Coaching Soccer For Dummies


by The National Alliance For Youth Sports with Greg Bach




About the Authors

The National Alliance For Youth Sports has been America’s leading advocate for positive and safe sports for children for the past 25 years. It serves volunteer coaches, parents with children involved in organized sports, game officials, youth sports administrators, league directors, and the youngsters who participate in organized sports. The Alliance’s programs are utilized in more than 3,000 communities nationwide by parks and recreation departments, Boys & Girls Clubs, Police Athletic Leagues, YMCAs/YWCAs, and various independent youth service groups, as well as on military installations worldwide. For more information on the Alliance’s programs, which appear in the following list, visit

National Youth Sports Coaches Association — More than 2 million volunteer coaches have been trained through NYSCA, which provides training, support, and continuing education.

Parents Association for Youth Sports — Parents gain a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in youth sports through this sportsmanship training program, which is utilized in more than 500 communities nationwide.

Academy for Youth Sports Administrators — More than 1,500 administrators worldwide have gone through the Academy, which is a 20-hour certification program that raises the professionalism of those delivering youth sport serv- ices. A professional faculty presents the information, and participants earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

National Youth Sports Administrators Association — The program provides training, information, and resources for volunteer administrators responsible for the planning and implementation of out-of-school sports programs.

National Youth Sports Officials Association — Officials who go through this certification program gain valuable knowledge on skills, fundamentals, and the characteristics that every good official must possess.

Start Smart Sports Development Program — This proven instructional program prepares children for the world of organized sports without the threat of competition or the fear of getting hurt through an innovative approach that promotes parent-child bonding.

Hook A Kid On Golf — Thousands of children of all ages and skill levels tee it up every year in the nation’s most comprehensive junior golf development program, which features an array of instructional clinics and tournaments to choose from.

Game On! Youth Sports — This worldwide effort introduces children to actual game experience by giving them the freedom to create and play on their own.

Global Gear Drive — This program puts sports equipment in the hands of children around the world who wish to take part in quality sports activities but are unable to because of equipment shortages. The Alliance collects new and used youth sports equipment from individuals, organizations, and companies that it distributes to impoverished regions of the world.

Greg Bach is the communications director for the National Alliance For Youth Sports, a position he has held since 1993. Before joining NAYS, he worked as the sports editor of the Huron Daily Tribune in Bad Axe, Michigan, where he captured numerous writing awards from the Associated Press, Michigan Press Association, and the Hearst Corporation. He has a journalism degree from Michigan State University, which he earned in 1989, and he spends a lot of his free time during football and basketball season cheering for his beloved Spartans. He’s an avid sports fan and has coached a variety of youth sports.



National Alliance For Youth Sports: This book is dedicated to all the volunteer soccer coaches who give up countless hours of their free time to work with children and ensure that they have positive, safe, and rewarding experiences. We applaud their efforts and commend them for making a difference in the lives of youngsters everywhere.

Greg Bach: This book is dedicated to my mom and dad, the best parents anyone could ever wish for. I am truly lucky and forever grateful for their never-ending love and support.


Authors’ Acknowledgments

A successful youth soccer program doesn’t just happen. It takes a real commitment from not only dedicated volunteer coaches, but also parents who understand their roles and responsibilities and league directors and administrators who know what it takes to ensure that every child who steps on the soccer field in their community has a safe, fun, and rewarding experience. Soccer plays an important role in the lives of millions of children and provides them with the opportunity to learn the skills of the game and the chance to develop both emotionally and physically as individuals. The National Alliance For Youth Sports extends a heartfelt “Thank you” to every person who makes a positive difference, through soccer, in the life of a child.

