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Written by:admin
9/22/2009 

 We need to get away from the “soccer drills for kids” mentality and develop soccer exercises and soccer practices that develop those four soccer skills identified above.  We must place children in an environment where they learn the soccer skills identified above, but in a way that eventually they will be able to apply those skills in game decisions where decisions are necessary – but the decisions should be those of the player and not be the coach or the overly-enthusiastic parent.

Soccer Best Practices
 by Tony Waiters

Recently, I’ve been discussing with a number of people – mainly club head coaches – the best program for beginner players U5/U6 through to U10. It is refreshing to find pro coaches thinking about the younger players. For too long our best and most experienced coaches have found themselves in youth soccer organizations coaching the better players from 13-years of age upwards.

This has been brought about for two reasons:

1.The people who employ the club head coaches are looking for better coaching and better results with their “showcase” teams. Perhaps, even worse, some of those volunteer board members have an ulterior motive. They want the best soccer coaching for their son or daughter, who is now a teenager and a real “prospect.”
2.This preoccupation with the best players is often compounded by the professional head coach who wants to, and prefers to, be in a more competitive environment. This is sometimes ego, but it might be the genuine motivation to prove that they can coach soccer skills successfully at a higher level. It’s called ambition and there is nothing much wrong with that.
However, if we don’t get a community soccer organization working developmentally from the bottom up, those players graduating from the younger groups and into 11 vs. 11 soccer will be no better than those players of five or more years ago.

Too often the club gives the volunteer parent coach a few soccer drills instead of working with them on soccer skills and so aid their all round development.

So what should be done with soccer practice activities for the U6 to U11 – and then with the U12 – U18?

One of the Technical Directors I talked to, who has made a commitment to the U6/U11 development area, told me that he thought the most important thing was to get the children running with the ball in different activities. I know where he is coming from, but I’m not going to entirely agree with him.

Dribbling – running with the ball – is the most basic instinctive response from a child with a soccer ball and we must not take that away from them. “Pass it! Pass it!” is the most common sideline shout in soccer programs for the younger players. And this may be “coaching” out creative and exciting dribbling experimentation for young players. We all know that is wrong.

We also know that dribbling, passing and kicking are the only ways to move the ball forwards in the game of soccer (other than a throw in from the side-line and a throw from the goalkeeper). So we have (for the moment) identified four main components for development in the younger age groups. These are:

1.Pure running with the ball and maintaining individual possession (dribbling)
2.Kicking the ball (shooting,/passing)
3.Receiving the ball (first touch/away from pressure and shielding)
4.Combination play (possession games, co-operative defending, small sided games, etc.).
We need to get away from the “soccer drills for kids” mentality and develop soccer exercises and soccer practices that develop those four soccer skills identified above.  We must place children in an environment where they learn the soccer skills identified above, but in a way that eventually they will be able to apply those skills in game decisions where decisions are necessary – but the decisions should be those of the player and not be the coach or the overly-enthusiastic parent.

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