OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVLEOPMENT CHECKLIST PART 4

 

PART 4: AGE-APPROPRIATE COMPETITIONS

The concept of readiness is very important in youth football development. It is important to recognize the stages of childhood development when putting together a programme of youth football activities. Unfortunately, in many cases we adults involved in the game are impatient to introduce young children to the adult game and the adult way of training.

For optimal development in youth football the following points should be considered:

1. The ideal competition structures we would recommend for optimal development are as follows:

  • Multilateral games primarily before the age of 7
  • 7/8/9 years   = 3v3 on four goals (FUNino)
  • 10 years         = 5v5
  • 11/12 years  = 7v7
  • 13 years         = 8v8
  • 14+ years      = 11v11

Children younger than 7 still need to spend a lot of time developing their Fundamental Movement Skills, sometimes called the ABCs (Agility, Balance and Coordination). Fun games with lots of different movements, even without a ball are recommended for this age group. These multilateral games should still be used in later years, but to a lesser extent.

For children 7-9 years of age we recommend FUNino, our 3v3 game with 4 goals.

10 year olds play 5 –a-side and 11 and 12 year olds play 7-a-side football.

We highly recommend that for one year, players at 13 years of age play 8v8 on a pitch with the goals moved up to the 18 yard line.

It is far better for children not to play in a league competition until at least 11 or 12 years of age. Many professional academies do not play competitive football until the late teens.

There are so many benefits to small-sided games for young players: more touches on the ball, more creativity and skills exhibited, more goalmouth action and chances to score, more transitions from attack to defence and vice versa,  simpler decision-making and more repetition of basic game situations, to name a few.

2. Delay 11-a-side soccer until 14 years at the earliest.
Contrary to popular belief, the game of football is not a simple game. There are many tactical decisions to be made in the complex adult game and having an age-appropriate, step by step approach to learning and experiencing the game will bear more fruit than rushing children as young as 11 years of age, sometimes,  into the adult game. Also, children before the age of 14 usually haven’t experienced their growth spurt yet and are very small to be playing on a full size pitch. The distances young players must run on a full size pitch involves too much anaerobic activity which is unhealthy at this age.
The small-sided games above offer a far more appropriate structure for children’s competitions.

3. Multiple Competitions instead of one long competitive league per season which can create all sorts of pressures from the adults, it is far better to have short tournaments, one day events, triathlons, pentathlons and decathlons. Children benefit greatly from variety and also from shorter competition structures. In general having a less competitive structure at the younger ages reduces stress and enhances creativity along with many other developmental benefits.

4. The right size pitch, ball and goal for each age group.
In our hurry to have young children play the adult game, we often force them to play in the same conditions, forgetting that they are still developing children. Just imagine the unfortunate 11 year old goalkeeper in the adult goal playing 11-a-side. He may stand no taller than 4’6” and still has to defend a goal 8 foot high by 24 foot wide! Size 3 balls are recommended for 6-9 years, size 4 for 10-13 years and only from 14 years should the size 5 ball be used. Having the right size goal makes a massive difference to the young players. We recommend 4x2m goals for 5 a side and 6x2m goals for 7 and 8-a-side football.

5. Address the relative age-effect.
Many studies like the one below confirm that across all elite sports, children born early in the sporting year have a distinct advantage over those born later in the year. In elite football, early born players are 4 times more likely to succeed than late-borns.

Usually, the simplest and most effective way to address the RAE, is to have non-competitive game structures up until the age of at least 11 or 12 and ideally until the mid-teens.  This way, when winning is less important than development, all players are given a fairer chance to play and more equal access to quality training.

6. Include multilateral competitions, not just football-specific.
Young footballers, even up to the early teens are still developing their Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) sometimes called ABCs, (Agility, Balance and Coordination). Including multilateral games, with different movement patterns will help to establish these fundamental skills, along with the football specific skills. In training multilateral activities should make up a good proportion of the overall programme, as much as 60% at 6 years of age, then 10% less for each successive year.

The above structural considerations are already bearing much fruit across Europe and many countries have moved closer to the ideal game structures recommended here with non-competitive small-sided games becoming ever more popular.

Mini Football gets a makeover – introducing…

Horst Wein’s ground-breaking development game Mini Football has been around for a long time now. The basic game of 3v3 with 4 goals has stood the test of time as a quantum leap in youth football development, being used in training for some of the top clubs in the world.

Having four wide goals immediately introduces width and helps to prevent the familiar swarming at the younger age groups. Also having two goals to attack with three defenders means that one goal is usually less-defended, which means there is always a better option available. Both of these factors encourage young players to look before they act and to think before they execute – so game intelligence is introduced naturally from the earliest ages.

However, now in 2012,  Mini Football has grown from a handful of games using the basic set-up to a complete programme which includes 28 official games with 35 variations, and also 24 preparatory/corrective games. As we are about to launch this new programme of development for 7-9 year olds, we figured a new name to reflect better its standing in world football development was necessary and we are delighted to announce this whole new programme – introducing…

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids

 

The Beautiful Game for Kids

 

As you may have figured out  FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids is the abbreviated version of Futbol a la medida del Nino, “football designed for children.”

