February 18, 2007

Sure could use some advice: Anyone coached a girls team before? Practice starts tomorrow for the U12 girls soccer team. Not only will this be my first time coaching girls, it's the first time coaching kids. And I have no kids. Help!

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY to navel gazing at 07:29 PM - 25 comments

I teach kids to ski, so I have a little background in stuff like this. I'd say first spend some time trying to figure out why they're there (the players) and why the parents want them there. Some kids may love the game, some may just love physical activity, some may already be wired competitive, a lot may be there because their friends are doing it, and more may be there because their parents "suggested" it. Then you kind of put that all together and figure out some goals that everyone's going to be able to get with. You don't have to make powerpoint slides out of it, but you do need to try and find something that everyone can buy into -- and don't forget things like "have a lot of fun" as a goal. I know that this all sounds like navel-gazing, and you're wondering WTF to do when you have to blow that whistle for the first time and have a couple dozen pairs of under-12 eyeballs staring at you...but in a sense, it's what I do every day when I get a different group of kids to ski with, and have to quickly figure out what approach I'm going to take that day so that everyone will have fun and get better as a skier.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:40 PM on February 18

Texan, I don't know if you are already an expert coach just looking for advice on coaching kids ... but here are two web sites you may find useful: SoccerClinics.com (There is a link on the home page for 'coaching 9 to 12 years' that offers a complete season manual.) FlashDrills.com

posted by Amateur at 08:09 PM on February 18

Hi Tex I've coached my daughter's soccer team for a number of years (she's now in the Under 16s). You will enjoy the Under 12s. So don't panic. At that age, they are playing for fun. I always rotated the players (we had unlimited interchange) so everyone got about the same playing time, no matter what the ability. If you explain this to the kids (and the parents) at the beginning of the season, it seems to work better when you make the inevitable 'sub' of the star player when you are 1-0 down. Also, don't be tempted to change the system in the middle of a game, stick to your plan. At the first session, get the kids to form into two teams and just watch without interruption for about 10-15 minutes. After a few times, you should be able to work out who is a natural defender, midfielder and striker. I then tended to keep the kids in these groups for specific coaching sessions, and use them in the rotation on game day in their 'preferred' group. This gives you a bit of flexibility, but the kids aren't trying to learn every position at once (I know, Ajax thinks differently, but there's only one of you!). For instance, take the defenders aside and work on marking, positional play, tackling. Midfielders spend more time on running, passing, and strikers on running off the ball and shooting. However, during training, everyone gets to do a bit of everything. Get a good book - there are some excellent training books with good ideas for practice sessions - this all adds to the variety. I used to warm them up with passing drills, then a bit of running, then into the specialisations (even practicing throw ins!) followed by a six a side game. Before the season starts, you will have to work out positions and responsibilities for set plays - especially goal kicks (it's hard to get that ball upfield sometimes!) and corners (defending and attacking). I almost forgot - if you don't have a goalkeeper, then everyone used to take a turn for half a game. The rotation then allowed them to play the full other half on the field, as compensation. Which means you'll have to teach goalkeeping to everyone, too. And make sure no-one picks on the keeper if she makes a mistake. I dragged kids immediately they bad mouthed anyone. Having coached my son's team, you'll find girls keener to listen and learn, and less likely to muck up at training. Keep us informed of how you're going!

posted by owlhouse at 08:17 PM on February 18

and don't forget the orange wedges for half-time.

posted by goddam at 09:04 PM on February 18

Me again. My old club in Canberra had a strict '4-3-3' policy for all junior teams, to make coaching easier and to ensure that when kids went up a grade, they were used to the same system. This is a good idea, i.e. sticking to the one formation, as Under 12s are still learning positional play, however I found that when we were attacking, the backline tended to stand around watching on the half way line. A big gap tends to form between the backs and the midfield, and it's handy to have someone in there. Therefore I gave a couple of the backs licence to move forward, which worked well. At training, is it possible for everyone to have a ball each? This makes skills sessions better, and all running exercises should be done with a ball at the feet. This makes a huge difference to enjoyment as well as skills development. With my Under 10-12s, I found working on close control was very useful, as was passing. I said at the beginning of every season that we were a 'passing team'. Even if the other side hoiked the ball forward and chased it ('kick and rush'), we were not going to copy them. You might lose a few games, but the kids end up enjoying it more and it is a better base for teamwork and further skills development. And goddam, we were also told by sports scientists that oranges were not good for players at half time! Water was the only thing allowed by the club.

