Coaching Ideas for U8s

Discussion in 'Coach' started by BrightEyesLA, Aug 26, 2008.

  1. Monkey Boy

    Monkey Boy Member

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    Kids at that age are for the most part interested in taking the ball themselves and don't look to pass. The problem is that by drilling that nature out of them, we create these players that only look to pass in just a few years -- I've seen it happen over and over again.

    Rather than drilling it out of them, why not create some SSGs that encourage passing instead. One I love is everyone's a striker - where a player can only score once until everyone on the team has scored a goal. Another interesting one I found but haven't tried yet, is ghost - one player is the ghost on the team and the only one allowed to score a goal. Yet a third that seems to be really challenging, slow soccer, where no one is allowed to run.

    In these SSGs, you don't prevent players from taking on 1v1 situations, but you force the players to think about the rest of their team, situations where you can't do well by just looking down at the ball. The added benefit is that the players learn how to do this within the context of the game, making it easy for them to apply it during the game.

    I'm coaching the same age level here and most of the players on my team are very comfortable winning the ball, holding it up against defenders and beating multiple players 1v1, 2v1 and sometimes 3v1. It's a bit embarrassing in comparison to our opponents. The players are slowly getting better at moving off the ball and taking advantage of spacing for passing/receiving. That being said, they still have a long ways to go on their ball control, dribbling and 1v1 skills - things that would be terrible to drill out of them for the sake of making a few more passes.

    Note: the tactic that worked when it came to teaching the players how to redirect the play using a back pass was simply to show them the movement using a white board drawing. They kept getting trapped during practice SSGs, so at one point I stopped the game and drew out the suggestion. They took it and ran. So, try providing suggestions and let them figure out how to apply them.


  2. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    I am describing how I coached a U10G team in 1993. You may realize how different it was back then. Matches were 11v11. Travel/competitive play did not start until U12 back then. I taught a simple diamond back 433 system. I taught enough team tactics to get them through a match, but concentrated in practices on ball skills, what is now called small group tactics, and mentality. The majority of players were novices. Only a few had U10 level skills (for an era when most youth coaches did not maximize touches during training). I used SSG's in practices. There were no matches that were not 11 a side. As far as pre-match instructions, I annouced the starting lineup. That is it.

    I could brag about our results, but in truth our results were due to all the other coaches using a 235 bunch ball system and their idea of skill training was to have their players go 1v1 against a cone (or worse yet--divide their team in two and scrimmage for an hour with one ball).

    I am not a critic of using 11 a side for matches. I believe a match is a match and a scrimmage is a scrimmage. If the object is to develop skills, then you should not be using referees and calling it a match. Split the baby in half compromises rarely serve any purpose well.
  3. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    If you use 4v4 and 3v3 you are teaching diamonds and triangles by your choice of side. There is no "attempting" to it. 4 players will be in some diamond shape--by definition 4 points define a quadrilateral shape. Same with 3v3. The 3 players are forced by the game to be in a triangle--3 points determine a triangle. It may be a shape with little depth or width, a very big shape or a very tiny shape, but it is a shape. It is in experimentation with the shape that players learn about space by trial and error.

    Try instructing 3 players not to stand in a triangle. Short of telling them to stand on each others shoulders, I don't see how.

    The beauty of 3v3 is that it forces passes to be a simple combination play. Once a pass is made, the new first attacker has only two passing options: a 1-2 or a 3rd man. You don't have to tell them. The exercise forces the play you want.
  4. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    Well not entirely true. This is where the proper spacing comes in. The diamond or triangle can become pretty distorted, too narrow, too flat, too wide.

    They need to find a balance between effective playing distance (passes and helping on defense not too far) and not too close as to make it easy for defenders.

    Again, it's the "Goldilocks" mind-set. Not too much, not too little. JUST RIGHT.


  5. Beau Dure

    Beau Dure Member

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    Question on a small but nagging issue I run into at times:

    We're not exactly to the point of having big-time set pieces that even the pros would argue about -- penalty kicks, close-range free kicks, etc. But our kids all vociferously volunteer for every dead-ball situation we have -- kickoffs, corner kicks, goal kicks.

    I try to spread the wealth as best I can -- "OK, you took the last one, so now it's his turn" and so forth. But we still get bogged down talking about it every time the ball goes out of play.

    Any ideas? Should I actually try to do dead-ball situations in practice so people can see it's more than just one guy whacking the ball?

    (One of my kids, bless his heart, tries to come up with some sort of scheme, like a playground quarterback telling the receivers where to go. It never, ever works.)
  6. equus

    equus Member

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    What I do during SSG in practices when hands go up ("Oooh! I want to throw it in/take the kick!") is tell them that I'm "just the ref" and they have to work it out, as they will have to during a game anyway. I also give them five seconds to do throw-ins or lose possession, so they don't have time to ask if they can do it, discuss/argue among themselves, or take forever to throw it in. I give kicks a little more time but if they start overthinking it I start counting to five.

