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How To Coach Soccer For Kids


One area that get’s over looked in youth soccer is STRATEGY.  I will break down different strategies and how to teach them to your players.  


Coaching U15 boys soccer the last 22 years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned quite a bit from them.  I’ve coached against some outstanding coaches and some that had no idea what they were doing.


My Son now 13, started playing at the age of 9.  He moved up in level from recreation, to travel “B” team, to travel “A” Flight 1 and now his team has moved up to the Club level.




My Son’s first travel team had a trainer but no coach.  Since no one stepped up, I decided to take the position even though I had other coaching obligations at that time.  The coach for this team was really just the parent who took care of the organizing and paperwork.  This was odd for me because all I wanted to do was coach, but the trainer was the real coach.   I took a back seat and let the trainer run the practices, but he wasn’t obligated to come to the games, so I had to coach during an actual game.  This was odd to me, but I was just proud of my Son for making a travel team so I did what was needed.  To make a long story short, My Son’s team had decent skills for their level, but still very new for a travel team.  The trainer only worked on skills at practice and never had a scrimmage or went over any type of strategy/game plans.  When the games began, the kids had no clue how to use team work or employ a strategy.  His team finished with a 1-10 record.


  • My Son now 13 can finally play for me, so now I get a chance to teach him the thinking part of the game.  You might be saying to yourself,  If you’re a coach, why would you wait until now to teach him something.  My answer is simple, I wasn’t his coach. I’m Dad!


  • I’m a firm believer, that my Son needs to do what his coaches ask and teach.  I will not interfere and I’m probably the quietest parent on the sideline.  As a Coach I’m one of the most verbal on the side line.







NOTE: Any new soccer players on the recreation level, should not even think about strategy.  They should learn skills and have fun.  The following strategies should be implemented with travel and club teams.  Depending on the age, you may not want to for example introduce these strategies to a flight 7 U11 team.  They might not be ready for it.  Remember you can modify & simplify strategies to your team.  No one knows them better than you.  Strategy difficulty can increase with repetition and age.




  • You know nothing about the other team.


  • Your formation is a 4-4-2. 4 defenders, 4 mid-fielders and 2 forwards.


  • You can run 4 defenders straight across, but in this situation the defenders will be in a diamond formation with a sweeper playing in the center but further back than the wing defenders.


  • Your other defender will play as a stopper in the center but behind the center mid.


  • Players must understand that this formation is actually more offensive than running a 4-4-3.  With this formation you can switch to 4 forwards at any given moment or overload one side with more players attacking, depending on the situation of the game.




  • Your right mid is pushing up the field with the ball.


  • Now your right center forward must slide to center forward and your left center forward must slide to left forward or wing.  


  • Your formation just changed to a 4-3-3 at that moment.  This is a perfect example of something that needs to be taught at a practice.


  • Another example: Your left mid and your left center mid are pushing up the field on the left side.


  • Your Right center forward slides to the right wing.  The Left center forward falls back to the left mid.  Again you’re now in a 4-3-3.


  • NOTE: There may be situations where you stay with 4 forwards depending on the situation.  It may only be for 30 seconds.


  • The situations you run at practice, the easier it is for the team to adapt during a real game.


TIP: This is why scrimmages are necessary.  I tell my players, we don’t scrimmage because it’s fun (although I know it is).  We scrimmage so the coach can break down mistakes and employ strategy.




  • Your team is losing by 1 goal with 15 minutes left in the game.


  • Your formation is a 4-1-3-2. Now you have 4 defenders, 1 defensive mid, 3 mids and 2 forwards.


  • You know your best player is your defensive mid.  You needed him/her back on defense vs a good team, but now you have nothing to lose by moving him.


  • Take your defensive mid and move him to center mid, take your center mid and move him to center forward.


  • Move one of your defenders to defensive mid.


  • Maybe now were under 10 minutes left in the game and your team still hasn’t scored.  Now you need to adjust even more.  Move your best player that moved to center mid and move him/her to center forward.


  • Take your current defensive mid and move him/her to center mid.  Now you’re running a 3-4-3 with the possibility to use any of the 4 mids to attack and come to forward if the play calls for it.


