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How To Coach Toddler Soccer

Clubs are dropping their entry age while English Academy set ups are starting to look at children younger & younger through fear on missing out on the next ‘big talent’.  For those working with toddlers, or if you prefer, under 6′s you need to remember the most important factor & that is fun.  This is children’s first introduction to football & the most important aspect is for them to fall in love with the game.  As a coach you need to adapt, lose your inhibition & become an entertainer!

3 years into kicking off my football development programme I was unique.  Not just as I welcomed children in from the age of 5 (most other clubs / organisations were 6-8 year old) but I then introduced a revolutionary way of introducing young children to football from the age of 2.  Call it vision or call it fluke but the programme simply came about from younger brothers & sisters being disappointed that they couldn’t play football when they dropped their older brother or sister off to our Mini Soccer sessions.

With this in mind I started to plan sessions for younger children & called it ‘Toddler Soccer’.  My first port of call was Google to see what advice was out there to work with such young children.  I didn’t find very much.  So I went about planning a programme using the first set of kids as guinea pigs to see what worked & what didn’t.

Ronaldo & Messi vs Toy Story & Finding Nemo!

One thing that was obvious to me with children aged 7 & above that they were motivated with pro players…Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney & co.  But children aged 2, 3 & 4…what would they be motivated in…who did they look up to?  Well, with having children of my own I only had to look at what they watched on TV, who they talked about.  I soon came to the conclusion that if I used familiar children’s television programmes we would be on to a winner.

We have children as young as 2 dribbling the ball close to them so Dr. Evil Porkchop doesn’t steal their ball.  We have them dressing up with crazy cones for ears & heading the ball as Mr & Mrs Potato head.  We have them checking their shoulders looking out for coach, mummy or daddy trying to steal their ball & the fun factor of them roaring like Rex the dinosaur!  We have fun passing exercise of them being Nemo & knocking down the mini traffic cones…or should I say rocks at the bottom of the sea bed before Bruce the Shark catches them!

Over the past number of years I have written a book on the topic as I have received requests from all over the world regarding my programme.  To date the book has sold in over 25 different countries!  Below I will share with you some of my hints, tips & games for you to try out with your young kids!

How do I start?

Toddler SoccerWhen working with a group, get the toddlers to sit in a circle.  Ensure that adults kneel down with toddlers so that you are speaking to them at their level.  Always start with introductions e.g. ‘I’m Coach Tim & this is Coach Ronnie’ as they may have forgotten your name or be a new member.

Relax & build a relationship with them.  Ask what kind of week they have had.  What did they do at nursery?  Comment on new shoes or T-shirts.  If they think that you are interested in their lives they will be more inclined to work with you.

Finally, do a simple listening game so that everyone gets ‘tuned in’.  Do silly things such as getting them to put their hand behind their ear & tuning in to Coach Tim FM!  Another idea is the ‘Stop, freeze’ game.  Toddlers run about & then freeze when the whistle is blown.

Now introduce the game you are going to do.  Keep instructions short & make sure everyone can hear & see you.  Always ask if everyone understands & repeat if necessary.

Coaching Style.

It is best to be vocal.  Tell the story so that each child can visualize what is happening.  Use different tones to tell the story.  Make each session an adventure!

To get the toddlers to interact, start a sentence but get them to finish it.  When you are kneeling down & they are sitting on their ball listening, then begin the story.  ‘Ok, we are in the jungle today & we are Diego & Dora.  Our ball is the little monkey from Dora the Explorer…what’s his name?’  They reply ‘BOOTS!’  It is great to have the toddlers join in & give feedback, then you know that they are fully engaged.  I once had nearly 50 passers-by stop to see what the heck was going on!

Always demonstrate.  Make your language child-friendly & break skills right down.  Don’t stand & demonstrate a skill such as a drag back to the toddlers as you would to ten year olds.  Paint the picture instead.  Ask them to imagine that the ball is a puppy & he wants to roll over & have his tummy tickled.  Can we put our foot on him & roll him backwards?

Get a more able toddler to demonstrate a skill as this will encourage his peers to have a go when they see that someone of their own age can do it.  Give lots of praise.  Be vocal & use the ‘high five’!

Lose your inhibitions!

This is of prime importance.  Forget about parents & passers-by watching you.  Get down to the toddlers level.  Kneel down to speak to them, use funny voices & pull funny faces.  Bring these sessions to life!  Remember, the coach who leads the programme will determine how successful it is.

