Nashua Youth Soccer League

Division Resources

U6 and U7

Overview

It is important to understand at the outset that players coming to any sport prior to the age of 6 years old, in general, do not do so by their own choice. As a result, YOU, their coach! needs to give them something about which to get excited. Further, at this age, learning to play soccer is secondary to most other things in their lives.

  • Each session should be geared around touching the ball as many times as possible. Involve the ball in as many activities as possible. Basic movements such as running, skipping, hopping, etc. need to be emphasized. If these can be done while kicking a ball...all the better!
  • Emphasis needs to be placed on what is FUN!.
  • Remember, although the team may have very similar birthdates, their physical and / or mental maturity may vary as much as 8 months. Activities need to accommodate these individual differences whenever possible.
  • Team play and passing is an alien concept to these players. They know that if they pass the ball, they may never get it back. In fact, they often will steal it from their own teammates. Do not get uptight if they do not pass, let them dribble and shoot to their heart's content.
  • Plan for at least 4, 90 second drink breaks, especially in warmer weather. Their "cooling system" is not as efficient as in older players.  Have fun pouring water on the heads of those children that want it!
  • Remember the 3 Ls - No LAPS, No LINES, No LECTURES!
  • U6 and U7 follow the Play - Practice - Play methodology, where a game is played, than practice of skills and game activities, followed by a final Play of a Soccer Game.

Typical Training Session

Here are some items that should be included in a U-6 and U-7 training session:
PLAY: Children should start by playing. This is the play of the NYSL play-practice-play methodology. As children filter in, they can engage in 1v1, 2v2, 5v5, etc and get moving, shooting, playing. Let the children make their own game up, and allow them to play and explore soccer by themselves. This is important in building confidence and engaging them in life long learning and movement.
SKILLS: Children of this age do not need a warmup. However, the beginning of the coach directed practice can be appropriate to introduce some ball skills. This should involve individual body activities that involve the ball. They can chase their ball as it is thrown by the coach, bringing it back with different parts of their body. Or, they can chase someone with their ball at their feet. "Soccernastics" activities are very appropriate, like: rolling the ball with the bottom of their feet, with their elbows, backwards, with the back of their neck while holding on to it; throwing it up and catching it; keeping it up with their feet while sitting.
GAME ACTIVITIES: After this, players should be kept running around with a ball at their feet. Players should learn and practice body control and ball control through games such as “Red Light Green Light”, Tag, and other familiar games, but played with a ball. Keep players in motion at all times. Avoid having them wait in lines. Play games of "inclusion" instead of games where the "loser sits". Make sure to schedule frequent water breaks.
PLAY THE GAME: Move on to the real game, but, make sure it is a 4 v. 4 game. Keep players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. It is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible.
CLOSURE: Close the practice by pointing out things that each player is doing well. This is super motivating to young children. For those children who are motivated to practice at home, give them additional “homework”, or challenge them to find something to show you to learn. Your goal is to have every child leave on a good note so that they will be excited to be back next week!

U8

Coaching info & Drills

Some of the players that are playing as a 7 year old have had two years of soccer experience and thus have already touched the ball a few thousand times in their lives. They may have an older sibling they’ve been keeping up with, or friends in their backyard.  This does not mean that these players are ready for the mental demands of tactical team soccer.  However, at this age level, we can begin to insert tactical exercises and rules into the curriculum.  The majority emphasis still needs to be placed on the individual's ability to control the ball with his/her body.  In general, this age range is playing to have fun, although some of them will be extremely motivated and work outside of the practices.  Many players may be new to the sport, while others on the same team may have been playing for years.  This makes the transition here difficult and it is imperative that activities are geared towards individual success and participation. Following are some more items that a coach of U-8 players should consider.

  • NYSL plays 4v4 soccer in keeping with the US Soccer Recommendations.  This gives them more time with the ball, which translates into more individual successes.  At NYSL, we build success through success. Soccer is played in Play - Practice - Play ie, Game, Skills\Drills, Game.
  • Because of rapid growth spurts during this age, players will go through times when they seem to have lost control of their body. What they could easily do 2 weeks ago now seems unattainable. Be patient.
  • Passing is not an important part of their game, no matter how much anybody yells at them to do otherwise, it is much more fun to dribble and shoot. Let them.  (PARENTS - please do not coach from the sideline!)
  • NYSL U8 training sessions will be once a week - 45 minutes of practice, and 45 minutes of game.  This keeps kids interested, and allows them to immediately put into action what they learned in practice.
  • They need to touch (with their feet!) a soccer ball as many times as possible during fun activities that will engage them.  This builds confidence and skills.
  • Challenge them to practice on their own in order to become better soccer players.  Allow them to show skills and tricks they have learned at home to other team members.
  • There is no rule which states that they can't learn by themselves, no matter how important we think we are.
  • Incidental things are important. They are forming the habits that will impact their future participation. Ask them to take care of their equipment (water bottle included), cooperate, listen, behave, and try hard. Realize, however, that they often forget and will need to be reminded often.

