We returned to training last week with our players a year older, the coaches a year wiser and both appeared energised from a summer break. We have a fixture list this season as we’re now at the under 8 age-group and I had thought that might mean we’d have a squad of 14-16 players but we actually ended up with our usual 20-21 players.
As mentioned in a previous blog I’m planning to do a lot more 1v1, 2v2 and ball mastery this season having had last year to get used to the players, settle as a coach and learn a bit more about coaching this age group. I therefore used this as the basis for the session last Wednesday and our session ran like this:
- The players lined up along the side of our mini-soccer pitch with a ball each
- They dribble across the pitch with no conditions
- They they dribble across the pitch under the following conditions:
- Right foot only
- Left foot only
- Both feet (e.g. dribbling by moving the ball from left foot to right foot and back to left foot)
- We then introduce a defender and the players dribble across the pitch, trying to avoid the defender. If the defender makes a tackle the tackled player becomes a defender. This continues until only 1 player is left and we repeat 2-3 times.
We then split the groups in half with each coach taking one set of players. As I wanted to start using 1v1 games to develop dribbling, turning & comfort on the ball I used the following game…
- I had a mini-goal set up with 1 player in goal
- I had 7 outfield players who I rotated between being either a defender or attacker
- Coaching points:
- Encouraged the defending player to make sure they played a good pass to the striker
- Encouraged the attacker to take the defender on
- Encouraged the defender to keep their eye on the ball (otherwise they have a tendency to hack at U8!)
The game worked well. I took brief time-outs so I could have a quick chat with the attacking team and got them to think about how they could beat the player and also spoke to the defending team to emphasise the importance of a good pass and to get them ensuring they watched the ball.
The only downside was that there were times where the inactive players lost concentration and this is something which is difficult to avoid unless each player is actively taking part in the session. I kept the rotation happening quickly to keep any waiting to a minimum.
I also had an interesting occurrence whereby a player started to cry when it was his turn. “What’s wrong XXXX?”, I asked. “Why do I always have to play against YYYY?”, he said. Player YYYY is quite a good player, both technically & physically and I hadn’t noticed that player XXXX had been paired with him each time and had no doubt not had much success which caused this frustration. I changed it around so he had a different partner and he was happy to continue but this was yet another reminder of the importance of fairness to players of this age and the need for me as a coach to be aware of who is/isn’t having success during a game.
Whilst we were doing this the other half of the players were playing a 4v4 game which allowed them the obvious benefits which come with an SSG, such as lots of touches & dribbling/passing/shooting opportunities. It was just a shame I couldn’t observe the two groups to see if there was any difference between the group who played the SSG before 1v1 and those who played after, i.e. did the group after attempt more dribbles or have more success?
We then ended with a game which we always use as an opportunity to coach & encourage the players within a match situation.