Try to get inside the toddler’s head & use as a starting point what they like to see, hear & do.  Those who have children should find easy as they will be up to date with the cartoons they like to watch.  But do not rule out young coaches.  I find that they can relate well to kids.

An example of a silly thing to do with the toddlers is to turn a small traffic cone upside down & place a ball on top of it.  Then tell the toddlers ‘Well done!  Now have a big ice cream.’  Add to the fun by making funny noises while squirting pretend strawberry sauce on the top of the ‘ice cream’!  We also put discs (small cones) on top of our ears to look silly & pretend to have supersonic hearing!

My session notes…

This is a great warm up game & so simple for young children to follow.

Body Parts

Body Parts

Emphasis

Session on ball familiarity.

Set-Up

Use cones to mark out a 25 x 25 yard area. All players have a ball & stay inside the area.

Objectives

Players start by dribbling the ball around the area. The coach will call out different body parts. The player must respond by stopping the ball with that body part, e.g. right foot, ear, chest, knee, etc.

Progressions

  1. Add extra fun by getting them do ‘disco dance’ like mum & dad by giving quick commands like, ‘right knee, left knee, right knee, left knee, right foot, left foot,’. They could also clap their hands at the same time.
  2. When they get their chest on the ball get them to put their right arm out & pretend to fly like Super Man!

Coaching

  • Keep the ball close to your feet, take light touches.
  • Keep the head up & look for space.

You can progress the session to a fun game featuring their favourite Disney movie or cartoon characters!

Roary The Racing Car

Roary the Racing Car

Emphasis

Dribbling, skills & turns.

Set-Up

Session takes place in a 20 x 20 yard grid.  All players have a ball each.

Objectives

All players are racing car drivers & the ball is Roary the Racing Car or another character from the show.

Encourage players to ‘drive’ (dribble) around the race track (grid).  They must keep their race car (ball) under control.  Encourage use of both feet.

Introduce different skills & turns.  Players perform toe taps to start their engines.  To drive around the ‘chicane’ they perform the scissors.  To reverse they perform the drag back.

Also add in fun extras that toddlers love.  If anyone is in their way get them to beep their horn.  Or ask them to put their lights on when it is getting dark, simply make a small twist with your hand & a funny noise to switch them on.  Or if it rains they must put their wind screen wipers on waving their arms.

Use your imagination & have some fun!

Progressions

  1. Introduce mini gates by using cones.  Players must dribble through all the different mini gates.
  2. Use cones for traffic lights.  Red = stop, orange = get ready / start engine, Green = GO!  Get players to get their heads up & watch the signals.
  3. Introduce different speeds like granny speed (slow), mummy & daddy speed (fast) & Roary the Racing Car speed (super fast).
  4. Add more traffic signals.

Coaching

  • Good dribbling skills.
  • Use of both feet.
  • Keep head up.
  • Skills.

You can order my Toddler Soccer The Essential Guide Book direct from The Soccer Store.  For a free taster just visit; www.ToddlerSoccer.Org/book

Money in Football

From Roman Abramovich arriving at Chelsea FC to Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour the sugar daddy’s seem to have let transfer fees, player wages & ticket prices spiral out of control.  In English football how far away is the riches of  the Premier League from lower leagues?  Will UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play regulation bring an end to the crazy money being passed about & will football ever be the same again?

As money in football increases so does each individual player’s salary.  Although along with the rich club owners it is the normal football fan helping fund the game.  Gone are the days that you could go to a top flight game at an affordable price along with picking up a match day scarf, programme & pie.  In today’s game the cost of a ticket for a top flight game can be in access of £70.  This is for a normal seat – no VIP hospitality…for that you will pay well over £300!  Then we have the mega stores.  To purchase the latest full kit along with name, number & Premier League logo we could be talking £70, & that is only in a child size.  This is before you enter the ground for the over priced food & drink.  Although let’s concentrate of player wages in the Premier League.

Premier League Wage

It is believed that one player in the Premier League at a top club can earn up £1.5 million a year.  Comparing this to over 5 seasons previous you will find the highest paid player received approximately £650,000.  Premier League players on average will receive £780,000 per year.  If you compare this other industries you will be shocked.  A nurse will receive £23,500 per year, a teacher £30,000 per year…Wayne Rooney?  £250,000 per week!  His 2012 earnings were £17.2 million!  This shows not only how much a week he earns with his wages but extras through bonuses, sponsorship & player image rights!

