I get a lot of questions from parents regarding when they should get their child involved in football. There are numerous issues with this question.
In my opinion, there is not a specific age where a child should get involved in football. What parents should be considering is whether their child wants to play football. Watching them during their generic play can sometimes help answer the question.
Are they constantly kicking anything that looks like a ball? Though the answer to this might be, yes. This still doesn’t give a full answer that your child wants to play football. The best way to find out is by trying, take your child to a session see how they get on.
For the company I work for, I run a session of Tots Football for children aged between 18 months and 5 years. At a normal session, I can get between 10 and 20 children attending the session with a member of their family.
When people are made aware that I coach Tots Football, I get some rather bizarre comments. There is a common misconception that young children would not be able to perform the skills required for football. I’ve always had the belief that if you put your mind to it, make it fun and ensure that the children learn then you’ve done your job as a coach.
When I’m coaching Tots Football, I am very different to when I coach my U15s team. My Tots Football sessions are as structured. They are based on fun and subconscious learning of the basic skills required to play football.
Some might question, what skills are you looking for when coaching children aged between 18months and 5years? I have five key skills that I like to work on in each session.
- Basic Control
- Basic Kicking
- Social Development
Now, how do I approach working on these five skills? When it comes to any form of coaching the main aspect for me is to keep the activities fun. With Tots, I had the aspect of each activity and the surrounding environment of the sessions being pressure-free. Remember that the children are only aged between 18months and 5 years, they are not professional footballs.
In my sessions, I adapt children’s games to include a ball or an element of the skills I to work on. Games like Pirates, What’s The Time Mr Wolf, Tails, Cups & Saucers, Volcanoes and various children’s games are brilliant starting points for children. These activities teach the basic skills subconsciously. In later posts, I’ll demonstrate how these drills are adapted for a Tots Football session.
The final skill on the list, social development, for me is very important for Tots Football. During my Tots sessions, I have various family members attending with their child. Throughout the sessions, the activities are a great chance for family member and child to bond. Other social aspects which come into the sessions are sharing, teamwork and something that is high on the agenda of the FA, respect. At the end of every session, I ensure that each child shakes everyone’s hand and says ‘well done’.
The most important thing to remember for Tots Football is that the attendees are young and are just starting on their journey as developing footballers. Keep the sessions fun, pressure-free and make the learning subconscious. As the coach, try not to be too serious but keep control. The simple things go a long way in the memory of a child, learn their names, give them high fives and praise them throughout the session.
At the end of the day, the fact that children as young as 18 months are attending sessions is an achievement. Seeing them develop not only as footballers but more as an individual is what makes any form of coaching worthwhile.