Saturday was the first match day for both our U6 and U8 teams. We’ve had two practices so far this season, with about two hours of total practice time for both teams.
We were shorthanded for our team on Saturday, with two of our players out sick. We entered the match with four of our six players at the game – and as we play 3v3 it meant all of them would see the field a lot!
All four proved up to the task, with three scoring goals and the fourth player coming close. I tried to use the “New Ball” roll in a few times to aide him in scoring and help him have that joy.
One of my perennial challenges in every age group I’ve coached so far is changing the mind of players on the kick off. A majority of the players at least start at the point of walking up to the ball, and booting it as hard as they can. Our rules allow for the player to dribble the ball off of the kick off instead of the true FIFA Laws of the Game single touch. That’s been my instruction to the kids both this year and last year.
The scale of skill at this age is big considering the age – the kids who played a full year last year are starting at a big advantage against teammates and opponents. This will close somewhat by mid-season and the close of the Fall season I expect.
One personal note – my 5 year old son received the #10 jersey for the team (by luck and nothing more). But – he got a big kick knowing that some of the famous players he knows from FIFA ’11 like Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie all share #10 with him. He also put on a dribbling demonstration at one point during the third quarter – controlling the ball by himself with teammates and opponents following him for several minutes as he turned and changed directions and waiting patiently for a shot. There’s some power in psychology for a young player who has at least a little bit of a world view of the sport he plays if you can align him with his stars.
Our U8 Boys had a rough first match. One of our parents mentioned that this was one of the stronger U7 teams last year, and they had a couple of dominant players who played aggressively.
During the match, I identified two issues that I will work on in practice with the team.
The first was coming to the ball. Often on throw-ins, the kick-off, and goal kicks players wait for the ball to come to them rather than moving towards the ball. The other team’s dominant players had no hesitation and were effective at cutting the passes between our teammates and quickly turning them into a counterattack that usually finished 1v1 against our Goalkeeepers.
Our second issue was one that I battled constantly in U7 last spring – breaking the initial temptation of players to boot the ball away, downfield the first instance it lands at their feet. While it might be effective in clearing the ball from the defensive zone – it does little to further the players in development of dribbling and on-ball confidence. I’ll be working hard to convert the first instinct from booting to dribbling as much as possible. I’ll probably need to address the mental side of it as well – that on-ball mistakes are better regarded than instantly conceding possession of the ball.
We did manage to score once – on a pass into the box from the corner and a finish to the corner of the net. It was a well played moment of the game.
We were often stymied by a player kept back on defense as a sweeper that added a second tier of defense for our opponent and served to slow down the speed of our counterattacks. We haven’t addressed positioning yet. With only 4 field players, I wanted the team to attack and defend the entire field together but we haven’t had enough time to become a team, or advance skill levels.
The amount of effort and hustle from the team was a big upside – and already seeing a greater level of cohesiveness from the boys than I saw on our U7 team last spring.