Under 8

Coach Manual

Download a PDF of the U8 Coach manual from our training site, http://training.ayso26.org. Information on this web page supersedes information in the manual.

After logging into the training site look at the drop down menu for MANUALS.

Players in the Under-8 Division are 6 or 7 years old by July 31, prior to the season start.  Teams have about 12 players on the roster.  Games are non-intensive and instructional in format.  We organize our teams in a special format in Palo Alto AYSO to provide the best possible experience for every child, regardless of athletic ability.  This is explained in detail below with the Olympic and World Cup format.

Games are 5 players to a side ("5v5").  For a game, the team divides into two mini-teams, in different combinations each week.  The two mini-teams play simultaneous games against the two sub-teams of another team on fields set up for side-by-side games.

Games are refereed by parent volunteers from the teams playing.  Refereeing for this age group is described in more detail in the Referee section, on the U8 Laws page.   Referees take the class, U8 Official.

Coaches must be certified with U8 Coach clinic instruction.

In the Fall Instructional Program we use an alternating team format, Olympic and World Cup (see below).  In the Spring Instructional Program we do not alternate our team structure.

Game Format U8
Boys and Girls Under-8 (6 and 7 year olds) play their games 5 to a side, with 12 players on the roster. In the fall Saturday games, each team divides into two "mini-teams" and plays the other team's "mini-teams".  There are NO goalkeepers in U8.

Young children learn the essentials of the game better in small-sided games.
  • Children have more opportunity to participate and play the ball
  • More time and space for players to develop basic skills
  • Basic elements of soccer without the complications of positional play that is required in larger-sided games

  • Game Organization - Olympic and World Cup - Fall Only
  • The Olympic and World Cup formats are designed to provide more combinations of competitive for the players, giving better opportunities to strong and less strong players alike.
  • Each team divides into two mini-teams of 5 players.  Games are played without a designated goalkeeper, or goal tenders, and tends to make for a high scoring game with lots of exciting shots on goal.  Lots more opportunity for celebrating shouts from the parents, for players on both teams (ie, cheer for all the kids, not just your own team).
  • Each team must have two referees, and provide one referee to one of the two mini-team games.
  • Prior to the start of the games, the entire team should check in with the referee from the opposing team.
  • The team listed first on the schedule (home team) should have its mini-teams stay on the same field for both games. (If coaches don't have a schedule, the referee may flip a coin to decide who is the home team.)
  • Each half is 20 minutes, with a 2-minute substitution break at the half.  There is a 5-minute interval between the two games.
  • On odd numbered weeks we play such that the mini-teams are evenly balanced.  Each mini-team plays both of the opposing team's mini-teams. 
  • On even numbered weeks we play unbalanced in which the coaches divide their roster into one mini-team of the stronger players and one mini-team of the weaker players.  The two stronger mini-teams play, and the two weaker mini-teams play, only, without switching for the second half of play.  The aim is provide more balanced competition, especially for the weaker players on the roster, who often struggle to get involved in a game when strong players are in the same game. The stronger team is referred to as the "World Cup" team, and the other team as the "Olympic" team.
  • On any given game day, the players do not switch between mini-teams, but the makeup of the two mini-teams should vary from week to week as much as possible.  This is an important point to follow, so that we minimize players being categorized as "World Cup" or "Olympic".  Of course, do the mixing with players in the middle, not the very strongest or very weakest.
  • The referee will indicate a substitution break approximately 10 minutes into each half.

  • Substitutions
    Teams should follow a substitution and rotation plan so that each player plays an approximately equal amount  If a team is short of players and the opposing team has extra players, consider loaning players to allow the children present more playing time on the field, rather than having children waiting as a substitute. 

    Field Arrangement
    The field is 50 yards long, 25 yards wide, or less, depending on clear grass size.  There is a half-way line for kickoffs with a 6 yard diameter center circle, and corner arcs of 1 yard radius.  The goal area is 6 by 12 yards, and the goal is 6 ft high and 6 yds wide.  The fields are arranged in pairs with a 3-5 yard separation between them.  

    Coaches may stand near either touch line, including in between the two fields, but must stand back 1 yard from the touch line. Spectators should stand along the fence line, only.  Coaches should remain in the "technical area", which is along the touch line approximately 3 yards on either side of the center.  Neither coaches nor spectators are permitted immediately behind the goal lines.  Coaches should "manage" their parents to know the correct observing area and to remain in that area.  Mingling of the coaches and spectators from the two full teams is encouraged.  If the teams have banners they should be placed at least 3 yards back from the field.

