Practices for the Age 4 and 5-6 Years Old Age Groups
4 and 5-6 year old children have much different needs when it comes to soccer education. In this program, the rules of this age group have been greatly simplified. Organizationally, the framework of the program for children in this age group is designed to make coaching and parenting young soccer players both easy and fun, with a minimal financial and time commitment.
- The twice-weekly practices found in the older age groups is eliminated. Instead, there is one short practice immediately before each game on game day, so practices and games both take place at the same time and place and take only about 50 minutes.
- Complex rules, like goal kicks, throw-ins and corner kicks have been greatly simplified into a single, easy-to-understand "kick-in." It’s easy: One team kicks the ball out of bounds? The other team kicks it back in. Very straightforward.
- The offside rule is completely omitted.
- There are no yellow or red cards to learn about.
- All fouls and misconduct are generically treated the same, with the other team getting a direct free kick for all penalties.
- There are no goalkeepers.
For practices which take place on game day, officials will be on-hand to help and to answer questions. During the game itself, officials should explain any calls made to the coach, who in turn explains it to the child, if necessary. Coaches are the experts when it comes to the little ones, especially since most of them are parents themselves. The officials are there to help you! Note that coaches should have at least two practices prior to the first game to give the kids a brief orientation with the program and to meet their coach and teammates. Practices should be in the form of supervised playtime with limited interaction from the coach, other than to offer encouragement, motivation to play and so forth. Keep the kids engaged, and keep them on the ball with their feet!
Children in this age group are very egocentric, so practices should be centered on the individual player’s ability to advance their motor skills and become comfortable with a ball at their feet (instead of in their hands, which is a perfectly natural tendency). Therefore, line-up-and-drill type practices are ill-suited for players in this age group. Rather, setting up cones and making a game out of running the ball around and through them and other creative activities would be better. (Maybe even play "duck-duck-goose!" then using the chosen player to lead the rest of the players in a game of "follow the leader," but with a ball at their feet.) Anything, so long as all the kids get to participate at all times.
Children at this age can become frightened and confused by some of the more advanced soccer concepts like field positions, offense and defense. Therefore, there are no goal keepers so teaching the kids not to use their hands to play the game will be easier. At game time, and during practices where the players scrimmage, simply teach the kids to "spread out" and give the ball room to move. They'll invent their own fun from there!
To summarize, the only two core team skills to teach this age group are:
- Spreading out; and
- Starting the game on their own side of the field
Beyond these two important starter skills, kids should be taught only what they ask about or what the coach feels they are ready for individually. Visit the Soccer Skills Page for more information about exactly what skills to teach kids in the 4 and 5-6 years old age group.
Remember, the Walker Recreation Department does not provide uniforms or personal safety gear for the players! Parents are responsible for providing all sports safety gear that they see fit. Shin guards are required!