Friday, June 28, 2013

U8 Boys Grassroots soccer - Week 2 - Rain stayed away!

This week we continued our club's U8 program.  Last week we had 44 players and today I was expecting 60.  I plan for 10 and am ready for 90.  It rained most of the day here and I guess people assumed we were cancelled.  We ended up with 18 players.  For the record ... it didn't rain at all during the session.

Please know that almost all of my sessions this year have been structured using LTPD as a guideline.  Even as an experienced coach, LTPD's structure makes a session even better and puts you in the right frame of mind.

I arrived early and set up 3 of the stations I had planned.  When I saw the number we had, I just decided to run the entire session as a group.  The plan was to run 4-6 stations depending on numbers.

Before I get into the session I will declare, with great enthusiasm, that I was VERY happy with how our session went.  Helping tonight were Coach Melissa (U8 convenor), Coach Scott and Coach Mirko.
"All were able to execute at 1v1 but not all during 4v4.  Does that not oblige us to show more patience?"
My goal for the session was over-exposure to the ball and manipulating it in different situations.  One ball per 1/2 players at each station was important.

  • 4 mini fields with 4x8 goals.
  • Lots of balls, pinnies and cones
  • 12 agility poles
  • 16 hurdles
  • 2 mini fields were left blank for games.  One was temporarily marked with cones down the middle, lengthwise.
  • 1 mini field was set up for a dribbling station
  • 1 mini field was set up for multiple 1v1s

Exercise 1. - Running/ jumping / tumbling

We started the night off with some running.  We set up 3 lines with 5 hurdles each.  This was done off the playing area, behind the nets of 2 mini fields.  The boys ran approx 10yds towards the hurdles, over the hurdles then, once out, a front roll and get back into their run quickly for another 10 yds. 

  • Only a few boys pumped their arms when they run.  So we worked on that. 
  • Only a few boys could do a front roll.  That number went up as time passed.
  • Kids dig the hurdles.  Everybody was able to navigate the hurdles.
Exercise 2 - Turns

We then moved to the mini field lined with cones up the middle, lengthwise. In groups of 2 we had players line up on the touch line.  One dribbled to the middle, turned and dribbled back.  Upon arriving back they stepped on the ball and pulled it back to set it up rolling for their partner to dribble.  We worked on three turns ; pull back, inside chop, outside chop.  I had ZERO coaching points other than demonstrating and cheering when it looked correct.  I wanted to see them use the sole of their foot and they all did.  They were simple turns and my intention was to set them up for the first game.  I was pleased with them as a group.  The outside chop was a little difficult for some but they worked at it.

If we had run stations, this would have been part of the warm-up with all players involved as a big group.

  • The pullback turn seems so basic to the experienced player, but young players really do need to be "shown" how to do it.  Those who watch soccer naturally imitate it.
  • The inside chop is easier for some than the pull back.
  • The outside chop takes a little more control of their bodies and a lot more practice

Exercise 3 - Game

We divided the boys into teams and had 2 games played side-by-side (4v4 and 5v5).  Same condition as last week, 2-touch.  For both groups I stepped in briefly after a few minutes of play and showed them situations when they could use their new turns.  Some took to it like fish in water.   VERY happy to see that.

  • Planting the seed of thought and a quick demo are a lot more effective than "coaching" the point in great detail.
  • Even at U8, some players are shy to play.
Exercise 4 - Dribbling

We had agility poles set up in a zig-zag pattern, 2 sets of 6-poles each.  We had the boys dribble around them in a big zig-zag pattern, forcing sharp left and right turns using their new turns.  Then we had them attack each poles circling them with the inside of their foot, then the outside.  It hit a few snags but they got through it.  We are going to repeat this one next week to raise the success level for more players.

  • The boys were quickly able to apply their inside chop turn in going around the poles 
  • Similar to the struggle with the outside chop, they struggled to circle each pole with the outside of their foot.  Some have never even thought to manipulate their body that way, and that's why we're here. 

Exercise 5 - Game

Back to our games.  We switched the teams around.  After a few minutes again we showed them instances where our previous dribbling techniques would be helpful.  Funny thing is more kids were bringing the previous turns into play (great!) and a few were able to see where our last exercise applied.

  • More players were utilizing what we had done during the previous 2 technical stations.
  • Players proving to coaches and parents that given a chance to try it away from the formal game, they can begin to discover more options in a game
Exercise 6 - 1v1

We set up 4 grids on another field to play multiple 1v1 games.  We started last week's session with this and it got very competitive, fast.  Every boy ... ALL EIGHTEEN OF THEM ... were using turns, sneaky dribbling and the soles of their feet during the 1v1 games.  Very good moment for coaches to see that.