posted by owlhouse at 11:35 PM on February 18

From what I understand, they don't wear cups. Hope that helps.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 05:26 AM on February 19

It looks like the wise ol' owl has it about covered. I too have coached youth soccer, boys, girls, and mixed teams as well over the past 20 yrs. But then I work in recreation admin. and deal with different sports year-round also have 2 kids of my own. (I call them kids although they hate it when I do, 19 & 16 now). My email is on my profile, if you would like, send me a note because I would do better talking on the phone with you better than trying to write stuff out. Not long distance for me to make a call. Also, there should be a coaching clinic prior to the season you might want to attend if for no other reason than to be covered by league liability insurance just in case. At least that is what we did when I lived in Ft. Worth some 15 odd years ago or so.

posted by Folkways at 02:05 PM on February 19

The following is true for all sports, all genders, all ages: Make sure the players (and coaches) are thoroughly stretched out and warmed up before doing anything too strenuous. Also, keep the periods of instruction, when there is no physical activity going on for the majority, as short as possible so that the players don't tighten up. I've coached the real little kids (5 & 6) at soccer, and adults (male and female) in softball. I've also umpired youth baseball for several years. Making sure everyone was loose and warm went a long way to avoiding injury.

posted by Howard_T at 03:57 PM on February 19

Also, keep the periods of instruction, when there is no physical activity going on for the majority, as short as possible so that the players don't tighten up. ...and so the kids don't get confused, distracted or bored. I like to tell myself that I have a ration of 50 instruction-words per day (that's a full day of skiing), and that anything I say in excess of that is just going to leak out their ears and down the drain. A little talk and a lot of practice, that's how I find it works best.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:19 PM on February 19

I've been involved with coaching a couple of under 12 teams, one of which was a girl's team and the major point of advice I'd give to anyone doing the same, coaching boys or girls, is to never let them be without a ball. Obviously, if you're going through a training match or 3-on-2 drills or the like, then there's going to be only one ball in play, but at all other times - running, sprinting, shuttles, walk throughs, everything, make sure that everyone has a ball. I currently have one session per week where there's half as many balls as people and the ball isn't allowed to stop moving at any point, regardless of what else is happening. Any time the ball stops, the person who killed it has to run a length. With the ball. The biggest thing you can do for under 12s, I think, is make sure they all want the ball, no one's afraid of it and they all feel comfortable when they have possession of it.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 06:51 PM on February 19

Good luck this season Texan. I am sure it will be a lot of fun and also be a very rewarding experience. The links that Amateur provided are very good, however you may need membership to view the drills. Here is another useful free link Jeff Pills Drills. He is one of the Womens National Coaches, there are also tips on there on a wide variety of things to expect, training specific for each age group, etc... I would use some basic ball skills (dribbling, trapping and passing, juggling) to start your first session. Then let them play a lot. Start with small sided (3 v 3, 4v 4) then build up to full sided. This will give you an opportunity to evaluate everyones skills and mindset. Once you get into the season I would spend 1/2 to 3/4 of the time with skill building drills, then finish with games- small or full sided. The biggest advice I would give is to make sure whatever drills you use there are NO LINES waiting to participate, do things which move quickly and do not allow idle time standing around waiting. This is when they will get bored, start to lose focus and begin socializing. Make sure everyone gets at least 500 touches on the ball per day. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. I make sure my HS and college kids get at least 1000 touches per day. Best of luck and please let us know how it is going.

posted by urall cloolis at 06:33 AM on February 20

Everyone, thanks very much. I read the first 6 comments before going to practice but was pressed for time and didn't reply. You've all given me terrific information and resources and a lot to consider. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We had our first practice yesterday and I can't tell you how nervous I was. It's not that I don't know what I'm doing on the pitch...I had the practice planned out and seemed prepared but inside I was....I don't know. Maybe it was just the adrenaline from not coahing in 3 years. I coached men for 7 years and did a decent job but this was a different challenge altogether. I love kids but just haven't had the chance to be around them much so to dive right in was daunting. But these girls were terrific. Very well behaved, great listeners (I don't think I kept it to 50 words, lbb, but instruction was kept to a minimum), terrific energy and effort. It's obvious they haven't had a high level of coaching but I think that's a good thing. They've given me a good foundation and this should be an interesting season. Thanks again to all of you. You guys are amazing!!!

