Coaching talented young players


Within the group of Under 7 boys & girls I help to coach we have one boy who’s looking like an excellent talent. He’s clearly a lot better than the rest of the kids who attend our sessions and because he’s good I’m not entirely sure how we should be developing him.

He’s an excellent little dribbler, he’s quick and he’s got a very accurate/powerful shot on him. During games he’ll run past most of the players and my main focus so far has been to encourage him to pass because generally it’s the last thing on his mind.

The only negative about this player is that it causes tension amongst the other players because he doesn’t pass during games or matches, although we’re constantly encouraging him to do so and he will on occasion.

Anyway, it’s not so much a question of how to develop him I guess, but rather, should it be a focus? At 6 or 7 years old should I/we just be ensuring that he continues to enjoy his football? Should we be identifying a talent and helping him to improve by pushing him harder and challenging him more than the other players?

Maybe I’m worrying over nothing. Maybe I can combine the development of a player with bags of potential with the primary objective of ensuring he has fun, as with any other kid. Either way, it’s something I’d welcome advice on, especially if you’ve been in a similar situation.

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About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

6 Responses to Coaching talented young players

  1. Last year I had a similar player in my U13 squad. He is talented and he knows it.

    When he arrived at the club, he tried to impress me by dribbling as many players as possible. I spoke to him and told him, that he sometimes should pass the ball, because a team-mate was in a better position.

    He immediately answered “But that is difficult, because I can’t see my team-mates”. Then I realised, that he always kept his head down when in possession of the ball.

    I worked with him on keeping his head up and always look for his team-mates. When he got better, I began to give him individual tasks in training (like only 2 touch when all the others have unlimited and so on).

    At the end he developed fast and now he also find and create space w/wo the ball.

  2. Tim Wareing says:

    Why encourage a talent to pass? Up to the age of 11 I don’t encourage players to pass. I want to develop players that can take a man on & beat them. More than enough time to develop passing from 12-15.

    Remember the kids have most fun when they have the ball so why would they want to give it away?

    Small sided games help decision making. I love to see players run & take players on. Although on occassions if they try to beat 2 players & lose ball on a couple of occassions then maybe look to use Q&A to see if a better option was on to pass. Through this helps to develop the individual (which I believe is what it should be based on ages 5-11)

  3. Simon says:

    Thanks for the comments / feedback guys, appreciate you taking the time to answer.

    What’s interesting, based on what you’ve written, is that both posts essentially say that passing can be developed at a later stage and therefore it is ok for him to be greedy and ultimately, improve his technical/dribbling skills for now.

    In terms of development then, I could look at games which help him improve the quality of his dribbling (using both feet for example) which he’d find both fun & challenging.

  4. Olly says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Tim Wareing. Coaches need to teach passing, first touch etc in training but the main focus should be on dribbling, shielding and beating someone. Coaches and parents should never encourage such young players to pass in games. Beating a player is one of the hardest skills to master and requires confidence. Passing is a less difficult skill and doesn’t require confidence. Let them have as many years as possible to master the most difficult skills.

    • Simon says:

      That’s an interesting point Olly regarding the relative difficulty of dribbling as a skill when compared with passing. I’d not really thought about it but I’d tend to agree that dribbling and beating a player 1v1 is far harder than mastering a 10-yard pass.

      This gives me lots of food for thought.

  5. There are many ways you can look at these things.

    When I was a kid, I was extremely fast and much quicker than most of my team-mates. I could latch onto poor passes or goal-kicks and suddenly turn them into one-on-one situations, so much so that I used to just wait patiently to pounce on that opportunity and score. This in turn made me a decent dribbler because at times I’d just get the ball and kick it forward myself and sprint after it.

    Later as I got older, a lot of people always said I had great composure in front of goal and am the type of player who only needs one chance to score. I got labelled “a natural” a lot, because of my movement and the shooting techniques I had. But I developed those attributes and that instinct because I had so many opportunities to storm in on goal in one-on-one situations, and, because I watched football to death an indirectly picked up tips from continuously watching the pros and how they did it.

    It was only later that I started to develop other parts of my game and change my style of play, so it is possible. It’s just about balance at the end of the day, if someone is an excellent dribbler of the ball and continues to practice, they may get to a stage where they are Lionel Messi like on the ball and that’s no bad skill to have at all and it’s the one skill that’s the most difficult to apply at the top level in the adult game.

    Similarly you can teach your kids to double up on him, making it harder for him to break through and teaching him that when he reaches a level where everybody is on a similar level to him, or perhaps better if he plays with older kids, then he will find it more difficult to do what he does easily here.

    I think at that age though, I’d be more inclined to just let them play and have fun, giving the odd insightful comment here and there to let them think and work things out for themselves.

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