This book is the result of a lot of hours of hard work from a lot of great people. A huge “Thank you” goes out to the incredibly talented staff at Wiley, particularly Mike Baker, the project editor of this book, whose editing expertise, insight, and creative touch as we went along from chapter to chapter made an incredible difference in the quality of the book you’re holding right now. Thanks also to Stacy Kennedy, the acquisitions editor, whose efforts behind the scenes many months ago in working with the National Alliance For Youth Sports turned this book idea into reality; to Sarah Faulkner, the copy editor, whose touch can be found on every page with her eye for detail and passion for making every sentence perfect; the fabulous effort of the illustrators — Joni Burns, Shelley Norris, Karl Brandt, and Rashell Smith — whose work will be a great point of reference as you teach your team new soccer skills; and Emory Schlake, who provided a wealth of soccer knowledge.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Mike Baker

Acquisitions Editor: Stacy Kennedy

Copy Editor: Sarah Faulkner

Editorial Program Assistant: Hanna Scott

Technical Reviewer: Emory Schlake

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistant: David Lutton

Cover Photos: © Ken Chernus/Getty Images

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Adrienne Martinez

Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers, Andrea Dahl, Heather Ryan

Proofreaders: Leeann Harney, Joe Niesen, Aptara

Indexer: Aptara

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Getting Started Coaching Soccer

Chapter 1: Teaching Soccer to Children

Doing Your Homework

Taking the Field

Balancing Parenting and Coaching

Chapter 2: Getting Organized

Developing a Coaching Philosophy

Getting to Know the League You’re In

Chapter 3: Getting Up to Speed with the Basics

Surveying the Field

Taking Up Positions

Rules of the Game

Examining Common Considerations for Younger Kids: League Specials

Part II : Building Your Coaching Skills

Chapter 4: Meet the Parents

Introducing Yourself

Putting Together the Paperwork

Assembling Your Parent Posse

Going Over Equipment

Meeting Players’ Special Needs

Answering Parents’ Questions

Chapter 5: Getting to Know Your Team

The Art of Evaluation

Assigning Team Positions

Understanding and Working with All the Kids

Chapter 6: Running a Great Practice

Kicking Off the Season with a Great First Practice

Coming to Practice Prepared

Putting Smiles on Their Faces: Selecting Winning Drills

Creating a Positive Atmosphere

Ending Practice on a Positive Note

Chapter 7: Getting Your Game On

Taking Care of Pre-Game Responsibilities

Pre-Game Team Meeting

Warming Up

The Whistle Blows!

