Tag Archives: U6

Consumers No Longer

24 Apr

In the Fall, I noted that my sons were living on the edge of being consumers and participants on their soccer team and with soccer in general.

Both were in a place with soccer that they didn’t pick up the ball between practices and didn’t work on their skills for their Fast Track training regularly enough to improve.  They enjoyed practice, and they enjoyed their match – but they were not investing time in playing away from the confines of the team.

With three weeks of practices and matches left in our Spring season, I can stay that both have moved themselves solidly into participants and often are creators.

Evan (soon to be six years old) has been really well engaged with improving himself in Soccer – or just playing more, even if it’s by himself.  He will go outside with a ball and work on dribbling and juggling, or find me to play 1v1, passing or any other skills he can think of.

Aidan has also improved himself.  We worked on Saturday afternoon after his game – he wanted to help me prepare for my match on Sunday.  He came up with some drills for us to run.

When they get together, they’ve started playing more 1v1 against each other.  I sometimes join them as a neutral player that they can pass and receive from.

It’s a really positive step to see both of them take.

I think there’s a wide range of contributing factors that have helped move to this step.

Pickup Soccer through the winter months and during Spring break was a big step for both of them.  It removed each of them from the “spectacle” of youth sports and placed them into an environment where neither was a dominant player but that both could learn from older players.

The interest that the Premier League and Champions League matches in recent weeks have brought to our home has also been a factor.  While both have been watching at least parts of matching, it gives a lot of inspiration to dreams and conversation.  Just like my brother and I would play the World Series when we would play baseball as a child, my kids are playing Chelsea versus Barcelona (Drogba versus Messi) in the front yard.

Finally, I think both see themselves in some shape as a leader on their soccer teams.  In both cases, they are among the leading scorers on their teams.  Evan has taken to helping some of his newer teammates on his U6 team with skills work.  Both have a firm understanding of the sport’s rules and during practice take on a leading role in scrimmages for restarts and disputes.

As a Dad, and a Coach – it’s rewarding to see.  It gives me a lot of confidence that they can move on to be coached by others and even participate in our club’s Academy to higher success.  While I don’t claim that either will be the most talented player on their team – they are already taking steps to convert work ethic into on-field performance.


Two Days, Four Matches

26 Mar

This weekend was our make-up date from our rained out matches from the first week of March.  It also happened to fall on the last weekend of practice and play we would have before our school system, and our club go on Spring break.

I held an evening of pick-up soccer on Thursday evening, working against the assumption that we would be unable to practice Friday night due to storms expected to pass through metro Atlanta on Friday.  While some parts of the metro area had the weather, it stayed South of our practice and game fields.  Thus for the four players from the U8 team who came out Thursday night, we had four straight days of play.  It showed for three of them in a very good way.

Thursday Pick-Up

We had four players from the U8 team, plus Evan and another U6 player for pick up on Thursday night.   I joined the group and we played 4v3 – initially in a straightforward style and later with a “Real Madrid” game that I had seen online where the goals are placed in the center of the playing area, back to back.  The idea is to force the players to work on switching the point of attack and taking up a better shape to move the ball.  I’m not sure they entirely did that, but I saw progression in several of the players in taking up a better shape to support the ball carrier.

Friday Practices

Evan was ill Friday afternoon and missed Friday’s practice.  His team worked on dribbling – specifically inside and outside turns in the technical training.  We worked on 1v1 play again in our part of the practice and then played 3v2.  Instead of running the game with kick-offs or any restarts, I blew the whistle after each goal (or out of play ball) and played in a new ball to keep the players moving.  A lot of goals, but also progression from some players on defending 1v1.

The U8 team worked on dribbling as well in their technical session – with the same turns, as well as pullbacks and a simple reverse.  With the U8’s, it frustrates me to see some of the better players (on match day) loafing through the technical training instead of trying to do things faster and sharper.

Our part of the session was spent playing as much 4v3 as we could.  I stopped the group several times to work on some shape and strategy on restarts.  During matches, I’ve seen too many instances of players putting a throw-in into a crowd of the other team (even though there was no one on our team in the group) or into a crowd of both teams because they happened to be in the direction of the goal.  In many instances, there is a teammate straight in front of them not being marked at all and a wealth of open space.

