This fall, I decided to coach the peewee soccer teams for both of our kids. I love soccer, but I’ve never played the game or coached at any level. The main reason I did it revolves around the fact that my shore duty will be ending soon, so this was the last season where I’m guaranteed to be home for all of it. I figured that I would go all out, and since it was the first organized sport experience for either kid, I would go down in history as their first ever coach.
Because of their age differences, they played on different teams. Princess was on a team of 5 and 6 year olds while Little Dude was rocking it out with 3 and 4 year olds. I figured that at those ages, the kids should be mostly interested in having fun, so that’s the way I approached the practices and games. If they learned a little bit about the sport, that would be awesome, but I was mostly interested on making sure they enjoyed themselves and came away from soccer with a positive experience. I tried to keep them moving and with a ball at their feet as much as possible. We just played our last games a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to share some of the lessons that I learned over the past couple months.
Emphasize Practice – In the grand hierarchy of the things that kids in peewee soccer look forward to, the actual games fall somewhere around 8th behind post-game snacks, post-game tunnel, practice, flowers, dirt patches, mud, and each other. A few kids really disliked the game portion, especially the younger ones. When you’re being told all day that you need to share, it’s a fairly foreign concept to try to take the ball away from the other team. Plus, when you’re little, it can be very intimidating to work your way into the scrum that is surrounding the ball.
Therefore, I concentrated most of my efforts towards making the practices fun. I always made sure that everyone had their own ball and there was always plenty of running and yelling. Their favorite game was when I would dribble my ball around while they tried to kick their balls at me. They had a ton of fun trying to catch me, and they’d get super excited anytime that they hit me. They also got plenty of practice dribbling the ball around with this drill. I also made sure that they had plenty of opportunities to score goals in practice because they can be hard to get in the actual games.
Get All the Kids Involved – I did my best to make sure that every kid was as involved as possible. This was easy during practice, but it was much tougher during the games because only the bravest kids actually went for the ball. Therefore, I would try to position the others in a place where the bigger kids could pass the ball to them for the score. I would also “bend” the rules every once in awhile and “accidentally” kick the ball in front of one of the kids on the periphery. They might only get 2 or 3 kicks on it before the scrum catches up, but it was always enough to put a smile on their face. I would also switch out goalies every few minutes and make sure that different kids got to kick-off after the other team scored. At the same time, if one of the kids really wants to stay out of the action, don’t force him/her to get in there. As I think back, there was only 1 kid on either of my teams that wasn’t able to score at least 1 goal during a game. I wish I could have gotten him one too.
Just Play Soccer – There was one opposing coach that tried to organize his team into a formation before the game started. It didn’t last long. About half the kids want to kick the ball while the other half wants to stay out of the way of the kids that want to kick the ball. Just make sure the kids are having fun. I think once the kids graduate from “peewee” to “youth,” things like formations and positions probably become important, but at the level I coached, if we could get through a game without one of the kids picking up the ball and running off with it, we were doing good.
Those were the three big lessons that I took away from the season. We had a lot of fun, and I think the kids really enjoyed it. The league didn’t keep score, but the kids and the parents sure did. We probably “won” about half our games, but I was much more proud of the fact that the kids had fun, and the shy ones at the beginning of the season were really involved in the game by the end. I’m glad I did it because it will probably be the last time I’m able to. By the time that my next shore duty rolls around the kids will both be old enough that their teams will need to learn things that are well above my knowledge level. Therefore, this was the perfect time to help out.