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Mini Soccer Match Day Routine

So...your children are now coached in all the basic skills, they're fit and looking forward to their first match.

You might think that all you have to do is to turn up and play. Well, you'd be wrong. There is a lot to remember. For instance:  

  •       How do you prepare your team?
  •       How should your team warm up before the game?
  •       How should you make adjustments during the game?
  •       What's the best way to get your subs on and off the field?

You'll find the answers to these questions (and more) right here.


 Before the game

It is possible for your children to run straight from their parent's cars onto the pitch two minutes before the whistle blows. It is also possible to be losing 1 - 0 within a few minutes of kick-off because your team wasn't ready to play, physically or mentally.

Emphasise to your children that they must arrive at least thirty minutes before kick off. You can encourage punctuality by preparing a routine and making sure that every player and parent understands its purpose.

Don't forget to provide parents with written directions to unfamiliar grounds or you could find yourself starting with half your team still searching for the ground!

30 minutes before kick off

As your players arrive you should greet each one by name and make sure that they:

  •       Are properly dressed, (shin pads, boots, waterproofs or an extra layer or two in cold weather),
  •       Have a drink, (take a spare bottle of squash for the one child who always forgets to bring their drink),
  •       Are not wearing any jewellery.

25 minutes before kick off

Find an area where they can pass a ball around in groups of threes. Encourage a variety of touches: one, two, juggle, dribble and turn, in the air, on the ground. Each group should intermix with the other groups using the entire area. Keep them moving. You can also play a keep away game; 2v1 attack/defence.


20 minutes before kick off

Time for your stretching routine. Assign a new player every week to lead it.


15 minutes before kick off

Pause for a drink. Announce the starting line-up and don't change it! Remember that over the course of the season, all players should have the chance to: 1) play different positions; 2) be captain; 3) start and finish games. These things are important to your players. Give a brief pep talk (tell them to get wide, pass the way they are facing etc., but above all tell them to enjoy themselves!). Try to keep your remarks to less than two minutes.


10 minutes before kick off

Organise a shooting drill that keeps balls and players moving and have an assistant warm up the goalkeeper separately. Any of the shooting drills I've described in previous sections will be fine or you could try this one: with you in goal, put Player "A' just outside the penalty area in line with the right goal post and player "B' in line with the left goal post. The rest of the players form two lines on either side of the goal posts just off the playing field. First player in the line plays the ball diagonally to "A' who shoots. Passer runs around 'B' to take 'A's place. 'A' goes to the back of nearest line after the shot. First player in the other line passes to 'B' who shoots. This passer runs around other the other shooter to take 'B''s place.

Limit the shooting distance and number of touches before the shot according to age and skill. Encourage low shots on target; put away rebounds. Parents can help collect missed shots or kids have to chase their own high and wide ones. Keep the lines moving.


5 minutes before kick off

Captains are called to toss the coin. When they return, bring the team together for a very brief pep talk. A big cheer and the starting line up takes their positions on the field. There should be a minute or two to warm up the keeper in the goal area you will be defending and to pass a few balls among the players who are in their positions. When the other team is ready to play, kick the practice balls off the field, and away you go!


The amount of time available at the half will be extremely variable. At times it seems each league, each tournament, and even each referee will have different ideas of how long the half time break should be. But whatever the time period, this is a valuable moment for a coach in a game and should be used wisely.

Planning begins before the half is over. Pick a spot where you can assemble the team, preferably away from distractions (parents, friends, siblings, etc.). Depending on the weather you may want to select a sheltered area out of the wind and sun. Send your team in that direction while you briefly talk with your assistants to confirm your opinions or get more suggestions.

Try and get the team to face you with no distractions behind you. They should be drinking or enjoying half time refreshments by now and your thoughts should be organized, perhaps on paper.  Make sure that everyone has adequate fluids (note: 'adequate' is the word not too much and no fizzy drinks!).

Step 1: Check for injuries.

Step 2: Check for fun. In the younger age groups this is paramount. If they are not having fun, why are they there?

Step 3: Praise - be brief and complimentary.

Step 4: Announce the starting line up for the second half.

Step 5: Make your points. They may just be a repeat of the topics you mentioned at the start of the game or a brief description of some problems you or the assistants noted. It should be limited to 2 or 3 points for U-10, just one point for U-8 and younger. More than that and you will run out of time or they will cease to hear you. Some coaches like to ask for players' opinions. Don't bother. All you'll get is a disruptive chorus of comments and/or complaints.

Step 6: Praise and encourage again.

Step 7: Send them out for the start of the second half. Be prepared to announce the line ups again since children in the younger age groups will have forgotten their positions by now. Count the players on the field before the whistle goes.

Step 8: Enjoy the rest of the game!


After the game

Two or three long blasts of the whistle signal the end of the game, but don't send your players home just yet. Make sure they shake their opponents by the hand and you congratulate your opposite number on a good game.

Thank the referee (even if he or she had a stinker!).

If you won the game, ensure that your players don't celebrate too obviously. Remember that anything that resembles gloating is not only poor sportsmanship, but will most likely come back to haunt you as the losers gear up for the inevitable return match. Don't give them a reason to work harder to beat you.

If you lost, you may want to attend to egos by making sure that no one accepts or places blame. Don't go into a long technical analysis of what went wrong. Consult with the manager, assistant coach, or other volunteer for any announcements. Avoid serious team meetings after a game, especially if you lose. 


You are responsible for the behaviour of your spectators (parents and others) as well as your own and that of your team. Spectators must be educated about the proper place to stand to watch the game. All spectators should remain between the two 18 yard lines (marking the penalty area) and 2 yards behind the touchline. This provides a clear line of sight for the linesperson (even if you dont use linespersons at your level of play, it is a good idea to get the spectators into the habit of watching from well off the touchline!). No one should ever be closer to the goal than 18 yards, and never directly behind the goal area.


Soccer is not a coach-centred game - you are there solely to support the players on the pitch.

If you find that you are drawing attention to yourself and away from the game, then step back and remember that the players you can help the most are the ones not doing anything the ones on the sidelines.

  •     Coaching should be done during practices, not during the game
  •     Always praise!
  •     It's the kids' show not yours!  


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