OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT CHECKLIST PART 6

PART 6:INTEGRATED TRAINING THROUGH GAMES
Using simplified small-sided games in training rather than isolated physical conditioning through laps and sprints and technical training in drills is a more integrated approach to player development. It includes the physical, technical, tactical, psychological and social elements of the real game and, most importantly, helps players to develop game intelligence, the most important factor in football.

There is a better transfer of technique through playing in games and the physical conditioning is much more football-specific and intense in small-sided games.

All players, especially young players enjoy playing games much more than drills, which is hugely motivational.

All four aspects of Game Intelligence – perception, understanding, decision-making and execution – are improved in simplified small-sided games.

For all youngsters the FUNino  games (3v3 with four goals) offer a superior menu of games and variations to cover many important game situations and develop game intelligence in attack, defence, transitions and ball possession.

1. Ideally kids should play football every day, often without supervision.
Just as in times gone by, street football, or pick-up games that happen naturally are a great environment for kids to develop on their own without being over-coached. Alternatively, organized activities either in school or at the club/academy, will serve this purpose.
2. Kids should train at least three times per week for 90 mins.
Unfortunately football talent, like any other talent, needs time and dedication. Ideally kids should train regularly and especially using small sided games.
3. Use games rather than warm-ups/physical training/drills.
Most coaches today recognize the need for small sided games in training, there are so many benefits, see introduction above.
4. Give players technical homework.
Rather than spend your group training time working on technique, give the young players technical homework, such as wall-ball or other exercises that they can play with the friends to improve their first touch, passing, shooting, dribbling etc.
5. Simplified small-sided games should correlate with their competitions.
It is critical that the training is specific to the competitions that the children play. We recommend that the training games have less numbers than their competition games, e.g. 3v3 training games for 5/7-a-side and 4v4 for 8-a-side. Also they must focus on age-appropriate topics, not just sized-down adult football.
6. Exercises/drills only when prescribed to fix a deficiency.
Drills/exercises have their place to correct technique and tactics. We find it is much more motivating for players when the coach helps them to find any deficiencies in their game and then apply appropriate “corrective exercises.”
7. Variety.
Players enjoy variety in their training and a good menu of training games with associated variations not only keeps it interesting but actually helps to reinforce skills and tactics.
8. Repeat specific game situations until lessons have been reinforced.
Usually a minimum of 5 repetitions is required to consolidate learning of game situations. It is important to give players this time before moving onto a new topic. Through repetition of basic game situations, players learn to read the game and make better decisions.
9. Let players choose what they would like, sometimes.
Giving players responsibility for their activities is very empowering to them and offers a refreshing break from being always told what to do.
10. Progress the games as the players achieve mastery.
Once the players have mastered a given situation, then it is time to stimulate them with a new challenge or a progression of the same lesson they have learned. Development thus becomes a virtuous path of continuous improvement and success.

THE GAME IS THE TEACHER!