    Goal Locker
    The goals and corner flags are stored in a locker along the fence near the field, V-Vole.  To use the locker, teams that are putting the goals up in the morning can unlock the locker and open the front door, around 8am.   To open the door you must release the hook-n-eye on the inside, and the door latch at the bottom on the outside.  This provides easy access to the goal kits.  The locker can be left open for other coaches to access.  At the end of the session on each field, around 1 pm, for the team that is to put the goal down, pack the goal into the black bag,ensuring you put all the parts in the bag, and return the bag to the locker.  When you return a bag, if the door is open, be sure to close the front door, push the door stop on the bottom down, and latch the hook-n-eye on the inside of the door .  Then all bags can be lowered into the locker from the top.  The last coach to put away their goals must lock the locker.  If you see the locker open and no AYSO U8 teams on the field, close and lock it.
    Coaching at the Game
    Coaching at the game should be restricted to helping players know their position, and that are not on the ball.  Do not shout instructions to players with the ball - it's their game and their decision.  This applies equally to spectators.  Frantic cries of "Kick it out!" or "Get it out of there!", while well-meaning, create an atmosphere of tension and put unreasonable pressure on young players. They are going to make lots of mistakes and there is essentially nothing that you can do at the game to change that.

    5v5 Basic Player Roles and System of Play
    The beauty of 5v5 is that at any given time each player has a simple and understandable role to play, and players should generally be in a diamond or rectangular arrangement on the field
    •  Outfield player with ball: attack defender with dribble, shoot at goal or pass to teammate.
    •  Defensive cover: backup the player with the ball in case an opponent steals it, and provide a backward passing option.
    •  Attacking support: provide a (forward) passing option to the player with the ball .
    We recommend that you do not assign players fixed roles or positions.  The field is small enough that the roles can change dynamically as the play develops.  It is much more important at this age to encourage mobility and participation than it is to focus on positional play.  Please do not assign a "goal-tender" to stand near the goal area.  All players should should play offense and defense, and no goal tending by defense players. They should be out from the net and challenging the attackers. 

    In your regular practices, we encourage you to play 3v3 (without goalkeepers) for 30 minutes of your normal practice hour.  You will find it much easier to teach skills to the 2, 3 or 4 kids who are not playing than to the whole group.  You will need either an assistant coach or a parent to monitor the game, as this age group is usually not self-organizing.

    Coach Certification
    All coaches, head coaches and assistant coaches, must be currently registered as a volunteer (an annual requirement), have completed Safe Haven (a one-time requirement for all AYSO volunteers) and have completed the U-8 course. 

    Each of the two mini-games needs one referee.  Each team must have two certified referees.  Three is recommended. Games are "self-assigned", meaning the referees at the game will decide who will referee each mini-game, and who will do center or touchline.  Referees are encouraged to "mix it up" for rounder experience.  Referees must attend a 3-hour clinic to be properly certified at this level (U8 Official).  If already certified, a refresher clinic is required every year.  Clinic information can be found on the Referee Classes page. 

    Body Piercings
    As mandated in the FIFA Laws of the Game used worldwide, no player may wear anything considered dangerous to themselves or any other player.  This includes all jewelry.  We run into problems every year with players with newly pierced ears who do not want to remove the studs.  Referees are instructed not to let them play unless they remove them; covering them with tape is not an option. The best solution: wait until the end of the season to get piercings.

    COMMENTS about 5v5
    Coach on the field: Coaches should try to avoid stepping onto the field during the game.  Referee owns the field and all referee directions must be followed.
    "Goal Guarding": although the U8 game does not include goalkeepers, some players will want to protect the goal, even when play is at the other end of the field.  Encourage them to move away from the goal and get closer to play. 
    Referees: It's much easier for the coaches if each team provides a referee who has been trained.  One referee for two games means one game will have either an untrained parent or a coach as referee.  This often leads to a less enjoyable day for the coach or parent who is the stand-in referee, and also for the players who may be given an inconsistent set of rules to play by.
    Slide tackles: Players in Under-8 are not permitted to slide-tackle.  They are highly unlikely to be able to correctly execute a safe sliding tackle.  The kids need to understand that they may hurt the other player, or even themselves.  Coaches are expected to explain that staying on your feet gives you the best chance of winning the ball in a challenge.  Referees should whistle attempted slide tackles as dangerous play.
    Heading:  Heading is prohibited at U8 and the referee should whistle heading as dangerous play.  Do not train heading.