Tonight was, for some reason a really productive night of practice for both the U6 and U8 teams.
U6 Practice Session
While our trainer was absent tonight, I improvised a training session for three or four teams of U6 kids. We started with some basic juggling. I asked the kids to try bouncing the ball of the top of their thigh, then moved to top of their foot – catching the ball after one juggle. They are picking this up – this is the second week the skill was performed. Most of them remembered using their laces to strike the ball when they use their foot.
They we did several dribbling progressions. We started with Red Light, Green Light and moved on to add pairs of cones as “gates.” Then I asked them to do a turn after each gate – inside, outside or pullback to change direction. We did some on demand turns and body part dribbling finish the technical training.
When we broke into our team session, I started with some 1v1 “Cup” – two players on the field at once, ball played in and play until a goal is scored. I did some variations – 2v1, 3v1 to see how the kids would respond. This flowed right into a 3v2 scrimmage.
I put Evan and one of his teammates together against three other kids on the team. After a couple of goals, I asked Evan to perform one pass to his teammate before taking a shot. The two of them worked well together. After several more goals, I told Evan he needed to do a trick move and a pass before scoring. He still needs some work on step-overs, scissors and the like.
We finished our practice and said goodnight to the U6 kids and moved to our U8 practice field.
U8 Practice Session
We were at full strength tonight for our U8 team.
We started with our technical training, which was focused around dribbling as well as “Open Space”. The trainer took the group through several speed and rule progression before finishing with a “Pirates” game that was a variation on Sharks and Minnows or any of the “Knockout” style games.
As we got started with the team practice, I asked the kids for favorite soccer teams. One mentioned a college team, and two mentioned Premier League sides (Manchester City and Liverpool). I asked all of the players to learn the name of one team and watch at least part of a match this week. Of course, I also reminded them all to play soccer before our next practice.
I’ve taken to running our team practice in a Scrimmage-Lesson-Scrimmage format. It has worked well with this group. Although I only have about 30 minutes of time, they get into playing quickly and when I blow the whistle for the half they seem ready to listen again. I think it gives them time after the training to recover and be ready to listen again.
Tonight we focused the lesson and drill on working on possession and keep-away. I set up two 2v2 rectangles (half of our game field each) and split my two teams. Rules allowed dribbling and passing, just as long as you keep possession.
If there’s one thing I’m trying to root out of the group, it’s the impulse to get rid of the ball. If there’s one thing I’m trying to teach this Spring, it’s moving with your teammates in supporting positions. The kids played keep-away at varying levels of play – I jumped in sporadically to help demonstrate tactics I wanted them to take up:
- Communicating where they can pass the ball – behind, left, right, side, wide. Different words to help communicate position.
- Moving every time after I touch the ball to a new place for my teammate to pass to. I saw a lot of kids who would park in one spot and not get open. It’s a hard thing to explain to kids – “Open” but if we play enough they will come to learn that they can’t receive a pass with two defenders in the way.
- Using basic turns and control of the ball to create space for myself to pass or move. The easy moves – inside and outside turns, pullbacks and just speeding up or slowing down – all helped gain time and space.
After the kids played for about 10 minutes, we resumed our scrimmage with our two teams. I tried to remind them at key times – Corners, Goal Kicks and Throw-ins to think about keep-away and moving to open space. They did better with Throw-ins and corners than they had in the first two weeks.
Overall, this is a good group of kids. They all seem to have soccer experience or enough athleticism to drag themselves through scrimmages through strength and endurance. They all come to practice with good attitudes and we haven’t had any conflicts among players.
Saturday morning is first match for both teams. Should be a great morning!