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Nick Levett on Soccer Development for 4-8 Year Olds

Nick Levett
Head of Coaching, UK Coaching
Masters in Education
UEFA 'A' License

Coaching and parenting a child in the 4-8 year old range does not look like any other age. Nick Levett, Head of Coaching for UK Coaching, joined us recently for an hour-long live webinar. Below are a few of our favorite clips as Nick Levett discusses:

  • Why it doesn't always have to look like soccer
  • When parent feedback can be distracting
  • Who carries the soccer bag
  • Give them freedom to explore and to get it wrong

You can watch the full interview on our member site, SoccerParentResourceCenter.com. If you're not a member, click here to grab a free 3-day pass. 


Nick Levett:
One of the things that's important at this age is, and it's a bit strange because I'm going to almost tell people not to do soccer, but I want it to almost not look like a soccer session all the time. I want to see the kids doing things with the balls in their hand. I want to see them jumping and hopping and leaping and dodging and weaving and throwing the ball in that, because for me it also has to be about multi-skill. And they might do that with a rugby ball, a tennis ball, a little sponge ball, a balloon. They can do it with lots of different things that are going to give them lots of different skills, because we don't know what sport these kids are going to play as they get older. We want to give them a lifelong understanding and love of physical activity.

This is a really important point for the coaches, definitely at this age is, you bring all the parents in, let the kids play, just go off play, right? You bring all the parents in, you bring a punch and you go, right, what you're going to see might not look like the 11 v 11 MLS game. It's not going to look like that because they're six. And you can talk to them about, so what was the parents' experience of athletics at school? Or they might have some older kids. What does it look like? Or professional sport? What does it look like? All of them. It's not going to look like that. It's going to look chaotic, it's going to look messy. The kids are going to fall over. I'm going to spend a lot of time doing laces up. But what they're going to get is a program that gives them a love of sport, whatever sport they play, and I can guarantee they will get better, but it won't look like you expect it to.

I think one of the challenges is though, if I'm in their coaching and as a parent, you probably sometimes can't hear information that I might be giving to the kids, and my son runs over to mum on the side and you're there now and you say something different to the information that I might be asking of that the kid in the practice, now all of a sudden you've got a 5, 6, 7, 8 year old who doesn't know who's right. Should I be listening to the coach? Should I be listening to mum or dad? And just misinformation can be challenging for kids because they want to please. Typically at this age, again, there's that they want to show... And if they don't know who to please, they've got a problem.

So it's going to be all about teaching, new friends, responsibility, commitment, and here's how I'm going to teach responsibility. Whose bag is it? Whose water bottle is it? It's theirs. Good. They carry it. If I see you as mom or dad walking into practice carrying their water bottle, it's you I'm going to moan at, because it's theirs. And what's that doing? That's teaching them responsibility. So that's the kind of environment I'm looking for in terms of the skills that we are teaching them as young people. And they might get a bit better at running and jumping and football and catching and throw... They'll get a bit better on that as well. But you know what, they'll start to develop into better people.

Help kids fall in love with sport, but if you're going to use soccer as that vehicle, lots of touches on a ball. We want to develop a new generation of kids that are really skillful, which means fall in love with the game. Give them freedom to explore, to get it wrong, to practice it a million times and keep getting it wrong. But yeah, focus on developing that whole person still. Friendship, communication, commitment, responsibility, all of those things as well. Definitely at this young age.

Looking for More? We have the full interview available at SoccerParentResourceCenter.com. Grab a free 3-day pass here.

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Skye Eddy

Founder, SoccerParenting.com
Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF "B" License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.