We’ve finally hit that part of the year where the weather, especially in the evening, is great. It was breezy and cool tonight and felt like a fall evening should! Both the U6 and U7 teams were on the field for Friday night sessions.
Tonight we were at full strength – all six of our six boys were at practice.
Technical training tonight again centered on dribbling. Our trainer started the group off with some basic ball work – repeating the progression of toe taps, tick-tocks and red-yellow-green speed dribbling for about half of his time. After several minutes, the kids were introduced to two turns – an outside of the foot turn with each foot, and a pull-back with each foot. A short demonstration was given and the kids turned loose to dribble in a grid. The trainer would call out a direction and the kids would turn that way. Team coaches assisted players on the grid with the skill.
We finished with a game called “Braveheart.” Each player with a ball, starting from opposite sides of an 18 yard box on a full size field and trying to cross to the opposite line without losing their ball in the oncoming herd. When the whole group arrived at one side, the kids would clap. The object was to be the first team to reach your destination. After a couple of runs, the trainer acted as light opposition to kids who weren’t dribbling in control.
With training finished, we met as a team and went through simultaneous 1v1 play on a big field. I reminded the kids about the turns that they just learned and emphasized defending at about an arm’s length. The team was turned loose, partnered, and played. I helped a few of the boys with understanding getting in front of their opponent versus chasing from behind. My best demonstration was instructing one of the players to try and get by me – without a ball – and I responded to each of his moves by moving my feet to block him. It seemed to work for him.
We finished with a lightning round 1v1. The kids took a minute to understand only one player from each side on the grid at a time and we played through the lines probably a dozen times. It worked really well – kids went after the opening ball and played through to the goals.
We were one player short of a full team tonight – six of seven boys in training.
Our session with the trainer was a little slow in pace. I think tonight’s trainer was new – and wasn’t as well seasoned as our normal trainer. After some warm up toe-taps and tick-tocks, we worked through passing in several ways.
Players started with static position passing to one team mate. This gave a chance for the coaches to help with technique – placing the plant foot, and which part of the foot to strike with. At this age, it seems the boys have several habits:
- Striking the ball too lightly. I demonstrated with one pair what happens when you don’t weight a pass well by stepping in and taking the ball.
- Attempting to one touch and ending up striking the ball in a way that it spins off their foot.
After static passing, the trainer put them into a game with half of the players with balls and the other without. The part with balls were instructed to dribble until told to pass, and then pass to a player without a ball. I’m not sure a lot of the kids listened to the instructions, but I’m also not a fan of “pass on command” from the coach mentality in the game, so it doesn’t make sense to practice this way. The kids who did try and pass often just sent the ball out into space, since they didn’t have open teammates to pass to.
Then we switched to the line drill – split the session in half and pass the ball between lines. After passing, run to the end of the opposite line. There were six kids on each side – and we probably could have been better served with three in each line half.
We finished with a 2v2 play with instruction to pass as much as possible. The boys seemed to like this one better than anything else, but still not much passing.
After technical training was complete, we went to our team area. I grabbed an available goal and we had a short lesson on 1v1 defending.
I introduced what a player needs to take a shot – to be in possession of the ball, in open space, time, and position in view of the goal. I took several unopposed shots on a player standing in on a goalkeeper. Then I brought out one of the players to defend against me – reminding him to be at just about an arm’s length away, and keep me in front of him. I took a few shots, demonstrating it was harder to get a shot off or to get a shot on target. Then I instructed him to move back 10 steps and I showed it was easier to shoot.
I also took the opportunity to show how to make space and time when you have the ball – by turning and stopping.
I charged the boys with playing 1v1 for seven minutes and they paired off to play. Everyone played to the same goal, and I helped send balls back into the grid after scores. For the most part, everyone did well on both sides of the ball. I saw kids using turns and cuts to create space and get to the goal. They played for about seven minutes – at the end I pulled them in and split them into two groups.
I put each group on a cone in a different half of the field, and now had cones marking a goal at each end. I showed each group which was their goal, and instructed the first player in each line to run on when I blew the whistle. They understood the game quickly, and I saw a lot of competition and jockeying for the ball between the boys. After several times through, I changed the flavor of the game – now keeping the winner on and eventually crowning a winner after he played through all of his teammates. At the end, I had the winner play against all five teammates (he lost).
The kids really seemed to enjoy the session and really enjoyed the competition. 1v1 knockout will definitely return in future weeks. When we were done, we ran through a few points from our session and ended the evening.
It’s unfortunate we don’t have a game tomorrow – I think the kids would be a lot improved with the new 1v1 skills. At the same time, tonight’s session also felt easy, and low pressure because there isn’t a game tomorrow.