Top to the Bottom

So the average Premier League wage is £22,000 a week…before bonuses!  Or if you like, £1.16 million a year.  Compare this to the average Championship player who receives £4,050 per week (£211,000 per year).  This is a fifth of a difference for playing one league down!  Dropping down to league 2 you will find the average weekly wage is £750 which is 30 times smaller than those in the Premier League!

All good managers talk about needing a strong spine in their team.  So whose the top earners as we strengthen our team down the middle?  The manager at the top of the wage chart is the man who keeps his house in good order, Arsene Wenger.  He earns £115,000 per week.  The top shot stopper is Peter Cech from Chelsea earning £96,000 per week.  Not to be outdone his team mate, John Terry, earns £130,000 playing centre back.  Manchester City purchased midfielder Yaya Toure from Barcelona in 2010 for £24 million & offered him a weekly salary of £190,000.  But across the city at United Wayne Rooney finds himself leader of the strikers receiving £250,000 per week!  Despite being in a world recession top Premier League players earnings have went up more than 200% since 2000.  Is it time for a salary cap?

While Football league clubs research has revealed 72 clubs from the Championship, League 1 & League 2 have racked up a combined debt of £2 billion.  We have all witnessed the demise of Portsmouth FC going into administration so UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play Model needs to be adhered too.

Wealthy Owners

The Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, is a Russian business tycoon.  Russia’s 5th & the world’s 50th richest person he is estimated to be worth £8.4 billion.  When he arrived at Chelsea money was made available for transfers, & plenty of it.  When Shevchenko arrived for £30 million Chelsea’s end of year showed a loss of £140 million in June 2005.  By the end of June 2006 this was down to £80 million.

Manchester City owner, Sheikh Mansour, has an estimated wealth of £17 billion but a family fortune of at least $1 trillion US dollars.  He completely wiped Manchester City’s debts of £305 million on arrival.  From September 2008 approximately £300 million has been spent on transfers.  By year ending May 2009 there was a loss of £92.5 million.

UEFA

The Financial Fair Play regulations want clubs to live within their means & was first introduced during season 2011/2012.  Failure to do so could mean disqualification from European competition.

The concept has also been supported by the entire football family, with its principal objectives being:

• to introduce more discipline and rationality in club football finances;
• to decrease pressure on salaries and transfer fees and limit inflationary effect;
• to encourage clubs to compete with(in) their revenues;
• to encourage long-term investments in the youth sector & infrastructure;
• to protect the long-term viability of European club football;
• to ensure clubs settle their liabilities on a timely basis.

These approved objectives reflect the view that UEFA has a duty to consider the systemic environment of European club football in which individual clubs compete, & in particular the wider inflationary impact of clubs’ spending on salaries & transfer fees.

In recent seasons, many clubs have reported repeated, & worsening, financial losses. The wider economic situation has created difficult market conditions for clubs in Europe, & this can have a negative impact on revenue generation & creates additional challenges for clubs in respect of the availability of financing & day-to-day operations. Many clubs have experienced liquidity shortfalls, leading for instance to delayed payments to other clubs, employees & social/tax authorities.

Therefore, as requested by the football family, & in consultation with the football family, UEFA is introducing sensible & achievable measures to realise these goals.  They include an obligation for clubs, over a period of time, to balance their books or break even.  Under the concept, clubs cannot repeatedly spend more than their generated revenues, & clubs will be obliged to meet all their transfer & employee payment commitments at all times.  Higher-risk clubs that fail certain indicators will also be required to provide budgets detailing their strategic plans. (from UEFA.com)

This should help clubs compete on a more level playing field.  It should also stop the investors finding loopholes, for example, selling advertising boards for £100 million!

The Magic of Football

Although the top 4 in England used to be a contest between Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal & Liverpool the millions have brought Manchester City into this bracket.   We have also seen Tottenham Hotspur challenge for a place in the top 4 in recent seasons.

But one thing will never change & that is the magic of the FA Cup.  Most recently Premier League side Liverpool visited struggling League 1 side, Oldham Athletic.  The cash strapped League 1 side dumped the Premier League stars out the FA Cup!

I have just received some great coaching equipment from www.TheSoccerStore.co.uk & will be sharing my notes & record the session that I’ll take with my academy side. Check back for my next post that will include all my notes!

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