Thursday, August 22, 2013

U8 grassroots soccer program wrapped up. Mental notes.

While coaching, it's important to be learning and gathering information while you're instructing.  If you're not , then you're not growing as a coach.

We just wrapped up The Wizard Academy, our weekly U8 development program at the Welland Soccer Club.  This is for U8 players in house-league who seek more soccer. There was no cost to the program and players came as their family schedule permitted.

As an OSA Learning Facilitator we spend a lot of time during coaching courses learning about the development stage we are working with.  According to my resume, I could probably justify telling a parent that I have nothing more to learn about 8 year old players, but that would be VERY incorrect and self-limiting.

Every session should reinforce what you know about that age group or provide you with more insight into the kids.  If you don't know the player, how can you coach?

OK, what I walked away with.  Some new, some reinforced.

U8 players: 
  1. want to play
  2. want to have fun
  3. are not small adults
  4. are naturally competitive
  5. continuously look to you or their parents when struggling
  6. can figure out ways to "cheat" and get an upper hand.
  7. will experiment and try anything you show them, but sometimes use "fatigue" to avoid things that prove to be too difficult.
  8. still need a lot of work with physical literacy and ABC's
  9. still require a lot of work with 1 ball/player
  10. are still little children who sometimes think they're injured and want attention
  11. still like to have parents close by
  12. are old enough to start understanding jokes
  13. get tired, but some are able to start pushing themselves
  14. want to be kept busy
  15. sometimes arrive to training after a day of swimming and running around
  16. are sometimes already under IEPs at school and learn differently
  17. starting to develop tempers
  18. want to be paired with players they are familiar with
  19. want to impress the coaches
  20. don't care how good you are
  21. can easily be frightened or discouraged
  22. at this age they are between being a "child" and a "kid".  In a way, they want to cry and they don't want to cry at the same time.
  23. They are ready to start engaging in real training.
"A U8 soccer player is not a small adult"

So, to match those observations ... your session content:
  1. Let them play
  2. Make your session enjoyable.
  3. Treat them like 8-year-olds and make your content age appropriate.  Do not use slang or jargon when speaking to them and keep the vocabulary at their level.
  4. Set up drills and games that are competitive.
  5. Set up themed small sided games to bring out their gamesmanship.
  6. Make it "safe" and OK to make a mistake or require more time to succeed.
  7. show them new techniques with small progressions.  Set up your sessions to give them a chance to
  8. Physical literacy, every session.
  9. Lots of dribbling, turns, juggling, 1v1, etc.
  10. Smile, have a few comeback lines that they understand and tend to their "injury" while walking them back to play.
  11. Let their parents stay close and involved.
  12. Build some rapport, be funny and smile, but censor your jokes :)
  13. Drink breaks, keep things more interesting as your progress.
  14. Keep them busy and be organized to avoid long breaks.
  15. If you have kids then you know looking in their eyes tells you a lot.
  16. Find out if you have players who learn differently and keep that in mind when designing your session.  They need to succeed too.
  17. Be mindful of their words and try to keep their "anger" focused on their own performance.
  18. Let them partner with friends.
  19. show and tell them you're impressed.  High fives, whooping it up, using them as examples, learn their names.
  20. Demo and get out.  They are not there to watch you play with a ball.
  21. Body language can have a huge effect on your message, so be mindful your posture and tone of voice.
  22. Treat them with respect.  Getting down on one knee and looking them in the eye to tell them you take them seriously can go a long way to help them feel comfortable in their skin.
  23. Don't be afraid to take your coaching up a notch to begin the process of constructing a real soccer player.
 LTPD revolves around knowing our players and delivering age appropriate programs.  Always remember the player is the centre of your program, not the coach or the parents.