The Psychology of Coaching

  • Players

Working with young athletes

It is important as a coach that you subscribe to a philosophy that acknowledges the role of athletics in developing children as complete individuals. Remember that AYSO’s vision is to provide soccer programs that enrich children’s lives.

As coaches we need to recognize that each athlete is an individual with unique needs and that we treat them accordingly:

Understand that players want to enjoy attending practices and games. If they are not having fun and learning, they will lose interest and not want to return.

Organize your activities and games so that every athlete on your team has an opportunity to develop and maintain positive feelings of self-worth.

Provide positive encouragement to all players for both accomplishments and mistakes.

Play in this very young age group is meant to give a “taste” of the game, some experience in working together as a team, and, most of all, a positive introduction to the sports experience.

One of the appealing things about soccer as a youth sport is that practically no skills at all are required to play the game at its simplest level. If a youngster can run and can kick a ball, he or she can play soccer and enjoy it.

If we understand and support player development as both athletes and individuals, the players will enjoy themselves more and want to continue playing. We must help them understand that the objective of any game is to win, but that the overall goal is to enjoy the game and strive to do their best!

What to Expect from Under-8 Players

New and exciting adventures begin to open up to the U-8 players as their coordination improves and their size and strength increase. However, new challenges are often met with a mixture of enthusiasm and frustration. U-8 players typically set unrealistically high standards for themselves, have difficulty making choices and,at times, are overwhelmed by unfamiliar situations. 

At the same time, changes in their cognitive abilities enable them to see that underlying rules are often useful for understanding everyday events, objects and the behavior of others.

 Physical/Gross Motor Development:

  • work and play hard
  • exhibit significant improvement in agility, balance, endurance,timing and hand-eye coordination

Social/Emotional Development:

  • have definite likes and dislikes
  • friendship is importantyoung soccer players
  • enjoy purposeful play
  • afraid of failure
  • beginning to compare themselves to others
  • self-esteem and self concept are big issues
  • becoming more outgoing
  • actions can be influenced by peer acceptance
  • quick to tattle when others aren’t obeying
  • cooperate with adults
  • like to feel like they belong to a group

Cognitive/Thought Development:

  • begin to grasp moral rules of the game
  • problem solving skills are improving
  • understand that parts make up a whole (for example, that individual players make up a team)
  • need concrete reinforcement
  • apply a rigid understanding of justice and fair play – even a small infraction can be a BIG deal
  • beginning to rank importance of things based on real criteria

Remember, they’re still kids!

Despite possible turmoil and trying times (for players and coach),U-8 players will experience an abundance of good times marked by a lively curiosity, an eagerness to learn, a endearing sense of humor and exuberant outbursts of affection and good will.

Traditionally, youth soccer is viewed from an adult perspective, using the 11-a-side game as a reference.

We need to remember that children:

  • must be treated as children, not as mini-adults.
  • are essentially self-oriented and naturally relate only to a friend or two, not to groups of six or more.
  • cannot sustain prolonged activity, and can function best with frequent rest periods.
  • have a limited span of attention, so frequent activity changes are necessary.
  • focus best when learning activities are fun.