Coaching soccer is an awesome sport to get involved with, especially at the youth level, where you can teach players important skills such as patience and teamwork. What better age group to teach than a U9 team? It’s a great age group to teach. I will share a few useful tips for coaching a U9 team.
The recommended dimensions of a U9 soccer field is between 35-45 yards wide and 55-65 yards long. These recommendations were released by US Soccer to promote small sided games. Consult with your local club or organization for exact dimensions as local leagues may differ.
There are several other things to consider when coaching a U9 soccer team. In the youngest age group, games are shorter, fields are smaller, and fewer players play at one time.
Note: In youth sports, the “U” stands for under. Players must be eight years old or younger by August 1st to play on the U9 team.
Why Are Field Dimensions Smaller Than A Normal Field?
Young players learn more and have more fun when they have more touches on the ball. The reason we want to increase engagement is to maximize learning and fun for these players. Primarily, kids play soccer to have fun. The rest is an added benefit. As parents and coaches, we may have different motivations. But, the children’s interest in the game should be the primary goal of a coach.
My most fond memories of soccer as a child are playing during games and having fun with my friends. I remember one of my coaches gave bright yellow socks and shoe laces to any player that scored more than five goals in a season. It was a great way to keep us interested. I don’t specifically remember any speech or drill. All I remember is the fun I had playing soccer with friends. My bet is your players are the same way.
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Since the focus is fun and development, US Soccer recommends shortening the field to increase the amount of activity in the game. Furthermore, young players will get tired. Imagine an eight-year-old running the entire length of a professional soccer field. This is a lot of running especially since a lot of their passing and game play is less accurate than older teams.
Additionally, teams have less players in younger age groups. US soccer recommends U9 soccer games play 7 players versus 7 players (7v7). A professional team play with 11 players on each side (11v11). Fewer players on the field mean more open space. When young players get tired, they resort to long, inaccurate kicks. As a coach, it becomes more difficult to teach tactics and techniques. Less engagement from the players means less development.
Another way to think about this is the size the field in proportion to the child’s step to an adult. If a child’s step is only 75% of a full-grown adult, then the field should be adjusted accordingly. The best rule of thumb to use is to start small and scale up. Your players will thank you for it. Remember kids want to play, not run over long distances without kicking the ball.
How Big Should a U9 Practice Field Be?
Now that we discussed game dimensions, let’s talk about the size of a practice field. There are many factors that go into practice. I try to incorporate scrimmage and play into all my practices, however, there will be times that you have a full field. Certain drills and games don’t require a full length field. For example, a simple warm-up drill such as keep ball needs much less space than a possession drill like 6v4.
Small sided games are all the rage in youth soccer. In this setup, you will create small sided practice fields within the boundaries of a larger field. These types of games are highly effective in giving players more touches, which promotes ball control and decision making. In addition, all players on the team can play, limiting the amount of standing around.
Check out this article here I wrote on U9 drills, games, and activities. This will give you ideas to add to your next training session. Each activity will require a different setup for your practice.
One way coaches plan their training session is to start small and work their way out to a scrimmage field. In this format, a coach will limit the amount of time reorganizing cones and drills and maximizing their time with the players.
A Few Other Differences for U9
Youth soccer progressively gets more difficult as you move up the age groups. Game length, ball size, number of players, size of the roster, or whether you use a goalkeeper change as you move up age groups. A U17 team plays soccer very similarly to how professionals do, while a U9 team will be much simpler as players are still learning the ropes of the game.
Below you will find a table with useful information on the difference of game length, overtime periods, size of the ball, and the number of players for each age group.
As mentioned above, all of these guidelines are recommendations for US Youth Soccer and AYSO. Your local club or recreational league may vary.
|Age Group||Game Length||Overtime Periods||Size||Number of Players|
|U17, U18 & U19||Two 45′ halves||Two 15′ halves||#5||11v11; goalkeepers|
|U15 & U16||Two 40′ halves||Two 15′ halves||#5||11v11; goalkeepers|
|U13 & U14||Two 35′ halves||Two 10′ halves||#5||11v11; goalkeepers|
|U11 & U12||Two 30′ halves||Two 10′ halves||#4||9v9; goalkeepers|
|U9 & U10||Two 25′ halves||None||#4||7v7; goalkeepers|
|U6, U7 & U8||Four 10′ quarters||None||#3||4v4; No goalkeepers|
As with everything in coaching, the best policy to test for yourself and see. Every U9 team will be different. Boys behave differently than girls, and you will need to adjust as a coach to be most effective.
The most important thing to remember is to keep things simple. If you don’t know what is best, err on the side of conservative. Start with a field smaller than you think is necessary. What you will come to find out is that coaching U9 is one of the most rewarding age groups to teach.