The fall season is nearly upon us so I have included some curriculum ideas for each of the age levels. 9-10 year olds will be the 1st of 3 age group curriculums. I will be posting the 11-12 and 13-14 year old plans in the coming weeks.
Of course, listing these out is a somewhat fearsome task. This is because no two teams are ever exactly the same. Each group of players has their own, unique needs. You may take a look at the list and say, “This group is already way beyond that!” Or, “There is NO WAY that we can get there!” Fair enough, I think what is important is that you have a plan of attack for where you would like to bring the group along.
Also, I have included some “reminders” that are ALWAYS good to keep in mind; I always found it helpful to be reminded of the basics. We find ourselves having to train in bad weather, the players have gotten comfortable and at times take liberties with their attention (is that a nice way of saying things), we are running out of ideas to keep the players focused, the conflicts with school soccer are getting aggravating… that sort of thing.
So, towards that end:
- The game is the best teacher. The majority of training time should be spent PLAYING the game. They are at a stage where they are no longer “training” but, “practicing”. In other words, they are stabilizing what they have learned instead of learning “new stuff”. So, players need to be exposed to playing the game, in a variety of forms, to become consistent in their play.
- Limit the amount and duration of your coaching points that disrupt the flow of the game. The “freeze” method of coaching is profitable at times… but, it has its drawbacks as well. If you must “freeze” play, try to limit your talking to 15 seconds. Remember, they learn far more from playing the game than they do from us “talking” about the game. Better yet, if you do “freeze” the play, then “show and go”. In other words, SHOW them what is needed, then get them going playing again as soon as possible.
- When faced with decisions which require us to choose between player development and winning league play games… always go with the player development! As an example, I was observing an Express game the other day where the coach put a player who normally plays forward back to a central back position. This was done in a “close” game, and as a result provided the team with some scary moments as mistakes were made that could have led to goals being scored. However, after a while, the player started to get the hang of it, made some improvements, and certainly developed as a player. Now, instead of relying on his superior athleticism to solve a problem, he is solving the problems that the game presents him with his brain, and positioning sense. He is making strides as a player. This resulted from making a decision that benefited the player’s development instead of the goal of winning the game. Of course, I do not think that the two factors are mutually exclusive. If managed correctly (i.e.: handling substitution patterns and time training this during practice times), both can be accomplished, playing to win AND developing the players.
- Keep technical training a priority. Use small sided games in practice (1v1, 2v1, 3v3). This gives them the MOST touches on the ball, and puts them in a competitive arena where they have to solve a problem and apply their technique.
- Have fun and play with the players when possible and appropriate. They learn a lot by emulation!
Nine and Ten Year Olds
- Turning with the ball through 180 degrees, continued, with soles of feet, insides, and outsides – now, “More speed, bend your knees more, get your head up, don’t get the ball stuck under you!”
- Practice changes of speed and direction with the ball. Guiding the ball at a 45 degree angle off a straight line: the technical rudiments of beating an opponent with a dribble.
- Perhaps some “Coerver training”: dribbling and feinting moves, and these moves practiced under pressure.
- Stronger and more accurate instep kicks over 15 to 20 yards.
- The essentials of heading are introduced, but very little time spent on heading.
- Continuing to master receiving ground balls with the insides and outsides of the feet. With an accurate “first touch” getting into a running stride to dribble, or setting up a pass or a shot. Should be comfortable with the insides and outsides of both feet.
- “Driving” or “cruising” with the ball: running fast with the ball, generally in straight lines.
- Shielding the ball effectively, “sideways on” to the defender.
- Continuing to coordinate the nervous system and the muscles.
- Shooting accurately – keeping the ball in the frame of the goal – with the insides of the feet and the insteps.
- Front block tackle.
- Positioning goal side of attackers when you lose the ball: cutting off the path to the goal. Marking opponents tightly.
- Elemental idea of support: helping the player with the ball. “Form a pair” with the player on the ball; other players should stay away and make the field big.
- Don’t wait for the ball – go to it!
- Playing away from pressure when you receive a ball – and move it at a new angle.
- Getting free of markers: “checking off” and creating space for yourself. “Make an area of green grass around you!”
- Wall pass, the give-and-go, the 1 – 2. Beginning to build up options for the two attackers in a two versus one situation.
- Lots of 1 v 1 confrontations to perfect timing in attack and defense. Continued emphasis on the “three main moments of soccer”.
- Building up an aggressive attitude about shooting.
- Recognizing when you’re under pressure and when you’re not under pressure when you receive a pass.
- Beginning to establish a vocabulary of communication.
- Players should be looking up and around and away from the ball, on both attack and defense. No “ball watching”.
- Nothing without the ball.
- No strength or endurance training.
The Practice Environment
- Practice is a combination of “play time” and a learning environment.
- Some pressured play in confined spaces.
- No specializing by positions.
- #4 ball, small goals.
- The week’s practice is 75 minutes long.
- Equal playing time. Allow everyone to start at some time during the season, hopefully several times. This allows them to experience both tasks… starting strong, and coming off the bench. Both VITAL for their development!
- 4 v 4 or 5 v 5 or 6 v 6.
- Friendship tournaments; not more than three halves for any player in a weekend.
- Players play all the “positions”.
- No stress at all on winning and losing. Total focus is on enjoyment and the future; virtually no mention of results.
As previously mentioned, be sure to subscribe and check back next week for my curriculum for eleven and twelve year olds.