We believe that young children all round the world with a passion for football have been waiting for over 150 years, since the inception of the game, for a game that suits perfectly, their mental and physical requirements and their specific needs as children, summed up in one word – FUN. If Nature were to design a football game, much like Street Football of old, it would come up with FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids – the first age-appropriate game programme specifically designed to meet the needs of young players, boys and girls, under 10 years of age. We hope that this holistic, game-centred approach will give millions of children around the world the most positive start to a lifetime of enjoying, as kids, The Beautiful Game, just as do the best players in the world!

The programme is the result of 27 years of innovation, practice and continuing  improvement and is part of the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model, which is the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation since 1993 and is used by FC Barcelona,  Athletico Bilbao and many top clubs around the world.

This unique modern coaching programme includes:

  • A player-centred approach to coaching, where the child comes first.
  • A game-centred approach, for optimal, holistic learning. (No more lines, laps and lectures). All aspects of the game: technical, physical, tactical and game intelligence are developed in an integrated manner for greater transfer and effect.
  • A Guided-Discovery approach to learning, where the coach stimulates the players’ game intelligence through effective questioning.

The programme is designed for all ability levels, but encourages inclusivity.

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids has many advantages over other small sided games especially 4v4 and 7v7. Horst’s unique use of simplified games that are appropriate to each age group, both for their competitions and their training, makes this programme far superior to the traditional offerings for youth development in football. In total, counting the 28 official games, their 35 variations and the 24 preparatory games the complete programme effectively includes 87 games to keep both coaches and their players stimulated throughout, while also covering all the important aspects of the game for this developmental stage.

The Game is the Teacher!

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids (along with the other elements of the Developmnent Model) has been proven to nurture intelligent, creative players, as witnessed by the emergence of the home-grown talent on display, recently  in the Europa Cup by Athletico Bilbao. In 2011 three young Mexican boys who  played this game went on the win the U17 World Cup.

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids is destined to become the number 1 development  game for young players of  this age around the world in the coming years.

FUNINO BOYS– Give your young players the chance to discover the magic  of The Beautiful Game in a unique game programme designed especially for them

– Enjoy the “renaissance of street football”

– Be the best coach you can be, creating a player- centred environment where young talent flourishes.

– Introduce your players to game intelligence, and establish their technique through games not drills

– A complete easy-to-use manual to unlock the enormous creative potential of young children…

Everything needed for coaches and players to get started on the right road to a great future in football:

FUNINO PITCH28 official FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids  games (With 35 variations)

24 Preparatory/corrective games

Over 40 colour illustrations

Easy to read and implement

A season programme of competitions

Games and tests your players will love

A clear guide to coaching this age

The Benefits of FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids abridged…

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids recognizes that playing is like breathing to children – necessary for their physical and mental well-being!

Player Benefits:

Optimal pitch size and player numbers, 4 goals out wide and simple rules means:

  • The game is easy to understand and improve at
  • Experiencing success brings greater confidence, enjoyment and motivation
  • More touches on the ball, more goals, more 1v1s and 2v1s
  • Lots of dribbling, then when they get tired, lots of passing
  • Establishes all the basic skills – controlling, passing, dribbling, shooting and tackling.
  • The player has plenty of opportunity to “be in love with the ball,” to improvise and to take risks without fear of making mistakes.
  • Greater participation as each player is vital in a 3 person team
  • Goals  out wide improves perception, peripheral vision and spatial awareness
  • Reduces crowding or swarming
  • More time and space to think and make decisions
  • Great variety of games within a familiar structure keeps it interesting for everyone
  • The positive environment of discovery instead of instruction is much more stimulating than traditional coaching style
  • Smaller players make up for their physical disadvantages through clever play
  • Everyone usually scores a goal!
  • Rolling substitutions and equal playing time benefits everyone
  • Frequent repetition of basic game situations gives greater opportunity to master them
  • The two goals create options which stimulates creativity and improvisation.
  • Develops support play and off-the-ball play
  • Learning takes place in a fully-integrated holistic environment, just as in the game itself. There is no isolation or separation of technical, tactical or physical elements.

 More goals, more action, more FUN!

Lifestyle and character benefits:

  • Active Lifestyle – combats the impact of sedentary lifestyle and obesity
  • Confidence/Self Esteem – through more successful actions and positive environment
  • Endeavour/Perseverance – learn to never give up
  • The Ability to Think – invaluable for education and life
  • Emotional Control – contentment and satisfaction through play
  • Social Relations/Friendships/Teamwork – a place to belong
  • Fair Play – respect for other children, adults and regulations

 

Coach Benefits:

Coaches, from the earliest involvement in the game, get to learn a modern player-centred, game-oriented, guided discovery approach and can grow with their players in their understanding of the game. The coach becomes a guide stimulating the players through his skilful use of the games, variations, effective questioning and constant encouragement.         

