Schoolyard Program for 5U


The importance of developing Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS) for future success in soccer and sports:

Fundamental Motor Skills:

  • Walking before running.
  • Balancing before twisting and rotating.
  • Rolling a ball before underarm throwing a ball.
  • Stopping a rolling ball before catching a ball.
  • Jumping before skipping.

Translated to soccer:

  • Standing on one foot is necessary for kicking or controlling a ball.
  • Underarm throwing facilitates passing; facing a target, knowing release points, following through and recognizing ball flight.
  • Twisting and rotating is necessary for dribbling and passing an opponent.
  • Catching enables tracking and trapping a ball.

    Schoolyard Session Plan:

    AYSO Schoolyard Soccer sessions follow an eight−week program that meets once per week. There is a defined sequence to the sessions but if a longer program−period is needed or planned, sessions may be repeated. Modifications and add−ons are provided for variety and intensity.

    Schoolyard Session (Each Session will last 50 minutes)

    • Explanation of the Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS) objective.
    • Group formation based on when the parents checked in their player at the Check In Tent.
    • Activities I and II (locomotor and non−locomotor)
    • Game−like activity organizing/set up and water break.
    • Game−like activity III (introducing game concepts, e., teamwork).
    • Water breaks.

    What children will need at each session:

    • The uniform provided.
    • Soccer shoes or appropriate athletic footwear and shin guards.
    • Size 3 soccer ball which is given to the players at the first Session – bring to following sessions.

    Parent Participation

    Parents are encouraged to:

    • Be enthusiastic and encouraging.
    • Monitor players for signs of fatigue, stress, overheating or conditions that compromise their safety.
    • Help their child understand the activity and guide them along as needed.
    • Help paint the picture and tell the story.
    • Let them experiment and make mistakes.
    • Be patient and tolerant; make them confident learners.
    • Thank their child for letting them be part of their soccer world.

      Remind parents to avoid:

      • Over directing, coaching, correcting their child.
      • Comparing children.
      • Criticizing a child’s effort or tell them they aren’t working hard enough.
      • Taking it too seriously. It’s just a game. Let them Play!

      Schoolyard Soccer AYSO


      Welcome to the game!



      Prior to stepping into the imaginative domain of a Schoolyard player, it is important to get to know them and their world in order to maximize the experience for player, parent and everyone.

      Each child is unique and Schoolyard Program Leaders and Parents must show deep respect for each child’s individual stage of development and ability. In general, Schoolyard players present the following developmental characteristics:

      Psychosocial Development

      • Interested in new experiences and adventures.
      • Inquisitive and asks lots of questions.
      • Able to answer simple questions.
      • Creative in their fantasy play and storytelling.
      • Often able to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
      • Have challenges sharing.
      • Can identify basic colors.
      • Recall key parts of a story.
      • Follow three-part instructions.
      • Understand big blooks of time, i.e., morning, afternoon, night.
      • Able to count.


      As players get older, they are expected to perform technical actions they may not be able to physically execute without the development of sound Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS)

      Physical Development

      • Bend over without falling.
      • Walk forward and backwards.
      • Walk up and down stairs (alternating feet).
      • Climb (on anything!).
      • Stand on one foot (for approximately five seconds)
      • Hop
      • Kick ball forward.
      • Throw ball overhand.
      • Catch bouncing ball (most of the time).

      “Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are considered to be the building blocks that lead to specialized movement sequences required for adequate participation in many organized and non−organized physical activities for children, adolescents and adults.”

      Lubans DR, Morgan PJ, Cliff DP, Barnett LM, Okely AD Fundamental Movement Skills in Children and Adolescents, 2010


      Our Schoolyard program is founded upon furthering the development of Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS). Assumptions can no longer be made that children are physically equipped through free play to perform all the physical tasks required in sport. Children must be encouraged to improve their physical skills in order to execute future soccer specific technical actions and to avoid frustration and failure.

      Generally speaking, Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS) can be grouped into the following categories:

      • Locomotor (running, hopping, skipping, etc.)
      • Non-locomotor (balancing and twisting, etc.)
      • Object Control (catching and throwing, kicking, etc.)

      Children exposed to a wide base of FMS in their early years to provide a solid foundation for future physical activities and sports. If this important window of opportunity for the development of Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS) is missed, success in athletics may be hindered.


      Generally speaking, we should scaffold physical challenges as follows:

      • Walking before Running
      • Balancing before Twisting and Rotating
      • Rolling a ball before underarm throwing the ball
      • Stopping a rolling ball before Catching a ball
      • Jumping before Skipping

      And if we translate this to soccer:

      • A child needs to be able to stand on one foot to kick or control a ball.
      • Children who can underarm throw have more success in facing a target, knowing release points, follow through and recognizing ball flight… all key skills in passing!
      • Twisting and rotating is needed when dribbling, especially going past an opponent.
      • When catching, a child learns to track the flight of a ball… a key component for trapping a ball.