    If a kid is dominating the kicks/throws I will step in and have others do it, but for the most part they figure it out. I also tell the kids that on free kicks close to goal or corners, the taker can't score (everything is indirect in our U8) so if you want to score you don't necessarily want to be the taker. That helps to lessen them wanting to take free kicks/corners all the time.
  7. ranova

    ranova Member

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    Aug 30, 2006
    Before each game I used to assign (by position) who takes the restarts. It was always the same so kids didn't get confused when substituting. Fullbacks take throwins on their side. CB takes goal kicks and free kicks in defensive half. CM takes corners and free kicks in offensive half. I also appointed captains on a rotating basis who resolved any issues on the field (like who takes a penalty). Not me.

    At practice I had gone over all the restarts, basically teaching them the rules and showing them options defensively and offensively. This was part of my pre-season training plan. After that their only exposure to restarts at practice was in the context of a scrimmage. The one exception was I used a throwin situation to teach offensive off-the-ball movement. I never used any kind of offensive set play in any situation. I constantly rotated players through groups and positions in practice and matches. Also I encouraged tactical speed generally, so I never had the issue of a player trying to run a set play. And the parents didn't interfer with my coaching.
  8. Monkey Boy

    Monkey Boy Member

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    Up to last year, I stayed on the field with the kids and just instructed which player would take the restart. At U8 though, I've stayed off the field and followed the same approach described above. The players know they will be rotated through all of the positions and all of the players are aware of who takes the restart based on position.

    Restarts are actually the biggest restriction when it comes to positions for our team. It's not odd to have a defender the furthest player up the field with support from a striker for instance, or the left sided player on the right. The players move with the flow of the game. Yes, this leads to some chaos and mistakes, but that helps the players figure out how to move into support for their teammates.
  9. equus

    equus Member

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    It's funny, during league games I get none of the "I want to take it" stuff from the kids, only during practices. They just get on with it when it's game time.
  10. Beau Dure

    Beau Dure Member

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    So here's a question, though I'll have to admit it's more along the lines of "Coaching advice for U6s" than "Coaching ideas for U8s."

    Last night, my kids were doing a routine dribbling exercise. Then two players collided and went down crying.

    I checked first on one kid, who was shaken but not really hurt. Then I heard my assistant say, "OK, he's going to the hospital." I turned to look at the other kid.

    I cover mixed martial arts (UFC). Every now and then, a fighter lands an elbow strike that opens a massive gash on his opponent's head. That's what this kid's injury looked like. I handed over a bunch of gauze pads from my first-aid kit and gave the parents directions to the nearest urgent care facility.

    Too soon to tell when he'll be able to return. But my question is this: Do you say anything to the other kids to reassure them that this sort of accident does not happen often? Or do you only address it if someone mentions it?
  11. equus

    equus Member

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    For U8s, unless they have very protective parents, they've either experienced or seen an incident like that at a playground or school or other activity. It won't hurt to tell them that it can happen (as it just did), but it doesn't happen often. I've told my players up front that there will be some "bumping" in soccer but that it's okay and is part of the game.
  12. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    You want to reassure kids, not frighten them. Five year olds take their cues from adults. They won't think it is a big deal unless the adults act like an injury is a big deal.

    Actions speak louder than words here. What you did sends the message that you want to send:
    - if someone is injured stay down so coach (ref) will know to stop play
    - coach (ref) will check for injuries
    - Rules say you cannot play with blood showing so must leave the field for treatment
    - get injured player to parents (considering age here)
    - rest of players resume play after injuried player leaves field for treatment
    - player's parents will care their child (kids accept that parents will provide care)
  13. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    By the way I don't want anyone to think I am trivalizing an injury. Communications between coach and parent are different than between coach and 5 year old player. An injury-causing elbow strike to the head is a go-to-the-doctor injury in an adult game, more so to a child.
  14. Beau Dure

    Beau Dure Member

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    Thanks -- I see your point, and I think we did about as well as we could under the circumstances. Another parent helped the kid's parent figure out where to take him. I stopped for a bit to talk with the other kid in the collision, who wasn't badly hurt but was shaken up and ready to go home. I told his mom it was OK to take him. Then the remaining players moved on and had a productive scrimmage to end the practice.

    The injured player will miss our next game and practice at a minimum. We're going to sign a card for him.
  15. tonythetard

    tonythetard Member

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    Same here. At the beginning of the season during practices all I say is "work it out and take turns" during practice. They quickly learn to do so.

    I had another comment/question
    Daughter's old coach now coaches for a local Premier team, so we've scrimmaged with them twice now. I thought about letting my little one join their team, but during the scrimmage I noticed something: Their team did an unusual amount of pulling and pushing. It wasn't just one or two players, but the entire team. After the game, a few of our players had friends on the other team, so they socialized for a bit. I was told from a few of my players that the premier team had been coached to "pull arms and jerseys if the opposing player is getting past you".

    Am I wrong in thinking that this is NOT something I should be teaching my U8 team? I'd rather teach them how to win the ball back cleanly and to play a good game.
  16. Monkey Boy

    Monkey Boy Member

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    What strikes me as odd in the first place is having a premier team at the U8 level. Seems like a money-grab gimmick in the first place.

