Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: abcs, balance, basics, children, development, growth spurts
You think it’s something you never need to think about – surely an awareness of ‘the ABCs’ is something that kids have comfortably tucked in their locker when they first arrive at your door.
Think on things a different way, though. Consider the idea that growing bodies and changing shapes mean that, in terms of how they play the game, players sometimes have to readjust their ABCs… or even learn them all over again from scratch.
This has happened to one of my Under- 11s. He had a considerable growth spurt last summer and turned up for the new season playing like Bambi on ice. His dimensions are radically different and, by his own admission, he has struggled this year after really impressing last term.
His dad told me his feet have grown two sizes, with the need for new boots twice in the last six months! Even with the right size shoes on, his balance was all over the place and he could barely turn without falling over. But I think he is finally coming to terms with his new size.
Sure, to the untrained eye he looks like a player who has never played before because of his body language, and the way he sometimes controls (or miscontrols) the ball.
But this week there were the first indications the coordination that made him one of our best players last term is starting to come back. Against quality opposition, he was my Man of the Match on Saturday from central defence – being sure in the tackle and really ambitious when bringing the ball out. He scored twice showing great control and movement, and was at the heart of everything we did well. ABCs are vital to youth players.
They are the basis of everything they do in a match and at training. It may be that you have players in your team who suddenly look awkward on the pitch, and that may be due to growing bodies that knock out their sense of balance meaning some of the basics have to be learnt all over again.
If you’re coaching kids of ‘that’ age, keep an eye on them, because you may be able to spot what’s going on before they do. It’s your job to get them get comfortable again with their bodies, reassuring them as they go. There’s a fair chance they’ll be as puzzled as you are as to why they cannot do what they used to, so be patient and they will eventually catch up.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: balance, ball mastery, ball skills, dribbling, messi, Real Madrid, weaving
During growth and development our balance improves through practice. From learning to sit to walking and running does not just happen; it needs to be learnt and developed.
Think about how you learn to balance on a wall or the branch of a tree – first time you are awkward and slow until you can use your balance to speed up.
So too in sport. Lionel Messi has a low sense of balance because of his height and has learnt that he can lean and weave and stop quickly or speed up without losing his balance. This makes him an ideal machine for dribbling a ball past players. Dropping his shoulder to fool the defender into which side he will go to.
Balance is dependent on feedback and feeding of information from sensory receptors so repetition of movement, like walking along a wall, is vital to being balanced in sport especially at speed.
The optimum learning ages are between 5 and 11 but all coaches should do some training that involves specific balance related exercises.
Wobble boards and balance cushions are great to use if your club has them but if not I use this exercise below to help players with balance. I will add a ball once they can do it without falling over to make it more difficult.
How it works
- This exercise is done by a player and three cones.
- It helps young players with balance, and is great fun to do as well with players trying to keep balance on one leg.
- The player balances on one leg then touches the top of each of the three cones with the foot of their other leg without it touching the ground.
- Touches should be light and quick.
- After three touches change the standing leg so the other foot is touching the cones.
- Players should do the it three times with each foot.