Kids Soccer Skills: 7 Ways You’re Messing Them Up

“I’ve been coaching for 30 years!”

Says some random coach to you if you ever try to argue with them about developing kid’s soccer skills.

Classic response that people use.  You then see these “30 year vets” doing the same old same old that has been proven to not work anymore.  Venture to say something to the old vet though and they lean on that 30 year crutch like nobody’s business.

What’s the inherent problem with this rationale?

The rationale that because you’ve been coaching for that long that you know more than anybody?

Well, besides the obvious first issue – the fact that they think they know more than anybody else simply off of “experience,” that is.

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It’s this: just cause you’ve been doing something for that long doesn’t mean you’re better.  I know, obvious response but let me unfold that a bit.

First of all, development improves over time.   The more a sport ages (like anything else really), the more advanced the training, tactics, skills, and development theories become.   As such, often when people say they have “30 years’ experience,”, they are relying on what they learned back in the day… And often, (not always) they have not advanced with the times… Which also reads: “I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing for years, shut up you young punk I know way more than you.”   Or maybe a little bit less rough than that, but you get the point.

Anyways, the whole point of this rambling is to point out how experience in terms of “how long you’ve done something” doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot.  And to point out that there’s lots of coaches who rely on this who have no idea what they’re doing.

And I say this because this is one of the biggest issues I see in development.

People assume  a coach knows what he’s doing because he says “I’ve been doing this for years and I played premier league here, and college soccer here” etc etc…

But to be honest, who cares?  That kind of soccer is completely out-dated, and if you’re still coaching the same way they coached back in the day than you’re doing it wrong.  End of argument.

And the point to be taken is don’t assume years in the game means you’re a good coach.  So stop relying on that.

Now, with that out of the way, here’s 7 ways you, “that” coach, or someone else is screwing up your kid’s soccer skills in my not so humble opinion:

1 - Crazy Long Lines

This picture is what I often see at the fields:

I look up and I see in the distance a training session.  I see 14 kids standing in one big line waiting to take a shot.   Let me repeat that: 14 kids in a line waiting to take a shot on net…

Do you not see the issue with this?  Simple math; 13 kids wait in line while one player takes a shot.  That’s a 1/14 work rate in case you were keeping track of the numbers.  That means your kid is doing something for less than %10 of the time.  The rest of the time you’re just picking your nose or joshing it up with the other kids.  Need I say more?

Avoid these kinds of lines like the plague.

2 - Yuuuge Fields

You decide to finish your session with the classic scrimmage everyone finishes with.  Except, by the time you’re done setting up the field it looks like you’re trying to prepare your kid for a marathon.  %90 of coaches do their scrimmages in fields that are way too big.

Again, classic mathematics mistake here.

If I had to pick the top 3 development methods ever, I would probably put this one somewhere in the mix.

Just look at the rest of the world.  Most of the skilled players the world over grew up playing in smaller spaces.

3 - No Ball

I got into an argument once with a coach who disagreed with me when I said you should be training with the ball as often as possible.  As in, stop training without a ball!

He said, “that’s rubbish, you need to do tons of physical training to get kids ready to compete, and that often involves no ball.”  Really?  Are you sure about that?  Or are you going off the fact that North America is so ahead of the game in terms of kids soccer skills development?

Here’s the counter-strike.  I came back hard at him.  I didn’t just throw a grenade back, I pulled out the nukes.


The first thing you need to understand is this: ball control is the #1 fundamental in all of soccer.  Every moment you take away from getting touches on the ball you’re wasting a golden opportunity to improve that in your kids.

%90 of ball control comes down to the number of touches you get throughout your lifetime on the ball.  And the best soccer cultures get more than other people.

Here’s the thing on this: ball control is developed throughout your lifetime, and if you don’t develop it as a kid, you’re screwed.  No soft way to put it.

Cardio on the other hand?  You can lose it in one month of being idle.  So work all you want on cardio but it comes and goes.  Ball control?  It doesn’t leave you.  The more touches you get, the better ball control you get.

The more you spend on cardio without a ball the more you’re wasting valuable time to develop the #1 fundamental in all of soccer. And you can’t get this time back.

And here’s the thing;

Your so called cardio can be trained just as well with a ball as without.  You can manipulate a ball into any kind of cardio training you want practically.  You just have to be a little bit creative.  Heck, you can do scrimmages with the goal of working on cardio in practice.  You just have to set it up correctly.

So never forget this; kids who come from soccer cultures are already getting way more touches on the ball.  If you take the relatively few practices kids get and don’t get touches on the ball at any moment you can, you’re simply making it ever harder to develop that ever elusive golden standard of ball control.

To sum it up simply: get touches on the ball any flippin moment you can.

4 - Focus on Winning

Oh gosh, I’m sure everyone can picture the classic lunatic coach who screams at his players all day long and only cares about winning.  Now, besides the obvious douche baggery happening here that is not good for anyone, what’s the other issue?

