links to sites that use video and photos to show dribbling, turns and skills. See "How To Teach Soccer Dribbling" for more on this subject and for the advantages of the "Dribble Across A Square Game". If you don't subscribe to Premium, try the version of the "Dribble Across A Square Game" on SoccerHelp Basic. There are also many good dribbling games on Premium for U-6 players. See "How To Teach Soccer Dribbling" for more ideas and games that teach dribbling.

    2. Hustling, Aggressive Play and "Winning The Ball". Soccer is a physical game. It is greatly beneficial to teach your players at an early age (starting by U-10) that they must hustle and fight to "win the ball". If your team doesn't hustle and play aggressively, you will almost always lose to a team that is significantly more aggressive. When we refer to aggressive play, we mean hustling, not being afraid of making contact and "winning" the "50/50 balls", which are the loose balls that either team has an equal chance of winning (it's difficult to win these if you are afraid of contact). The most aggressive team will usually "win" most of the 50/50 balls and will usually win the game. It is critical that your defenders be tough and not afraid of contact. If a player is afraid of contact, you will give up many goals if you play him or her at Fullback or Sweeper. Any player who is afraid of contact is at a disadvantage. Ideally, you want to teach your players to not only be brave and unafraid of contact, but also to hustle and be aggressive about going to the ball and to win loose balls. Now, we aren't talking about encouraging dirty, dangerous or unfair play, we're only talking about encouraging players to hustle, be brave and do their best. This is often not easy to teach. Some kids are naturally timid (I was) and most young children have been taught that rough or aggressive play is bad because someone might get hurt. A great way to encourage hustling and practice attendance is by using our iron-on patches as rewards for those who hustle or attend practice. Coach Gayla of Missouri USA said: "I can't say enough about the tried and true results of using these patches! This very same team that lost ALL 8 games in the fall, won 7 out of 8 games this spring!!! The kids wanted those patches!!!" Read about our iron-on soccer incentive patches. See "How To Teach Aggressive Play" for more on this subject and for Premium Practice Games that teach hustling, tackling and aggressive play. Also see "Marking, Jockeying, Shepherding & Defensive Footwork" on Premium.
(The rest of this Premium article will be in future Newsletters.)

Example of How We Develop SoccerHelp Practice Games (how I developed the "Dribble Across A Square" game):

We use 12 standards to develop Practice Games, including: they are fun, activity and touches on the ball are maximized and lines are minimized, they teach real soccer skills and concepts, the games are "self-teaching", one coach can set up and manage the games, they don�t require a full-sized field or a real goal, no "knock-out" or elimination games (elimination games leave the kids on the sideline who most need to practice), we believe in positive motivation and don�t punish kids who lose a game, they work for different numbers of players and even or odd numbers (you never know how many might come to practice), they work for players of different abilities, and they involve competition and pressure, so players learn to perform under pressure. It�s difficult to develop Practice Games that meet all these criteria.

Occasionally someone will seem disappointed that we don't have "Hundreds of games". There are hundreds of drills and games on the internet, but 90% don't meet our standards. We have developed the Practice games on SoccerHelp and they are copyrighted and not found any where else. Our games work and let you have an effective, efficient practice. One of our practices is equal to 3 of the practices most coaches have.

We call our games "Third Generation Practice Games".

Here is an example of how a SoccerHelp Practice Game is developed. This is how I developed the "Dribble Across A Square" game:

A Bad Drill: When I was a U-6 assistant coach, the Coach would put out a row of cones, the kids would stand in line, one ball, and one at a time dribble around the cones and back while the Coach gave tips. This was boring and dribbling around cones is different from dribbling though defenders. My job was mainly to keep the boys from fighting. I thought there had to be a better way and tried to think of one.

Better Drill: I tried to improve the bad drill by putting out 4 rows of cones so the lines were shorter. This was better, but it took a few minutes to put out the cones, there were still lines and cones don�t move like defenders do. I remember constantly telling the players to �Look up while you dribble� but they still looked down.

First Generation Practice Game: I had a better idea. I used cones to make a square and had the players line up on one side, dribble across, turn, and dribble back. I made it a race to see who was first. This was good because each player had a ball and there was competition, so they did it at a fast speed, but they weren't dribbling around anything.

Second Generation Practice Game: I had players line up on 2 sides of the square, opposite each other and dribble across at the same time. This was better because they had to look up to avoid running into each other. I no longer had to say �Look up�. The game had become �self-teaching� and they learned by just playing the game.

Third Generation Practice Game: I dropped 4 cones about 10 steps apart to make an imaginary square and put players on all 4 sides, each with a ball, facing inward. On �Go� they all dribble across and back, so there are players coming at each other from 4 directions. Each turn is �One� and the first to ten holds up his hand and yells �Done� and is the winner. This is the perfect Practice Game. It is self-teaching, every player has a ball, there is competition, pressure and it is played at �match speed�, the coach can monitor progress by asking each player�s score at the end of each game, set-up is fast and easy, and the coach can make the square larger or smaller depending on the age and number of players. It teaches dribbling, shielding, turning, transitioning from �control dribbling� to �speed dribbling�, and the importance of ball control. A small square is best for �control dribbling�. Make the square larger and player will learn when to �control dribble� (when in traffic) and when to �speed dribble� (in the larger square they will have open space and will quickly see that they can speed up by kicking the ball and running to it, but they must still keep control or they won�t be able to make the turn). If they miss a turn they will lose the game, so, just as in a real game, they must keep control. Because players are coming from all directions, the players learn to use their peripheral vision and to make quick, instinctive reactions, just as they must in a real game. This is the �Dribble Across A Square� game.