How to Coach Soccer to Kids Under 10? [Step-by-Step Guide]

You brought your kid to tryouts at a club, had so much fun, and decided to join the team. Then you realize that there is no dedicated coach and the club is asking for volunteers. No other parent is raising their hand and you decide to step in. You played some soccer in your youth and feel like you can really help. At the very first practice, you realize that this is not going to be a walk in the park – the players have no soccer skills and many of them don’t know why they are there or even want to be there. I’ve heard this story so many times. So, here’s a guide on how to coach soccer to kids that are just starting. I show you what our goals should be, how to approach them, and which drills to use at the beginning.

Soccer Practices for U10 players

Youth sports in the USA are often volunteer-based, where one of the parents decides to help as the coach. They show so much dedication and in return get amazing memories and an occasional gift for the soccer coach at the end of the year. This is especially true at the beginning when the kids are less than 10 years old. In fact, in soccer, the leagues at this age are called “Development League”. At these U9 and U10, where U means “under” to indicate the maximum age of the players, play a 7v7 formation that includes a goalkeeper. For anything younger than that, the leagues are usually just recreational played in a 4v4 format. As you can see based on the number of players, we keep the player-per-ball ratio small. That way players can touch the ball more often. It is the most important statistic of early soccer development.

Your main role as you coach soccer to kids at this age is of an animator, not youth tactical genius. As we discussed in the article about ways in which technology can help soccer development, the players need deep practice, which comes from being adequately challenged (not too much or too little) in an engaging activity and receiving timely feedback, both encouraging and corrective as appropriate. We ask the coaches to do that simultaneously, with a dozen players. Because that is unrealistic, people often ask me what is the most important aspect. Well, the most important aspect is to engage the players in practice. Even if they don’t receive any feedback, or are inappropriately challenged, they have to participate in the activity. If you fail to do that, nothing else is important.

Which Drills to Coach Soccer to Kids at U10, U9 and U8?

The ideal drills for U10 and younger kids are those that enable them to get many touches on the ball. They need to have game-like environment that can be used as situations for controlled repetition and helpful feedback. Finally, they need to have increasing complexity and intensity, that will be used as the players get better and older.

As they master these drills and move to higher age groups, these drills will be just warmup drills for them. Initially, you should be able to describe the drills in only few sentences. After that, they will remember the drills, recall them and quickly start them in subsequent practices.

Return of the King

Very simple drill that players love – the king is the one that returns with the ball. I bring all players, at this age about 10, inside the 6-yard box, each with a soccer ball. I ask them to kick it outside of the 16-yard box. At the whistle, they need to get one of the balls, any ball, and bring it back to the goalkeeper area – the 6-yard box. They have lots of touches to dribble the ball but also sprint with the ball. Let’s call that Round 0. It’s really a matter of learning the rules and everybody is a winner.

Round 1: I take several balls out and put them in the goal. Now they have 7-8 balls and 10 players. That means that they need to fight for the balls, making it a bit more interesting. They will dribble and play some defense.

Round 2: I ask them to split into pairs and leave 4 balls there. So it’s 5 pairs, but 4 balls. This means that they will need to try and work together to create 2v1 if possible. Some passing is there, but many will get by with only dribbling and sprinting.

Round 3: I split the group into two teams, but left only one ball in. Essentially, this is a game 5v5 where there is no big goal to score, but area to occupy. It’s about possession and ball retention, without using those terms. Players cannot really kick and run because the opponents might be the ones getting the ball in the penalty box. It’s one of the first drills that require patience as a team. It’s a great introduction to positional play.

Run around the goals for 1v1 or 2v2

There are many things to consider when scouting and evaluating players, but how they do on 1v1 and 2v2 will tell you most of what you need to know. We simply cannot develop players if they don’t have experience in 1v1 and 2v2. They need to win their duels! So, we practice lots of those in various situations. We often want to make sure players are aggressive in their approaches, so we create tight situations. Sometimes we want to add an extra element, so we try throw-ins or high balls to teach something new.

Last Man Standing

This is a high-intensity drill, with increasing intensity. What I like about it is that it takes less than 30 seconds to explain it, everybody is into it regardless of age and skill, and players really try their best. I usually take a large space, like the penalty area. Everybody starts with a ball and their job is to keep it for themselves, and not leave the area. If the ball is out of the area, it’s a dead ball and the player needs to find another ball to get. It starts with N balls and N players, and by the end, there is only one ball and N players.

The next level is to have them in pairs and start with one ball per pair. That means that one player is always free of ball to attack other pairs. The main gap in the first variation is that there is no passing or receiving. So with this change in rules we get that, too. Expect for this flavor of the drill to finish much quicker than the previous one. You will likely run it multiple times or even increase the size of the area.


Rondo Progressions

We wouldn’t be called Rondo Coach if we didn’t suggest rondos from the first day. Yes, even when players don’t have any skills, we should have rondos. We should start with no opposition rondos – both 3v0 and 4v0. Then move to 4v1 rondos, giving minimal pressure to the players. We move to 5v2 firstly to still keep more than one option to the players, while increasing the pressure. Finally, if at the U10 level, you can have your players play 4v2 rondos, you are in great shape.

Playing time at U10 (U9, U8, …)

It looks like a special topic that keeps coming up when I talk to coaches. They always ask me about equal playing time in soccer games at this age. If you think that limiting playing time for 7-year-old kids is an okay punishment, then probably you are in the wrong century. We know that rewards work better than punishments, for both 7 and for 77-year-old people. In the winter, you don’t want your soccer players freezing in the cold on the bench because you are making a point. So, think about playing time as a reward, not punishment. Make players do actions that would give them playing time. I often try to target double the number of games my teams play at this age. I invite other teams in the off-season, just so that my players get more playing time. Furthermore, I don’t keep a 15-player squad when playing 7v7. You need to get players the experience of playing soccer now before it’s too late.


I know it can be scary start to coach soccer to kids. You are responsible for development of the players, but also these young people. What you need to do is to believe in yourself. They need a role model and somebody to aspire to. So try to be the coach that you needed and you are likely going to be the coach they remember. Don’t worry about the individual soccer practice of each player, but make sure you challenge them. If you care, they will know. I hope you can use some of the tips, tricks and drills shared here. But I am always learning and I am happy to hear interesting advice and experience from you!