US Youth Soccer Debuts Player Development Model
Frisco, TX - 2/2/12
US Youth Soccer is excited to announce the release of the Player Development Model, which provides a curriculum for clubs from the Under-6 to Under-19 age groups. The curriculum is designed to serve as a standard to guide to each of US Youth Soccer’s 55 member State Associations and more than 5,500 clubs on how to effectively train athletes of all levels and abilities.
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Crucial for success
For a team to really have the best possible soccer experience as youngsters, there needs to be communication between all parties involved. Players, coaches, administrators and parents need to understand exactly what it takes, from each other, to create the learning environment that suits the development of the children the most.
For a brief insight of how we can each take small steps towards achieving this positive environment with the players, check out the fantastic educational 'mini-quiz' which our U14B Dragons Assistant Coach, Paul Jakobson, and his wife put together after a recent NYSWYSA workshop on the topic.
Thank you Paul and Kath, much appreciated!
Click here to take the quiz
THE OFFSIDE RULE MADE SIMPLE
Offside. It's the one law in soccer that causes more confusion than all the others put together. With a seemingly infinte number of different factors to consider, it is not surprising that unless you have been involved in the game for a long time, offside can be a difficult concept to comprehend.
Luckily, help is at hand!! The aptly named company 'Dynamic Thought' have put together a short animated video on their website to explain the law, step-by-step. This is a great tool for parents, coaches and players to get a better understanding of, if nothing else, exactly what is going through those referees' minds with every defence-splitting pass made during a game.
Click here to see 'Dynamic Thought's' animation, explaining the offside law.
What would you do?
Something to think about
I was recently sent an e-mail which, after a seemingly rough day for me, made me just sit back and slowly let things fall back into perspective. I felt that I would share it with the good people involved in our club in the hope it may help many of you in the same way:
Development and Learning
Some points to consider
I recently received my quarterly newsletter from the English FA. It had a completely new look and was packed full with very useful tips on nutrition, coach education, practices to use with young players, etc. There was one article in particular that caught my eye; with a new FA Learning video set for release soon to aid coaches at all levels, the FA have adopted a more player-centered approach to coaching with development and learning at its core. Below is what Alistair Smith of the English FA has to say on what coaches should understand about development and learning:
“Football at all levels is about problem solving. At the highest level the problems posed by opposing players and teams are more complex, more demanding and less predictable. Top players and top teams pose more problems and find faster solutions. It’s as simple as that! Great learning involves problem solving. This can be informal – such as working out how a ball will bounce back off a wall – or formal, with a coach setting you a similar problem in a 3v3 game about angles.”
“No one ever learned anything of lasting value without being actively engaged in the process. Great learning requires the active engagement of the learner. Sustaining active engagement requires the coach to sell the benefits of the session to players, link it to their longer term development needs and give them variety: Vary the conditions, the way you convey your message and the activities themselves. Most importantly of all, involve the players.”
“The best learners ask the best questions. Great players ask ‘what if?’ Again, this happens informally – ‘what if I step over the ball and drag it back?’ It also happens informally when a coach suggests some tweaks to a player’s repertoire. Supplying all the answers in a pre-packaged way kills curiosity – so limit your interventions. Too few coaches are prepared to ask the ‘what if?’ question.”
“No one ever got better without trying to! Structured practice is essential. According to Professor John Howe, an educationalist, it takes about 10,000 hours of structured practice to even begin to consider a future as a concert level pianist. Disabuse young players and their parents that it is all about being ‘gifted!’ Being gifted is not enough. Rehearsal of the basic skills through a progression of varied challenges will be necessary. However, space out and revisit the rehearsals. Apply the little and often is best principle.”
“The great coaches combine all of the above. Don’t be fooled by the public image of abrasive, noisy and aggressive touchline coaches seen on TV screens. Great coaches are developers and learners.”
So, when you are next out on the field at Eldridge Park with the kids, see if you can incorporate some of what Alistair is saying here into your session. Soccer is a player’s game and our kids should be encouraged to be creative and not worried about failing. We as coaches should set a positive learning environment and watch the magic unfold. This creative, ‘trial and error-esque’ approach will result in solutions to problems becoming almost automatic when match-day rolls around!
Man Utd receive support for putting development first
Small-sided games develop better players
I recently read an article on the NYSWYSA website regarding small-sided games and their benefits. Henry Winter (the author of the article) is seen as one of the very best sports writers in England. So it was so pleasing to see him supporting Manchester United Academy's philosophy on teaching the game to its players.
Man U have received more than their fair share of criticism for adopting a player-centered approach to coaching. Their 4 v 4 training to develop skills and allow players to have plenty of touches on the ball goes against the 8 v 8 guidelines that the Premier League like the youngsters to take part in.
