In the future the best players will be those who can excel in a fast paced environment. There will be even greater demands on technique, tactical understanding and physical conditioning.
Players today are faster and cover greater distances than previous generations. Passing combinations are faster and there is an increased importance on controlling possession. More goals are scored through quick counter-attacking play and decision-making is of critical importance.
I am often asked what young players, aged 5-8 should focus on. This developmental phase is preparation for the critical phase between ages 9-12. The rate of agility and motor skill development is very important as the young players learn the skills of adjusting their body shape to the path of the ball. This is also an important time for young players to begin to understand when to use certain skills during game situations.
Players must have fun and enjoy the learning process. The premise that players develop faster and experience more enjoyment in small side games is universally accepted and proven.
It is important to establish a good preparation phase of basic technical skills. The ability to dribble is critical since dribbling is the foundation skills and preparation for all other fundamental techniques of soccer, such as receiving, passing, and shooting. Young players aged 5-8 should focus on the following technical skills
- Dribbling: Take risks and develop moves to beat opponents
- Shielding: Practice quick changes of direction, with changes of pace.
- Receiving: Practice receiving skills on the ground and in the air. Learn to take a first touch on the move
- Shooting: Proper striking technique
- Passing: Proper technique – Laces, Inside, Outside
Players at this age do not possess the analytical thought process to think ahead and plan their next play. In these age groups, being in possession of the ball is the most crucial moment during games. Players need to spend a lot more time practicing and not play too many games.
In games, young players should play a variety of positions to develop more game awareness and the basic principles of play.
There should be no focus on cardio fitness at these age groups and all activities should be fun and engaging. The areas that should be developed are:
- Agility – with and without the ball
- Speed – teaching proper running technique
- Coordination – with and without the ball
- Keep it FUN, enjoy the game
- Learn to make decisions
- Demonstrate imagination and creativity
- Be disciplined to keep learning
- Academics – Learn good study habits. Maintaining good grades and balance between school and sports are important.