As a former coach, I have been fascinated watching both Aidan (U9) and Evan (U8) play their matches this spring.
Evan’s Future Academy group has transitioned from playing 3v3 soccer last fall into 4v4 (including a goalkeeper) this spring. The coaches have placed a heavy emphasis on shape, playing out from the back and using back passes to help open space.
When I coached Aidan in U8 last spring, we spent a lot of time trying to get a basic shape established and get the players to see that straight ahead wasn’t the only direction to play the ball. With Evan still two months shy of seven years old, he has learned to maintain shape, play the direction he’s facing, and work with teammates in a pressure and coverage defensive scheme.
Game days are also a dramatic change from recreation soccer experience. Parents aren’t screaming the whole game to shoot and pass. The kids talk on the field. Far less time is spent out of the game waiting to substitute. Even probably spent 60 minutes playing yesterday and 10 minutes waiting to play. Most recreation soccer was a 50/50 playing and sitting mix.
Aidan and his team have really shown improvement as well, both since the start of play last summer and the tournament a month ago.
One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in Aidan is also related to shape, timing and placement of runs. Adan has become stronger at knowing where space is open and looking to be open for the pass.
He’s also taken up a leadership role on the field – looking to ensure that opponents are covered on throw-ins and other dead ball situations. It’s all been really great to see in him.
His level of confidence with the ball has increased versus fall as well.
Academy soccer has been a great experience so far. Both our sons have developed a lot of skill, and become smarter in play. Consistency in training groups and teammates also has allowed them to extend friendships with teammates. More often when they return home from school, they are outside with a ball playing instead of inside on electronics.
Our “Summer” was a blur. Quick on the heels of Academy tryouts, we left for several summer trips. When the last week of July hit, we had traveled 6000+ miles on three separate trips.
Aidan had team camp the week of July 30th. He met his Academy teammates for the first time – and experienced three hours a day of soccer every morning for the week.
I think initially it was a shock to his system. While some of our summer trips had significant outdoor periods, the majority of it was not in the heat that you typically have in Atlanta in late July and early August. He also has never had a practice longer than 60 minutes in Rec – so the duration also was a challenge.
Last week added two 90 minute practices, followed by a 60 minute practice Friday night – which means in the span of two weeks he has nearly equaled his practice time from the 2011-2012 Recreation season. He’s already shown improvements in his game play in terms of working with teammates.
Saturday was the opening tournament for the season – the SSA Summer Classic. He had two matches Saturday and a third on Sunday morning.
Aidan started the first match in goal, despite his own feelings about the position. His coach asked for volunteers and he stepped up. He wasn’t happy about his own performance, but was glad to get to play rather than start the game on the bench. He managed to score his first goal in the second half, en route to a 9-5 win for his team. He also had a good cross (that failed to find a teammate) so it was a good match for him.
The second match found our squad playing Palmetto United – who had defeated their first opponent 19-3. We quickly found out why – the team had a great set of players who maximized their use of ball skills to hold off defenders combined with some sharp passing and team play. Our boys didn’t manage a goal and lost 8-0.
Game 3 found us again on top by a margin of 7-3. Aidan had a couple of shots and several good looks on offense, and playing tougher defense (especially in our offensive half). However, as we had lost to Palmetto already – we had no chance of advancing to the finals.
Aidan seems happy with his team. He seems to enjoy his teammates so far and is getting along well with the kids. This week it’s back to practice until the regular season opens on September 9th.