What are your best fun practices?


I coach an U8 girls team.

Although I feel pressure from parents and other coaches to actively "teach", I much prefer sessions that are just fun.

My question for other coaches is - what drills/games/ssg's do you have in your back pocket that you can pull out and know the players absolutely love?

  •    Hi Stephan.

                        I can assure you that you are teaching them.

    My advice is to watch other/fellow coaches, there is nothing like watching/chatting to other coaches especially form other clubs.


  • Stephen, this sounds fun but to avoid queues why not play a small format game (2v2 or 3v3 or similar) and have the cones with a ball on behind each goal with the aim to score AND knock a ball off the cone for extra points. Just a suggestion. Pete

  • My basic theory is, if they are running around with a football then they are learning.

    In my experience if you try to teach them by instructing them exactly how to kick the ball, or how to shape their body, or where to stand or anything like that they don't really get it at this age.

    Some are good at taking that kind of instruction, but some get bored and it probably just feels like school them. I like my sessions to be almost chaotic and playground like - because that's when they feel the real enjoyment.

  • Thanks guys - 2 suggestions the same!

    I get why you would want to do this, and I will give it a go, but my feeling is you will take something away from the original game.

    I really want my sessions to be varied and fun, because to me at U8 the fun is what will keep bringing them back. It will also help create an environment where they feel relaxed and confident enough to try new things.

  • So I tried this tonight and, I got to be honest it didn't really work.

    The game had lost the drama and excitement of trying to be the first team to knock all the balls down. Instead it was just another game of football that wasn't quite as good as using real goals.

    I appreciate that playing it this way is more in line with the England DNA, but I think there is something to be said for doing things differently and occasionally accepting things like a certain amount of queuing or elimination for the good of the game.

  • It's all learning Stephen. Reflect on it, which you are already doing and then think about enjoying your next session. There will be lots of positives if you look back on the session as a whole I am sure.

    I found coaching within small sided games strange to start because my early coaching courses made me feel I had to plan drills etc. But I went on to do my level 2 then Youth Awards and it changed my thinking. I felt like I wasn't really doing any coaching to to start with but as David said, watch other coaches who are further down that road. I have watched Pete deliver sessions and scoured Youtube for his videos. To be honest it borders on stalking!! I also watch county FA coaches/tutors coach sessions. One of ours, Jamie Pitman, also has videos on the FA Learning pages and he really highlights the coaching methodology Pete is referring to. Now, when I plan a session on paper  in 3 parts, the first thing I put down are the pitches. I do almost everything in the game and keep the focus really narrow. My questioning is linked to that focus.

    I know sadly the FA mentors may not be there but I am sure the county FA will be able to advise you as to coaches in your area who would be really good role models.

    Most important is that you want the children to have fun and the playground is a great model for what they like. The engagement and enjoyment are more important than getting worried too much about tactical stuff. Lots of the technical will occur naturally in small sided games.

    Keep doing a great job.

  • Hi Stephen, I've only just picked up your thread, and there are lost of great suggestions. I agree with you that making the sessions fun (inactively teaching, to borrow your phrase) is the way to go. 'Make it a game, give it a name' was advice I was given and something I still adhere to today. As you get more experience and comfortable in your own coaching style you will start to find ideas popping into your head while planning, or in my case watching players playing the games in the session and how they adapt them to make them more accessible, which will trigger ideas on how to make it more fun. But at the back of your mind always have,'what are we learning today' if its drilling, involve lots of opportunities to travel with the ball, if it's striking/sending having targets or different ways of scoring, but always linked to the learning focus for the session(s). I loved the description of your coconut game, I play something similar but the players call it trophies- this works from 2v2 to 4v4 and higher, you can use Cones (the witches hat type, not small ones) or put spare balls on cones at either end - 8 cones per end, 4 balls on 4 of the cones against each end- the aim to play and knock balls off, if successful the planer scoring has to gather the ball and take back and place at his teams end. This create a mini overload where the team just scoring is  a player down while they collect and can create some interest counter attacking opportunities, the team with the most balls on their cones at the end of the time, wins. a real benefit of this  game is that it is self-regulating, the team having success, finds their target is nor smaller and more challenging, whilst the team not having success, has less balls to defend and a bigger are to shoot at. As I said it works with cones just as well. You can change focus to promoting the team play aspect, or one on one duels, and also defending as they are all outcomes of the game. I don;t normally play it in isolation but as a ladder competition (3 pitches, each with different rules on how to score, winning team moves up to next pitch, losing team moves down, you can then equalise after a few cycles by letting teams play n a game they may have missed while promotion/relegation (not a good description but the players like it, calling the game at one end Premiership and the other end the Football league.  Keep at it, make sure you are having fun, as if you are have a good time, your players will be having a great time. Good luck. 

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Philip. I really like your idea with the overloads and playing as a ladder.

    Great stuff!

  • Stephen, I am all for trying different things and if another approach gives you the desired effect then go for it.