Today was to be our season opening games for the U6 and U8 teams. About two hours after the end of our sessions, severe storms passed through Atlanta and dropped a lot of rain.
Fields closed this morning. A seven day respite until our first match.
We’ve had two weeks of practice – two hours per team. Our club believes in the philosophy at this age of not a long lead-in of practice before the first match – so that’s all we get!
It’s been a good two weeks though.
Our U8 team had a thin turnout in week one. We lost two boys to Boy Scout activities, one to vacation and one to illness. This week, we were at full strength.
Our trainer led us through a progression of basic dribbling in a rectangular area. He tried to emphasize the importance of keeping the ball close and under control.
After we complete technical training, we jumped immediately into our team session. I started a 4v4 game (Evan, my U6 son was our 8th player) and they played for eight minutes.
As I expected, a lot of clustering happened on the ball – both for the team on offense and defense. There were also several instances of the big downfield kick with no intended target.
At eight minutes, we paused the game and worked at slower speed on several dimensions of the game that I thought would help their play.
Shape: I introduced the diamond concept to them starting from the goal kick. Defender in the back taking the kick, wings on the sides to receive and striker forward ready to receive. On the opposite side, players acting as mirrors – with the striker providing immediate pressure when the ball is played in.
We repeated when the ball went out of bounds on the side for a throw and on the other end for a goal kick.
I assisted the players in positioning to be “Open” when their teammate was trying to play in a ball.
One thing I’ve noticed in this age group is the kids get too consumed with jockeying with the other team – and kids on offense forget that they don’t want to be too close to the other team or where the ball is coming from.
On throws I tried to emphasize sending the ball to open space, even if it means playing it backwards or laterally across the field.
I’m really trying to emphasize we want to keep the ball and not just get the ball to our offensive half.
My favorite moment of the night was when I asked one of our players, “How many times in basketball did you chuck the ball as far down court as you can?”
Answer: “None.”. He reflected on it for a second – maybe he’ll remember that in a match.
I won’t spend long on the U6’s – at this point in the season they are getting reacquainted with the ball and run of play after not spending time with soccer for three months.
We have one new-to-the-sport player who is a little lost right now. I’ve noticed some U6 and U8 kids have trouble figuring out what to do with their feet while dribbling. They either end up with their toes pointing in pointing out, or a mix. It takes a few weeks to straighten out.
Evan is definitely a dominant player in this age group. When we play 1v1 there’s no one in the group who can regularly beat him. When we play as a team, he’s looking for link up play but I haven’t been able to get any of his teammates there. It’s a reason why I’m considering having him play up in the fall to the Pre-Academy if he’s emotionally prepared. I’ll have more thoughts on that this spring.