5v5 (U7 & U8)

Written by Adam Stretton

Key Points:
  • 5 a-side
  • 2 x 20 minute games (10 minutes a half)
  • The home team must supply a referee (see below)
  • First aid kit is a key requirement
  • Contact the opposition a week in advance if you are hosting the opposition (see below)
  • Ideally request opposition player names to complete your match form in advance (and duly supply your names to the opposition when playing away) - saves time on match day (especially if cold and wet!)
  • Recommended to use a Respect Line for parents
  • Get parental support. Ask parents to arrive early and put together goals, put up corner flags, referee on match days etc. This is important so to allow coaches to focus on the team
  • In league matches, the opposition must retreat to the half way line for goal kicks on the ground
  • No offside rule
  • Rolling substitutions
  • Throw ins should be over the head but generally there should be relaxed referring around this
  • Bad behaviour is dealt with by the referee, who might suggest a player sits out. However, it is incumbent upon the coach to identify this as well and deal with accordingly.
  • Matches are every three weeks with training on the two consecutive weeks
Important to Note:
  • In the Crowborough League, your players are registered to you but can play for one of our other teams in the same age group. This gives you flexibility to move players around as required occasionally; so no "formal" teams as far as the Crowborough League are concerned
  • Register all players in the league
  • Your should be paired with another team in your age group in Langton Green or, if you have an odd number of teams, with another team elsewhere so you always play at the same time v two other teams
  • Pairings should be of almost equal ability so not to get too wide a differential in results
  • Don’t get fined. Ensure paperwork is retuned after the game promptly. It’s your responsibility home or away to send your form back and failing to do so can get expensive if you’re not diligent. Maximum within 3 days
  • Set expectations early on that parents need to help with goals, refereeing, admin or café duties. It’s easier setting expectations early on rather than after a few weeks. Email it and remind them after each training session. Record who has and hasn’t helped, it may come in useful if you struggle one week and 1/2 parents have never helped
  • General Comms: Good communications are key. Parents and children want to plan their availability for the team so you must meet them half way and tell them all the scheduled information, get them to take responsibility for putting games, training, socials etc in their diaries and advise them early if plans change
  • Use Teamer, WhatsApp and/or Email judiciously and in moderation but use them. Set the ground rule and ensure all parent comms are constructive, relevant and focused
  • Comms in advance of a game: Notify the opposition well in advance of team colours, location / parking, facilities and contact details
Team Capability
  • Be honest in the capability of your team when registering them. You can say strong, medium or development. You will play against appropriate teams. Winning every game is fun for a while but you will then be pushed up to a higher group and then lose a lot more and it may be more difficult for the children. Play at an appropriate and competitive level.
  • Streaming: this shouldn’t really be considered until U10s, in exceptional circumstances U9s. This is one of the most emotive and difficult issues. Many teams stream from U10, some from U9. More info on streaming here...

  • Day Care or Professional Football Club? Remember you are neither. Players and parents need to show a degree of commitment and you need to help develop all players. It’s one of the challenging issues that needs balanced thinking, honesty to parents with what you need from them is important as is you appreciating that you’re there to help develop everyone in your team.


You need an assistant coach (qualified or not) and parents who can help with goals, refereeing and doing team admin.

Child Protection

Coaches or assistant coaches will need DBS (formally CRB) checks. The club has a nominated child protection officer (CPO - currently Jo Dunlop) and she can sort these checks for you. This is an FA requirement with no exceptions


Home teams need to offer up a referee. This can be a coach or parent. The coach should be the last resort, a parent or assistant coach should be doing this. I suggest you have a pool of 2/3 parents who like to do this.

Squad / Formation / Tactics

Aim for a squad of 8. Invariably one or two can’t make a match due to being ill or a holiday (that should be the only valid reason – not a rugby or cricket match that took precedence!). But if they all turn up it won’t give you a massive overhead of substitutions and parent/child expectations. Squads of 9 and more are difficult. Squads of 7 or less risk you being unable to pull a team together if a bug hits. Remember you can always borrow from another team at this age group – get this agreement with your paired team in advance if possible though. Remember, you won’t get their best player either. Holmewood House school tends to have more student activity on Saturdays than other schools, even with the change of policy to no Saturday school from 2017/18; balance your squad with this in mind.

It is important to start breeding some ideas on positional play but don’t be too rigid. Give players roles but more around what aspects you’d like to see from them - tracking back, moving out wide or creating angles for passing, looking for space, support play etc - appreciate they will not always stick to your instructions. Make sure you rotate your players into different areas so they can experience different parts of the game - they will learn and so will you as the coach. Accept that it might not always be perfect and make sure both players and parents understand this philosophy - it is development not results (although you never want to be on a losing run!).

A little early but it is good to think about your own football philosophy - do you want them to master possession and accept mistakes (e.g. passing back to your goalkeeper to keep the ball and playing in your own half, or focus on playing quicker football on the counter attack). What you do and experience through the season will shape this.

At this stage, formations are tricky. Most teams would line up as 1-2-1 or 2-1-1 in some shape or fashion. It’s easy to put your best player upfront and score all the goals but actually it’s good to mix this as having them in defence or midfield means they’ll get more of the ball (you’ll want to nurture skills to cope with playing with back to goal, or seeing the whole pitch - so mixing up players in areas really benefits for the future).

Goal kicks. The retreat rule to the half way line means the opposition will hunt down the ball as soon as it is kicked so you need to prepare for this (as well as how you “attack” goal kicks of the opposition). Things to consider:

  • Can the goalie kick well? If so, do you want to create quick counter attacks, pushing your team up the field. Do you even want to play this way kicking long?
  • Can the goalie distribute? Accurate rolling out, side foot pass.
  • Are your players receiving the ball confidently under pressure? Try to encourage the right body shape to alleviate the pressure (open body, receiving the ball on the back foot to play forwards - also the weight and direction of the pass they are receiving is important here).
  • Can you build an attack? What’s your tactic once the player has received? A wide option or switching the ball works as the team hunting down will gravitate to the ball rather than where it is going to be played.
  • Equally think about your press, don’t all go in case your opposition has the same tactic as above.

In summary, it is easy to get carried away with expecting players to do advanced things and not make mistakes. They will learn from them and your role is to guide them - what would they do next time in that situation?

Keep your advice simple. What worked for me is “the 3 Ps” (before Guardiola coined something similar in fact!) - Protect Pass Press. There are so many things said to players that it confuses them so I decided to keep it limited. It helps them understand what you want very quickly and I use these words from the touchline. You’ll note nothing on scoring goals, which I believe you should be leaving the players to make their own decisions in the attacking areas. If we pass too many instructions it actually limits creativity. Some examples below:

- Get back toward goal, track back
- Stay central to defend the goal or potential shot coming
- Scan the field - check over your shoulders for where your opponents are

- Looking up for a team mate
- Create angles for the pass
- Find space

- Close a player down
- Put pressure on the space/gaps between areas on the pitch
- Wanting the defence to play further up