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Montgomery County Soccer Association

Player Development

INTRODUCTION

Below we are going to discuss player development as it relates to the players' age. In order to give you some degree of consistency we need to agree on a framework in which to consider the game of soccer. Clearly there are multiple ways to do this. For each age group we have selected mental, social and physical characteristics as our framework. Also a few general coaching tips and goals will be given.

 

5-6 YEAR OLDS

MENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
Very individually oriented (me, mine). Incredibly short attention span. Their delicate psyche is easily bruised. Complex tasks are difficult. Linking skills together is often beyond their ability.

SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS
No concept of "team". Do not want to share. Solve one problem at a time. Prefer parallel play, so 3 v 3 is really 1 v 5 since they all want the ball at the same time. "My ball", "Mine", "Not yours" will be common phrases. This does not mean they don't need to feel part of the group (team).

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Limited coordination. Love to jump and hop. Play at full speed with easy fatigue but rapid recovery. Need frequent water breaks.

COACHING TIPS
Simple, brief instructions. Lots of praise. "Hints" not corrections. Fun games without pressure. Every child with a ball for most of the training session should be the norm. Encourage two footedness. Play games of inclusion not "knockout" games where the loser sits. Your less talented or more timid players will get knocked out first and lose valuable training time. Don't worry about "Bunch ball" it's ok and teaches ball control and comfort in traffic. Don't worry about passing; they aren't going to share anyway. Forcing a passing game on these children creates a "boot ball" mentality. Be patient. Don't forget to laugh; these kids are a scream. Educate your team's parents, "No coaching from the sideline" or "Don't encourage boot ball" are good places to start.

GOALS
Create a love of the game. Use of both feet.

7-8 YEAR OLDS

MENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
Vivid imagination. Still have an incredibly short attention span. Behavior depends on mood. They want everyone to like them. Feelings easily hurt still. Focus on one thing at a time. Still can't handle the tactical side of soccer.

SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS
Everybody is his or her friend. Uncritical. Very curious, they want to see and hear everything and tell you about it. Need approval from adults. Beginning to grasp team identity.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Constant motion. Rapid growth. You may see differences in physical maturity between the players.

COACHING TIPS
Avoid lines and lectures. They like to play crazy action games. Don't criticize risk taking even if it results in failure. They may be willing to pass a little but bunch ball is still the norm. It's better to have two simultaneous 3 v 3 games going than one 6 v 6. Continue to focus on maximizing touches on the ball. You can begin to introduce proper technique. No heading yet.

GOALS
Create good habits (taking care of equipment, listening, behaving, cooperating and trying your best). Encourage "homework" and suggest mini home practice sessions.

9-11 YEAR OLDS

MENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
Lengthened attention span. Can tolerate a short explanation. More team oriented. Can think ahead and sequence thoughts and actions. Want to play rather than being told to play. Can begin to grasp concept of space. First appearance of game and ball anticipation.

SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS
Peer pressure becomes a factor. Dislike personal failure especially in front of the team. Becoming more serious about their play and skills. Increased self-responsibility.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Motor skills becoming more refined. Capable of some real advances in technical ability. Wide diversity in talent levels. Can pace themselves.

COACHING TIPS
Considered the "Golden Age of Learning". Can recognize some basic tactics like switching the field of play, but not exactly sure why. Still, "there are no tactics without technique" so focus is still on basic fundamentals. Repetition of technique in a game like environment is the cornerstone of every practice. Must involve some degree of player decision-making. Competition in practice will generate greater effort. Praise effort not always results. Begin to understand positional play. Small-sided play is crucial to player development. Time to emphasize proper technique when striking the ball.

GOALS
Giving your best at all times is a learned activity. Encourage practice at home. Stress technical proficiency.

12-14 YEAR OLDS

MENTAL CHARACTERISTICS
Abstract thinking developing. More serious about their play. Openly competitive. Better able to solve problems. Firmer grasp of tactics.

SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS
Puberty is arriving (ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!) Spending more time with and being influenced more by their friends. Highly self-critical. Also critical of others (including the coach!). Can you say, "peer pressure"… Conformity is the norm. They become aware of morality and fair play. Some players may drop out because of lack of skill.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Coordinated skill sequences are now possible. Most will attempt to head a ball. Large discrepancy in player size and skill.

COACHING TIPS
Use lots of small-sided contests. You'll have seasoned veterans and newcomers that need different techniques to flourish. Maximize touches on the ball in an environment that requires decision-making.

U5 Boys playing soccer for MCSA at Heritage park in Clarksville Tennessee
U12 Girls playing soccer for MCSA at Heritage park in Clarksville Tennessee
U10 Boys playing soccer for MCSA at Heritage park in Clarksville Tennessee
MSCA Middle school girls playing soccer in Clarksville
MCSA 6 year old doing throw playing soccer at Heritage park in Clarksville
MCSA U7 Soccer Game in Clarksville, TN
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