Guidelines for Youth Players

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide coaches with:

  • An outlined plan to ensure continued growth and development of all players ages U6-U18
  • A foundation around which each individual coach may establish his or her expectations for respective age groups
  • A strategy reaching across the organization in its entirety focusing on players’ individual development at each stage.

Development is a process that occurs differently for every player. An evaluation of each player must be done prior to the formulation of a training plan to select the proper place to start.

The principles below must be considered when preparing a training plan:

  1. Activities are developmentally appropriate
  2. Coaches provide clear, concise and correct information
  3. Instruction is organized to move from simple to complex
  4. A safe and appropriate training space is utilized
  5. Decision making by players is required with activities
  6. Activities have implications towards the game

U7-U8reckids

Individual Play and a Little Passing

At this level, players are fascinated with the soccer ball – making ball handling and scoring good areas of training to keep the fun and focus high. Allowing the players to express their creativity on the field by forming small groups will cultivate passion for the game at this age. This is the stage where passing to teammates should be actively encouraged, though dribbling will still be the center of attention. Understanding and awareness of the rules and concepts of the game will be increased at this stage allowing players to withstand more responsibility and keeping score. No structured teams should be formed, but 4v4 with no goalkeeper is an excellent transition into the game of soccer.

Goalkeeping can be handled by making the rule that the player closest to the goal can use his or her hands. Games including every player should replace any league competition for these age groups. Games promoting adequate ball contact at practice should coincide with small-sided play regularly.

Winning should not be considered the main goal of our program at the earlier age levels. Instead, this is the time for individual players to grow and develop their skills. SASA believes focusing on winning at this age ultimately cheats players in their long term development. Maintaining focus on the individual will yield technically advanced players primed for tactical training.

U9-U10IMG_3615-low

Individual Play, Support and Ball Circulation, Small Group Tactics

Players at this level are highly enthusiastic about the basic skills of soccer. This is the beginning of the child’s transformation from self-centered to self-evaluative. This is when team games can be implemented. Games used for training should incorporate fundamental skills. Small-sided play provides an appropriate amount of pressure for players at this stage of development while growing their tactical responsiveness. Small sided games should include no more than six players a side to supply a healthy balance between technical and tactical.

One crucial component to coach is allowing players to creatively solve tactical and technical problems. Players at this level will rapidly expand their support for teammates and vision on the field; they will naturally begin to delegate different speeds of play and transition the ball across all parts of the pitch. Goalkeepers can be incorporated at this age but should be rotated often.

Winning should not be considered the main goal of our program at the earlier age levels. Instead, this is the time for individual players to grow and develop their skills. SASA believes focusing on winning at this age ultimately cheats players in their long term development. Maintaining focus on the individual will yield technically advanced players primed for tactical training.

U11-U12

Individual Play, Support and Combination Play, Large Group Tactics

Saline 04 Sting Gold

Saline 04 Sting Gold

Players at this age level are in their prime learning stage. They have a strong desire to improve, accomplish and be acknowledged as a valuable soccer player. As a coach, it is important to demonstrate drills and moves at this level so players can visualize and emulate. Sessions should include game-like activities complete with pressure. Maintaining technical repetition is still important at this age, but basic concepts of play can also make an appearance at this age. Small-sided training can advance to 8v8, 9v9 and ultimately 11v11. Possession throughout the center of the field will increase as players at this level expand their understanding of roles and positions. Defending and combination play using two or three players can also be introduced at this stage. Decision-making abilities will grow both individually and as a group allowing for more control of the speed of play and increased movement off the ball. Adding these elements will increase players’ critical problem-solving capabilities. Fitness-based activities can also be incorporated at this level.

U13-U14

Large Group Tactics, Team Building

During this age, recognizing the rules of soccer and setting standards is the primary focus. These are prime years for establishing a foundation for technical abilities. Patience will be found at the top of the list for coaches of the U13 age as the players’ tactical and physical elements adjust to the larger pitch and greater number of teammates. Physical and mental attributes mature at a higher rate at these ages allowing for quicker development. Training loads and requirements should increase to solicit mental toughness and concentration, and overall improvement. Players will be increasingly self-critical, committed, and will begin to recognize tactical areas of the game. However, coaches may notice rebellious tendencies. To key in on players’ progressive tactical abilities, practice should center on decision-making under pressure, and should force players to solve problems individually and as a team. A fitness plan specific to soccer should be implemented into training sessions at this stage while using caution to avoid over-training or burning out players.

U15-U16

Functional Training, Learning to Win

This is the age at which players reach technical and physical maturity and is a prime stage for development in every area. Some players will stop playing soccer due to a number of reasons like poor guidance or coaching or having other interests. Those that continue with soccer express increased mental toughness and confidence, but they will strongly desire positive attention and assurance, discipline and team unity. Training at this age should target the players’ mental and physical maturity with skills focusing on positioning, formations, function and strategy making them independent of the coach on the field. Fitness will become a key factor in winning. To continue to grow players at this level, tendencies of the team and players should be noted and tactical play should remain in focus.

U17-U18

The Elite Stage

Players at this stage have the complete ability to reach his or her full potential with commitment and determination, a strong team foundation, and the support and leadership of the coach. Training sessions must stimulate players’ technical, tactical, mental and physical abilities to make improvement continually possible. Players should continue to be put under pressure on the field to increase emotional stability in these situations. There must be solid comprehension of the rules, and concepts of soccer. Practices and matches must be constantly demanding and consistently challenging.