One of the frustrations I often hear from youth soccer coaches is that their kids are un-interested and often appear lazy during games. Everyone knows the image of the child picking daisies in the outfield when someone hits a fly ball out there. So as a coach or parent, how can you make your players more engaged in the game and actually want to play the sport? Here are a few tips:
Make the game fun. Too many parents are of the military-esque training attitude towards their kids, and that is a bad thing. The sport of soccer needs to be entertaining and fulfilling for children to stay interested in it. One thing I remember growing up was that my team rarely played scrimmages. I recall the annoyance that practice was all about drills and running so I often times got bored and resented going to practice. Therefore, be sure to occasionally have your team play scrimmages because the full game form is the most entertaining to play.
Yes, scrimmages tend to limit time on the ball, so if that is a concern, I recommend splitting your team into groups of three and establishing a mini tournament. This will get each player lots of more time on the ball and in real-time defending. Also, the game is the fun aspect of the sport, not passing drills or running. So let your kids actually play the game.
Also, be sure to keep up positivity. Praise your players when they perform well, but avoid scolding them when they make mistakes. Yes, watching your team make countless errors can be excruciating, and we have even seen the most mild-mannered coaches like Arsene Wenger lose control and come under fire for kicking water bottles. But, making antics or yelling at the referee is simply going to pile pressure onto the team and results in soccer not being fun. Therefore, try as hard as you can to remain calm and be happy around your team.
Another thing to do is express the importance on focus for these kids. Learning to focus goes beyond soccer and is a valuable skill in the world at large. Keep your team into the game by chatting with you substitutes about what is happening on the field. Yes, some children simply don’t give a hoot about soccer and will probably quit after a single season, but for many others soccer is the single recreational activity in their lives so be sure to instill interest and pride into your team so that they always keep up their energy and work hard to enjoy the game of soccer.