How To Keep The Kids In Line

By Dave Hennell · Comments (0)

From the hot-headed to the party-anytime to any number of personalities that clash with good soccer training, keeping kids in line, safe, having fun, and learning is one of the most difficult, but most rewarding aspects of being a coach.

It may also be the most important. One of the biggest reasons why we even enroll kids in sports is because they teach us valuable lessons about life. As a coach, helping turn kids into upstanding individuals is every bit part of the job as turning kids into top players with soccer skills.

For some, how to manage kids comes naturally, but for many of us, it is not. Here are some tips that will help.


No one really wants to be “the bad guy” coach that pushes young kids too far. Certainly, that’s something to avoid, but some amount of tough love can be necessary at times.

You can be friendly but you can also be firm. Kids need to respect that you are in charge. When you say “stop,” they should stop.

Safety is a big reason why. Young kids may start trying things they’re not ready for and hurt themselves. Teens can start playing too rough and injure others. A coach that can stop players from acting out may be one that prevents them from getting hurt.

However, never say anything mean to a child. And obviously, never hurt a child. Just make sure you are respected. Laying some ground rules can help.

The Importance of Rules

Coaches should let parents and kids know from the start what is and isn’t acceptable, so everyone’s clear. Let them know that rude, disrespectful, or dangerous behavior towards the coach, other players, the referee, or anyone else is not allowed.

Teach your players to respect the referee's decisions

Teach your players to respect the referee’s decisions

Also, tell them that players should follow all instructions given by you or any other coaches or assistant coaches, as well as the referee during games. Tell them that when you talk, they should be still and listen.

Often, carrying a whistle can be helpful to pierce the noise as a signal that it’s time to pay attention and listen up. It’s also good for conducting drills.

Let players know the positive things you do expect from them. Tell them you expect good effort and sportsmanship every time, and that, win or lose, they will retain a good attitude. Often, positive reinforcement does a better job than punishments.

Dealing with Disruptive Players
Unfortunately, even when you set rules, someone is bound to break them.

They may see some “bad boy” stars or “divas” on TV, and it may give them the impression that having a good attitude is not really important. Remind them that some players are so talented, and train so hard, that they can still be top players even when they have a bad attitude. But think of how much better they could be if they had a good attitude on top of it all!

But when someone steps out of line, most of the time, kids need only a quick reminder to get back on track. At other points, more drastic action is necessary.

What further steps to take will largely depend on the age of the player and the setting. But usually, the best course is to take them aside and let them know what they did wrong and tell them to not do it again.

If it’s still a problem, you may ask the children to sit on the sidelines until practice is completed, and then speak to the parents.

By this point, most problems will have been fixed. However, it may take a few talks with the parents to get change to happen. The last step may be to ask them to resign from the team and to file a report with the administrator.

Most of the time, it won’t be necessary, but be prepared.


Generally, you will not have much control outside of training and matches. If there are problems outside of that scope, the best course is to talk the parents, teachers or school administrators.

Good leadership during the times you do have direct influence will also help. Soccer can teach lots of good values that will help kids in every area of their lives.

Discipline will help in every arena. So will teamwork. Preach good rest and nutrition, and that, along with the physical exercise sport provides, will do wonders for anyone.


I hope you found this useful.  please leave me your comments: they are always welcome!

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Adding Width and Space

By Dave Hennell · Comments (0)

When a team attacks, it’s not only up to the player with the ball to “make things happen” : Other players must create space for the one with the ball to be able to make the right pass, take a shot, or beat the defender.

One of the most crucial ways this is done is by maintaining width. Space can also be created using off-the-ball runs.

What is Attacking Width?

Although a soccer pitch is of variable width: once the white lines have been put down, they cannot be made wider or narrower. However, teams will be able to play wider or narrower depending on where the players are on the field. Generally speaking, defenses prefer playing against narrower teams since they will be able to concentrate on stopping attacks in a confined space.

Stretching a defense makes them uncomfortable as it opens up areas close to the goal. A defense that truly fears an attack from any part of the pitch is vulnerable compared to one that only needs to concentrate on the middle.

Generally, teams will play with players on either side of the pitch, called “wingers,” “wingbacks,” or “fullbacks,” depending on the formation. These are the most responsible for ensuring good width by staying on their flank, or side of the field.

Wingers, or wing-forwards, are attacking players whose main function is to pass or cross to the team’s main striker, or score themselves. They also help defend when the team does not have the ball.

Fullbacks play on the flanks, but they are primarily defenders. Good fullbacks nullify the threat from attacking wingers. Many also join the attack when the team has the ball, adding more width.

Wingbacks or wide midfielders are somewhere in between offense and defense. They must have great stamina to cover the team in defense and get up quickly to attack when the team recovers the ball.

While these are the players most obviously involved in providing attacking width, all players play a role.

Why Do We Need to “Create Space?”

Even the best players do better when they have more time to think. Whether shooting, crossing, or passing, a player with even a small amount of space will make better choices and aim better than one deprived of any.

To create space, players have to be willing to be selfless hard workers. Making “decoy” runs when not in possession of the ball is one example of selfless work creating space for others. Sometimes a player will run towards open space not expecting to receive the ball, but rather to force another defender to peel away from a teammate and cover him instead.

