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How to Improve Your Toddler's Soccer Skills

A run down on a practice session for toddlers and what to focus on.

Kids like structure, they really do, they want to know and follow the rules of the game. So begin practice with some stretching, then some fun games, some passing drills, shooting on a goal, and end the practice with a scrimmage.

The main goal is to have fun and get the kids more comfortable with the ball. Don’t force anything on kids though. Kids don’t have to head the ball at 3 to 6 years old. That can come later.

For young, potential soccer stars, you just want to get them accustomed to the ball, play like games like Duck Duck Goose, but with a soccer ball, so they have to dribble around the circle of kids sitting down. Play games like soccer marbles, where kids try to hit their partners’ ball. Or even just try getting kids to kick the ball through a partner’s legs from about five yards away. Relay races are always good too, where you have two different teams and the kids dribble from one line to the other or through a set of cones. Here's a few games you can try:

At the same time though, it doesn’t hurt to show kids more advanced moves and tricks. The purpose is to get them thinking and trying new things. All kids should know how to cut the ball back, fake one way and go the other, and dribble with at least one foot. Show kids the right way to dribble and kick the ball and play, even if you have to stop the game. It’s important for them to learn the right technique early on.

The keys to improving your toddler's soccer skills:

  • Do the skill with them - demonstrate the move or technique and have them watch you do it over and over.
  • Play soccer with them - not saying they can't have a cookie unless they juggle ten times, but play with them because it's fun.
  • Have them kick the ball around the house - get a nerf soccer ball and let them bang the ball around the halls.
  • Get them used to using different parts of their body - kids use their hands all the time, to grab toys, food, and whatever is with in their range, see if they can get more comfortable doing things with their feet.
  • Repetition - just like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it.
  • Build off of accomplishments - reward them when they do something good and then expand upon that skill.

End the practice with a scrimmage; even if the game turns into a beehive, where you have a few players out wide calling for the ball, it’s a start. Slowly but surely they’ll learn to spread out and pass the ball.

Make sure kids drink plenty of water and keep the practice to around 45 minutes. In the end what idea you want to plant in the kids is they can get better if they want to and their ball is their friend. The more time they spend with the ball the better they will get. They might only be able to juggle the ball into their hands at first, but slowly they’ll start to juggle two, three, four, fourteen to forty times with both feet.

Kids will get so much satisfaction and pleasure from accomplishing something, especially if they like playing soccer. They will get a thrill out of soccer a goal, making a great pass, or winning the ball. Give your kids lots of encouragement and reward them when they do something well.

These are toddlers though, so even though you might want your son or daughter to be the next Messi or Marta, you want them to be laughing and having fun while they play soccer. If not, they're not going to want to play.

New: One thing that's been talked about recently in the soccer coaching world or the youth soccer world at least, is how very young players, say under four or five year olds should start out playing soccer. The big thing is to get kids comfortable on the soccer ball, so just having the ball at their feet and not necessarily even kicking or passing the ball.

Instead, you want toddlers to learn how to turn with the ball or cut the ball or dribble. The idea is to get young kids to figure out that they can manipulate the ball on their own and do different moves even, say the pull back or stopping the ball with various parts of their feet.

And most of all you want very young kids to have fun and to build off of things they're learning how to do with the soccer ball. Parents can go a long with in get their kids soccer development and having fun and becoming confident, just playing with the ball in the yard or house goes along way with young kids and how they learn to play soccer.

What's needed though is consistency, so playing soccer with your kids everyday rather than just on the weekends.

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