The fact that this is absolutely terrible for developing good players.  Even people who are self-aware and normal (unlike the classic crazy coach mentioned above) fall for this issue.  And it’s this: they always come back to the fact that if you aren’t winning, something is wrong.  And this my dear amigo couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here’s da truth:

If you want to develop players who are creative, skilled, confident, and game-intelligent then you must sacrifice winning in the present.  Not always of course, but often…

Tell little billy to play it safe all the time and he’ll never try anything fancy.  He’ll never learn to dribble and take a player on.  He’ll never have the guts to learn how to make a great play.  Instead he’ll play it safe and stay in his defensive “position” the whole time.  Meanwhile, in a land far far away, there’s the next little Messi somewhere in the bowels of South America who’s playing soccer not caring about some “position” and playing it safe.  He’s also not worried about some dummy coach screaming at him and instead is taking risks and dribbling the crap out of defenders.  His team may lose cause they aren’t playing “proper” soccer, but he will develop into a way better player than all the kids on the lunatic’s team who are drilled to be mini soldiers.

You have to empower players to take risks.  And guess what?  They will screw up.  Who cares?  Do you have what it takes to lose, yet develop better players in the long run?

Then stop caring about the winning now mentality.

If your focus is on winning; you’ll scream, micro-manage, get them playing their positions with zero creativity, have them playing with zero risks, and yeah, you’ll get some wins.

If you care more about their development and being a way better coach overall you’ll do the opposite.  You’ll encourage risks, encourage venturing out of their “positions,” have fun with them, and you won’t micro-manage.  And you won’t be afraid to lose cause that’s not the more important thing anyways.

Your call Jamal…

5 - Working on Spacing & Positioning Way Too Often

Here’s another keeper.  Coaches always make the mistake of focusing on positions.  They say: “we always cluster and kids aren’t keeping their positions.”

My response: “who cares?” no really… who cares?

First of all, if they are young and/or inexperienced this is the least of your worries.  And you won’t fix the spacing issue no matter what.  You know what’s more important?  Individual skills on the ball.

Dribbling, moves, ball control, passing, etc… The list goeth on….

Stop worrying about spacing and positions so much.  Players can learn that when they get older.

Same as I mentioned above, individual skills that involve the ball are almost impossible to develop well at an older age.  Positions?  Sure, you can learn them when older. So stop focusing and caring so much about them.

Every moment you take to work on positions, spacing, or heck (I’ve seen this one lots), throw ins is losing out on a golden chance to develop what really matters – skill on the ball…

6 - Micro Managing

This goes hand in hand with the psycho coaching listed above. You know, the coach who won’t shut up?

Why don’t you just put robots out there?  If your kid is playing for this coach please look at changing clubs or getting them with a different coach.  Stop being so insecure as a coach that you have to micro manage your players during games.

Are you not training them during the week so they know what to do during the game?  Then shush it.

If you do not, kids grow up not having any game intelligence cause you never let them think for themselves.  I cannot for the life of me elaborate enough on how mistakes are actually good! You need to create an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes.  You want mistakes.

Let them figure it out mentally for themselves, and when they don’t, teach them how to think so they can solve it.

What does it help when you yell at them to “pass to johnny,” or “go wide!” or “clear it!”  ???

It doesn’t that’s what.  You only ended up putting a band-aide on the issue cause you’re short sighted and can’t help but care too much about winning now.  Let them figure out whether they should pass to Johnny, whether they should play wide, or whether they should clear it.  Otherwise they learn just to listen to you (or the coach).

7 - Pass Happy

Ever hear parents constantly yelling: “pass the ball!”?  Yep, me too…

You hear it waaaay too often.  Why?  Cause we live in a society where it’s deemed the “nice thing to do.”  Passing in youth soccer is the “holy grail,” and I don’t mean the Barcelona type.  I mean just passing in general.  Give a pass, no matter how BAD the idea of passing is in that moment, or how it’s actually worse at times to pass to certain people on the field and players get applauded.  “GREAT pass Johnny!”

Really?  Great pass when you should have dribbled?  When you had a better shot?  Great pass when you were in a better position?  Great pass when that player is literally in the same situation as you?

No, it’s not.  And problem is we don’t teach the thought process of passing vs. let’s say dribbling, or shooting, or simply holding onto the ball.

It’s always about the pass.  We adore a pass.

And then you get kids developing who can’t dribble to save their lives, can’t beat defenders, and can’t create a play if their life depended on it.  What happened to studying the greats?  They can dribble… they can be creative… They can take players on… And they can pass as well, and it’s a smart pass, not a random feel good pass.

Be careful with just making kids pass cause “it’s what you do.” Teach them when to pass, and whether it’s a smart play or not.  Teach them to sometimes fake the pass and instead try to set up the play yourself.

Teach them to think.


There you go, 7 yuuuuge mistakes happening in Socceroo right now.  Avoid them and you’re kid’s development will thank you.  Avoid them when picking clubs.  Use these (in part at least), to evaluate coaches.

And make sure you are avoiding them yourself.  Want a FREE Video Blueprint to Double up Your Kid’s Foot-Skills while Making the game way more enjoyable for them?  Check out details below…

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