Coaching soccer to U7’s was probably my favourite age group to work with. While, you still need to focus on fun (and I would argue this element needs to be part of almost every age group), at U7’s you’ll start to see the technique develop on the more talented players.
Over my career I’ve found U7’s (and U8’s) to be the most responsive groups to coaching. While this could just be my natural age group to work with – I’d like to think it’s a little deeper than that…
At U7’s you’ll find that while the kids are still very young and immature they have enough knowledge and interest in the game that they will listen to every word you say and follow whatever coaching point you give them.
One major advantage of this, (which isn’t spoken about across other blogs) is the huge positive effect it can have on their behaviour. If you’ve coached any length of time you should’ve noticed by now that the biggest issue to your coaching can be the disruptive behaviour of a few individuals.
While no session is immune from disruptive players, whenever you do need to step in, players at this age group tend to listen and correct their behaviour without letting it hang over them.
I’ve found U7’s to be by far the most engaged best behaved and energetic age group of them all.
What to Expect from Under 7’s
- You might start to really see the difference in quality between your most talented players and the rest of the group.
- Again, lots of energy to be expected
- A very attentive group
- You may even find (as I did on many occasions with new U7 groups) is that they will be so attentive their first dribbling activity might be completed in silence! It’s a weird feeling but embrace their willingness to learn and impress!
- Long changing times! Factor this in if your players need to get changed before practice (think after-school clubs)
Your Priorities Coaching Under 7’s
You’re going to want focus on providing a positive learning environment that finds a balance between fun, soccer specific skills and basic theory knowledge.
What do I mean by that?
‘Basic Theory Knowledge’ sounds a bit more dazzling than it actually is – but essentially it involves educating your young players on some basic principles. These basic principles can be anything to do with their;
- Soccer knowledge
- Specific skills
- Health and fitness
I usually include some sort of question and answer part to my session just before they start their warm up. It’s a good way to them mentally engaged with the session while educating them on some basic areas.
Remember you’re not just a soccer coach – you’re a role model and mentor. This age group will be watching every move you make – so use it to their advantage as well as yours.
Main Topics of Focus
Specific topics you’ll want to focus on are;
- Building Relationships and Making Friends
- ABC’s (Agility, Balance, Coordination)
- Basic Ball Skills
- Ball control
- Learning to use all sides of the feet
- Running with the ball
- Passing and receiving
- Ball familiarity
- Small sided games (4v4 / 5v5)
U7 Soccer Drills, Games and Activities
Your players will likely be of different abilities and skill ranges. Because of this you can use soccer games and activities from both the U6’s guide and the U8’s guide to progress and regress your practices.
Capture The Flag
Capture the Flag is a great game that can be played with all age groups.
Setup an area large enough for 12 players – although of course you can play this game with more OR less players.
At either end of the box, cone off an End-Zone (Castles) and place your flags inside. Your flags can really be anything; vests, cones or markers, actual flags, tag belts etc.
Line both team up opposite each other. 4 players on each team have a ball each. They must run with the ball and dribble to the opposite end, grab a flag and return back and place the captured flag in their own Castle.
Each team will have two player who do NOT have a ball. They are the defenders of the castle and must try and win the ball off the attackers. If they do win the ball they kick the ball back to the opposite end.
The team with the most flags at the end of the game wins.
While not terribly creative, Relay’s are a great way to further develop the skills your players have learned within the practice while adding a bit more of a competitive edge and pressure to the mix.
The image above explains probably the most basic of Relay patterns. That said however, this setup allows for any type of skill to be practiced.
You can single out the foot they use, the type of turns, passes and control techniques. Whatever you’ve practiced on within any recent training session.
Relay’s are a particularly good when you’re confined to an indoor space that doesn’t allow for end of session match. Just be cautious how often you use them as they can get pretty boring for your players.
4 Goal is another great game to end your practice with. It’ll help them improve their close ball control, close range shooting, dribbling and reaction times.
To set the game up, place goals in each corner of your playing area. Split your group into 4 teams, and get each team to number themselves.
If you have an odd number of players in any group – 1 player will have two numbers.
Place each team behind a goal. This is the goal they defend.
Players wait for the Coach to call out of number (2 in the above example). Every player who has been assigned the number ‘2’ sprints in to try and get the ball and score in any of the oppositions goals.
The last player left (who hasn’t conceded a goal) is the winner and gets a point for their team.
1v1 Mini Game
This 1v1 Mini Game can can be set up to accommodate your whole team.
This is a great little drill that can benefit your players confidence in 1v1 situations. It’ll also give them enough time and space to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes in a semi-competitive environment.
Just setup small pitches side by side and have the winners move onto the next opponent.
I’d recommend allowing 2-3 minute games and the player who has scored the most goals will be the winner.
Although this is the last drill listed in this guide, ‘Ronnies Control’ is actually one of the first drills I introduce to U7’s.
In the drill diagram above I have outlined two main variations:
- Individual ball work
- Paired ball work
For under 7’s I don’t tend to move onto the paired variation of this drill until much later down the road. I will however use the first variation (Individual) as a standalone practice session and then further down the line as part of a warm up.
Taken from our ‘Soccer Ball Control Drills’ Guide, ‘Ronnies Control’ works on your players close ball control.
Start by giving each player a ball each. The goal is to use every ‘game legal’ body part to control the ball.
So an example progression of ball control exercises might look like this (formerly known as the ‘Pele 7’);
- Start with performing a simple kick up
- Now instead of doing one kick-up progress to 2 kick-ups using both the right and left foot
- Now the same but this time using their thighs
- Link: right foot, left foot, right leg, left leg
- ….continue working in this pattern all the way to the head. So a full repetition would eventually look like this: right foot, left foot, right leg, left leg, right shoulder, left shoulder, head.
Of course, you’re not expecting a 7 year old to actually complete this sequence but it’s a great way for them to get a feel for the ball and it starts getting them used to using weaker parts of the body to control the ball with. And again, this is only one variation you have at your disposal.
The key is to get them to have as many touches on the ball as possible.