Single-Digit Soccer: OK, let’s back up a bit …

It looked so good in my head.

In my U8 team’s first scrimmage, they showed some aptitude for spreading the ball around, avoiding the “mob chasing a ball” mentality of U6s and U7s. I really thought we could build on it and make it a habit with a modified scrimmage that would encourage passing and using the width of the field.

So I put cones down to divide the field into thirds — lengthwise, like lane markers in a pool. We would play a 4-on-4 scrimmage in which, on each team, two players could be in the middle third and one could be in each outside lane.

The protests were immediate:

What are we trying to do? (Play soccer. Really.)

What can I do here on the wing? (Receive passes, then pass back.)

I don’t WANNA be on the wing! (We’re rotating – you’ll get your turn in the middle shortly.)

I don’t wanna wear a yellow penny! (OK, that’s an issue.)

I’d rather be doing math homework! (Oh, because you’re so good at following directions?)

(No, I didn’t actually say that.)

After about two minutes, I gave up on it and decided to use the lane markers for a simple passing drill. Form three lines, one in the middle and one along each line of cones. Each player has to touch the ball before scoring.

So while I struggled to get players into lines, the first group — the wise guys of this team — all ran to the middle of the field and literally touched the ball. Then one guy dribbled down and shot.

I finally got a group that would at least give it a try. A couple of players passed the ball back and forth, and it wound up on the feet of one player who stopped, slightly puzzled. “OK! Good job so far! Now pass it back to the middle.”

So he picked up the ball and started to cock his arm back like Tom Brady.

“No, no … with your feet.”

I gave them a water break, all the while lamenting that I hadn’t been committing this practice to video so I could email it to Claudio Reyna with a whole lot of profanity. (That would’ve been unfair — I can’t expect a youth soccer curriculum to account for kids who don’t know the word “pass” in a soccer context.)

I had already decided to yank the “angle of support” drill off the agenda for the evening. In the time it would’ve taken me to explain that one, two kids would’ve kicked half the team’s balls across the field, two more would’ve started a biology experiment with a couple of crickets they wound on the field, and the others wouldn’t be able to hear me.

First game is Saturday. Then I’ll have two days to figure out how to hold their attention and perhaps even teach a little soccer at the next practice.


  1. My U8 Girls team really enjoyed “The Moving Goal” game, where you give two kids a beach towel and tell them that they’re the goal and are free to move about the field. The remainder of the groups are to try and score goals. You can start with one ball per group and move to the point where there is only one ball left on the field and each group must use only that ball to score. There are two things you can do as far as switching “goal” players. 1) on each score, switch with the team that scored the goal; or 2) Switch after a set amount of time and ask who scored most goals.

    I had a group who just couldn’t figure out how to score on a moving goal, so I pulled them aside and told them to “watch which way the goal is going and shoot in front of it, so that they’ll run the goal over your ball” which seemed to help instantly. Hopefully they’ll be able to translate that over to passing the ball later.

    Hope this helps & keep writing these, I wish that I had thought of doing this as well.

  2. When your kids play games, how many a side do they play? Just curious.

    I can see the point of this practice game, but I can also see where the kids are coming from if some of them have way smaller roles than the other ones do. (Kids often don’t have the patience/attention span to deal with waiting their turn for the ‘good role’.)

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