Typical Training Session

Here are some items that should be included in a U-8 training session:

PLAY: Children should start by playing. This is the first play of the NYSL play-practice-play methodology. As children filter in, they can engage in 1v1, 2v2, 5v5, etc and get moving, shooting, playing. Let the children make their own game up, and allow them to play and explore soccer by themselves. This is important in building confidence and engaging them in life long learning and movement.

SKILLS: Children of this age do not need a warmup.  However, the beginning of the coach directed practice can be appropriate to introduce some ball skills. This should involve individual body activities that involve the ball. They can chase their ball as it is thrown by the coach, bringing it back with different parts of their body. Or, they can chase someone with their ball at their feet. "Soccernastics" activities are very appropriate, like: rolling the ball with the bottom of their feet, with their elbows, backwards, with the back of their neck while holding on to it; throwing it up and catching it; keeping it up with their feet while sitting.

GAME ACTIVITIES: After this, players should be kept running around with a ball at their feet.  Players should learn and practice body control and ball control through games such as “Red Light Green Light”, Tag, and other familiar games, but played with a ball.  Keep players in motion at all times. Avoid having them wait in lines. Play games of "inclusion" instead of games where the "loser sits".  Make sure to schedule frequent water breaks.

PLAY THE GAME: Move on to the real game, but, make sure it is a 4 v. 4 game. Keep players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. It is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible. This is the second Play in Play-Practice-Play.

CLOSURE: Close the practice by pointing out things that each player is doing well.  This is super motivating to young children.  For those children who are motivated to practice at home, give them additional “homework”, or challenge them to find something to show you to learn.  Your goal is to have every child leave on a good note so that they will be excited to be back next week!

U10

Typical Training Session

Here are some items that should be included in a U-10 training session:

PLAY:  When players arrive at the field, start them in on a game of soccer.  As other players arrive, assign them to one team or the other and allow them to join in the game in session until all players are on the field and ready to play.  During this time, just observe, do not "coach".  This is a time for the team to build relationships, solve problems, and develop skills on their own - which will develop their confidence!

WARM-UP: A brief warm-up is appropriate in order to get the players thinking about soccer and to prepare them physically for the time ahead. This should involve individual body activities that involve the ball. Since there can be one theme to the session, hopefully, the warm-up will lead into the theme of the day. Dynamic stretching is also appropriate at this time after the players have broken a sweat, again, hopefully done with the ball. Again, the warm-up should get the players ready to play. It should be lively, fun, and engaging as well as instructional. There is nothing like a good, fast paced activity to grab the player's attention and make them glad that they came to practice.

INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUP ACTIVITIES: Follow the warm-up with some kind of individual activity, not necessarily a real 1v.1 game, but some kind of activity where players act as individuals or cooperate in small groups in a game environment. An example would be a kind of tag game, or a keep-away game. Keep players in motion at all times. Avoid having them wait on lines. Play games of "inclusion" instead of games where the "looser sits". Be creative. These players like "crazy" games with a lot of action.  Competition is beginning to come naturally to these ages, and it can be an excellent motivator.

PLAY THE GAME: Small sided soccer can be used to heighten intensity and create some good competition. Play 4 v.4 up to 8 v.8. Be creative. Play with 4 goals, or 2 balls. Play with or without boundaries. Perhaps play to emphasize a particular skill (can only dribble the ball over a goal line in order to get a point). Use cones if you don't have real goals. Keep players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. Switch teams often, give everyone a chance to win. Also, it is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible.

WARM-DOWN & HOMEWORK: Finish the session with a warm down. Give them some more stretches to do with the ball. You may want to review what you started the session with. Also, give them some homework so that they practice on their own. Think of some ball trick that you would like to see them try to do, like, bounce it off their head, then thigh, then foot, and then catch it. Can one player kick a ball to a partner and then back without it hitting the ground? Can they do that with their heads? It is important to finish on time. This is especially essential if the players are really into it. Stop at this point and you will get an enthusiastic return.

Obtained from Jeff Pill's On-Line Drills page

Coaching info & Drills

Some of the players that are playing as U10's are seasoned veterans of the youth soccer scene. Some of them may have already been involved in traveling to play in tournaments. Others may be joining for the first time, or only have a year or two under their belt.  As a result, some of them might be very nervous about the whole process. It is our job to keep things in perspective for these young, developing players. True, some of them are becoming quite skillful and are seeing how fun it is to play the game when they can really control the ball. However, many of them are still learning the ropes. Even the more experienced players need to have the game be fun!!!

Emphasis is still placed on having players learn how to control the ball with his/her body, but now, they need to find themselves in more game-like situations. Training is more dynamic and starting to have players make simple, basic decisions such as "Which way is there more space?" or "Who should I pass to?".

