From midweek and last night, I wasn’t sure we would get to practice tonight. But the weather cleared beautifully this afternoon and we had a warm, sunny evening for our pre-match training sessions tonight.
We were up to full strength for our U6 team tonight – six of six boys participated in practice.
The technical training was a big improvement on last week. The trainer led the kids through a better progression of individual skills with all kids on the ball and the kids were much more engaged than last week.
Items worked on:
- Toe taps
- Inside touches (tick-tocks)
- Dribbling through gates (count the number of gates dribbled through with Red Light/Yellow Light/Green Light speeds
- “Color” – players call out the color of the player in front of them while dribbling. This one didn’t go very far – not sure if it was a heads-down problem or the kids just weren’t clear with it.
- Body Part dribbling variation – stop the ball and put the indicated body part on the ball
- “Simon Says” variation
Evan was happy with the session and stayed well engaged and reported going through 50+ gates.
After the technical session, we returned to our corner of the fields for our team session.
I started the kids with 1v1 play. With U5’s I always had the kids score into the same goal from starting anywhere on the field. When one player scored, I would roll it out to a new corner of the field and the players would jockey for the ball. I started with the same approach tonight.
I started off with pairing the kids I have observed to be of equal technical ability and they stayed at it for about 5 minutes. Then I switched the players to play against the teammate I know them to know the best from their normal world. The kids were much more engaged against their friends – even with differing skill levels than they were against similar skill levels. During the 1v1 play, I stepped in a few times to show the players good defensive skills – getting in front of the player with the ball and staying close.
We moved on the a “Cleanup” activity where the kids spread out in our box and I played all of their balls into the box. A player fields the ball and dribbles it back to me as quickly as possible. I keep playing the balls out as fast as they bring them in until they can turn the tide and get three balls in at the same time.
We finished with a 5-7 minute scrimmage – which was somewhat loose in organization of play. Kids seem to wear down after about the 3/4 point of the session.
One of the kids called in sick – so we had six of our seven players for the session tonight.
Our technical session focused again on dribbling – but with an emphasis on turning. We split into our teams during training and worked from a diamond shape. The kids split up on the points of the diamond and would go several at a time towards the center and practice turning with the ball.
Turns that were taught:
- Pull Back (this had been taught before)
- Inside turn
- Outside turn
Our trainer made a few demonstrations of each for the kids with me defending. He emphasized turning away from the defender – so if the defender is on the left side of your body, turn towards the right. We went through a lot of repetitions of each move with my players trying to turn on me. I tried to set up well in front of them with a clear bias towards one direction to give them an indication of which way to turn.
The outside turn proved to be the most difficult for the players to execute. A lot of them would get up to the “decision point” and not be able to execute the turn. They weren’t necessarily engaged on doing the skill unopposed – which could have helped them get it right. Depending on time, we might try this as a warm-up one week – run players head on and make them turn to avoid a collision.
Following our lesson on turns, I brought the kids back to the field and gave them the ground rules for our short scrimmage. They split themselves into teams inadvertently – three kids picked up the pinnies I left on the field and that was a team. Five minutes, if a team scores pull the ball out and get the game going again. I asked them what they need to do in the game – I received answers of dribble, pass, turn, trick moves. What else? Move to get open for a pass.
I asked about defending, they didn’t have much of answer. That was fine, since it was going to be the next thing we did.
After five minutes, one team had a lopsided score.
I ended the scrimmage and added one player to the pinnies team. I set them up with a basic formation – central defender, two wings. I asked about the players to identify how they would react for a player with the ball in different zones of the field – left, middle, right, up field. I asked players who would take the ball and reminded them to call out “I got ball!”
I joined the remaining three players on offense and we ran through about 8-10 progressions of play. The first time out – we quickly returned to the cluster formation. When the ball got knocked out, I asked the players on defense to look around and see where their team was. I asked them to reset to starting positions, and we took another try.
Over several tries – they improved in maintaining some composure on defense. The difficult thing came when the off ball players for the offense started passing the defensive line – players had to start making choices about what to do. It’s going to take a few matches – but we’ll see how they go tomorrow.
We managed to go 20+ minutes on working on this – start play, play until offense scored or until the defense lost the ball. Overall, they did well with the situation.
At the end of practice, I reviewed a couple of major points, we did our team cheer, and called it a night. We’ll review in the morning before our match and see what was retained, and hopefully address a little bit of transition to offense and the role of the central defender in our offense.