U5-U6 Core

Activities should be fun, appropriate for the age, promote decision-making, and encourage creativity and participation of all players.

Developing soccer skills is where U5 and U6 coaches earn their stripes. You are setting the foundation to succeed at the game.

The Core foundation is divided into four distinct sections: Technical, Tactical, Physical and Psychological.  Each component rendering its own specific elements toward building a complete U5-U6 player.  

Download U5-U6 Core - Technical to Psychological (pdf)


Almost all practice time and energy should go into developing comfort with the ball. Focus on dribbling, shooting and agility exercises to create athletic players in a fun way.

At U5 and U6, players are only marginally capable of playing a game that looks like soccer.  But don’t let that frustrate you! Focusing on the building blocks and having fun while experiencing ample success will turn your players on to the game!

Coaches need to make sure to provide activities based on games that emphasize exploration and experimentation with the rolling, spinning and bouncing qualities of the ball. The soccer ball should be considered a “toy”. There should be no activities where players wait in lines to perform a pre-determined movement or required action.

At this age children work hard and tire quickly. Allow them to have “active rests”, where they are not running but are trying to do something specific with the ball, often sitting or standing. Everyone should be occupied with something, even when resting.

So, the technical training sessions should be mostly technical repetitions on the ball, be psychologically friendly and positive, and have simple combinations with decision-making activities. Individual basic skills with an emphasis on ball control are crucial activities along with lots of balance and coordination exercises. Much of the training time should be free play with trial and error, discovery and experimentation.

“From 5-6 years of age children should be absorbed with play, in games of their own devising.”
Plato 427-347 B.

One ball per player - all the time!!!

They don’t like to share …


Key components of teaching/learning – Technical:

* Enjoy activities that include skipping, jumping and running

* Training Games:  body awareness, maze games, and target games

* Be able to perform a few components of the “Technical Core”:

  •  - Dribbling 1 vs. 1 and Shooting

* Tend to one task at a time:

  •   – controlling the ball is a complex task (realistic expectations).

* Can only comprehend one task at a time
* Do not understand group or collective play (sharing is still a difficult concept at this age)
* Individual activities (all players with a ball).
* Prefer doing over watching
* Do not waste too much time explaining (straight to the point, always!) 
* Dribble with all surfaces of BOTH feet
* Maintain close control with BOTH feet
* Keep head up
* Be a friend with the ball
* Change direction and speed when turning
* Dribble out of trouble
* Dribble past someone
* Be agile, stay on toes
* Control ball first, don’t just kick it away
* Move to get behind ball’s path
* Soft first touch
* Learn how to strike a ball; use the instep (lace) & no toe kicks!
If you feel that your players, by the end of the season/year, have progressed in the majority of these areas, you have done a fantastic job!

NO Laps, NO Lectures, NO Lines!!!

There’s no more surefire way of boring the kids than the three L’s. Kids at these ages are fit. They don’t need to run laps. It’s a waste of precious time when the kids could be combining fitness with skills. And, as we’ve said before, every child should have a ball.  This way, there’s no need to wait in line for their turn.

Again, use activities that keep all of the children active.  Keep your comments and instructions brief. A lecture is the last thing a child wants when soccer time is supposed to be a fun time, and you will find that the attention span will almost certainly not allow it. 

A well organized training session will leave no idle time for their minds to wander. US Youth Soccer provides a great archive of lesson plans for training sessions on their website at www.usyouthsoccer.org.   If you need to get some ideas and strategies to help you get started, or alternatives within the season, please visit this valuable website.

Article: – Technical:



Tactics should not be an area of emphasis for U5 and U6. Players at this age are not mentally aware of concepts like time and space, which makes trying to teach tactics a futile endeavor. While the coach needs to be aware of the soccer formations and positions, all that is necessary to share with your players is an introductory explanation.

Key components of teaching/learning - Tactical:

* Where is the field?
* Moving in the correct direction to score or defend.
* Which goal do I kick at? 
* What team color am I playing for?

Articles - Tactical:



U5 and U6 players, although still young, are beginning to gain more control over their bodies. At the same time, anything is still new to them and they will require a lot of time and energy figuring out what their bodies can do, and how to use this developing coordination.  

Soccer fitness and nutrition is important for a coach to understand. Players at this age are not physically developed enough to focus on fitness as the priority. There is no sense of pace, which means these players rocket around the field as hard as they can for as long as they can and then must stop. This means that players need to be substituted frequently and provided with ample water breaks during practice and matches.

A common ritual at this age is “End of Game Snacks” for the team. We think this is a great team bonding experience and should be encouraged at this age.

Key components of teaching/learning - Physical:

* Physical, movement/education through soccer
* Body awareness
* Balance - stay on their feet 
* Coordination – eye-hand and eye-foot
* Agility – changing direction while in motion
* Running; jumping; hopping; rolling; skipping
* Introduce the idea of how to warm-up; stretching and movement education.
* Gives the exercise 100% effort until fatigued
* Quick to recover
* Introduce awareness to the concept of  “space” (the space my body is in) 
* Need plenty of room to move
* Height, weight, and heart rates are similar between boys and girls

Article - Physical:



U5 and U6 soccer players are fragile psychologically. They constantly crave acceptance and approval. As a coach, this is important to know in forming groups, being careful to celebrate successes while minimizing social embarrassment.

Attention span is short, so you must keep players active and avoid lines. Frequent changes that present new challenges keep games fresh and players engaged. Players that are “not listening” at this age is an indication that the activity is not fun or engaging, so change it!  Prepare different possible exercises for each skill you plan to work on at a session.  That way, if one activity is not holding their attention, you can introduce a different one that will continue to reinforce the intended lesson.  

U5 and U6 players love to use their imagination when they play. Keep this in mind when designing games. They enjoy playing on their terms, and as a by-product of their play they will gain some limited comfort with the ball. Although they love to play, their ability to stay focused on any one thing is very limited. So, keep the activities short and simple! Always “fill their tanks” with positive reinforcement for great motivation. This means maintaining a positive attitude and providing uplifting comments, to and around, your players. Most importantly, remember that we will be teaching them life lessons by treating them with care, patience, respect and plenty of encouragement. 

Key components of teaching/learning - Psychological: 

* Sharing; fair play
* Parental involvement 
* “How to Play”
* Emotional management – need positive reinforcement and praise
* Patience
* Good Humor
* Willingness to see the world through a child’s eyes.
* Know how to fill their tanks (self-esteem, confidence)
* Start to understand the concept of sportsmanship.
* Build the love for the game
* Realization that their main focus is “me”
* Psychological differences are minimal between boys and girls
* Short attention span unless peaked – keep interest high.  
* They like to show what they can do – encourage trying new things.
* Develop self-esteem – activities should foster positive feedback with attainable, positive success.
* Children have not yet learned the skills of compromise and team play.

  • Expect frequent arguments between players. Do not immediately interfere with their discussion, as it is a part of their learning process. Team games call for social and mental skills that they are just starting to develop. If it does not appear to be heading in a positive direction, at this time then try to redirect the situation.

* They have not learned to accept mistakes – their own or others.
* You should not expect the children to play a team game the way adults would.

  • You should bend the rules to fit their physical and mental maturity. Fewer players result in more touches with the ball. Equipment should be suitable to their age and size resulting in better play. 

* They lack the ability to make quick decisions.
* Adult reactions to their efforts are often mistaken and become a blow to their self-confidence. 
* They are in need of understanding and encouragement.

Article - Psychological:


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