When a child reaches the age of 3 or 4, their parents may seek some outlet to occupy their bustling energy stores and curious minds. Although some might not be ready for sports at that age, for many children, this is the perfect time to start playing. There are many great options, but one fantastic sport for young people is soccer.
How do you coach soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds?
- What does soccer do for kids?
- Soccer for 3 & 4-year-olds
- Soccer Drills and Games 3-4-Year-Olds
- Shark Island
- Treasure Hunt
- Hot Potato
- Green Light – Red Light
- Little, Little, Big
- Cone Dribbles & Shooting
- Tunnel Pass
- Soccer Stretches for 3-4-Year-Olds
- Soccer Classes and Programs
- A parent or parents may be the coaches for this age group. Some knowledge of the game is required, but instilling joy and fun in the kids through soccer is more important.
- Training sessions should involve lots of fun games and drills. These games should be helping kids with the basics of the game, such as using only their feet, kicking, dribbling, scoring, and teamwork.
- For those who are showing greater interest and promise than others, there are soccer programs and classes available year-round that cater for this.
Throughout this article we will be going through each of the main points outlined above, detailing all you need to know about soccer for 3 and 4-year-old boys and girls.
What does soccer do for kids?
There are countless benefits to playing soccer for kids, particularly under the right circumstances. Here are some of them:
Soccer is tonnes of fun, especially for children. It’s outdoors and involves running, jumping and kicking. You can score goals, assist goals, block, tackle, and pass. What’s more, it’s a team sport and all the fun is had alongside your teammates.
Many kids nowadays don’t get enough exercise. Playing a sport like soccer is safe, and is fantastic for physical and mental health.
Communication and teamwork are essential parts of soccer. Players get to know each other very well and can become lifelong friends. Soccer can help develop strong social skills for 3 and 4-year-olds.
Learning techniques and skills such as running, dribbling, passing, shooting, tackling, etc., is excellent for developing motor skills in kids. This can aid them in their physical development in the coming years.
Foundations for playing sports
The core aspects of the game of soccer provide good foundations for playing most sports. It may not be very physical in nature but it’s highly technical. Some of the key attributes of a soccer player are:
Soccer for 3 & 4-year-olds
Soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds should be played under unique circumstances. Kids of this age are not ready for competitive matches, or training sessions that focus heavily on technical drills or tactics. Training and games should be fun focused on the surface level, but the coach should be trying to instill some of the core skills of soccer in the session too.
1 day per week is perfect for children of this age to play but it’s not any harm to play more often.
Training sessions should be around 30 – 45 minutes in length. At least for the first few sessions, it’s advised that parents take part in some capacity, even if it means encouraging the kids to participate.
- Warm-ups and stretching are essential.
- The drills/games should be short, plentiful, and must involve using the ball.
- Here are some fantastic games and drills for 3 and 4-year-old soccer players.
Soccer Drills and Games 3-4-Year-Olds
Core skill used: dribbling.
Set out 4 cones to make a large dribbling area. The players have a ball each and must dribble around the area. The coach or a parent act as a sleeping shark within the area. Every so often, the coach shouts “shark”, and the sleeping shark chases after the players, attempting to steal the ball from them. The players dribble away or shield the ball from the shark.
Core skill used: dribbling and shooting.
Set up a goal with a cone about shooting distance away (5 yards). Leave a pile of cones or markers (treasure) to the side of the goal.
The players line up around 20 yards from goal. One at a time, the players dribble to the shooting cone and take a strike on goal. If they score, they grab a piece of treasure (e.g. a cone) and run back to their teammates.
Set a target of getting a specific amount of treasure.
Core skills used: passing and dribbling.
It can be played with 1 or 2 balls, depending on the numbers and skill level of the players. Players dribble and pass the ball to one another in an area. They can take a maximum of two touches before passing to a teammate. They must call the name of the teammate to whom they’re passing.
This teaches them to kick purposeful passes. When the coach blows his/her whistle, the player that has the ball is knocked out. Repeat this until there is a winner. When a player is knocked out, they should pass the ball amongst one another outside of the game area, or watch and cheer on their teammates.
Green Light – Red Light
Core skills used: reactions and controlled dribbling.
Each player lines up at the starting point with a ball at their feet. The goal is to dribble the ball to a finish line, around 30 yards away. When the coach yells green light, the players can run with the ball. When the coach yells red light, the players must stop.
Little, Little, Big
Core skills used: kicking and passing.
This is a race from one point to another, where the players kick the ball the whole way. They must do a little kick, then a second little kick, followed by a big kick. As they perform each kick, they should yell “little, little, big”. This is repeated until all players get to the finishing line.
Cone Dribbles & Shooting
Core skills used: dribbling and shooting.
Set out 8 cones in a straight line, making 4 dribbling gates, in front of a goal. Each player dribbles in and out, through the cones, before taking a shot on goal. There is no need for a goalie.
Core skills used: passing technique.
This is a fun game that’s also great for technique and team bonding. All players line up one behind the other, standing with their feet wide apart. The player at the front of the line, using the proper passing technique, tries to kick the ball through the tunnel of legs and out the other side. Once a player takes their turn, they join the back of the line.
It’s important for players to scrimmage so that they can apply their skills to a game scenario and learn to play as a team. The end of a training session is a good time to do this. It can be a good idea to enforce a rule whereby players can have a maximum of two touches before they have to pass or shoot.
Soccer Stretches for 3-4-Year-Olds
Stretching should be performed to warm down post-training. This helps to prevent injury.
The examples shown are by adults, but kids really enjoy these warm-ups and warm-downs. It not only gets them physically warmed-up, but also emotionally, so they can mess about and be kids Here are some key stretches for 3 and 4-year-old soccer players:
There are several ways to stretch the calves. My personal favorite is the stretch from 1:10 on the video below.
Your hamstrings are located on the back of your thigh. They are the most common muscles to be injured in soccer so it’s vital to keep them limber. Check out the video below for the best hamstring stretches.
Seated Groin and Inner Thigh
Again, there are several ways to do this stretch. Find out what suits you best by looking at the video below.
The quads are the main muscles involved in kicking and are responsible for a lot of explosive movements. The standing quad stretch is one of the best for soccer players.
These also play a huge role in kicking and are often overlooked, leading to unwanted injuries. A great stretch for the hip flexors is demonstrated at 2:33 in the video below.
Soccer Classes and Programs
For 3 and 4-year-old soccer players, a handful of interested parents might negate the need for a real coach. A small amount of knowledge of the game combined with fun games and enthusiasm is enough to coach most kids at this level.
However, there are classes and programs available in most areas where kids are trained by qualified coaches. Sessions are adapted and suited to the kids’ ages but there may be a higher level of training. These programs may also be affiliated with a league, where teams play against each other. This gives kids their first introduction to competitive sports, although the emphasis is generally placed on participation rather than winning.
It’s just the beginning…
Soccer a fun sport that’s easy to understand and can be enjoyed by everyone. Playing at such a young age can lay down the foundations for a great soccer career, but it’s important to remember that it’s just the beginning. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and some players will naturally improve at different ages.
The most important thing is that all the players enjoy themselves. That being said, who knows what could be in store for a 3 or 4-year-old with talent? It could be the start of something special.
At what age should my child start playing soccer?
What equipment does a child need to start playing?
Does a child need to know the rules of soccer before starting?