The Halftime Speech

Winning and Losing Gracefully

The Post-Game Talk

Chapter 8: Refining Your Approach at Midseason

Conducting the Midseason Review

Setting Goals for Your Players

Revising Your Practice Plan

Part III : Beginning and Intermediate Soccer

Chapter 9: Teaching the Fundamentals

Focusing on the First-Timers

Shooting: Teaching the Instep Kick

Ball Handling






Helping Kids Who Just Don’t Get It

Chapter 10: Fundamental Drills

Working at a Beginner’s Pace

Offensive Drills

Defensive Drills

Putting It All Together: A Sample Practice Session

Chapter 11: Coaching Offense 101

Building a Beginner Offense

Understanding Field Position

Moving the Ball Downfield

Different Styles of Offense You Can Run

Kicking the Offensive Skills up a Notch

Chapter 12: Coaching Defense 101

Building a Solid Foundation

Different Types of Defenses You Can Run

Kicking the Defensive Skills up a Notch

Chapter 13: Coaching Restarts

Initiating Offense

Playing Defense

Chapter 14: Taking Practice Drills to the Next Level

Offensive Drills

Defensive Drills

Putting It All Together: Sample Practice Session

Part IV : Advanced Soccer Strategies

Chapter 15: Coaching Offense 201

Upgrading the Offense

Chapter 16: Coaching Defense 201

Defensive Approaches

Clearing Strategies

Introducing New Defensive Skills

Chapter 17: Implementing Advanced Drills

Conditioning Your Players

Challenging Drills

Part V : The Extra Points

Chapter 18: Keeping Kids Healthy and Injury Free

Injury Prevention

Injury Recognition

Watching the Weather

Following a Healthy Diet

Chapter 19: Dealing with Common Coaching Challenges

Dealing with Difficult Parents

Dealing with Problem Coaches

Dealing with Discipline Problems on Your Own Team

Chapter 20: Taking Your Show on the Road

Hitting the Road

The Selection Process

The Season

Being on the Road

Part VI : The Part of Tens

Chapter 21: Ten Ways to Make the Season Memorable

Challenge the Coach Day

Bring Your Parent to Practice Day

New Drills

Contest Day

Midseason Report Cards

Bringing in New Faces

Team Votes

Team Captain for the Day

Carnival Day

Holiday or Birthday Themes

Chapter 22: Ten Ways to End the Season on a High Note

Team Awards

Team Videos

Individual Videos

Team Trading Cards

1-on-1 Meeting

Team Newsletter

Team Photo Album

Crazy Practice

Soccer-Ball Photo

Team Memento


Welcome to Coaching Soccer For Dummies, a book dedicated to volunteer coaches everywhere who work with kids in the wonderful sport of soccer. We hope you find it informative, entertaining, and — most important of all — useful in helping ensure that every child on your team has a fun, safe, and rewarding experience. After all, that’s what it’s really all about.

About This Book

We wrote this book for first-time volunteer soccer coaches looking for some guidance before they step on the field, as well as for coaches who’ve been on the sidelines for a season or two and are interested in gaining more insight on specific areas of the game to benefit their young squads. If you’re new to the sport, you may be somewhat nervous or a bit apprehensive about what you’re getting yourself into. You can take comfort in knowing that this book will kick those concerns to the curb and fully prepare you to enjoy a rewarding season with your team. Each chapter is filled with useful and straightforward information. The more chapters you knock off, the more knowledgeable you’re going to be about this great game and how to teach it.

We also have plenty of information for veterans of the postseason pizza parties who’ve spent countless evenings at the local soccer fields. We wrote plenty of chapters specifically for you, covering everything from drills you can employ to upgrade individual skills to examining in detail the various systems of play that are available and how to choose the one that best fits your team’s talent level.

One of the neat things about this book is that you can jump in anywhere. If you’re a rookie coach, you probably have several questions swirling around in your head on everything from how to plan an effective practice to what to say to the team after a loss. Just check out the table of contents or the index for the topic you want to read about and then flip right there to get the scoop. Each chapter is divided into sections, and each section contains information on a specific topic concerning coaching youth soccer.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you navigate this book, we use the following conventions:

bullet Italic text is used for emphasis and to highlight new words and terms that we define in the text.

bullet Boldfaced text is used to indicate keywords in bulleted lists or the action parts of numbered steps.

bullet Monofont is used for Web addresses. If you find that a specific address in this book has been changed, try scaling it back by going to the main site — the part of the address that ends in .com, .org, or .edu.

bullet Sidebars are shaded gray boxes that contain text that’s interesting to know but not necessarily critical to your understanding of the chapter or topic.

We’ve also packed this book full of diagrams of practice drills and plays that you can work on with your team. The following chart is the key to understanding all the squiggles and lines:

What You’re Not to Read

Personally, we would read every word of this book if we were you. That’s how good we think it is. But we may be biased, and you may be short on time. So, for your convenience, we’re telling you that you don’t have to read everything. In fact, when you see text marked with the TechnicalStuff icon, feel free to skip it. It isn’t integral to your understanding of coaching or soccer. We also include gray-shaded boxes called sidebars that we fill with interesting (but totally skippable) information. Read at your own pace, and if you have time, let us know what you think of the book.

Foolish Assumptions

Here are some things that we assume about you:

bullet You know that soccer is played primarily with the feet and involves lots of running.

bullet You have a son or daughter who’s interested in playing soccer this year, but you’re unsure how to go about teaching him or her the game.

bullet You’re a novice youth soccer coach, and you need to get your coaching skills up to speed.

bullet You don’t have any aspirations of climbing the coaching ladder and overseeing a high school or college soccer team in the near future.

bullet You want the basics on things like what to do during the first practice of the season, how to determine who plays where, and whether teaching youngsters how to head a ball is safe.

