Teaching “Kick-ins” to U7 Players

Posted on Sep 21, 2012 in CoachingCoaching Youth SoccerU7U8U9

Teaching “Kick-ins” to U7 Players

By Coach Dan Stratford

If there is anything I take pride in as a soccer coach it is this: I am open minded and always willing to learn something new. After 24+ years as a denver youth soccer playerlicensed, professional soccer coach who has over 1,000 hours of experience coaching kids from 7 years and younger to high school state champions to professional soccer players I am humbled by what 7 year olds and un trained parents teach me nearly every day.

In the last two weeks I have had two 2 soccer coaching epiphanies:

  1. I feel like I cracked the code on teaching basic passing tactics and support to 8 year olds. (I will address this later, in another post)
  2. I realized how to teach 7 and under kids how to perform kick-ins in 4 v 4 or 3 v 3 soccer leagues.

Teaching U5, U6 & U7 players how to take kick-ins.

Short answer: treat them like a proper kickoff, NOT a passing situation.
The problem with treating kick-ins as a pass at this age is that GREAT coaches are NOT teaching passing at this age.
During the run of play I simply want my players to:

  1. GET the ball
  2. Dribble the ball trying to score
  3. Get out of the way of your teammate who has the ball, by getting goal side of the play as quickly as possible.

The problem with kick-ins is that if you treat them like a pass, but you aren’t teaching passing, they are rarely successful and they contradict what you are teaching in all other aspects of the game.

Every time the ball goes out of bounds I have two players stand next to each other for the kick-in, making sure the ball is “under their noses”. One player touches the ball to the other player, and the player dribbles to try to score.
This approach has the following positive results:

  1. It reinforces the dribbling I am teaching.
  2. It reinforces our process for taking kickoffs.
  3. It eliminates the confusion of asking them to pass.

One other nugget:
The girls often want to argue over who gets to receive the ball on the kick-in. I tell them that whoever gets to the ball first after it goes out of bounds gets to receive the kick-in, but I reserve the right to overrule occasionally. For example, I might overrule if I have a player who has had little time on the ball because her teammates are always getting there first during the run of play, to try to help get the player more engaged in the game.
Objections I can predict to this approach


  1. “What if it is a goal kick by our goal? They could risk losing it in front of our goal.”
  2. “Why aren’t we introducing passing?”
  3. “Why aren’t you kicking the ball down the field on kick-ins and kick-offs.”

The answers to number 2 can be found here:

Coaching U6 Soccer Players

Coaching Young Soccer Players the Right Way…


  1. “What if it is a goal kick by our goal? They could risk losing it in front of our goal.”
  2. “Why aren’t you kicking the ball down the field on kick-ins and kick-offs?”

My answer to the first question: “So what?”

I WANT young soccer players to get comfortable controlling the ball everywhere on the field, without panicking-even in front of our goal. It is much easier later in their soccer lives to say “hey, do me a favor, get that ball out of there quickly” if they are composed, than to say “Hey, control the ball in front of the goal and don’t panic.” To a player who has no skill.
They will realize the pressure in that situation without me yelling at them to “kick the ball away from the goal!”.
I want them to learn how to handle pressure, not panic and kick the ball.

My answer to “Why aren’t you kicking the ball down the field on kick-ins and kick-offs?”

The proper way to take a kickoff is to have one player touch the ball to the other and go from there.
Of course, if your objective is to win the U7 championship and NOT teach kids how to enjoy soccer AND learn how to play soccer then you probably disagree with everything in this post and should do us all a favor and change your approach or quit coaching soccer.