    As for the 'style' of play you describe, it makes sense considering the situation. The majority of 'premier' players that young are just those who are majoring a bit faster (size/speed) at a young age. When this is what you rely on for player selection, then it is the physical play you rely on come game time - use your strengths.

    Almost everyone agrees that there's too much emphasis on winning at young ages, so why are such poor choices being made when it comes to kids?
  17. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    To echo what Monkey said, if they weren't trying to win so badly why teach 7 year olds to grab as a means of playing defense. My team gets grabbed/pushed/tripped all the time and it's frustrating because you know it's their parents and coaches who are teaching this nonsense. I wish they'd learn something about the game.

    From a broader perspective, it holds (no pun intended) the whole game back in this country. It's hard to play a skillful game when teams are just pulling and hacking all the time. It distorts the officiating too. They can't call everything, they should but won't. So the grabbing becomes run of the mill so you really need to get pounded to get a call. Further, young refs come from these same player pools so if their coaches are telling them to grab they'll see it as par for the course as officials.
  18. equus

    equus Member

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    In my experience in U6-U8-U10 rec it's not so much it being taught by coaches as it is not being corrected by coaches who may not have a soccer background.

    The more aggressive players (meaning engaged in the game, challenging opponents, trying to win 50/50 balls) will sometimes get some elbows out, give a shove or pull a shirt. When I see it in practice or games I bring it to my players' attention. But if the other coach is not correcting his team then in a game eventually one of my players is going to get frustrated and put out an arm to get some separation or push back, pull a shirt, etc.

    It's taken me quite a while to get my son to contain his frustration. He's pretty skilled and can beat most opposing defenders right now, so he gets hacked, pushed and pulled a lot. Showing him clips of Messi fighting through tackles and grabs has helped him understand it better. I hate that it happens at all.

    Young refs are hesitant to call it for whatever reason. The adult refs we've had have been very good at calling the fouls and explaining to the kids what you can and can't do.

    It depends on your league/association situation, but I told our division coordinator a couple of weeks ago that I think most of the rough play is because they simply have too many kids playing on too small a field. With little room to dribble and 12 kids around a ball, sometimes they feel a push is the only way they can separate to dribble the ball. Some kids aren't fast enough to stop an attacker and shove to slow them down. And some kids just don't have any discipline at home so they lash out.

    With fewer kids and more space to work with, I think it would lessen quite a bit.
  19. elessar78

    elessar78 Moderator Staff Member

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    I was talking to my players about this last week. The "arm's length" idea . . . to grab you, bump you, you need to be within arm's reach of the defender. So try to be out of arm's reach. If you have the ball, get rid of it before they can get a hand on you, or go wide around them. If you don't have the ball sit in space.
  20. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    It depends on how they are teaching it. At the highest level, soccer is a very physical game played with the hands, arms, and body.

    For whatever reason, refs at the rec level seem to enforce this "no touching" rule (especially for females) - which runs counter to the way the game is played at the higher levels.
  21. ChapacoSoccer

    ChapacoSoccer Member

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    The problem is that if you stay with the local rec program, you may have your kid getting yelled at by a coach all season to clear the ball or "just kick it out of bounds." And your kid may spend half the practice running laps. There just aren't many of the ideal programs with low emphasis on competition but competent coaching.
  22. Monkey Boy

    Monkey Boy Member

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    That unfortunately contains a lot of truth but speaks more to the problem than a good solution. My son is a U8 player also, which is I've stepped up to coach this age in a in-house, non-competitive club program.

    Supporting the problem doesn't help make it better.
  23. Beau Dure

    Beau Dure Member

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    At U8, I don't have a problem with this. Kids aren't ready to play the way adults play. We don't teach heading or slide tackles.

    We do teach shielding the ball, which is valuable at all levels, "physical" or not.
  24. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    IMO telling players to deliberately foul another player is unethical.

    Ethics aside, telling developmental players to deliberately foul another player retards player development in favor of match results.

    Hold the players, then you never need to sprint back and recover goalside, never need a team mate to provide cover, etc.

    You don't develop skills, don't learn to read the game, don't learn how to support other players, and don't learn tactics. You just learn how to cheat, and that means the developmental coach is cheating his players. No wonder high school coaches are complaining that players coming up today don't know how to play the game.
  25. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    He said "pull" arms and shirts to keep the player from getting by. That settles the "depends on how they are teaching it" question. Making yourself big, protecting yourself, fair charges, and shielding don't involve "pulling" arms or shirts. He didn't imply his conclusion from observing foul play, but rather it is based on admissions by the players as to why they were pulling arms and shirts.

    To the extent that shirt pulling is tolerated by the refs, it is either mutual, trivial, or advantage given. Never legal.

    Refs are taught to adjust their foul recognition by gender. They pay more attention to hips than arms with women and arms than hips with men.
    E.g.: http://goalwa.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/ref-focus-boys-girls-and-how-referees-call-their-matches/

    Must get confusing in a coed match :)

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