  • With only themselves and one opponent, and repetitions, they brought their new tools to a competitive situation. You against me ... this is what I can do!"
  • 1v1 allows you to manipulate the group so players can be properly matched for success.
Exercise 7 - Game

Back to our games.  Same deal.  Now, here is what coaches have to remember about rushing kids into playing games and wishing for success.  All of the kids experimented, used turns and creative dribbling during the 1v1 session.  More than who used it during the 4v4 games.  So they showed us they could execute the technique and decide which technique to use in 1v1.  Why not the game?  Pressure?  Anxiety?  The 2-touch was working and enough kids were using turns to show some level of success, but they ALL did it during 1v1s.  Think about that.  All boys were able to execute at 1v1 but not all during 4v4.  Does that not oblige us to show more patience?

  • More boys feeling more comfortable trying to change direction.
  • More boys comfortable with not "hoofing" ball away on first touch (my biggest beef)
Exercise 8 - Running/jumping/tumbling

The kids were asking about the hurdles so we finished with 4 more runs to repeat what we did earlier.  They were more confident and got a little fancy in their execution.  Fine with me.

  • Kids dig hurdles :)

Our session was 90 minutes. Between the 1v1 and 4v4 games, the boys had 4 game situations during training.  During our turns, 1v1 and dribbling stations, the boys had a ball on their foot most of the time.  The running portion was fun for them and telling for the coaches.
"Planning for various numbers made the session a lot easier."
The challenge with this program is not knowing how many kids are coming.  So I had it planned for what we did and in case 60 players arrived.  Tonight worked out very well for the kids who came.  When players arrived they saw balls already out and ready to play with as well as 3 stations set up with equipment.  I hope that set the stage for them.

One thing I am not sure I like is the idea of them bringing their own ball to training.  Some were flat, some were size 5.  I still brought 20 size 4 balls, but I'm just sayin'.  If kids come with under-inflated balls, that's a 20 second block to pump it up.  20 balls means 7 minutes to get them pumped.  Some arrived in shirt colours other than white.  They were gently reminded to come with white shirts.

Twice I forgot to have a drink break between stations, so I will have to write that into my plan.

Did the kids improve tonight?  I saw it with my own eyes.

Did they have fun? They were busy and sweating, we'll see if they come back next week, then I can say "yes"

Did the layout work?  For tonight, with this many players, yes.  For the dribbling, I had it set for a station of 8-10 players.  With 18 players, we had a bit of a line-up at both sets during the portion where we used the outside of the foot to circle the poles.  If we do it again in this fashion, I will set up a third set with pylons.

I was able to come in a good mood, rested and the other coaches were also very cheery around the boys.  This is not a minor point.  Your mood sets the tone for everything that follows for the rest of the session.  Leave your baggage at home.

Was I disappointed that we only had 18 players?  Not at all.  Like I said, there was a plan and at this age. having 5 players or 105 is still a blast.  So instead of doing it in stations, we delivered what might be called a GAG with multiple technical portions.

Did the boys get a chance to play?  Freely?  I think they did.
"If a player knows they're loved and you demonstrate patience with them, they will be successful."
Any concerns?  I am still worried about safety with this group.  Hanging on nets scares me and for good reason.  Standing on balls when they are all in a pile scares me too.  Maybe I am getting old and fearful? I will keep harping on it as their well-being is paramount.  Somebody might say "well, you need to get tough".  I say "hey, they're EIGHT YEAR OLD BOYS, I fathered three of them and been one myself".

Were the other coaches involved?  They facilitated the mini games and jumped in coaching the stations.  I was really happy to have them to work with tonight.  I am loving watching the other coaches taking a leadership role.   LTPD depends on more coaches comfortable delivering quality sessions.  As a side note, I know most of the coaches and went to school with several of them.  Coach Melissa's late father, Vince, was a long time club president and a wonderful man.  It's great that she and her brother Anthony have become involved. (nothing to do with soccer ... when we were young Vince came to school a few times to talk about his job as an x-ray technician.  He would end his presentation by showing us x-rays of weird things that people ingested (coins, nails, etc) ahhh... good times.)

One note to new coaches.  You will have read several times that we did not "coach" .  You don't need to explain things in great detail.  A few words, a demonstration and let them try it.  The turns, dribbling and game ideas were relayed in very few words and in very short time.  I did my coaching through my organization and short demos.  You don't need to deliver Abraham Lincoln level speeches to make your point.  Remember who we were dealing with .  8 year old boys.  After 15 seconds they were already looking around and chatting.  Get in, get out, let them play.

At the end of it all the formula is easy.  The boys come out and work so hard.  They are soccer players, 100%.  They showed they need time and the right situation to learn.  If a player knows they're loved and you demonstrate patience with them, they will be successful.

Next week I hope to have enough players to give each coach a station so they can improve their ability to deliver a topic, but if we don't we will enjoy ourselves like we did tonight.  My wish is to show up next Saturday to their house league games and see them using their turns and have more confidence on the ball.