JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
The week of August 11, I taught at the National Youth License course at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg, with Dr. Ron Quinn and Paul Halford, the Director of Coaching for PA West.
It was the thirteenth course completed this year. The candidates came from PA West, Eastern Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin. I look forward to hearing great things from them. One of the main themes that continued coming up from the candidates was the discussion of skills of former youth players that are coaching today and how to develop them as coaches. Here are some great tools you can use:
“The most important soccer skills to teach children” from the excellent Soccer-Coach-L manual.
Soccer players need a lot of different skills, and it does not matter for most of these skills whether you teach Skill A or Skill B first. However, there are some skills that are absolute "must-haves" for any player and are so important that you probably will want to teach them first.
Dribbling the ball is arguably the most important soccer skill at any level. Practice activities should encourage all young players to dribble and stop and turn the ball with different surfaces and to move in different directions with the ball under control.
“Basic Coaching Concepts for Players Under the Age of Nine Individual Technical and Tactical Issues for U-7’s and U-8’s”, by Tom Turner, Ohio Youth Soccer Association-North Director of Coaching and Player Development
Most young players have little or no visual awareness of their immediate surroundings, and, in particular, the proximity of teammates and opponents not directly in front of them. Receiving passes when facing away from the opponent’s goal is a difficult skill, even for accomplished players, and most children will not look up until they have received the ball, secured possession, and turned to face forward. Often, young players will simply let the ball run past them into what they hope will be open space.
Young players should not be restricted in their movements on the field and moving should become a natural extension of passing. Passing to other players should be expected and encouraged at age eight and up, although dribbling the ball is the most likely method of advancing the ball. Instruction that limits players to a particular area of the field does not allow for the natural emergence of supporting positions and angles that become so important for positional play in later years.
“The Most Important Skills To Teach”, from the Coaching Manual.
Basic ball-holding skills (receiving and shielding); basic ball-stealing skills (defense); and basic take-on skills (attacking). Most kids naturally seem to have a few basic defensive skills, even if they were never formally taught. The other two areas require instruction to accomplish with even minimal competency, so there is a good argument to start first with ball-holding skills; move next to take-on skills; and then to get to ball-stealing skills. What do you think?
Should young players learn ball-holding before take-on skills? Once you get possession, the other side is going to try to take the ball back. If you can hang on to the ball under pressure, you'll have time to make better decisions (including finding an open teammate to pass the ball to). Also, if you are confident that you can hold the ball, you are less likely to blindly whack it away and let someone else worry about it (a technique commonly known as "passing the responsibility rather than the ball" or the "hot-potato phenomenon"). What are ball-holding skills? Most folks refer to them as receiving and shielding skills.