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Team Games! How do you coach young players to work together in a team? | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

Team Games! How do you coach young players to work together in a team?

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  • pippaglen

    Over the past few months I have been coaching Cadets football I have found it very frustrating to watch as players keeping the ball, not passing, not listening. No matter how much I expressed I wanted players to pass to every player in their team before scoring  this just wasn't happening so I decided to change coaching tactics, how could I get players to pass, How to stop them from "ball hogging" as the players would call it. 

    I played one of my favourite warm up games that I hadn't played in years, Cat in the corner kids love this game. Once all warmed up I then play another fun game one of which Gordon Fern kindly shared on level 2 multi skills and is now ingrained. I made the football session a team games night based on Halloween making Halloween pictures with many different pieces of  equipment this meant that players had to talk and listen to their team members and work together as a team. I couldn't believe how quickly and easily they worked together so I decided to leave them in those teams and played small sided football games, There was much more communication, listening, passing to all team members. 

    What games or Ideas do you have to get young players to work together in a team environment?

    How do you coach young players to work together?  "Not ball hogging"

  • Antwa


    What age group are we talking about?

    Generally the very young kids play the ball as their toy. They move like a tight group and there is no passing. The thing is really to see it as a development stage where there is the kid and the ball. Next stage is Kid-friend and the ball generally this means passes only forward. Then its the kid-friends and ball, here you see passes to the sides also, this stage the kids starts to understand ball control and team play in a broader perspective.

    To get the best results in developing the kids you get true training only the things they do in games. if it is the kid and ball stage it would be driving the ball, turning and finishing, courage to take the ball from the opponents and courage to try to advance and protect the ball. When skill and self confidence gets higher they start to raise their heads and see the friend.

  • pippaglen

    Thank you for your comment Antero.

    I'm talking age group 5 to 7 years, girls and boys which is great to see, some new comers, you can tell those that have been playing with friends and those that have never played before. most of them are good players it's the initial trying to get them to pass to each other and work as in a team.  Confidence isn't a problem with some of the players but the issue with the confident player's is they don't pass to their team mates which is leaving other player out of the mini matches that I set up at the end. Maybe I should stop the matches at the end and just try 2 x2 games instead. 

  • tonylibert

    old guy here. hockey and typical loud American 

    Working with large groups in these age ranges I have noticed that there are degrees of interplay that increase as players reach 8-9 yrs. Prior that too few can recognize much more than opponent/ball. The idea of space is still a few years away and the tactical use of teammates is also. 

    Passing as a tactical function.

    Passing can be instituted at early ages but I have found that competitive play is important to teaching it properly. 

    2 on 1 play or keep away from the coach can teach interdependent play better than any stationary "play"

    One thing to be careful with is sanitizing "play" by trying to create PERFECT (don't do it you will go crazy) instead find games with a goal that ask players to use a teammate to solve the problem. this can be done several ways whether marks on the field (pass across lines) to quadrant play like box and two or on coach signal like pass on a whistle. Also look at games outside of the one you coach. Beanbag toss games of keep away moved to footy games are easy substitutes for actual gameplay that moves the goal from a really big net to supporting play. It will all look ugly but if you use a lot of play and stay away from making the players solve it your way the growth is crazy good. good luck and I will try not to yell next time

  • pippaglen

    Hi Tony!

    Hi old guy with great advice laughing Thank you for that advice I will incorporate those ideas into my training session tomorrow see how that goes. 


  • Karenmoh103

    I too struggle with the ‘no passing’ element of junior coaching (basketball).  Not only do you have to be mindful of the other children who are not getting a look at the ball and whose confidence will soon nose dive,  you also don’t want to sound too negative to the player who is ‘ball hogging’ because they too need to keep confident in their ability.  It’s a fine balance.  

    I coach a range of ages from 5-14 and sometimes it’s difficult to know when to expect the child to understand ‘making the right decision’...make the pass or not?

    I think incorporating some training games which do not actually involve your own sport and ones where ALL team members have to be involved is a great idea.  I will definite be thinking of some to use now, thank you!