TIP: KNOW YOUR PLAYERS!  Who can play every position well?  Which players are too slow for defense?  Who is good at heading? crossing? good ball handler? Far goal kick? long throw-in? etc….




  • You’re playing a tough team.   They’ve already defeated you twice this season. You lost 1-5 and 0-3 in the previous games.   Now you’re the 7th seed in a tournament and they’re the 2nd seed.  It’s a single elimination tournament.


  • This opponent is faster and they have more offensive power than your team.


  • Your strategy must be to play much more defensive and pick & choose your opportunities. 


  • You run a 4-5-1 with no intention of attacking enough to give up a breakaway.


  • Defenders must stay near mid field and mids not much further up than that even when attacking for the first half.  Let’s be realistic this game is set up to play defense most of the game.


  • The plan is to keep the score to a zero score.  With so many players back on defense, you will frustrate the other team.  In the mean time, you’re putting the defenders asleep and their goalie.


  • You’re plan has worked and the game is scoreless at half time.


  • 2nd half starts out with the same strategy, so the other team doesn’t catch on to what you’re about to do.


  • In this half, if at any time, it appears your team is able to push deep into your opponents side, you will call for a FORMATION CHANGE.


  • This formation change, should have been rehearsed at practice.  This is why STRATEGY must be implemented during scrimmages.


  • In this formation change, 1 defender will move up to midfield and 2 mid’s will move up to forward.


  • If a goal was scored or your team loses possession, the team will automatically go back to the 4-5-1 formation.


  • Realize you’re now playing vs defenders and a goalie that have seen little to no action the entire game.


TIP:  Never be afraid to pull your goalie, under 5 minutes in a game you’re losing.  Especially if you have a corner kick.  




  • Your team just scored the go ahead goal with 13 minutes left in the game.


  • You were running a 3-4-3.


  • You don’t need more goals.  You’re already winning.


  • It doesn’t make sense to keep pressing and give up a chance for a breakaway for have your defenders out numbered.


  • Your formation should change to a 4-1-4-1.  Now you 4 defenders, 1 defensive mid, 4 mids that are playing very defensive and a forward helping back on defense when needed, clearing the ball and helping his/her team maintain possession.


  • If the ball is getting close to your goal and passes are not available, your team should be looking to clear the ball.


  • Avoid corners and penalties.


  • Get your faster and better players back on defense.  If you know your best player is at forward, there’s no need to leave him up there, if he/she can help on defense.




  • Don’t feel the need to push the ball up the field immediately.


  • Nothing wrong with passing back to center mid, than wing mids.


  • You can also play back to your defense.  


  • Give your team a chance to push up as a team instead of passing forward right away and hoping a quick wing can get to the ball.


  • This doesn’t work if the mid’s receiving the ball from the forwards are not ready for a the pass with a great first touch, because they will be pressured right away from the forwards of the other team.



  • Don’t be afraid to move backwards when defending.


  • Boxers stance, never square stance.


  • Work attacker to the sideline.


  • Wait for the mistake or when the attacker puts the ball to far from them.


  • Best time to steal, is when the player first receives the ball.


FINAL TIP: Don’t be the coach that doesn’t change formation and make changes on the fly when things are going your way. TAKE A CHANCE!!!


CLICK HERE to check out some innovative soccer drills.


I hope I was able to give you some new ideas for soccer strategies.  I would love to hear some new strategies you may have for me.  Feel free to leave a comment or question below.

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  1. Bill Bicyclesand

    Shows you are on top of coaching for the younger ones. Several years ago I “volunteered” . The biggest challenge we were faced with was getting enough volunteers to coach. Being able to find one that also had a skill set similar to yours was especially tough. This article should be quite helpful, especially for folks like I was before with a lower skill level.

    • Mr. L.

      Always tough finding volunteers to coach the young ones.  Glad you volunteered!  Kids love to see their parents getting involved and/or young adults to look up to.

      I’m Glad I could help! If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate.

      Have a great day!

      Coach Lisbona


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