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 07:33 AM on February 20

Good luck Texan and keep us up to date with how you get on.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:59 AM on February 20

Hey good luck- just don't do this, and you'll be fine. ;)

posted by Kendall at 08:35 AM on February 20

We had our first practice yesterday and I can't tell you how nervous I was. Heh. I can believe it. The first time someone gave me a group of kids and said, "Okay, go teach 'em!", I was just about scared to death, but you dive in and do your best and it works out. Sounds like you got a terrific group. I really hope you'll keep us updated on your team! Maybe a flickr page?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:13 AM on February 20

I'll definitely keep you posted and I really appreciate the interest. Maybe we should start a locker room thread for ALL the coaches in SpoFi; we seem to have quite a few. I would really be interested to know what current challenges coaches/instructors are facing, results, etc. I don't know about flckr, lbb. I would love to do it but I get the sense parents won't want pictures of their kids online. I've already had one parent tell me he was going to put together a blog through the google beta version and he emphasized it's password protected so only the parents, players and other coaches can view them. It's a shame the world has come to this but I understand where they're coming from.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 09:44 AM on February 20

If you or anyone else is looking for an easy website for your teams, eteamz (www.eteamz.com) is a very easy site to set up. You can also make them public, password protected, or a combination. I know a lot of teams that use it and make results, etc...public and password protect photos, personal info and anything else that they do not want floating out there.

posted by urall cloolis at 10:15 AM on February 20

Good point about the photos, Texan; people are jumpy and sometimes they've got reason to be, so you gotta respect that. I hope we'll get to hear more of the saga, though. What's your team's name? (and a coaches' thread could be pretty cool too)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:30 AM on February 20

The team name is Kicking Chicks, and I had nothing to do with it! Thanks urall. The league is actually on E7 (eteamz) now and it seems to work fine.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 11:46 AM on February 20

Just remember to win at all costs and you should be fine.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 12:25 PM on February 20

"We had our first practice yesterday and I can't tell you how nervous I was." I think (hope) this is normal, Texan. It happened to me too. I guess kids are just scary at first. "Just remember to win at all costs and you should be fine." Heh. I'm struggling with this bit right now. The team I took over at the nearby school was going to stop playing, as it hadn't had anything more than a transitory coach for over a year and you can tell, because, well, we're not very good just yet. We've lost all three games so far, but I think I can see some result of always, always having a ball now... In our last game I set them a challenge, from the second half kick off, to see how long they could keep the ball. Go backwards, go back to the keeper, keep the ball moving, keep making triangles and supporting each other and let's see how long we can keep the ball. By the tenth pass the parents on the sideline were giving it the full "OLE!" every time we moved the ball and the team loved it. We almost made three minutes of solid possession, which in a 20 minute half, is not too bad and it got the "crowd" really on side too.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 01:24 PM on February 20

If ya think this age group is fun you should couch a U-14 or U-16 all girls team as a male. After I had had 2 practices one season I decided that I definitely needed an assistant or two. Female at that. Girls are scary at that age and maybe its just me but being a father of two boys I was quite surprised at what they would talk about and how graphic they could get. Oh well, different topic and years ago. I think some sort of set-up on Spofi for coaches and even officials to discuss topics and trade ideas/info would be FANtastic! Texan I hope this is a great experience for you and the team. Will there be a spofi pool for Texans league??

posted by Folkways at 06:17 PM on February 20

A confidence pool. That would kick ass.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:39 PM on February 20

The "Kicking Chicks" is hilarious. Obviously a fun bunch. I like it and very original, one of the few soccer team names I have not heard before. Bismarck, I like the posession idea and sounds like it worked for morale. It will also help them long term. Any team at that age with the fastest, strongest player can usually find a way to win. Usually by abandoning team principles and development and just playing for "the win". I commend you for coaching the right way- teach them the game and what will help them develop. In a few years they probably wont even remember if they won or lost, just that they became better players and learned more about the game that day. I agree, a coaching thread or board would be great. A place to kick around ideas, get feedback, advice, discuss topics, etc...

posted by urall cloolis at 07:22 PM on February 20

So, Texan.... How did it go?

posted by Mr Bismarck at 12:23 PM on February 27

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