I modified the rules in the second part of practice for both teams to use me as a wall pass or neutral player.  It was a great innovation and some of the players really did well with the idea and took advantage of it when they got in trouble.  I had the full run of one sideline.  Players looked up, found me, made a pass and then made a run to open space.

Our end of practice review had the phrase “open space” repeated multiple times – I was hopeful it would sink in.

U6 Matches

Evan missed his U6 match on Saturday morning.  This gave his five teammates some extra time to play but also seemed to motivate the team to try harder.  In fact, everyone on the team scored at least one goal.  That’s probably the best match a U6 coach can ask for – everyone on the team to score!  It makes it easy for everyone to go away happy.

There were players heading in opposite directions through the weekend.  One of my players who’s stayed with us through U5 and U6 really excelled this weekend.  He did a great job with dribbling and control and seemed really dialed in to where play was going. One of my players from the Fall has gotten noticeably more timid since the Fall.  I’m hoping more playing time will bring him back out of his shell – but it seems like he’s afraid to touch the ball more than briefly or dribble the ball.

Our Sunday match was different.  While Evan was back, he was noticeably weaker on field from being sick and low on energy for two days.  But there were several times when the ball was between two of our players and neither seemed to want to touch the ball.

I’m not sure what to do next in practice – but it might be a full night of dribbling and dropping a scrimmage or small-sided game.  My U5’s last spring just seemed to be in a different point than the U6’s this spring.

U8 Matches

Our Saturday match for the U8 team was our side’s first win this Fall.  We took a 7-5 victory against a similarly skilled team.  I don’t think it was close to our best overall performance though (which was week 1) although we had a pair of outstanding quarters.

Our first half was well played.  I was most impressed by how the ball was distributed from the back forward.  One of our returning players from the Fall anchored our defense.  I’ve been working on him from the fall, and through this spring to stop kicking the ball deep on first touch.  And Saturday he followed through with it!  He made good decisions with the ball to teammates on the wings of the field and we were able to consistently attack the goal in the first quarter.  At the same time, our front line moved back with the ball and helped make plays on defense.

That fell down later in the game as we had several instances of players not helping out enough on defense and the opponent getting enough time and space to take repeated shots on goal. I also encouraged them to try to hold the ball up longer in the fourth quarter but they still played the same tempo of attack as earlier in the game.

Our offense also came from one player’s foot (entirely!) so it was disappointing to see the other players on the team not participating in the offense.

Our Sunday match was a better effort from the full team.  We were one player short of full, so everyone picked up at least three quarters of our 48 minute match.  We conceded two early goals on the same mistakes that allowed five goals Saturday – players not falling back on defense and playing throw-ins too tight to the line.  There was more than one instance where the opponent put a throw-in over the heads of our entire team to an open man on the other team, and one time it was right in front of our goal.  Maybe the team will start noticing.

Our performance on our throw-ins was better today – more often getting the ball to that open man, even if it was the defender.  When the defender received it, he had time and space to have a good first touch and then make a good decision about how to handle the ball.

The fourth quarter was our best quarter of the match.  We had a similar team in place to our first quarter from the prior day – and they worked in the same smart manner.  We missed on several shots, including one over the crossbar at the final whistle and wen home with a 2-1 loss.

It’s been a great season so far – we’ve been competitive in every match so far.

And the Bonuses

With two matches each day, and downtime in between- Aidan and I stayed at our club’s fields and just spent time watching other teams play and playing together.  This varied between working on volleys, goalkeeping, jockeying for the ball and passing – but it was time well spent.  He expressed interest Sunday in playing Academy in the fall – which I had talked to him before but received a measured, cool response about participation.  I think he’s seeing friends moving in that direction and is feeling it’s the way to go.  I also think playing four days in a row has helped build his interests in playing more often.

I also managed to get twenty-five minutes of time kicking the ball around with my new team in Sunday before the kids’ matches.  I’m really looking forward to our season starting in a few weeks.

