Friday night was our third regular practice for both the U6 and U8 teams. The weather cooled substantially versus Wednesday night as well as prior weeks, so it was a great evening to be outdoors for practice.
We were one short of our full team, leaving us with 5 boys.
Our central training session this week covered several aspects of dribbling and trying to get the kids to find open space and work away from the pack. The major activity was a mass game of sharks and minnows or wolves (players crossing a field of predators trying to knock ball away.)
It seemed like tonight our trainer spent more time talking and organizing players and less time with the players moving with the ball. In the sharks and minnows game, a lot of kids fairly quickly give up their ball because they have more fun knocking the ball away from other players than actually dribbling their ball.
When we moved into our own session, I started the kids with fox tails. Fox tails is a form of a tag game – kids tuck pinnies into the back of their shorts and then try to avoid having their “tail” pulled. It’s another game trying to teach kids to spread out, find space, and move their feet to avoid being tagged. The kids enjoyed it when we played two weeks ago, so I brought it back tonight.
I tried to play a modified version next – a 1v1 gauntlet type of fox tails (moving the tail to the side) and then running the game on a lane. The point I wanted to make was that the player needs to move his feet and trick the opponent to get by and get to the other end of the lane. The player on “defense” has to keep him in front of him. We didn’t stay with this long since it seemed like the players were confused about the objective and resetting the pinnies was time consuming.
I tried to move the lane concept to 1v1 next – and it was about 1/2 of the players who understood. So we moved on to a 3v2 scrimmage that was engaging for about 3 kids.
I’m wondering if some of the kids got lost or bored during training – and then I just couldn’t bring them back.
We had six of our seven boys for the U8 team tonight.
Our U8 team arrived at 6:30 for their practice as I was cleaning up the U6 team (we practice on a different field at the same location). After some socialization with the early arrivals, we moved to our central training.
The initial phase of trainer time was focused on dribbling skills as well. Our trainer worked the four teams (about 25-30 kids) in a small square and asked them to dribble at different speeds, but paying deeper attention to technique (laces on the ball, close control.) Over time, we introduced some opposition to the play (coaches step in to take balls that are too far away from their owner, players have to do a pull back when they see a coach).
One at a time, a team was taken out to another grid to do a dribble through gate exercise (color coded). Kids were well engaged trying to compete for most gates dribbled through in the time allowed. My own son noticed this trainer’s English accent and observed, “It’s like the people talking about soccer on TV,” referring to the commentator Ian Darke who commonly works International and English Premier League matches on ESPN.
And of course, further proof that the English accent offers authority when it comes to both Academic and Soccer situations.
After training was complete, we returned to our field and split into two teams of three. I pulled a Size 1 ball from my bag, and explained that we would be playing Handball tonight.
- Two steps with the ball
- To score, teammate must have possession of ball in a goal box. That meant either passing to a teammate in the box or passing to a teammate within two steps of the box
Before starting, I tried to evoke some ideas about how to defend – working on cutting passing lanes or reducing opportunity to throw.
Once underway, the teams with the ball struggled a little for passing distances. Teammates struggled to understand why they couldn’t cherry-pick from the edge of the goal box with opponents standing in the middle. A few tries though and the boys started to get it more. The best passes they completed were backwards, but that was okay – at least they were unopposed. We ended the game as a pair of brothers were getting a little rougher with each other. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and it worked at a slower pace than our scrimmages do and took all of the foot skills out of the equation.
Next we tried the lanes 1v1 exercise similar to what I did with the U6 team with a small change. Player 1 would serve a good pass to his opponent, Player 2, 1/2-3/4 down the lane, and then come out to oppose him. The instructions were that to score, the ball carrier had to dribble past the end of the lane. My goals were to further engage the kids in a dribble first mentality, and to encourage players to actively defend the ball carrier and not wait for the ball carrier to attack.
I stopped the group after a couple of cycles, and gave a primer on defending. Distance to the ball carrier, arm position, and jockeying to stay close to the ball carrier. We did two more cycles afterwards.
We finished with a 3v3 scrimmage. I think the kids improved versus where they were a week ago – still a lot of clustering on the ball.
I had planned a lot more on the schedule today – but we stayed on Handball longer than I thought we would and also 1v1 took more guidance and explanation than I figured it would. Hopefully next week with the prior exposure they will be able to execute it more quickly.
On the way home, and once at home I discussed with my son what I am hoping for defense for tomorrow. A big challenge last week and last spring was defending goal kicks and whenever the keeper picks up the ball – kids tend to stay clustered around the keeper and not move back to midfield or deeper. This means that a good throw, pass or punt will get the ball over our team to midfield and probably end up 1v1 for our keeper. I explained to him (and illustrated) clearing back to midfield and using our team to be a fishing net to contain the other team. I’m hoping to have a couple of minutes before game to bring a couple of the other kids along on this idea (and spread it onto defense as well.)
I asked him about covering specific areas of the field, and we might give a chance to at least giving some designation on defense and off-ball about field segmentation tomorrow (at least on the defensive side.) I might give it to the more experienced players and see how it goes.