Player development should be the main focus of our administration, leagues, and clubs and teams. Training and games should be appropriate for the age level they are intended for. This goal here is to develop players so as they progress to the next level of the game they are ready and prepared. The two levels that we deal with in Florida Youth Soccer are players at the youth (U6-U12) and junior (U14-U19) levels.
The youth level is where we need to realize that the game the players play is not the adult game. Age appropriate training is crucial at the age groups to match the activities to their abilities, needs and individual characteristics. The game must be enjoyable for the players in order to keep their enthusiasm high so they continue to the junior level. The activities need to be fun but there also needs to be a purpose. U6 and U8 player emphasis needs to be on individual skills and comfort with the ball. The play for these players is limited to the area immediately around the ball. The concept of transition where if we have the ball everybody is on attack and when we lose the ball everybody is on defense is more important that stressing positional play. U10 players now begin to expand the game but not to the adult level. They do at this time begin to use their fellow players a bit more. The transitional concept matures in players where they may begin to decide who goes into attack and who stays or vice versa. This is also the time at which the passion for the game begins to emerge. The U12 game is called the age of tactical awareness. This is the transitional years from youth level soccer to junior level, which tends to begin to mimic the adult game.
In the junior level, the ball skills should be redefined; they should begin to develop an insight to the game and an overall passion for the game. Player development should occur through a systematic approach. There is a priority structure in what should be covered in training players of these ages. Team success should be a result of this systematic approach as opposed to building teams to win games.
Training sessions of both levels should include activities that get to the game as opposed to fundamental drills that do not have the pressure of the game. These activities should be appropriate for the age group. A player learns a concept better if they experience it and therefore make the proper decision on their own as opposed to being told when and what to do. The concept of identifying the positive and praising is a much better approach than focusing on the negative and punishing. Each player needs to be challenged by an activity but should not be taken to the point of frustration. An activity that is either too easy or too hard does not benefit the players in their development.
Competition is inherent in the game of soccer. The basic concept of it I have the ball I want to get it past you to score a goal. Player development occurs through playing games. As a coach are we playing for the result or do we play the game for the development of players. The players should be on the field each time playing to their highest ability. It is our job as a coach to develop players. To this end we must put players in different roles, try different systems, and different approaches and be willing to stick to those changes so the player can develop. Playing for a result all of the time can hinder a players development. As a player we always play for a result but as a coach we sometimes coach for the better good down the road. In terms for looking for competitions and games we should look for quality of game versus quantity of game. Too often we think we need to play more games to get better. This way of thinking tends to do two things; reduces the amount of training and causes burnout both of which are detrimental to a players development.
Every decision make at the administrative, league or club decision should be made in terms of how does it effect the development of the player?