Mighty Mites uses what we know about children and infuses it with youth soccer. Utilizing exciting stories, we engage young players and achieve a deeper understanding of the game than most would believe possible through skill development. This simple approach helps coaches easily accomplish more while keeping every player active as everyone has the best time imaginable. This book has all you would ever need to run a complete season, not only for a parent volunteer but for club officials looking for programming throughout their organization.
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Dedication Without the support of so many fantastic and influential people in my life, guiding me through experiences which educate, sculpt, and give joy, something like this book adventure would not have been possible. It has been a defining part of my life, allowing me to hopefully assist the many on changing a youth soccer culture for the better, and I want to thank those who without their support, this wouldn‘t have happened.
To all of my family and friends from back home in England: people like my mum, dad, and sister, and friends like Dan, Wayne, and John. People who do things like plan a whole wedding for a guy who is only there once every other year. These are the people that allow me to leave my home, as I know I will always have a place where I belong whenever I need.
To my Japanese brother, Sugar, for somehow getting me to Montevallo University in Alabama, guiding my work ethic as a coach, and then introducing me to Coerver Coaching and Dave Dresbach. Dave will always be influential in allowing me to find my brand as a coach and educating me on the defining Coerver Methodology.
To my wife, Kim, and children Courtney, Garret, Kylie, and Gianna. As every married man knows, we are nothing without our better half supporting us and allowing us to wear the pants every now and then. Thank you to all of you for giving my life meaning and supporting me emotionally every day. I am forever thankful you are in my life. Your support and smiles make the bad days great and the great days perfect.
Thank you to all of the people along the way who have been there on and off the field. You are all in my heart and mind.
Finally, I would like to dedicate this book to my newborn son, Devon. I hope you live a full life and your soccer coaches in the future have read this book and give you a great platform to be the next England’s no. 9. I love you with all my heart and I cannot wait to watch you grow into an outstanding man.
Legal Notice This book has been very carefully prepared, but no responsibility is taken for the correctness of the information it contains. Neither the author nor publisher can assume liability for any damages or injuries resulting from information contained in this book.
Youth Soccer Session Plansand Methodology for U4-U8
Meyer & Meyer Sport
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Maidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.,
All rights reserved, especially the right to copy and distribute, including the translation rights. No part of this work may be reproduced—including by photocopy, microfilm or any other means— processed, stored electronically, copied or distributed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher.
© 2014 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.
Aachen, Auckland, Beirut, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Hägendorf, Indianapolis, Singapore, Sydney, Tehran, Wien
Member of the World Sport Publishers’ Association (WSPA)
E-Mail: [email protected]
2 Coaching Approach for USA and Europe
3 Child Psychology
4 Philosophy of Skill Development
5 Why and How to Create a Youth Session Plan
6 Skill Breakdown: The Foundation for the Sessions
7 8-Week Useable Program With a How-To Guide
a. Pirate Ship Adventure
b. Birthday Party
c. Operation Take Down T-Rex
d. Knights of the Round Table
e. Driving School
f. Funky Chicken Island Adventure
g. Alien Invasion
h. Under the Sea Adventure
8 Creating Coachable Players: Converting the Session into the Game
9 Conclusion of Development
Welcome one and all to the easiest and most efficient guide to youth soccer. If you are looking for the complete guide to developing your players at the highest rate, but you are concerned that this may be a difficult task, then you are in the right place. This easy, concise guide is the CliffsNotes guide to making creative and fun sessions which take your soccer players from amateur to professional in seconds. (Disclaimer: this book does not guarantee players will become professional, especially in seconds.) The main hope for this book is that you have a great time with your players as you teach the beautiful game of soccer, rather than the misconception that one can only be done in lieu of the other.
For most of us, the thought of coaching a young team is as daunting as a parent going through childbirth as the “what am I doing here“ and “what am I supposed to do“ questions are ringing in your ears. You are to take on the challenge of being a youth soccer coach, but do not fear and fret no more. Coaches, it’s time to put on your combats and strap on that helmet. Let’s go to work!
If you are reading this book, you are either: a club official, coach, or board member, assigned to lead your coaches in elite level youth coaching; or a coach, parent, or other, with some experience in soccer and set to be the head coach of a team; or a parent thrown in at the deep end with zero knowledge of soccer and coaching.
Whatever the reason, I am here to help.
Coaching, or asking young people to do anything, is pretty tough, so you are doing the right thing by researching what the best approach may be. This book will give you strategies and techniques to make the whole process as much fun for you as it will be for the players, so relax. As you read through the book, there are many new and revolutionary techniques used to give your sessions the best look and feel and to instill pride in what you are doing for these kids and the organization. To do this, with young, screaming, quiet, energetic, overenthusiastic, shy, bouncy kids is no mean feat, so it’s time to take control!
When I research training sessions for the younger ages, I always have two major complaints. First of all, the coaches seem to forget that these are 4- to 6-year-old children, not infants who can barely walk. They have the potential to do so much and surprise everyone. We can teach them to hold a crayon properly, color within the lines, and even write their own name. Therefore, shouldn’t we hold the same high expectations when teaching them how to properly kick a ball in a certain direction? And secondly, the same coaches do not seem to understand how difficult it is as coaches to maintain the attention, organize, and direct a group of young children into the drills. You may have one child punching another while Timmy is in the corner picking daisies, and George is running off the field to see mommy for a drink. Kids are not always easy to handle at that age, but there is, more often than not, nothing in the session plan to handle these challenges. Everything we do with the youth, we must take into account the possible personalities which we would encounter. So, how can we devise a session to be the catalyst for player development AND take into consideration their limited attention spans?
