Observations from an U7s tournament
June 6, 2011 3 Comments
Just before I went to India at the end of April our under 7s played their first match and at the time it was obvious that the team we played had a lot more “match experience” than our boys & girls. Whilst I’ve been away the team have played 3 different games (which I missed) but we had a tournament on Saturday afternoon and I went along, excited to see if they’d improved whilst I was away.
The “tournament” was split in to two groups of 6 teams and was stated to be non-competitive, but this hadn’t stopped the organisers included a semi-final and final. We fielded two teams who were evenly matched (names picked out of a hat) and played games against teams from the surrounding towns and villages.
Whilst there I made some observations and I’ve listed these below. I’m sure others who coach the same age group will empathise with these whilst some are no doubt seen at all levels of youth football.
Goal kicks are an issue in Under 7 football
I expect there’s some debate to be had about what is right or wrong here. But across all teams I saw a high proportion of goals being scored following goal kicks which were going straight to the opposition. I guess you can coach this to your players but at 7 years old do you really want to teach them how to play out from a goal kick? I’m not convinced, and would prefer some way of restricting the opposition so that teams can play out from the back.
Minimal amount of standout talent
As well as our games I also watched a number of other matches whilst at the tournament and found that there were only 3 or 4 players from across 12 teams who really stood out for me. I think this demonstrates that 7-8 years old is the starting point for real advances in player development.
Minimal physical difference
As with the technical ability, there wasn’t too much physical variation amongst the players. There were a couple of players who were larger and a couple who were smaller but 90% of the players in those teams were similar in both height & build.
Lots of teams were rotating goalkeepers
There are very few children who want to stay in goal throughout a tournament. Of course it’s been said that there’s good value to be had in allowing players to experience playing in different positions during their development (and I agree with this) but the amount of changing of goalkeepers (including during games) was very noticeable.
Teams found it hard to get out of their own half
It was very evident from the games I watched that a lot of teams struggled to get out of their own half if the opposition had managed to get down their end for a shot/corner. There were exceptions but I saw a large number of teams camped in their own half because they struggled to pass or dribble their way in to the oppositions half.
Too many instructions from the sidelines
This was the first time I’d seen, first hand, the impact of numerous instructions being given out from the sidelines to young players and I now fully appreciate the need to manage this, where possible. Young players are keen to impress everyone and therefore they were listening to everyone (parents, coaches, Joe Bloggs) which only meant they were getting confused. I very much adhere to the principles of improving decision making and so will only shout questions such as “Who can you pass it too?” or “Can you pass it?”. Unfortunately those questions were sometimes lost in amongst the “shoot!”, “get rid!”, “pass it to Tom!!” instructions from others around me.
First and foremost, I was delighted that our players had improved since 6-7 weeks ago. They’d clearly benefited from some more game time and their increased concentration, awareness and “match intelligence” was great to see.
Being at the tournament gives me food for thought ahead of forthcoming training sessions. From Wednesday I’m looking at developing skill & technique because the players who had the most success on Saturday were those who had a the better technique and were more comfortable with the ball at their feet.
I’m also going to work with Phil (the manager) and look to play more 4 or 5-a-side games in training and use Q&A or Guided Discovery coaching styles to help the players improve their decision making in games.