It’s never too early to start your child playing soccer if he or she wants to play and isn’t hampered by a medical condition. Most children of six years and under are more than willing to try a new sport or activity. Every new task they undertake at this age seems exciting and encompassing. Yet, there are some characteristics of under-six children that parents and coaches must keep in mind when watching the kids play.
Young players with older siblings involved in soccer may be more aware of certain aspects of soccer and it may be easier for them to pick up on certain rules or techniques. Yet, as with any activity, even children of the same ages can be at different development levels.
One common characteristic is that most children of this age have very short attention spans. Even if you do set-up a game or drill with your child in the backyard, he or she could become interested in something else going on in the yard at any second during the game and will lose track of what he or she is doing.
When selecting a team or coach for your young child, be sure that the team you select emphasizes fun above all else—letting the children develop as players while enjoying the exercise and camaraderie that being part of a soccer team can provide for them.
Purchase a small-sized ball for your child (check with the league about size specifications—usually size three is appropriate) and let he or she run around the yard, practicing touch and speed for as long as they want.
Let them learn through trial and error, and be sure to join a team that also follows this concept and does not try too much ‘instruction’ at a young age.
Most players under six years will not quite understand the concept of teamwork—rather, they will become excited when they have the ball to themselves and will not really consider passing it off to anyone else. Dribbling is more important to teach than passing at this juncture. A coach should create drills that allow for lots of touch on the ball, not simply standing still and passing it to one another. Fundamental ‘movements’ such as jumping, running, leaping, twisting, kicking, etc., should also be rehearsed and honed.
The earlier your child becomes involved with soccer, the greater the chance that he or she will develop a lasting relationship with the most popular game in the world. Never force your child into playing if they don’t seem interested, but if they are expressing a desire to join a team, go for it. These are the easy years of being a soccer parent, before traveling to weekend tournaments and busing your child from one practice to another become common. Live it up while you can.