The answer is to give the children what they already love and add a ball. It’s that simple. From there, you can teach anything you want!
A good analogy for learning soccer can come from looking at the school systems. Relate skill to subjects such as reading and math. Without these skills, we cannot excel in subjects such as history or science. We may be able to recite dates, but to become a History major, we must be able to apply our knowledge to paper. This is the same relation to skill and technique as in soccer. Without skill, all techniques (like passing and shooting) are difficult because our body and mind are not ready to compute all the actions we want to apply. If we teach skill first, however, technique becomes a by-product of this development. You may not be great at remembering dates in history, but you can at least describe what you are thinking effectively through your knowledge of the English language. Realistically, all general education classes can be compared to the techniques of the game. Geography, History, and Science are equivalent to passing, receiving, shooting, and so on. All of which are important, but we cannot get an A without a solid understanding and mastery of English or Math. We do not have to completely ignore the techniques as we learn the fundamental skills. Just like in school, children write about animals and personal and historical events. The majority of what they read and write about in school is about different subjects, but the teacher focuses on the application of English. We do the same in skill development. In my sessions, I have goals for players to shoot toward, passing and receiving to initiate the game and throughout, but my focus remains on the skill application.
Currently, the soccer community is completely backwards in most countries. At the younger ages, we give kids a ball and put a goal at each end and show them the game. Then they become a little more competent, so we teach them how to spread out and pass. After this, we get to the U8 level and realize the kids are lacking in individual ability, so we teach them how to dribble and perform skills and maneuvers with the ball. Now the player becomes a good individual player, we start to teach them tactics again at the U11 age or when they enter the elite level of soccer in the community. My questions to every coach or director of a program are these: Why do we first teach passing which leads to tactics? If a child is attempting to keep the ball, why do we tell them to pass it away to someone else? Wouldn’t it be wiser to teach them how to keep the ball more skillfully and then build on the foundation they have?
In order to be productive at any age group, you have to identify the target audience and figure out what they want. For instance, imagine giving your spouse a big cardboard box for Christmas, expecting them to play with it for hours pretending it’s a space ship. The same works in reverse, as we cannot expect a child to be ecstatic with a diamond necklace, so what makes this target age group tick?
I have asked myself, “What seems to amuse nearly all children?” Clowns are the first things that come to mind, but why? Clowns have the ability to maintain the attention of a group of children for a decent period of time. They are always on the move, and you never know what to expect next. Why not incorporate this in our sessions? I’m not saying go out there in a clown outfit with a red nose and a flower that squirts water, but ensure you are the center of attention, stay on the move, and be random! If you see anyone misbehaving or losing focus, run to the other side of the area with the ball and ask them to follow. The majority of kids will always be intrigued and come with you. The others will follow as they don’t want to be left out and alone. Certain techniques, such as asking players to put their hands on their knees, then head, feet, eyes, ending on their mouth (at a high tempo) will get their attention quickly (and also keep them quiet as they now have their hands over their mouth). This idea of you as the center of attention should be incorporated in each and every session and in as many games as possible.
With this in mind, from now on you have to become the best actor in the world, able to take on any role, adding humor along the way. In doing so, you are willing to make an absolute idiot of yourself in the process. (Think Jim Carey or Robin Williams, for instance.) To get you in the spirit, today you are the soldier, fighting in the soccer trenches with nothing but your whit and cunning to take on these young cadets and train them to become top soccer players. As your drill instructor, I will guide you in the art of war, giving you all the secret methods of how to have these uncompromising cadets eating out of the palm of your hand in no time. Before we get to the field and let you loose on these unsuspecting young soccer players, let us take a moment to understand our mission and why.
As far as youth entertainment, and adult entertainment for that matter, more money and time is spent on stories than anything else. We watch movies and TV shows as adults for pure entertainment. Most children are now mesmerized when you put Nickelodeon or a Disney movie on the big screen. So why do we talk to these young players about lining up behind a cone and expect them to care about it and, more to the point, understand the necessity as much as we do? My question to coaches is:
Can you take the same ideas and drills you want the children to learn and do, but make it fun at the same time?
Coaching passing and receiving is easier than coaching skill. This is because most coaches do not have skill knowledge, nor know how to teach the skill by breaking the maneuver down further. Then add all the different play variables, such as reading the defender, timing of the skill or foot to use and you can have a daunting task ahead of you. My experience in skill development has given me a repertoire of over 150 different foot skills of which every one has a specific use in improving technical perfection and creating time and space to make better decisions. Understanding this, I want to give some of this knowledge to you, especially once you understand the bigger picture of global soccer.
The soccer world is crying out for technical players with pace. If you are technically sound, passing is easy. Think about the most skillful countries and players in the world. Most of these players possess the ball amazingly well! Is it because all they did was learn how to pass? Or is it because they are confident they can get out of any tight situation, often while keeping the ball?
As a defender, it would be foolish of me to try and pressure hard against a player who could potentially beat me 1-on-1. In this instance, my pressure is lower, giving the player on the ball more time and space and leading to easier possession. Patience is the key when defending a technically-skilled player.
We need to change the mindset from tactics/technique/tactics to the simpler technique/tactics. Do away with goals in practice. Take the emphasis away from winning and losing. Put the focus on individual brilliance at a younger age.
In all of the sessions here, the goals are used only once as you would see on a game day. We use them for shooting practice and as props in the session. I understand the need for scrimmaging at the end of a regular practice, as most players enjoy the release from the monotony of learning, and to some extent they need an opportunity to put the session ideals into a game-like format. However, if the whole practice is fun and full of games, what is the need to end the session with another game? The players should have a game day on the weekend, so do not feel obliged to give them more.
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