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U8 Coaching Information and 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 p