FORMAT FOR AN INTRODUCTORY SOCCER SKILLS CLINIC FOR A LARGE GROUP OF YOUNG CHILDREN
Many new, recreational, soccer programs are faced with the challenge of how to introduce the game to novice children and parents. A very simple and successful approach is to present a field clinic. This can be a fun way to demonstrate many of the skills involved in the game and to help parents determine the level of interest of their child. In addition, it can be used as the first “practice” to kick off an instructional season.
The objective of the clinic is to establish small groups of players which will rotate among defined skill stations placed around a full-sized field, during a reasonable amount of time.
The size of the field should be proportionate to the age group and the number of players involved. In general, a full field 120-yards long and 70-yards wide may be used effectively. For this example, a total of 10 skills stations, each approximately 15-yards wide, may be marked by cones. Four stations can be set up along both of the two touch-lines and one station each can be set up in front of both goals:
The center of the field can be used as an administrative area. If possible, a sign on a cone with the skill station number should be used to mark each station.
Number of Players
The field is sized for approximately 80 players divided into 10 groups of 8 players each, ages four to six years. The number of stations and the number of players per group can easily be modified to reflect the total number of attendees or the number of coaches available for each station.
The skill stations may address one or all of the following:
- Passing (including Inside-of-the-foot kicking)
- Kicking (Instep Drive)
- Re-starts/Free Kicks
Goalkeeping, Attacking, Defending, Shooting, and Re-starts are all available as options to be placed at one of the stations in front of existing goals.
(“Heading” is not recommended as a skills station for young players in this format. If utilized, it must only be taught by a qualified instructor, using the “hand-held” or “soft” (balloon or “Nerf”) ball techniques and parents must be directed to never throw a soccer ball at their child’s head.)
Identification of Coaches
Knowledgeable coaches need to be identified, in advance, for each of the skill stations to be used. They must be well prepared with the material for their skill and must remember five extremely important things:
- Time will be short. Don’t spend time talking. Introduce the topic, tell the players and parents what to do, show them what to do (and sometimes show them what not to do) – all in less than one minute – and then do it. Offer pointers during execution of the skills.
- No lines.
- Use as many balls as possible, preferably one per child.
- Use the parents or guardians, one-on-one, as assistants.
- No whistles.
High school players with outgoing personalities and a desire to coach usually make excellent instructors.
Start of Clinic
With the announcement of the clinic date and time, parents or guardians should be informed of the format of the clinic, that at least one parent or guardian is expected to participate with their child during the entire program, and that they should bring a soccer ball (usually Size 3 for the younger age group).
Upon arrival, at the discretion of the organizer, players may be assigned to skill stations, and sent to their respective location, directly as they arrive; or, the entire group may be assembled so that the rotation process can be explained and then players divided into small groups and sent to the stations. In either case, remember not to break up friends or siblings and to remind the parents or guardians that they must stay with the children at all times.
Coaches should already be at their stations to start. Coaches stay at their one station, teaching the same skill, throughout the rotations. They may provide written handouts describing the skill, if desired.
For the field example above, 5 minutes at each of 10 stations, with 2 minutes passing time, would take approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes for everyone to make it through each of the stations. Adding at least one, five-minute, water break in the middle, together with introductory remarks at the beginning and announcements at the end, would easily increase the overall time of the event to 1.5 hours.
A single administrator must keep careful watch of the time. A simple shout of “Begin” will start the activity. At the end of each skill segment, a whistle may be blown to announce the end of the session and then the command “Rotate” may be yelled. At the same time, a hand wave should be used to demonstrate the direction of rotation. The rotation must be in the logical, clock-wise, numerical order of the stations. (A whistle and the command “Begin” may be used after each passing period, but it is usually not necessary and not recommended.)
Coaches should know exactly where the next station is after theirs and assist by pointing when each rotation is called.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
Involve the parents or guardians in every way possible by making them the assistant coaches of their own children. For example:
- While the player dribbles, the parent can “defend” by backing up (never going for ball).
- For trapping, the parent is the server.
- For passing, the parent is the partner.
- For throw-ins, the parent is the target and returner.
- For goalkeeping, the parent is the target for distribution.
- For shooting, the parent is the ball retriever.
At any time a parent is returning the ball to the child, it should be sent gently, “bowling-style.”
© Copyright, John C. Harves