 

FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids  will very soon be available as an online book, see sample pages below:

FUNino sample pages

FUNino more sample pages

see contents below:

FUNino ContentsFurther information about FUNino The Beautiful Game for Kids  will be available shortly…

 

 

Horst Wein recommends Small-Sided Games for Grassroots Football

Horst Wein Coach of CoachesHorst Wein, who has mentored more than 11,000 soccer coaches in 55 different countries around the world, believes that small sided games are the most essential element in developing youth soccer players. This comes from a man who knows a thing or two about this vital topic – his book “Developing Youth Football Players” is the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation, and has also been adopted by the Football Federation of Australia, having sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide.

 Small-sided games in Training

Coaches should focus more on games rather than drills in training.  Isolating particular techniques and concentrating on them using repetitive drills and exercises is known as the “analytical method” and often poses difficulties when the players come to apply what they have been working on in the real game scenario. The “global method” of training involves creating more game-like scenarios in training that can be more seamlessly integrated into the actual game itself. This is done through creating simplified games, which are scaled-down versions of the real game, but that can focus on particular themes necessary in the real game.

The concept of using games rather than drills and exercises has been studied for many years all around the world. Teaching Games for Understanding  (TGfU) has been applied to many different sports and been found to be very effective. In Australia, it is also known as “Game Sense” and “Play practice.”

There are many benefits to this games-oriented method in soccer:

  1. Most importantly, players  prefer to play games than to do drills (especially the younger ones).
  2. The games can be modified through different variables to concentrate more on specific elements that need to be addressed; The size of the playing area, the number of players, duration of the game, technical rules etc, means that in the hands of a skilful coach, games may be used to achieve all the requirements of playing the real game.
  3. Small-sided games require smaller pitches and can be suited to any number of players.
  4. Small sided games provide a much more intense physical workout than larger games.
  5. Small-sided games allow the coach to develop the players Game Intelligence, as they may focus on the true dynamics of the game of soccer e.g. the 2v1 situation.

 Small sided games in competition

This means that the competitions that young people play should be tailored to the specific requirements of their age group.

“The competition you play should be like your shoes,  it should fit you perfectly! “

Benefits of small sided games in competition (and training)

  • More touches of the ball
  • Simpler decisions to make
  • Better game-related fitness, short duration of high-intensity vs laps
  • More time with coach per player
  • Easier to coach especially for parent coaches
  • More opportunities to solve game problems
  • More attacking opportunities (dribbling, shooting, passing )
  • More defending opportunities
  • More shooting and more goals  = more fun!
  • No hiding place, players don’t get lost in these games
  • More opportunities for the full range of skills
  • Encourages better shape and awareness of team-mates
  • Encourages faster play, fast transition from defence to attack
  • Easier for young players to have success – which means enjoyment and retention for these players.

 

Manchester United conducted a pilot scheme in 2005 which compared 4-a-side soccer to 8-a-side soccer, the results were very telling:

 

 

 

 Small-sided Games Around the World

All around the world today the value of small-sided games has begun to be recognized and many federations have introduced them successfully into youth development programmes. The Dutch system focuses mainly on 4v4 and later 7v7 games before players are introduced to the 11-a-side game.

All across continental Europe there are variations of either 4v4 or 5v5 for the first game that young kids play. In the British Isles, Wales has been leading the way with small sided games being introduced there in 1996. The FA in England are determined to introduce the following structures by 2013: 5v5 (7-8 years), 7v7 (9-10 years), 9v9 (11-12 years), 11v11 (13+ years)

Small sided games in the USThis map shows the penetration of small-sided games across the USA in 2009. Red areas have implemented small sided games, and blue areas have partially implemented them. In general USYS (United States Youth Soccer) recommends 3v3 for under 6 years and a progression to 4v4 or 5v5, 6v6 or 7v7, 8v8 etc.

 

Small-sided Games in the Horst Wein Model

In the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model, the recommended progressive small-sided game structure is:

Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model

3v3 for 7-9 years                         5v5 for 10 years                           7v7 for 11-12 years                       8v8 for 13 years                              11-a-side for 14+ years

 

 

Along with these competition games, each age group has its own complete programme of small-sided, simplified games for training, which emphasize game intelligence and a deeper understanding of the tactical situations of the game of football. The training games can be used for preparing the players for their appropriate competition or as corrective measures for issues identified during play.

The emphasis is always on games for learning rather than drills and running.

 The Game is the teacher

 

Many claim that the revolutionary game of Mini-Football (3v3 on four wide goals) is a revival of street football.

 

 

 

 

MINI-FOOTBALL VS 4V4

While many advocate the benefits of 4v4, which is undoubtedly far more beneficial than 8v8 (or 7v7), Horst’s own Mini-Football game which is 3v3 on 4 wide goals has the following advantages over 4v4:

Mini Football versus 4v4