OPTIMAL YOUTH FOOTBALL DEVELOPMENT CHECKLIST PART 7

 

PART 7: SKILL ACQUISITION & CREATIVITY

1. Develop the A, B, Cs of Agility, Balance and Coordination through multilateral games and activities, especially from the younger ages (before 7 years of age). This is crucial for their technical development.

Another term for this basic motor development is Fundamental Motor Skills, usually divided into Locomotor (movement), Stability (balance) and Manipulative (using objects) skills.

Locomotor (movement)

Stability  (balance)

Manipulative (using objects)

Crawling
Walking
Running
Galloping
Hopping
Skipping
Dodging
Jumping
Sliding
Leaping

Standing still
Turning & Twisting
Stopping
Bending
Landing
Climbing

Throwing
Catching
Striking
Bouncing
Dribbling
Kicking

Multilateral games also contribute to the development of the sensory-motor systems in young  football players:

  • Vestibular system (balance and sensory control)
  • Proprioceptive system (awareness of body  movement)
  • Tactile system (touch)
  • Visual system
  • Auditory system

 There should always be a strong social emphasis in Multilateral Games, encouraging more cooperation than competition at this young age.

Multilateral Games should include:

  • Running Games
  • Jumping Games
  • Balancing Games
  • Ball games

The best games include combinations of all or most of the elements above.

For future footballers, regular tag games (from Running Games) are great for improving acceleration,  speed, agility, balance, coordination, perception, anticipation and feinting skills.

It is recommended that 5/6 year olds should dedicate 90% of their session to multilateral games and only 10% to basic individual football activities. They should not be required to play in teams, not even in 2v2 games as this contravenes their egotistic nature at this age.
For 7 year olds half of their session should include multilateral games and the other 50% football games and corrective exercises for the shortcomings discovered in their simplified games.  Each successive year the football specific element increases while the multilateral activities decrease by 10%.

2. Skill and Creativity is best acquired through small-sided simplified games

  • From 7 years of age children should play small-sided simplified games in training such as 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v2 and 3v3 (especially ) etc. as they include most of the individual and collective elements of play and gradually develop their understanding and decision making.
  • As previously mentioned, an ideal competition structure would be 3v3 for 7-9 years, 5v5 for 10 year olds, 7v7 for 11-12 year olds and 8v8 for 13 year olds, while the 11-a-side game is suitable for 14+ years.
  • Allow the kids to find solutions for themselves to stimulate creativity and imagination.
  • Do not discourage dribbling in favour of passing at younger ages. Later, from 11 years onwards, the artistic dribbler will gradually learn to pass at the right time to the right place

Benefits of Small-sided Games (Competitions) for young developing players:

  • More touches on the ball
  • More dribbling and individual skills
  • More 1v1 encounters
  • More repetition of basic game situations
  • More space and less bunching
  • Simpler lines of interaction and decision-making
  • Encourages better shape and team-awareness
  • Active involvement of all players, no hiding place
  • More attacking opportunities – dribbling, passing and shooting
  • More defending opportunities
  • Faster play and faster transitions from defence to attack and vice versa
  • More goal-mouth action
  • More goals
  • More FUN!

These benefits are obvious when young players play games that are smaller than the adult 11-a-side game, but are even more pronounced when the age-appropriate competitions mentioned above are played. E.g. 3v3 games (especially , 3v3 on four goals), will usually have 3-5 times as many touches, 1v1 encounters, dribbles, shots, individual skills and goals than 7v7 which is often played for children as young as 7!

3. Other opportunities to further enhance the acquisition of individual skills:

  • Before training and in warm-ups is a good time for all sorts of skill improvement with the ball like free-kicks, dribbling skills, or tackling.
  • Homework:  children under 12 should be given specific exercises to practice at home, individually or with family members or friends.
  • Each week, specially-designed training sessions, for individuals or groups of players  (goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders or attackers) should be organized to practise the skills which need improvement.
  • Quite often school-going  players  learn as much, if not more, in the off-season at football camps than in the whole football season. They have more time to dedicate to their hobby: Football. That is why the off- season can often be the high-season for learning and improvement for youngsters. Players often make tremendous leaps forward during this holiday period, having plenty of time to spend with the ball and their team-mates.