If any of these descriptions hits the mark, you’ve come to the right place.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is divided into parts, each one pertaining to a specific aspect of coaching a youth soccer team. Here’s a quick rundown.

Part I: Getting Started Coaching Soccer

Coaching youth soccer can be a real challenge, but what you do before you and your team ever step on the field can make the difference between a smooth-running season and one that dissolves into total chaos and confusion. In this part, you get the scoop on how to develop a coaching philosophy that you’re comfortable with and one that your players and their parents will embrace rather than reject. You also discover what all those markings are on the field and get an overview of the rules of the game.

Part II: Building Your Coaching Skills

Fresh air. Green grass. Colorful uniforms. This is where the real fun — and actual coaching — begins. Before you step on the field, though, this part provides valuable information on how to conduct a preseason parents meeting, an often-overlooked aspect of coaching youth sports that’s crucial for opening the communication lines, reducing the chances of misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and keeping your sanity. It also answers questions such as:

bullet How do I create practice plans that aren’t the same boring thing week after week?

bullet How do I work with the uncoordinated kids or the shy youngsters who won’t stop staring at the ground?

bullet What about the kid who doesn’t even want to be here?

Plus, we show you the game-day ropes — from pre-game routines to your post-game speech — and help you assess your team and your performance at midseason.

Part III: Beginning and Intermediate Soccer

Teaching kids the basics of the game — from passing and defending to dribbling and shooting — is crucial for their long-term enjoyment of the sport. This part shares how you can go about teaching by providing a variety of fun-filled drills that are highly effective in teaching skills. Also, when your team has a pretty good handle on some of the basics, check out the chapter devoted to kicking those skills up a notch.

Part IV: Advanced Soccer Strategies

When your players have a pretty good grasp of the basics of the game, they’re eager to learn more advanced skills and continue their development. Part IV serves you well in this aspect. You discover more in-depth offensive and defensive techniques — such as outlet passes and counterattacking — while being presented with an assortment of drills that you can use to help your players maximize their development. From indirect free kicks to defending a 2-on-1, this part examines it all.

Part V: The Extra Points

Part V is a smorgasbord of information on several topics that we hope you won’t be dealing with much this season, such as recognizing injuries, confronting problem parents, and dealing with discipline problems on your team. You also find valuable information on pre- and post-game nutrition that you can share with your team to help maximize performance. And for those coaches looking to coach a travel team, you find all the information you need to help make your transition to a more competitive level of soccer a smooth one.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

It just wouldn’t be a For Dummies book without the Part of Tens. Here, you find all sorts of precious information that you can put to use to boost the fun and enjoyment your team has playing for you this season. We include information on ways to make the season memorable and fun ways to end on a high note and keep ’em coming back next year.

Icons Used in This Book


This icon signals valuable tips that can really enhance your coaching skills. If you’re scanning a chapter, take a moment to read these tips when you come across them and then put them to work.


When you’re coaching youth soccer, you have a lot to comprehend. This icon alerts you to key information that’s worth revisiting.


Watch out! This icon alerts you to situations that can be dangerous or derail your instruction.


Soccer can be a pretty complex game, particularly at the more competitive levels, so at times throughout this book, we present some rather technical information. You may want to skip some of this information if your young squad isn’t ready to get too in-depth in the game.

Where to Go from Here

If this season is your first on the sidelines as a volunteer youth soccer coach, you may be most comfortable digging in with Chapter 1 and moving forward from there. Please note, though, that the book is structured so that you can easily move around from chapter to chapter at your convenience. So if you need answers to some of your most pressing early-season questions, you can scan the table of contents or index for those topics and jump right to those chapters.

Part I

Getting Started Coaching Soccer

In this part . . .

B efore you take the field with your young troops for the first time, do yourself, and your team, a big favor by diving into some behind-the-scenes homework that will lay the foundation for a smooth-running season. The homework includes outlining your coaching philosophy, understanding how your league operates, and learning the basic rules of the sport. You find all the information to get your season headed in the right direction in this part.