The weather turned much more fall like in Atlanta this week – and we were down in the low 60’s at 5:30 when the U6 team started and by the time the sun went down it was in the high 40’s. Definitely a change for these Southern kids, unaccustomed to the cooler weather!
I arrived with Evan well enough before the start of the session that we had time for the two of us to play. This was probably the best part of coaching last fall – the extra time Evan and I took to play 1v1 and just play around. He surprises me with his ability to use his body to control bouncing balls and his skill in moving the ball. The best part of it is he seems to do so much of it without a second thought and instinctually.
We had our full team of six tonight for training.
The central training session was based around passing activities. The primary activity was a pass through a gate activity that worked pretty well. Players paired off and passed through a gate until the trainer gave a “Move!” command and then each pair found a new gate. The kids were fairly engaged and kept the ball under control.
The latter part of the session was a mass game with 4 goals (one in each corner). The players were split into two groups of about 8 and the ball thrown out in the middle. No pinnies, no way to distinguish teams. The players were instructed to spread out and make passes before scoring. A lot of kids running, not as many touching the ball.
We retired to our field for our session. I actually had a similar game planned – 4 corner goals and playing 2v2. I set an added rule – you score via passing to your teammate on the opposite side of the goal. I split the team into pairs, and got started.
I had one pair of players – my own son and the player who has blossomed this fall – quickly get the game and get it well. They worked really well together and scored a lot, no matter what pair they played opposite of.
We played the last several minutes in 3v3. After my son scored several quick goals, I forced his team into a “1 Pass before Shot” rule to encourage him to try something new. He also used some of his skills from the Fast Track sessions during the 2v2 and 3v3 sessions. It’s good to see him making use of the skills.
I wrote this morning about my thoughts for the U8 team for the rest of the season. Tonight’s practice was encouraging.
The group training was similar to the U6 session – passing based, with the gate game being part of the session. The U8’s were more free form, with the players playing the ball through the gate, and then moving themselves to another gate. Some of the kids just didn’t comprehend the game.
The other thing that drives me a little bit crazy is the number of kids that pick up their ball randomly during practice. I’m really trying to break my kids and our teams of this.
When we moved into the team session, I started with 2v2 in a similar fashion to the U6 practice earlier. They worked together better, but had a lot of trouble finishing. The defending team got the idea to split up and block the gates until I changed the rules.
After a few minutes, I decided to give 2v2+1 a try. I designated my older son as a neutral player – always on offense. This was the first time we had used an “Always Offense” player in practice. The kids seemed to enjoy it – I didn’t place any restrictions on passes before shooting and they ended making a lot of good passes. Aidan did a good job of moving himself into open positions (he had worked some on this in Fast Track this week.) I’m hoping they recall this game tomorrow during the match and look for teammates on the field before launching the ball downfield.
After practice, I asked the boys what they wanted to learn the rest of the season. I got a variety of answers – Trick Moves, Diagonal passing, Positions. I’ll work to incorporate some of all of it into our remaining three practices this fall.