How to Make Youth Soccer Practice Fun
Practice is often a time that people shrug their shoulders about. Young players arrive late without even worrying about punishment. Other players simply go through the motions. Often times the team isn’t even having fun. This is a terrible way for a youth soccer team to operate! Every time the team is together, the coach should be ensuring that not only are the kids developing their game and improving on their skills, but they must also be engaged and having fun. Children like everything that has to do with fun and get bored very easily. How can you make sure that your soccer practices are both fun and rewarding?
Organize team-building activities. Most kids join a sports team because their parents want them to make friends and have a good time. It is the coach’s responsibility to set a mood throughout the team that fosters such relationships. Make practice drills bring about team camaraderie. Separate the players into mini-teams for certain drills, or make the whole team work together through a passing drill that moves the ball down the field. Get creative and leave players enjoying the game as well as enjoying the time spent together.
While downtime in between drills seems counter-productive given the short amount of practice time that youth teams typically have, it also provides an excellent opportunity for the players to make friends with one another and socialize. For any hour-long practice, leave at least a solid 10 minutes open through water breaks or simply waiting while you set up the next drill so that your players can talk amongst one another. Obviously you will need to make sure focus returns to the practice in short time, but these player relationships are crucial. When it’s all work and no play, the kids will eventually grow bored and resentful towards you. During stretching, get the team in a circle and talk to the players. Try to get their conversational juices flowing.
When your soccer team is comprised of friends, they will play harder for one another and gel better as a squad. Often times the best of teams are also the best of friends. These friendships are built because of the fun that the team is having.
As a coach, make an effort to not put too much pressure on your players. The moment that they feel pressure to succeed and win the games, the fun aspect of soccer gets tossed out the window; the game then revolves around the ego and beating others. Make sure that the kids strive to play hard and win, but don’t punish the players for losing or get too down on everyone. Make them happy to be a part of the soccer team regardless of whether they win or lose.
Learning to keep soccer fun is a talent that takes time to foster for any coach. Toy around with new ideas and drills so that players stay engaged in the game. Regardless of how well these drills work, your team will at least get the thrill of doing something new each practice. This keeps them on their toes and allows them to take more interest in the sport. Remember, the coach sets the tone of the soccer team, so the more fun you are having, the more fun the kids will have!