Spring Match Week 2 Recap

19 Mar

Our Friday night practices and Saturday matches were threatened by weather again this week.  We were able to have our full U6 practice but were cleared from the fields about five minutes into the U8 practice due to lightning in the vicinity.  Practice never resumed.

As the morning approached, a line of showers moved across our side of Atlanta.  I think most of the parents believed the matches for Saturday would be canceled in the interest of field preservation – but the weather started clearing by 11 AM and the sun came out in full.

By the time of our first match, it was in the seventies and approaching eighty by the start of the U8 match just before 1 PM.

U6 Match

Our side was again at full strength with all six boys available for the match.  Our team’s new member played his first full game and performed better in the game than he has in practice.

There’s a significant difference in a lot of the kids between how they perform at practice and in the game – and for the better.  Part of it is probably time of day and week – our practices being on Friday night after a full week of school versus Saturday morning when the kids are full of energy.  The games are also more structured and kids get more feedback about how they are performing.

Evan had more of a challenge in this week’s match.  There were a pair of boys on the opposite side of the ball who played aggressively and skillfully, and Evan faced off with them.

We need to revisit the skills from the skills training in the Fall in our front yard this week and bring them back into play.

U8 Match

We were one player short this week due to Boy Scout commitments.  This meant two of our players would play the full 48 minutes of the match and everyone else would play 36 minutes.  With the warm temperatures, I knew that these two players would probably be drained at the end of play – so they played one quarter in the goal and three quarters on the field.

During the first quarter, we had trouble getting the ball forward and maintaining possession in the front half.  True to form, our center defender (one of our stronger players) was afraid to venture out of the defensive half several times when there was clear field in front of him.  It’s a difficult teaching point regarding positional play – encouraging a player to go forward with the ball and abandon his position temporarily.  Even the three players responsible for playing offense sometimes randomly dished off the ball instead of dribbling deep.

The team continues to play fairly well on defense.  We gave up one goal in the first quarter but mostly kept the other side from taking shots.  Aidan pulled it back to even in the second quarter, dribbling by a defender and taking a shot from the right side of the goal.  It was 1-1 at the half.

In the third quarter, we allowed the other team more time and space with the ball, and it resulted in three more goals.  The boys scored one more goal in the fourth quarter, ending with a 4-2  loss.  Despite the score, we had a lot of shots on goal in the second half that could have picked up several more goals with the right luck.

So our training this week needs to continue to focus on maintaining possession of the ball and creating positive passing (or keeping a dribbling) versus playing the ball forward.

It also needs to apply to our throw-ins as too often there is no movement for the field players, and the player throwing in just tosses it to the crowd.  The receiving player has no room to dribble or turn, and usually loses the ball out of bounds.  One of my ideas pre-season was stressing playing the ball the direction they were facing – instead of trying to immediately turn if there’s no open space.

The season still feels really positive – we have been competitive every week of the season so far.


My U6 Quandary

11 Mar

Coaches in our club received a lecture at the start of the year about running up the score.

In U6.

Where we don’t keep score.

And there isn’t a referee.

In the year I coached U5 and through last fall, I never tried to restrain what our U6 players did on the field.  As long as they were not placing anyone in physical danger and were playing within the confines of the limited rules, I let them play.

So in the first five minutes after Evan had rung up half a dozen or so goals, I asked him to slow it down a little bit.  I suggested he try to set up his teammates or use a “trick move” before taking a shot.  This lasted for at least a few minutes.

When he was subbed out, the other team started moving the “score” the other direction.  And I heard their coaches trying to tell their players to pass the ball.

I feel some guilt in this situation.

I think we worry too much in our society about “hurt feelings” where there won’t be any.  The truth is that U6 games ebb and flow based on who’s playing and how interested they are.

And to some degree I have visions of this in my head, and what these kids can become if they have the space to and freedom to develop (watch #10 in red):

Who developed into this fine player who still wears number 10, but now in Red and Blue stripes.

I’ve challenged him – try to improve his ball skills and put them into use in the match, but I want to give him the freedom to use them in the game when he needs to.

