Why start coaching soccer to 5 years olds?
At 5 years of age, kids begin to develop coordination skills and can follow some instructions. Kids at this age also begin to take an interest in competition.
As a parent or coach, you might be wondering, “Is there a strategy for coaching 5 year olds, or will kids at this stage simply swarm around the ball with no concept of field position and passing?”
The answer depends on a lot of factors, not least of which is the patience of the coach of a five year old team. But one thing is certain: 5 year olds have the ability to begin laying the foundation for their soccer journeys. While attention spans at this age may be limited, soccer coaches can start to introduce kids to the fundamentals. The key is to work on the basic skills, to keep things simple, and to keep things positive with constructive criticism.
Starting soccer at a younger age develops fundamental motor skill sets, which we will cover below. While the goal of the game is to score goals and not concede them, it’s critical for players to be well-rounded, no matter their position. Each player needs to be able to dribble, pass, and shoot proficiently. With 5 year olds, getting players comfortable with the ball at their feet is an achievement by itself.
Important Tips for Coaching 5 Year Old Soccer Players
- Keep it short: Start slowly, and let your player work into these drills until they start to get more comfortable with the movement.
- Stick to the basics: Even the best players in the world practice dribbling, passing, and shooting skills each and every day to perfect their craft — and most of them, though not all, started very young, with these basic soccer drills for 5 year olds.
- Keep things positive: At this stage of the soccer journey, kids will be developing a love (or loathing) of the game. As a coach or parent, it’s important to realize the limitations of this age and provide simple, constructive feedback.
- Progress to more difficult soccer drills for 5 year olds: When drills become too easy, move on to more difficult drills. Players will get bored if you underestimate their abilities.
What You Need for 5 Year Soccer Players
- Size 3 ball (here’s a quick reference for the correct size ball for your age group).
- Cleats/Athletic Shoes
- Small goals (if possible, can use cones if needed)
- Large grassy area
Best Soccer Drills for 5 Year Olds
Drill #1: Toe Taps
Now that you have everything and are ready to go, start to warm up with toe-taps. For this one, you’ll only need the ball.
- Place the ball right in front of your player’s feet, and have them start by tapping the top of the ball with the sole of their left foot. Then, replace it with their right foot. The player should do this repetitively, as if they were doing mountain-climbers in place.
- The main goal of this drill is to get the player comfortable with the ball and staying in one place, under control as best as possible.
- As the player begins to speed up this movement, you can advance the drill by hopping from foot to foot, or having them take their eyes off the ball, or by physically moving forward/backward with each tap.
This drill will ultimately get your player more comfortable keeping the ball close. It’s also incredibly easy to build from.
Drill #2: Foundations
This next drill is similar, just with a different movement.
- To start, begin with the ball between your player’s feet. They will start by repeatedly moving the ball back and forth with the inside of their feet. They should stay stationary, with their legs slightly bent. The ball should be moving back and forth, at a controlled pace.
- As your player begins to speed up, they can begin moving forward or backward while keeping control of the ball.
- Encourage your player to keep their head up, so they get a better feel for where the ball is relative to their feet.
The best players in the world are those who can play with their head up, as they can both see the field and the players around them to influence play. The video above shows the foundation movement, and several other progressions for your players to try out.
Drill #3: Inside/Outside Touch
Building on foundations, this is a skill that players can use in almost any situation on the ball. Now, instead of only using the inside of their feet, they will begin using the outside of their foot as well. This helps players gain momentum to get past the opposition more easily.
- The player starts with the ball between their feet, and will be utilizing an inside of the foot touch, followed by a touch with the outside of their opposite foot.Once they get this movement down, have the player repeat the motion multiple times in a row: first in place, then while moving forward with the ball.
- As your player begins to build consistency and speed, they can begin experimenting with the strength of each touch. Why would you want the ball to go farther away? When would you want to keep it closer?
Drill #4: Stop and Start (Dribbling)
This drill focuses on dribbling the ball: an essential skill for any player, and one that will ultimately be necessary as they move up in age group and skill level. Drills like this are where players like Messi, Neymar, and Cristiano Ronaldo all started. And look where they are now!
- To complete this drill, all you need are two cones, about five yards apart, and a ball. Using the first cone as a starting point, your player will dribble towards the second cone and stop the ball as close to it as possible. They will then repeat the movement heading towards the other cone.
- This drill allows the player to focus on dribbling with control and stopping on command. To increase the challenge, players should be encouraged to dribble with their head up, or to increase their speed.
- You can also add variety to this drill by having players do toe-taps or foundations as soon as they stop.
Drill #5: Cone Dribbling
Now players are ready to put all the pieces together. This next movement is a basic skill to help players build comfort with both the inside and outside of their feet. In order to run this drill all you’ll need is a ball and approximately 5 cones.
- Place the cones in a straight line, spaced out about 1 yard apart. Have your player start behind the first cone. They will then slalom between each cone, like a skiing motion.
- Start with the inside of both feet, then the outside of both feet. They can also try one foot (alternating inside and outside), or inside/outside with both feet. The video above shows tons of possible variations.
- This drill is all about rhythm. Encourage players to start slow, then speed up as they build a good rhythm.
- As the player practices both control and speed, they will get more comfortable in tighter spaces and will be able to navigate defenders more swiftly.
Drill #6: Passing and Trapping Drill
This simple drill will require two players and one ball, and will get better the more it’s practiced.
- The concept of a trap is to receive a pass from another player, and be able to control the ball and move accordingly. To do this, have one player pass to the other, have the second player receive the ball and then pass it back to the first player. Continue this rhythm.
- As the players become more consistent, you can start to put restrictions on how many touches the player can take, or with which part of their foot (sole, inside, or outside).
- Soon, they will be able to pass back and forth without taking a touch to control the ball.
Drill #7: Basic Shooting Drill
Shooting is another common skill that every player will need as they progress as a player. While it’s important to dribble and pass, scoring a goal is how you win games. Ultimately, no scoring chance will be the same, so it’s crucial that even practice is done at a game-like speed so the player is ready to pounce on an opportunity and put their team ahead.
- This drill requires a cone and a goal, if you don’t have a goal you can use 2 cones instead. Place the cone about 10-15 yards from the goal, and have the player start at the cone.
- Once the player is ready, pass the ball in front of the player (towards the goal) to enact a breakaway chance the player needs to score, using one or two touches to put the ball in the net. Once the ball is in the net (hopefully not on the next field over!), retrieve the ball and start again.
- As your player gets more consistent shooting the ball, put a restriction on the amount of touches before shooting, or only allow the player to score in a specific corner of the goal. By putting these restrictions in, the player will get more fluid in finding space and shooting where the goalie can’t save it.
While these soccer drills for 5 year olds is just a starting point, they will certainly begin teaching the fundamentals necessary for their future soccer careers. And the possibilities really are endless: just these basic skills can be combined in all sorts of fun and exciting ways.
In this day and age, kids are starting to train and play competitively at younger and younger ages. That makes it critical to begin developing these skills, and to practice them consistently. (Just be sure not to hit it too heavy, too early. Burnout is a real possibility, so you should be sure your player is staying engaged and having fun.)
It won’t take one session, or one week, but with consistent practice of these soccer drills for 5 year olds, results will come and your player will begin building comfort and confidence on the ball.