Saturday, December 1, 2012

U4 - "Active Start" Session - Saturday morning

I finally had a U4 session where each player had an adult partner.  And it worked like a charm.

In keeping with LTPD, I ran the session framed by the development stage "Active Start".

Getting parents to realize they were actually helping was not difficult.  Everybody was ready to go and very co-operative.  I think some really enjoyed themselves.

When I show up to guest coach an outdoor U4 session, many parents are in sandals or have other children to tend to, so getting a 1:1 adult ratio is difficult unless the coach sets the standard for the season.

The Active Start session has 4 simple criteria:
  • General movements
  • Soccer Co-ordination
  • Soccer techniques
  • Small Sided Game
We started off with simple games of tags where the parents chased the kids and vice-versa. 

That was followed up by a series of activities to promote familiarity with the ball and forcing certain movements (dribbling, turning, running with the ball, etc).  Every activity involved the parent as a partner.

We ended it all with 2 small sided games.  I wouldn't exactly call them "games" but rather "slight chaos, with uniforms".  It's a good exercise because it starts to introduce the idea of teams, field shape, goals, etc.  But very few of the players understand the concept of a game. 

Why parents as partners?  Your goal for the session is that each player is comfortable and getting as many interactions with the ball as possible.  If you've ever run a U4 session you know that some kids wander away and go where?  Their parents.  With the player's parent there and active, your player is active and participating in every activity taking place.

After drink breaks, I informally explained to the parent partners what the goals were of most of the things we were doing,  but the general message was simple.  Any activity that allows the player to develop a relationship with the ball and learn to manipulate it with different parts of either foot is good.

The session lasted 50 minutes including water breaks.  The Active Start outline suggests 30-45 minutes.  Our game was no longer than 10 minutes and that was about enough.

I lost a few minutes getting parents into the role of 1v1 assistance during the practice and getting the players into a set area but I was happy with how it went for my first interaction with this groups.  I was pretty relaxed about parents going off on a tangent to see what they would do, and I was impressed.  Most parents of the children who strayed kept playing with their child, using their personal play time to get them back into the group.  All with the ball on their foot.

The most difficult part of LTPD, and Active Start, is for parents to forget their adult perceptions of sport.  The players have so much to learn, physically and technically, before presenting anything that  might resemble a game.  Most 4-year-olds do not understand "us against them" and "we score in that net and defend this one".  They all understand comfort, fear, love and fun and training should revolve around those points.

As players in the Active Start stage move towards 6 years old , you can introduce more activities that do not require parent partners.  But for U4 you should involve parents as much as possible.