Is this what’s stopping America from developing top talent in soccer? Over-sensitivity and over-thinking the rules?


A Really Good Friday Night Practice

10 Mar

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!


24 Hours to Go!

23 Feb

Twenty four hours from now the Spring season kicks off in our house. Our U6 team practices at 5:30 PM and our U8 team at 6:30.

I’m looking forward to getting on the field again with the kids. It feels like a long time since our last game – and yet we’ve played soccer about two-thirds of the weeks since!

Usually I’ve ha some nerves before the first practice – but I’m feeling oddly relaxed this Spring. I think partly it is knowing nearly all of the kids on our team already and having some strong feelings of direction for the spring for both teams.


U6 Curriculum for Spring 2012

12 Feb

I received our team roster for the Spring season on Thursday evening.  Overall, it’s five of the six players from last fall returning to us.  We are adding one more boy – who is new to soccer altogether (but fairly athletic already) so we’ll have some work to do to get him ready.

Season Goals and Objectives

I’ve coached Evan’s teams since he came into the sport – so this is the fourth season (our seasons run about two and a half months) that I’ve coached his team.  It’s also the last season playing “Mini-soccer” before we move up to the larger field and deeper rule set.  I feel obligated to start teaching the kids what they will need to start being successful at the next step in soccer.  Different players will work on different parts of these objectives this Spring.

  • Skills: Skills work will continue to be our most important objective, since that’s what they can most easily carry with them to the next level.  In the absence of maintaining and advancing their skills, they will regress or not be able to compete next fall.
  • Playing Head-up soccer: Seeing the options on the field in all directions.
  • Break the Kick-it-Far thoughts from players heads.  Encourage confidence on the ball.
  • Open Space: Really reinforce the idea of open space.  Evan really has come to understand this idea playing “Rondo” (Keepaway) in our front yard with Aidan, as well as front yard 2v1 soccer.  He does a great job of passing and moving to open space and being open to receive the ball.
  • Introduce inbounds plays: Our U5 and part of the U6 Fall season worked under a blurred sideline and “New ball” rule for out-of-bounds balls.  We will continue to have a loose sideline, but we started working on a tighter end of the field at the end of the season.  We will probably play with kick-ins this Spring to introduce the idea of inbounding the ball.  This was an area that the U7’s I coached last spring struggled with – they didn’t have a good idea of where to pass the ball to on goal kicks, corners or throw-ins.  This is an extension of understanding open space.


We will continue to have the club trainer facilitating half of the practice.  Based on the curriculum handed out at the coaches meeting, the first five weeks are dedicated to dribbling.  I will be encouraging Evan to continue during these session to work on his more advanced moves – turns, step-overs and other skills he learned during the Fast Track training last fall.  He’s very willing to try these in game situations, so I’m hoping he can refine them this spring.

We will spend a lot of time playing the game in various formats this spring.  One-on-one has been a great tool for me in both U5 and U6 and I’ll return it to our team this Spring.  It’s given me a lot of time to work with players to coach basic defending as well as encourage their on-ball confidence and break the kick-it-far thoughts from their heads.  One-on-one also gives every player on the team a chance to be successful and score multiple times during practice.

We will also play some 2v1 and various combinations up to a 3v3 game to start building some decision making skills in players, and learning to take supportive positions when your teammate has the ball.

I’ll continue to take the field with them and play alongside them – to lead on the field and help them understand the roles of a teammate in play.

Match Day

Match day is great in U5 and U6.  As a coach, I feel no pressure going into it like I have with U7 and U8.  It’s a joy to watch the kids perform and take the victory they get with each goal.

While we still have responsibility this spring to “Officiate” the games – I’m trying more and more to stand back to a sideline and give the kids more space to play.  It’s easy in this age group, with coaches on the field, to take too active a role.  The more we break the kids of bad habits (like listening to their parents!) now the better they will perform in U7.


I know Evan only has a few months of “Small soccer” left before moving up to the world of 5v5 on a bigger field, and I want to enjoy it. He’s a great kid, and takes joy in the game.  The better I can prepare him now for the year ahead of him – the more successful he can be in it!