Needs of Young Players


1. The Need For Safety And Security

It is an absolute requirement that young players have a safe physical environment to train in, which means playing areas that are free of any dangerous objects like glass holes etc and that are free from outside interference. Rules governing safety should be strictly enforced. Familar surroundings and setup provides emotional security and an ideal environment for experimentation and variety to keep them from getting bored.

2. The Need For New Experiences

Experience is the greatest teacher. Coaches must allow young players to explore and discover new things for themselves. This is true for most aspects of life and for all sports, especially for football. Instead of constant instruction, kids shoud preferably be stimulated with simplified games and activities which are within their reach both physically and mentally, but which also stretch their capabilities enough to be challenging. Through this process of discovery, young players can progressively develop their skillls, understanding and intelligence. Often teaching less allows children to learn more.

 3. The Need For Recognition and Encouragement

Children flourish and are highly motivated in an atomosphere of acceptance, recognition, encouragement and praise. They actually try even harder when they are rewarded for their efforts in this way. For children under 12, especially, a teacher, coach or parent is like a mirror in which they perceive their worth or competence or lack thereof. That is why educators and parents must learn to be positive, praise generously and use only constructive criticism, and that, sparingly!

4. The Need To Be Given Responsibility

Children prefer to do things on their own without too much dependence on adults. They like to reach independence as quickly as possible. The coaching methodology and approach should take this into consideration, by making sure that the children predominantly work out their own solutions to the problems  the coach presents. The coach should only intervene when they get stuck.

Children should take responsibility for small tasks like collectiong cones, but also for the learning process itself, e.g. modifying the rules of a practise game. A good idea is to allow them a period of 10 minutes or so in each training session, where they get to choose what to do, be it a practice, a game or whatever.

5. The Need For Play

Playing games is as vital for young players as breathing – necessary for the health of body and mind. Since children learn best by playing, the most important part of each training session should be the age-appropriate simplified game, designed exactly to stimulate their particular mental and physical aptitude. The art of coaoching is to ensure that the game is adapted to the players and not vice-versa, as is most commonly the case. Playing games stimulates creativity, communication with others and decision-making.

6. The Need To Socialize With Others

Instinctively, children reach out to others of a similar age. The older they are, the more they appreciate the company of their peers. They love to be part of a group, and find their identify often as part of a group or team with common objectives.

7. The Need To Be Active

It is natural for children to be active, not static. They should not be forced to wait in queues until it is their turn, or stand around listening to coaches for long periods of time. Kids hate these two things, lines and lectures! They violate this need to be active, are counter-productive and to be avoided at all costs!. Simplified games with smaller teams ensure greater participation for all.

8. The Need To Live In The Present

Generally speaking, children have no interest in either the past or the future. Their sense of time is completely different to that of adults. A Child lives for today only. Yesterday and Tomorrow are distant, abstract entities to them. You cannot ask them to take history or some distant future goal into consideration, they just won’t get it, so it is crucial to keep it current!

9. The Need For Variety

More variety equals less boredom and fatigue. A wide variety of stimuli, in terms of presentation and content is critical to keep kids’ attention for any length of time. It is also necessary to vary the intensity of the exercises and games. Variation can also be achieved through mixing soccer-specific with general multilateral activities (other sports) or through switching from the global method (games) to the more analytical method (exercises or drills which are specific to one topic), or , indeed, from individual training to group practice.

10. The Need To Be Understood By Adults

Children seem to live in a different world to adults. They have different problems than adults, learn in a different way and don’t think as logically as adults do. Their ideas, thoughts or reasoning often lack coherence. Their emotional stability depends to a high degree on their speed of biological growth. Generally they don’t know how to use their energy efficienctly and therefore can tire very easily, while, at the same time they can also recover quicker than adults. Their behaviour is governed by the way they feel at any given time.

Horst Wein