“United know kids will always be competitive, so they work on their technique first and are prepared to "isolate" themselves from those clubs sticking to Premier League rules. "In eight v eight, the three biggest kids dominate," Les Kershaw (Academy Director) said. "So we decided we would go on a four-a-side programme of development that initially revolved virtually solely around technique.”
The use of small-sided games is viewed as one of the easiest and most efficient ways to coach young players. They are constantly involved and having to not only practice the techniques of passing, dribbling, defending, etc. but also have to be able to make quick and clever decisions on a regular basis.
How Children Develop
Age-appropriate activities and coaching methods are vital to our players' progress
Some would argue that coaching children is more difficult than coaching a professional adult team as there is much more to take into consideration. Coaching the pro team would obviously require the highest level of game knowledge to fine tune players and to achieve the win which is the be-all and end-all at that standard of play. But as a coach of a youth soccer team, you play a much larger role in the individual's growth not only as a player, but as a person also.
The 'four corners' or 'four pillars' concept of long-term player development discusses the idea of coaches needing to ensure that the physical, technical, psychological, and social (this last one is often neglected, which is wrong!) attributes of a player are all equally important for us to develop in these youngsters. One of the most efficient ways to help achieve these goals is to realise what to expect from certain aged players and to plan your sessions accordingly and to focus on performance rather than results.
Although children develop at different rates and times, there are recognised definitions for each age group in each of the four corners of development, and we should make the effort to be aware of these in order to better understand how we can make players feel more comfortable in our sessions and create that positive learning environment that is so key, given the limited amount of time we share with our players. The most important one to remember, in my opinion is that kids are kids! Not miniature adults. This should always be in the back of our minds when out on the field.
To help visualise the point I am trying to make here, I will just list a few examples of age-specific characteristics and see if you can relate to them in your coaching/parenting experiences:
- U6 players are all about themselves. That's not to say they are selfish. It's just how they learn best at that age. We should do primarily individual activities because of this.
- U8 players are very excitable, enthusiastic and sensitive. They also have a limited understanding of the concept of space (how many times have you seen two teams of U8 players ALL follow the ball no matter where it goes on the field when playing against each other?).
- U10 is seen as the golden age of learning, so players are often more keen than ever to ask questions (and answer your ones!). These players also really enjoy a challenge and we should stretch their minds as much as possible because of this.
- U14 players are arguably the most competitive. They are starting to understanding their own and their peers' strengths and weaknesses and are more fully aware of what it means to be part of a team.
- As children grow mentally, their decision making skills improve, but to begin with we should start games at 3v3 for U6 (less people on the field means less possible options, therefore decisions are slightly easier) and slowly progress to 4v4 at U8, to 6v6/7v7 at U10 when they are more aware of others and the risks/benefits of the different options available (dribble, pass, shoot).
So these are just a fraction of the factors we should be aware of with our players in order to meet their soccer needs. And as much as their are differences between age groups, some rules should reign true throughout a player's soccer life, for example:
- The children are more important than the activity they are involved in (adapt your session to meet their needs)
- Enthusiasm and experimentation should never be stifled. We should want all of our players to be able to solve problems themselves so that come game-day, they are not coach-dependent in their ability to perform on the field.
- Mistakes are a necessary part of learning. The kids should never be worried about failing. Thierry Henry (one of the world's greatest ever strikers) has a great slogan "I hate to lose, but I am not afraid to fail". The most memorable moments in most sporting events are from experimentation and trying something audacious.
- Young players are very sensitive to criticism (particularly from their peers). As a coach, we can set the standard by finding ways to positively encourage all of our players. This will rub off onto your players and the way they interact with one another, especially when things aren't quite going as planned.
Above all, have FUN with the players, no matter what their age. This is the world's most beautiful game and to see kids smiling while playing soccer is certainly the most rewarding part of my coaching. And I hope it is the same for many of you.
Principles of Play
The key ingredients to developing great 'all-round' players
"Soccer is a simple game, made difficult by soccer players". This was the phrase that was above the front door of my high school's Physical Education department (although the word 'soccer' was replaced with 'football' for obvious reasons). And as much as I didn't understand at first, it is so true.
Despite its often complex appearance at the 11 v 11 level, the game of soccer is actually just a series of smaller 'battles' going on in certain areas of the field. With this in mind, a coach would not go far wrong if he/she focused training sessions around the key "principles of play". These are the cornerstones of which good attacking and defending rely upon.
Principles of attack Principles of defence
1. Depth/Support 1. Delay
2. Mobility/Movement 2. Depth/Support
3. Width 3. Cover/Balance
4. Penetration 4. Concentration
5. Improvisation 5. Control/Restraint
How many times have you heard players say "I don't need to defend, I'm a striker"?, but the truth is that when the other team have the ball, we are ALL responsible for stopping them from scoring against us. If our players can begin to understand how these concepts work, then no matter where they are on the field, they (and we as coaches) can be confident that they will be able to handle any situation they may face.