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: development, losing, miss, mistakes, shoot
Going into our game last weekend, my Under-11s were playing on the back of a seven-match winning streak. That run has been built on a good passing game and the idea that every single player is involved as the ball is moved up the pitch. In the match, we were up against a physically big side… not that my players were put off by that challenge.
And it was the best game of passing football I had ever seen us play, even if our winning sequence came to an abrupt and unexpected end.
Essentially, all our training, practice and repetition of movement has started to pay off. Yet we lost 4-0. But who cares? Some of the one-twos and link-up play were mouth-watering… I counted five back-heels that beat a player and put one of my players into a great position to create a goal.
And yes, we created a lot of chances, but the opposition were very strong at the back and the goalkeeper showed excellent awareness coming off his line to sweep up any through-balls. The opposition themselves played some great football and the match was an excellent advertisement for grass roots soccer.
We gave away a goal on the stroke of half-time, but that didn’t change my team-talk at the interval. I told them they were playing superbly. Sure, they were more concerned about leaking a goal, but even they admitted that the manner of the performance had been very encouraging.
The second period followed much the same pattern – both teams created chances. They took theirs, but we didn’t. That is sometimes how it goes in a match. I was buzzing afterwards because we had performed so well, and so much of what I had coached them had come through.
Sometimes that’s enough in soccer, because while things didn’t come off on Saturday, I know that if the players continue to play like that, they’ll win many more than they lose. And that’s the point – if they go out thinking they have a chance of winning, we have won together as a team – coach and players learning from each other.
The result should never be the main thing. It’s much more important that your team plays to the best of its ability – remind them that for as long as they do that they’re developing and growing, and you’ll find they’ll keep responding, no matter what the scoreline is.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: andre merelle, clairefontaine, development, french, french academy, left foot, right foot, sessions, skills, two footed
Coaches often ask me about getting grass roots players to use both feet – and I have to admit it is hard. The best way is to try and make sure you practice with your players so they get used to using both of them. But it is something you have to work on all the time because they can easily stop doing it in matches.
I have two ways for you to work with your players. The first is from Andre Merelle the technical director of French Football Federation (FFF’s) National Technical Centre at Clairefontaine, arguably the best youth soccer development center in the world.
It is a simple exercise but very effective – plus you get to watch him explain it in the clip below.
He has helped develop players like Jean-Pierre Papin, Thierry Henry, Louis Saha, William Gallas and Nicholas Anelka.
The French focus a great deal on technique……The players must play with the ball as much as possible from an early age, the younger the better.
Check out his simple way to coach two-footed strikers in the video clip below and set it up and try it out with your players. Then move on to my session below it:
Close to goal, strikers can guide the ball into the net, they don’t need to rifle it home. So this exercise is all about coaching your players to be comfortable in front of goal with both feet.
Set this up like the diagram below on a small pitch with two teams of four players. You, or a helper, act as the server by standing on the halfway line at the side.
In the diagram the white shirted players dribble and then pass (1) to the coach. The coach makes a return pass (2) for a first time shot with the right foot (3).
Immediately the player moves across the penalty area and reacts to a pass from a team mate at the side of the goal by shooting with his left foot (5). He then takes the place of his team mate next to the goal.
The dark shirted players do the same thing in the opposite direction. This time the left-foot shot is further out but here just look for direction from the player. Tell him you want to see him hit the target not necessarily score past the goalkeeper.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: age, development, youth
What another coach would understand, but this guest didn’t, is that within an age bracket, say U10s, there can be up to a year difference between some of the players.
And that makes a huge difference in youth teams. some players will grow quicker than others and be taller and struggle to cope with coordination, while the younger ones find they are brushed off the ball easily.
You should try and give each one of your players targets to meet during the season and also give them as much time playing matches as the older ones in your squad. By helping them to develop you may just find a gem that you didn’t realise you had – and a lot of coaches never discover that the players they leave on the bench every week could make a difference to their teams.
You could give players targets at each session or match, like “I will try to head every ball that comes to me at head height”, or “instead of dribbling into the box every time I will cross the ball”. You must make a note of this at the end of the session or match and talk to your player about it.
It is not unlike the top teams who have to bring young players through to the first team. At Chelsea Carlo Ancelotti is keen to bring youth through and that is hard when you have such a strong first team. However Ancelotti reckons he has found a star player through his youth experiments. “In six months we have found a fantastic young player in Josh McEachran. Others from the academy are close to playing for us. We hope to find more.”