Following are some more items that a coach of U-10 players should consider:

  • Use small sided games as the main teaching vehicle. Not only will they get more touches on the ball, but the full 11-a-side game is still too complicated for them to understand.
  • U10 team members are starting to develop a sense of team and "us" - they will be more open to passing and identifying with their team.
  • How we group players during training takes on even added significance because of the wide margins of ability levels.
  • We need to mix players up often.
  • Stretching and warm-ups are starting to be necessary.  Since the game is faster, make sure that they also have good shinguards. Safety and preventive measures take on added significance.
  • Training twice a week is plenty. Sessions need not go longer than one hour, fifteen minutes.
  • They should all come with their own size #4 ball. In fact, they still need to be encouraged to play with it by themselves.
  • Put them into competitive environments as much as possible. This will not only keep them focused, but, it will allow the game itself to teach them. It also will keep things fun for them, and allow you to deal with issues such as 'winning' and 'losing' which is now a very big concern for them.
  • Now it is possible to teach them positional play with the expectation that they will get it some of the time. However, it is absolutely necessary that you do not allow players to specialize in any one position. They need to learn basic principles of the game, first. Having them play all of the positions is best for their individual development. Remember, our first responsibility is to develop players and let them have fun.
  • Whenever possible, allow them to solve their own puzzles. Don't immediately give them solutions on how they can play better.

U12

Coaching info & Drills

Coaching at this age level is a challenge because many of the players view themselves as real soccer players, while others are at the point where it is not as much fun as it used to be because they feel that their lack of skill development does not enable them to have an impact on the game. They see their skillful friends able to do magical things with the ball and since they can not do this themselves, they start to drop out. Our challenge then, if the players are willing, is to keep all of the players engaged, involved, and make them feel important. (as though they are improving.) Skills still need to be the primary focus of training and players need to be put into environments where they are under pressure so that they learn how to use their skills in a variety of contexts. Here are a few other considerations as we think about working with this aged youngster:

  • Our goal is to develop players in a fun, engaging environment. Winning has its place but must be balanced with the other goals of teaching them to play properly. Some decisions will need to be made that might not necessarily lead to wins (ie: having players play different positions, or asking players to try to play the ball "out of the back".)
  • Smaller, skilled players can not be ignored. Although it may be tempting to "win" by playing only the bigger players in key positions, the smaller, skilled players must be put into areas of responsibility.
  • Small sided games are still the preferred method of teaching the game. This makes learning fun and more efficient.
  • Flexibility training is essential. Have them stretch after they have broken a sweat, and, perhaps most importantly, at the end of the workout at a "warm-down".
  • Overuse injuries, burnout and high attrition rates are associated with programs that do not emphasize skill development and learning enjoyment.
  • Playing 11-a-side games is now appropriate.
  • Single sexed teams are appropriate.
  • Train for one and one-half hours, two to three times a week. Training pace needs to replicate the demands of the game itself.
  • They are ready to have a preferred position, but, it is essential for their development for them to occasionally play out of their preferred spot, in training, as well as during games.
  • Training is now best if it focuses on one, perhaps two topics a session. Activities should be geared to progressing from fundamental activities that have little or no pressure from an opponent to activities that are game-like in their intensity and pressure.

Typical Training Session

Here are some items that should be included in a U-12 training session:

WARM-UP: A brief warm-up is appropriate in order to get the players thinking about soccer and to prepare them physically for the time ahead. This should involve individual or small group activities that involve the ball. Since there can be one theme to the session, hopefully, the warm-up will lead into the theme of the day. Static stretching is also appropriate at this time, after the players have broken a sweat, again, hopefully done with the ball. The warm-up should get the players ready to play. It should be lively, fun, and engaging as well as instructional. There is nothing like a good, fast-paced activity to grab the player's attention and make them glad that they came to practice.

INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUP ACTIVITIES: Follow the warm-up with some kind of individual activity, not necessarily a real 1v.1 game, but some kind of activity where players act as individuals or cooperate in small groups in a game environment. An example would be a kind of keep-away game, or small sided games that bring out or emphasize a specific skill or topic. Keep players in motion at all times. Avoid having them wait on lines. Play games of "inclusion" instead of games where the "looser sits". Be creative. These players like "crazy" games with a lot of action.

PLAY THE GAME: Small sided soccer can be used to heighten intensity and create some good competition. Play 4v.4 up to 8v.8. Be creative. Play with 4 goals, or 2 balls. Play with or without boundaries. Perhaps play to emphasize a particular skill (can only dribble the ball over a goal line in order to get a point). Use cones if you don't have real goals. Keep players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. Switch teams often, give everyone a chance to win. Also, it is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible. Finish this stage with a real game with regular rules. Players need to apply their newly learned abilities to the real game.

WARM-DOWN & HOMEWORK: Finish the session with a warm down. Give them some more stretches to do with the ball. You may want to review what you started the session with. Also, give them some homework so that they practice on their own. Challenge them with some ball trick. Can they complete a juggling pattern? Can one player kick a ball to a partner and then back without it hitting the ground? Can they do that with their heads? How many times can they do it back and forth? It is important to finish on time. This is especially essential if the players are really into it. Stop at this point and you will get an enthusiastic return.

Obtained from Jeff Pill's On-Line Drills page