A run down on some soccer practice session for toddlers and what to focus on. What’s key is soccer starts at home, in the house just playing around with the soccer ball.
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. But the key is to let kids get comfortable on the ball and learn to dribble and play with the ball.
The main goal is to have fun and get the kids more comfortable with the soccer ball at their feet. Don’t force anything on kids. Kids don’t have to head the ball at 3 to 6 years old. That can come much later, say 15 or 16 years old.
NEW: Tom Byer’s “Soccer Starts at Home” philosophy is based on using the critical influence of parents during early childhood to encourage children to manipulate a small ball (not kick it), in or outside the house, and repeat core moves/skills and empowering parents with basic knowledge of setting achievable tasks and building the child’s interest and motivation through success and encouragement.
Again, 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:
End the soccer 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. Perhaps try have small teams so kids get more time on the soccer 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 soccer 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 soccer 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. This is the basis of the soccer starts at home idea.
World-renowned youth soccer trainer Tom Byer presented his "Soccer Starts at Home" philosophy with parents, coaches and educators in the Houston community in partnership with the Dynamo Academy.
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