      “Specialization, in fact, may potentially limit overall motor skill development, which has implications for long−term physical activity patterns upon retirement from competitive sport”

      Wiersma, L.D., Pediatric Exercise Science,

      Risks and Benefits of Youth Sport Specialization: Perspectives and Recommendations


      Soccer concepts must be carefully and gradually introduced to young players. Specialization in a single sport can limit a child’s development of a wide base of Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS).

      If children concentrate only on playing soccer, they are likely to develop foot-eye coordination through dribbling and kicking, but may not develop comparable hand-eye coordination typically learned throw throwing and catching in sports such as baseball or basketball. Children require a comprehensive range of physical ability for more advanced athletic skills and sports; therefore, the more sports and activities they experience the better.


      It is much harder to acquire FMS in the teen years than during childhood so it is important to prioritize FMS in programming for the youngest participants.


      The information below generalizes age characteristics of children ages 3 through 5 years of age. (Note all children are unique and often chronological age can conflict with development age; therefore, individual application should always be considered.):

      5U (5 years and under) are times for freedom and imagination.

      Development of Fundamental Motor Skills:

      Balancing, walking, running, jumping, throwing, etc., should be the priority at this age.

      Playing environments should be based on fun games, adventures, story-telling and colorful images. Schoolyard Leaders and Helpers need to talk to the young participants in language that uses their terms and level of understanding. Conversation and instructions should be animated and make every effort to create colorful, vivid imagery for their children. At this age, it is very important that leaders demonstrate the activities and keep the activities moving to prevent boredom and distraction from setting in. It is important that leaders stay engaged with participants and are not distracted themselves.

      Most players cannot sustain prolonged activity. Schoolyard Leaders must make sure there are adequate breaks for rest and hydration.

      Even though Schoolyard activities are conducted in a group, in order to develop Fundamental Motor Skills, it is important that each individual player participates in the activity. If the activity involves equipment of any kind, especially a ball, there must be one for every player. Remember the motto. “Let them play!”


      Our players are not mini-adults: therfore, our sessions must be adapted to life through their eyes, their interested and most important, their capabilities.


      • Child with a Parent provides the best possible introduction to soccer for these youngest participants.
      • Each player must have a parent (or other adult) working with them on the field to help guide them within the activity.
      • Sessions are led by a Schoolyard Program Leader (which can be a parent) who will introduce and explain a game/activity that will apply to a certain Fundamental Motor Skill or technical skill, i.e., balancing or dribbling, etc.
      • Groups are formed on a weekly basis depending on check in time from the larger team for the time slot.
      • Ideally, each group will then have an “Activity Leader(s) (parent)” who will help run the session for each group. The Schoolyard Program Leader should circulate around the groups providing guidance as needed to players and parents.
      • After the allotted amount of the time for the activity, the Activity Leader should bring the players and parents back together as a group and briefly recap (1 min max) what they have done and introduce the next game/activity. Recap should cover both motor skill development and any technical soccer aspects, i.e., jumping or passing, etc.
      • Each Schoolyard session will end with a 20 minute “game-like activity” designed to gradually introduce most game concepts (teams, direction, rules, competition, targets/goals, etc.) in preparation for playing at the 6U level. The final game “The Big Match” is repeated in week 6 and after for the players to gain a familiarity with the 6U format.
      • During the game-like activity, one parent from each group assigned by the Activity Leader shall be selected to act as the game supervisors for the week to simply help keep the game going. All other parents should be encouraged to cheer positively but refrain from “Coaching” (giving directions) from the sideline (touchline). This is the time for the kids to play – Let Them Play!


      Introduce soccer by letting the game be the teacher

      Allow the players to enjoy the activities freely.

      Schoolyard Program for 5U

      5U Parents – Children born in 2020

      This season Santa Barbara AYSO Region 122 that serves the Santa Barbara, Montecito and Goleta area will change our program for our youngest players. Instead of having small teams with weekly practices and games, we’ll be implementing the National AYSO “Schoolyard” program. This program is structured to help develop your child’s fundamental motor skills and provide a pressure-free soccer experience.

      Each child will be assigned to a pool of approximately 40 players and that pool of players will meet on Saturdays at Girsh park. The time may vary each week. Each child will be placed into a small group, different each week. Each group will be assigned to a specific field area (the 4 fields are adjacent to each other) for their session. Their field group for the day will be determined by when they check in at the Check In Tent (which will be next to those fields). The players must check in each day they attend. Each session will last 50 minutes and consist of a skills session managed by an experienced AYSO coach, assisted by the parents present, and followed by a supervised small side game activity. We will need the assistance of parents to help up with this program and to implement the Schoolyard Session Plan.