After last week’s match, I wanted to get some extra time with my U8 squad and work on some of our problem areas.
- Increase 1v1 skills on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. On the offensive side, encourage dribbling as the first touch of the ball (instead of booting downfield) and on the defensive side, encourage active engagement with the ball and ball handler instead of waiting passively for the player to come forward.
- Introduce the concept of a supporting position on the field to the player on the ball. That is – where can a player stand on the field that they will be able to receive a pass from their teammate?
- On field time to raise player awareness of the direction of play.
I had two players from the team and my younger son, Evan at the start of practice. I joined Evan and we played 2v2 against my older son and his teammate. I tried to only act as an aide to Evan moving up field – helping him find open space through a well-placed pass, as well as staking out supporting positions to help him and chatter with him.
A short time later, two more teammates arrived so we progressed to a 3v3 game. I carried on the same role for our team – helping move the ball forward and acting as a safety valve for my teammates to open up space.
As we concluded the 3v3 game, a fifth teammate arrived so no we had five of the seven boys from the team, and my five year-old son for the session.
Problem Solving – Ball in the Corner
I wanted to introduce a problem to the group – a teammate has dribbled or received the ball in the offensive corner of the field and was now cornered by a defender. How could teammates position themselves to help?
My older son helped his teammates arrive at a solution. One of the teammates took up a position that was still inside the corner – and we discussed whether or not that was the best choice for the pass. I tried to stress looking for the less-opposed option that leads out of the trap.
I’ve tried before to introduce keepaway to my teams. Last year in U7 we attempted it but the kids on the circle wanted to dribble it away from the game, and the kids in the middle just don’t move at enough pace or tenacity to cause the players to move the ball quickly. Again, I tried to stress to the players that they needed to move the ball to the easiest option and not try to put it in the air over the defender.
I’m not sure if kids have been conditioned away from Keep-Away by years of sharing and being nice – but the motivation just isn’t there. Perhaps some negative motivation like avoiding doing Burpees but I didn’t go that far tonight. Instead we moved to an unopposed passing exercise to help build the point. I had one of the players talk about the plant foot positioning and demonstrate good technique. Passing is probably a technical skill that we will need more work on at our general practice.
1v1 Death Matches
I played a ball into the box and two players came in. They played until one goal and then went off. This game caught their interest and they played with appropriate speed and intensity. I was happy with their performance here.
Small Sided Game, Part 2
Before we could start our small sided game, one of the team members departed so we were back to a 3v3 including me. I switched the teams around and we started again.
One area I saw improvment in the second small-sided game was on the kick-in from out of bounds – whereas our throw-ins in last week’s game always went up the line into a crowd, we played a number of balls square from the sideline and were able to move the ball into the middle of the field and into open space.
We still didn’t do a great job with supporting positions – I’ll need to find some more games for starting shape and giving your teammate space to operate.
Before we departed, I sat down with the kids to recap what we learned and ask them to give something they learned. They did pretty well at recounting details of the session – and one of my basics of the session – “Play Easy.”
We have our next general practice Friday night before a Saturday morning match. I think I’ll have to dedicate some of the session to receiving the ball intelligently for their next move. I think this was another big part of our trouble on receiving goal kicks (where we lost several almost directly into our own goal) as well as on the throw-in.