Attacking width is a natural creator of space. When defenders have to spread themselves out sideways, logically, there is more space for each attacker.

Teams that know how to use width and space in attack are ones that with a selfless work ethic and a high “soccer IQ.” Both of these things are primarily bred through good coaching.

Drills for Adding Width and Space

There are many drills for adding width, but a good one involves four defensive players, a goalkeeper, and four attackers. Play using one half of the field, and draw a line, or ask your players to imagine one, from the sides of the box outward.

width 1

Two of the attacking players are wingers and may only run up and down their flank, not towards the middle, unless they are dribbling or receiving the ball. The challenge for the attackers is to score by using width to engineer space for the players in the middle.

width 2

The wingers should maintain their width unless they have a good reason to move inside, such as making a run to score or dribbling by a player to set up a teammate.

The central attackers will start looking to make passes to wingers “cutting inside,” that is, making diagonal runs towards the middle to receive the ball.

The wingers will start to think about how they can create scoring chances for their teammates while staying on their side of the pitch.

Attackers will start trying to exploit the gaps naturally left as a defense spreads itself across the pitch, while the defenders will learn how to compensate.

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buy my book “Soccer Training for Kids” here now!

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Ex-Pros Do Not Make The Best Coaches For Kids

By Dave Hennell · Comments (0)

Just because someone has played at the top level this does not mean they can coach.  It is like asking a racing or rally driver to teach your kids to drive.  Yes they are very good drivers but how do you know that they will be good at transferring their skills to your kids? Is what they know relevant or easily taught to a teenager?

If fact, there are many world class players who have failed as coaches at all levels: Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore (two of England’s finest players ever) spring to mind. Many fail because the people they coach cannot replicate what they find easy to do and they become frustrated with their players lack of progress or natural talent.

Some Background

While it is true that most top level coaches have professional playing experience, that doesn’t mean all of them were stars. Many of them were not even close. One of the world’s most-respected coaches, Chelsea’s José Mourinho, did play top-level football in Portugal, but very little of it.

The coach of the current world champions Germany, Joachim Löw, also had a rather unremarkable career, playing mainly in the second division.

Second-place Argentina were managed by Alejandro Sabella, a decent player with a few national team caps, but far from a star. At the previous World Cup, which was seen as disastrous for Argentina, they were managed by what many considered the best player ever – Diego Maradona.

Sir Alex Ferguson, easily among the greatest if not the greatest manager ever, again, was a pro, but no one quite remembers him for that so much. In fact, at club level, many of the top coaches were not stars.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s time as a player is obscure, while Borussia Dortmund’s Jürgen Klopp was a regular, but in the second-tier of German football.

Communication, Communication

It goes without saying that kids are more likely to listen to someone who has done what they aspire to do already, rather than one whom they perceive as their friend’s mom or dad.

Guardiola, who managed both Barcelona and Barcelona’s youth team, had an instant pull over both youngsters and even established players. Barcelona stars such as Cesc Fàbregas, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Sergio Busquets supported the team in their youth and looked up to Guardiola in his playing days, which surely made it easier for him to get players to follow his lessons and gameplan.

On the other hand, Mourinho frequently locked horns with some of his players during his time at Real Madrid. Mourinho did have pro experience, but it dwarfed in comparison to that of the World Cup winners he coached such as Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos.

Ramos once allegedly told Mourinho that, since Mourinho never really played at a top level, he was clueless when it came to certain tactical goings-on on the pitch, such as when players decide to change defensive marking duties.

Of course, this is probably not true. Even an amateur coach should know that players improvise like this, and Mourinho was far from an amateur.

Sure, most youth players do not have trophy cases the size of Sergio Ramos’s, but many may be just as petulant as the Madrid player.

U.S. Hall of Famer Tab Ramos says it’s especially helpful for youth players to hear how difficult it was to go from a talented prodigy to a star, from someone who already went through that grueling path.

But he also says that a playing resume does not mean someone is fit to teach kids. More important than that is getting a coaching education. Even then, a resume doesn’t tell you how one communicates with others.

A good coach need not be a youth idol. Certainly, it helps at first, but that can only take you so far. If Guardiola was a poor coach, his stars would have turned on him, sooner or later.

As MLS ages, we are starting to see an influx of the first generations of former MLS pros turned coaches.

Mike Burns, a former US international turned New England Revolution GM, is one person who thinks the increased ranks of former pros demonstrates a maturation of American soccer. Very few top coaches have absolutely zero experience as pro players, so an increased pool of retired pro players naturally leads to a larger pool of managers.

A Compromise

There is sometimes a debate about “teachers” versus “pros” when it comes to coaching. Pros have the aura that allows them to coach in a way mere mortals do not, or so they say. Teachers can outsmart their peers who got by on athletic performance, or so they say. Perhaps it’s not really like that.

The experience of top coaches runs the gamut from unknown second-division strugglers to world stars. Certainly, while professional playing experience is a plus, and the majority of coaches have some degree of it, it is not a good predictor of success or failure.

The more important factors are whether the coach can communicate with his players, even if he was not in their situation before, and whether he can think tactically, even if he once relied on athleticism.

What and how something is taught is more important than the ability of the coach to perform the task.  So don’t worry if you don’t have personal track record on the pitch, you still can be a great coach for your team.



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