As a youth coach, the first thing to teach your newest players is the rules and basic concepts of the game. If you are dealing with a whole team made up of brand-new players, you will want to dedicate the opening practice to learning the basic rules. With very young players (U-6), you will want to avoid lecturing to them whenever possible.
At this age, kids retain more by doing then by listening, and their attention spans are so short, it can hinder more than help to try to lecture to them for any period of time. Just ask any kindergarten teacher.
The only “rules” you need to worry about at U-6 are the following:
- No hands
- No pushing, tripping, or pulling clothing
- Use your feet to kick the ball and move it towards a goal
When the ball rolls between the two cones at the end of the field, this is a goal.
At the start of any drill involving goals, be sure to emphasize whose goal is whose to each team. Kids tend to get excited and will try to score on ANY goal.
With slightly older players (U-8 and above), it may be helpful to go over the field diagram and other rules in the form of soccer homework. At these levels, some kids will have played soccer before and some will be brand new to the game. At this level, you will want to talk a little more about fouls and set plays as a result of fouls (direct and indirect kicks) in order to get your players into playing proper aggressive soccer.
Besides the basic rules, the most important skill your beginning player needs to grasp is dribbling. For younger players, again, it is important to keep instruction to a minimum. However, being a good dribbler and being able to shield the ball while dribbling is one of the most important soccer skills a player can learn. Once a player has developed the confidence to dribble across a field of players, their soccer playing skills have no where to go but up. A good dribbler will find it easier to learn the proper passing and shooting techniques because he or she will already be comfortable with the ball on their feet.
After dribbling, teach your new players passing and trapping, followed by concepts of offense and defense (i.e., what a player will want to accomplish on defense as opposed to offense). For the U-6 level, dribbling, passing, and trapping are enough to try to teach your players over a season. Just keep the energy level high and the practice fun. At U-8 and above, you can start introducing offense and defense-oriented drills.