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Expert Advice: Coaching Strategies for Developing Youth Soccer Players

Expert Advice: Coaching Strategies for Developing Youth Soccer Players

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Daniel Pena, personal trainer and soccer coach, shares his tips for how coaches can help youth soccer players grow & develop during these important years.

Daniel Pena. Personal trainer, soccer coach, and author of The Art of Football blog.

1. What is your experience in the realm of soccer? 

I have been playing soccer since I can remember, from about the age of 8 until today. I grew up in Cambria, California, and throughout my childhood, I played soccer recreationally.

When I first started college, I wasn’t thinking about getting into coaching. I went to University thinking I wanted to go into physical therapy. After I graduated, my focus shifted to helping players not get injured in the first place, and that is how I got into soccer coaching. 

As a certified personal trainer with a degree in Kinesiology: Rehab Science, I combine my knowledge of injury prevention and athletic training with soccer coaching. This way, my students get the best of both worlds from a technical soccer standpoint and an injury prevention & athleticism standpoint. 

And that is why I created The Art of Football blog.

2. When was The Art of Football blog established, and what motivated its inception?

I created The Art of Football Blog in June 2023 to share my knowledge about injury prevention, recovery, health, and soccer development. My goal is to bring awareness to many life-changing topics that can affect performance.

One of the main things I want players to understand is that success comes as a result of everything you do on and off the field, from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to sleep.

My main goal as a soccer coach and Certified Personal Trainer is to help my athletes become more “in-tune” with their bodies because the mind and body cannot be separated. The more control a player gets over their body and the more injury-resistant they become, the easier it will be for them to get into a flow state or in-the-zone.

3. What 5 skills do you think are the most critical for soccer players to learn at a young age? 

The five most important skills for young soccer players to learn include:

  1. Passing
  2. First Touch
  3. Dribbling
  4. Shooting
  5. Footwork

4. What methods can coaches use to aid soccer players in obtaining these key skills?

The best way to allow young players to obtain these essential soccer skills is to let them play the game as much as possible and not over-coach. Put young players in game-like situations, such as scrimmages and small-sided games, and let them learn through play. 

Athletes will have the most fun playing the game, and this is also where they will learn the most. Additionally, exposing players to other variations of the game, such as futsal, beach soccer, and soccer tennis, will directly train the skills needed for outdoor soccer. 

Indoor soccer cone drill

5. Why is coach-player communication essential for youth soccer players?

Coach-player communication is essential for youth soccer players because it creates mutual understanding, trust, and growth. Clear communication ensures that players absorb feedback and understand the game’s instructions and strategic aspects. 

For youth soccer players who may face challenges such as performance anxiety, self-doubt, or pressure to perform, having a coach who communicates effectively can make a huge difference physically and mentally. Through words of encouragement, constructive feedback, and genuine interest in their well-being, coaches can empower young athletes to overcome obstacles, develop resilience, and reach their full potential both on and off the field.

6. Why is good sportsmanship is a key component in youth soccer?

Good sportsmanship is a critical component that all youth soccer players should embody because it promotes respect, integrity, and teamwork, creating a positive & inclusive environment both on and off the field. Here are the main reasons why good sportsmanship is essential:

  • Teaches young players to respect their opponents and acknowledge their teammates’ skills and contributions to the game.
  • Emphasizes the importance of integrity and fair play, encouraging players to play by the rules and accept the decisions of referees & officials with grace.
  • Helps players learn to communicate effectively, support their teammates, and collaborate towards common goals. 

7. How can good sportsmanship be taught & encouraged?

As a coach, there are a variety of ways that you can teach and encourage good sportsmanship, such as:

  • Setting clear expectations at the start of practices & games
  • Leading by example
  • Emphasizing respect towards everybody
  • Providing positive feedback
  • Addressing unsportsmanlike behaviors

8. Beyond regular practices, what are some tips to further develop youth soccer players?

Developing youth soccer players goes far beyond regular practices, and additional actions can be taken to ensure optimal player development, including encouraging players to:

  • Play all variations of soccer, which directly improves soccer skills.
  • Play other sports, which indirectly improves soccer skills through boosting athleticism.
  • Spend more time outdoors, under the sun, and in nature. This is optimal for overall physical and mental health.
  • Get 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated throughout the day.

Danielle Stringer

Danielle is a dynamic content marketer with a unique blend of creativity and analytical expertise. She is driven by her passion for helping companies scale through lead generation, always finding distinctive ways to connect with her audience. Drawing from her extensive background in B2B SaaS, she is thrilled to apply her skills and knowledge in her current role at SkillShark Software Inc.