One of the first things most players learn to do when being introduced to the game is dribble the soccer ball. At the 8-10 year old stage of development, dribbling needs to be able to serve multiple purposes for a player:
Dribble to Beat an Opponent – when in possession of the ball and facing a defender, the attacking player must be able to maneuver past the defender using a change of speed or body feint to accelerate into open space.
Dribble to Accelerate into Space – when receiving the ball in space and moving it forward at speed.
Dribble to Avoid Pressure – ‘turning’ with the ball away from pressure to maintain possession.
Young players at this stage of development may have not yet developed a confidence on the ball. Therefore, when pressured by an opponent, panic sets in and a poor decision is made, oftentimes resulting in a turnover. Whether the correct decision is to attempt to beat a player or turn away from pressure with the ball, confident dribbling technique is a skill every aspiring player must have.
While recreational soccer is often characterized by the term “bunch ball” (when every field player swarms the dribbler trying to get a touch on the ball), the idea of sharing the ball amongst teammates plays a big role at the next stage of development. Therefore, the ability to properly pass the ball with the insides of both feet is a critical skill.
We demand that our players spend hours improving their passing technique with the insides of each foot.
A rebound surface allows a player to increase the number of touches on the ball in a shorter, more concentrated period of time. Repetition of proper passing technique has to take priority over everything else with youth players at this stage. Tipped on their sides, these 6-foot long benches provide the perfect training tool for young and aspiring players to develop essential passing skills.
Naturally, the ability to control the ball with comfort and ease using multiple surfaces (foot, thigh, chest) is a necessity if passing the ball is a priority. Poor control when receiving the ball allows a defender to close space quickly and put them under pressure in a hurry.
Improvement comes from repetition. Aspiring players must go back to the rebound surface. Players can work on two things at once – passing technique and receiving skill.
A large number of players struggle to shoot the ball with confidence and with good technique. An even larger number of players are only one foot dominant – having yet to put in the time to develop the weaker foot.
A big part of youth development is creating a training environment that affords youngsters the opportunity to score lots of goals.
5: Spacing and Transition
Dribbling, passing, receiving and shooting are all technical components of development, while a player’s understanding of spacing – when to make the game big and when to make the game small – is a tactical component (the way the player visualizes and comprehends how to play the game).
At this stage of development, players must begin to understand the ball is the fastest thing on the field and that chasing the ball all over the field is not how the game is supposed to be played. Aspiring players must allow the ball to run and the opponents to chase.