Thursday, August 1, 2013

U8 Grassroots Soccer - Wizard Academy - Week 5

We had our fifth session of our U8 Wizard Academy program. I am feeling guilty after these sessions because I wonder if the boys are having as much fun as I am.

After reffing 4 mini games last weekend, I wasn't happy with how kids just let balls roll out of play or how coaches and parents say "let it go..." . Players were also taking their sweet time getting the ball back in play.  I shouldn't say "wasn't happy" because the whole experience was very nice.  I should reclassify this as an old pet peeve that resurfaced :)

Our goals for tonight:
1.  Individual ball work
2.  Put it in their heads to work hard to keep ball in play.
3.  Test their gamesmanship and see if they can be clever during small sided games.

The small-sided-games satisfied goals 2 and 3 in one stroke.

Tonight we had Coach Marco again, along with Coach Joe.  Coach Joe made his first appearance tonight. 
He is the assistant coach on our U10 boys team and an elementary school teacher.  As a side note, he was a member of one of Welland's best ever youth teams.  When I told Coach Joe of my pet peeve, he was sympathetic.

We had 21 boys plus Coach Kennedy again.  Before the session, we moved some nets and set up the one mini-field into 2 micro fields going across.  The stations were one 5v5 mini field and two 3v3 micro fields.

It is impossible for Thursdays to go wrong.  The boys run in from their cars straight to a coach to ask "is my ball pumped up enough?" and start playing.  Sometimes I feel like I am interrupting them to start he session.  Two boys wore Toronto Maple Leaf t-shirts and received the mandatory verbal jabs.

Our individual ball work revolved around some basic juggling then dribbling.  The boys are getting along OK with this but need more exposure.  Patience.

On the mini-field:
We had 4 balls lined up and spaced evenly along each touch line.  When a player put a ball out, the opposing team could play any of the balls on the touch-line.  The player who put the ball out had to get that ball and replace the ball that was played by the oppositions.  I got the idea for a game from Streetwise Soccer, a book written by a fellow coaching educator in Ontario, Steve Payne.  I changed it up slightly, but it's the same game as Steve has it on Page 48, named "The Great Dane".  (I suggest you get the book, it's a good read)

Goal #1.  That the players worked hard to keep the ball in.
Goal #2.  The somebody along the way figured out to quickly play balls that were more forward than the ball that went out.

Coach Joe ran this station like a champ.  It took a while, but they got it.  The kids were learning to make life difficult for the other team by playing the forward ball AND sometimes playing the ball off the opposite touch line.  Gamesmanship.  Street Smarts.  Sticking it to your opponent and smiling the whole time.

Goal #1? Some players were chasing down balls and sliding to keep them in play.  So we made some progress.
Goal #2?  Smash success.

On the micro fields:
3v3 with the following rule:  If you put it out, you had to run where the ball crossed the line, crouch down and count to 10 before getting back into play.  The opposing team had to get the ball and bring it into play.

Goal #1? Keep the ball in play.
Goal #2? The team that wins the ball moves to get it back in play and trying to score while player is still counting to 10.

I was happy to see the boys working to keep the ball in.  I was happy to see the opposing player moving to not lose the advantage during the 10 second count.  I was hoping to see somebody count VERY QUICKLY but they were all being very honest. I was happy with how the teammates were "communicating" their desire for their guy to get the ball back into play.

Goal #1? It was improving as we went along.
Goal #2? Successful again under Coach Marco's supervision.

The lesson was in the game, so I didn't plan it as a GAG session, but to inject some physical literacy  we had them play each station once in the form of handball, with the lesson to be moving if you don't have the ball.  This is one of the better younger "catching and throwing" groups I've seen in a while.  They did this on both size fields, then we went back to our feet.

We ended the session with some good old fashion competition: racing.  We had 4 sprints to let the boys decide who was the fastest.  There was no urine testing afterwards.

Both games had a counter-attack mentality, but we never used the term "counter attack".  It would have only confused them.  It was simple; it's your ball, you're a man up, figure it out and get moving.

We gave every player 2 chances to play soccer in both formats and there was a definite improvement the second time around at each.  The level of effort was noticeably higher tonight.

Coach Joe and Coach Marco had 6 mini session to coach their small sided games.  Delivering a game is a little more unsettling than delivering a drill and they did well.

So our session, for each player:
  • Individual ball work/warm-up
  • 5v5 soccer
  • 3v3 soccer
  • 5v5 handball
  • 3v3 handball
  • 5v5 soccer
  • 3v3 soccer
  • sprints
Sometimes I feel we should be running more "drills" , but once it gets past the size of a normal team at U7/U8, you're asking for trouble. And we have U7 and U8 together, so after the warm-up and technical work we give them problems to solve.  LTPD tells me to back off and let them discover the beautiful game on their own.  We usually have technical stations and those work well because of the smaller groups.  I'm happy so far as every child is getting a lot of touches on the ball and a lot of opportunity to play soccer. 

Four siblings jumped in and joined our races at the end of the session.  How can you say "no" to somebody who wants to embarrass their brother?

It's funny ... or maybe not.  I have a more difficult time reflecting in detail on these big-group sessions for younger players.  I find I am so focused on making sure everybody is busy and playing , my yard stick has become that I'm happy if they're happy.  There are little things I try to fix from an organizational viewpoint, but the delivery seems harder to look back on as compared to a U14 or U18 team session.