  • tonylibert

    I think USA hockey LTAD sets decent guidelines as to where and when children are emotionally capable of recognizing others as part of a tactic. for quite a while it is me and a ball. then me and a ball and an opponent. I have seen the switch at 6 and at 25 and no one knows why. so be patient. Too many coaches think a team is a reflection of a coach. It is not, and while you play a huge role you are just the corn chips in a plate of nachos. your visible but there is a lot of other stuff going on there. tell the truth and love them to the end. It works

    thanks for doing what you do 

  • tonylibert

    ultimate. I use that from 8 to 18 and it is always fun

  • pippaglen

    HI Karen, 

    Thanks for your feed back. Im also a L2 BB coach coaching children aged 4 and upwards and have seen this also happen especially with older and more advanced basketball players. 

    As a multi skills coach do incorporate many different sport within my football sessions to keep players thinking, using different skills which helps with their development.  I do find it difficult when players to ball hog and are aware of this yet still don't pass when asked, like you say you don't want to kill their confidence and other players either. I will change tactics see how it goes over the next few weeks. 


    Hi all, great discussion and some really good insights. Everything that has been said around being patient with the 5-12 age group (and the years beyond no less) is so important. At The FA, we call this the Foundation Phase as the children are very much building their understanding of physical activity, games, social interaction, decision making.....life indeed! It is crucial to recognise that alongside the development of their physical literacy the children are also developing psychologically with the 5-8 age group being very much at the egocentric stage of 'me and my ball'. It is also worth remembering, for those of us who believe that a Games Based Approach exposes the children to many learning opportunities, that small side games are key. For these younger years, their Mini-Soccer format is 5v5; therefore small sided activity for them means 2v2 and 3v3 games during practice sessions. Also, let's not forget the huge returns from putting them into 1v1 situations as these put significant demands on 'staying on the ball and mastering the ball'. (England DNA terminology)

    There is some fantastic detail on www.hivelearning.com/thefa around The England DNA and key messages for effective development as children and young people. I recommend these resources highly..... though be warned, once you start reading (and learning) you won't be able to stop!

  • pippaglen

    Hi Vinny, 

    Some excellent responses from the conversation and I really appreciate your comment and feedback along with the information, something for me to chew threw whilst I'm recovering from my operation this week. 

  • tonylibert

    don't know where I picked this up but

    The ball loves a player who shares it.

    in my sport "the puck loves a passer"

  • tonylibert

    Restate that: You as a coach are not the chips 

    You are the plate and if you are a good fit it will work. Yes, a few chips will try to fall off but you have those gently curved edges to keep them in place. You will add stuff on top and those chips will become nachos. If you're lucky you might get all the way to adding hot peppers. This analogy is making me hungry. I did do this to others also so you, dear reader, are not suffering alone

  • tonylibert

    Hey, have you ever used something like painters tape to mark the floor? I use water-based paint on the ice to create landmarks or divisions for game play. 

    just wondering


    Hi Emma, pleased to hear that my thoughts are useful and that you have the gift of time to view resources. Hope your recuperation is going well - nothing too major I hope. Regards, Vinny

  • paulcrocker

    Hi Emma,

    Great post and right up my street i'm forever searching for new team games and have managed to adapt quite a few to our sport.

    I wanted to share some idea's i've found that have really worked. I teach ice skating to a synchronised skating team of 24 skaters aged between 9 and 25 the average age is about 13/14.

    Every week we have an "off ice" session completely away from the ice. It allows them a chance to hear each others voices and share their own while playing games they build the friendships naturally.

    We start every session with "1-7" - i ask the skaters how they are feeling on a scale of 1-7 (7 being amazing, 1 being terrible) If they wish to share their reasons they can and the others will have the chance to sympathise (dog died etc..) or be happy for them (won a competition solo etc...) After that we do a warm up that is run by one of them picked randomly - its an aerobic style warm up and lasts about 2-3 mins - this gives each skater a chance to take the lead and the others have to follow a kind of forced leadership / respect scenario good for confidence and helps the others build awareness fo this skater who they may not of given much time to.

    We watch a video of their last performance and they say what they could of done (solo) better. Then as a team we discuss the teams improvement ideas. After this we do the training which could be fitness, flexibility, or team games.

    We have a team chant that we always do to end the session which again unites them before they leave the training.

    The team games i get from youtube and some books as well as my head! I'm forever thinking of new games on the way to sessions and my idea's come from recent problems that have arised in training. For example to build core strength and teach helping each other we had a game of "stuck in the plank" they had to hold their plank until someone saved them by crawling under the plank - like stuck in the mud!

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