Observations from an U7s tournament

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.


About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

3 Responses to Observations from an U7s tournament

  1. Background: U7 team from Spring season, Southeastern United States. Recreational soccer, 5v5 games, 9 boys on the team. Some kids on their first sports team ever, others had played in U5 and U6 previously. U7 in our club is the first level played with GK, throw-ins, and corner kicks. No league tables are kept, no championship objective.

    I’ll expand on your first point (which is absolutely correct): Restarts are an issue in the age group.

    On my team in the Southeast United States, goal kicks were a big problem. The players took too long to get the ball in, and gradually all of the players crept in closer and closer. The kids wanted to get the ball down field, but didn’t have the leg to move it that far and at the same time their team mates didn’t understand getting open. On the defensive side, we got burned several times because the players did let the other team and the ball get behind them and the ball somehow got out and it turned into 1v1 of one their attackers versus the GK.

    I’ve thought about in the future having a gentleman’s agreement with the other coach to pull the defense back a bit – give a little bit of space to get the ball in before the defense collapsed around the ball. The big objective of the defense on goal kicks is to keep the ball out of the defensive half of the field – which could be accomplished in the midfield zone.

    Points 2 and 3:
    Most of the kids on our team were of similar physical size. We had a couple of standouts but more so because of their experience was greater than others.

    Point 4: GK’s
    Our local rules required 4 different keepers per game. Thus we had to rotate keepers. My personal opinion at this age was that field skills are far more important – so I didn’t play any player in goal more than once every 2-3 games. Looking at other sports I’ve watched and participated in – in Baseball and Basketball kids have trouble catching the ball so the same applies here. Hand-eye coordination and skill are still developing.

    Point 6:
    Our biggest problem – too many instructions. I really tried hard as coach to not do it. There was just so much overwhelming instruction from the parent’s side of the field though, even when they had been asked to reduce it! I think parents come from a good place that they want their kids to be successful, but it’s hard to step back and accept that your child will fail and make mistakes. Everyone is concerned that if their child doesn’t play great, every match – they will not want to keep playing.

    • Simon says:

      Thanks Dennis, it’s interesting to see things are largely the same across the water.

      Have you attempted the gentleman’s agreement yet or is it something you’re considering? It’d be a good test of how keen the other team are to win.


      • Just a consideration for the future – it didn’t occur to me until after the season.

        The question of how keen the other team (or the other team’s parents) are to win is definitely a valid one. For player development, giving a little more time for the team to get the ball out of the back would really help. It’s analogous to rules in many youth basketball leagues that limit the use of full court press as a defensive strategy.

        Full field (or court) defensive can be a good tactic, but does it help reach the objectives of the age group more quickly?

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