*This blog is run by Rush Soccer Coaches, for Rush Soccer Coaches. The blog expresses the opinion of the individual author and not Rush Soccer, The Rush Way or the Rush Coaching Education Department.
Pablo Toledo is Rush Soccer’s Director Of Coach Development. Apart from multiple coaching licenses from different institutions, he holds a Ms. in Sports Training with two post-graduate certificates: one in Soccer Conditioning, and another in Sports Nutrition.
When you coach a team or a player, the most important thing is always to understand who you are coaching, or at least that’s what I think.
Also, I’m inclined to thinking that even more important than what you coach, is how you coach it.
When I wrote this ‘cheat sheet’ (because it’s more of a summary) I was about to start a U9 group, it had been a while since I coached that age group so I did my homework and reviewed the age specifics that I believed I should follow to be the most professional at my job. From there, I thought of listing the keys to consider in terms of psychosocial development, as well as technical, tactical, physical, and some others. Lastly, I thought “Why not share it? I’m probably not the only one that could use this sheet”, so there it goes below.
A U9 would fall into the Infant 2 group (what we call Bantam Division), that goes from 8 to 10 years old of age.
Psychological Cheat Sheet:
This phase is psychologically ruled by the kid’s new capacity to collaborate with a small number of elements (now we can talk about passing the ball), and an increasing desire to compete. Therefore, the focus remains on motivation and self confidence, but the cooperation and competitive components start gaining ground. It’s not a performance stage yet so let’s go slow, but there will be no sin if we start making a difference between winning and losing. The span of attention is short, so make your explanations brief (30 seconds max), and use visual, auditive, and kinesthetic channels (you want them to see it, to hear it, and to do it).
Another very important thing you need to keep in mind is that these kids do not have the capacity yet to think of abstractions; their minds think in concrete ways, so when you coach make sure you’re not talking about hypothetical situations, they won’t follow.
And most importantly, keep it FUN!
These boys and girls go through a period of stability in their bodies development until they reach puberty. These years represent a stage of motor coordination, that is more developed than the previous years, in which the kid was working on their segmentary development and basic motor skills. They still need to keep working on these but they can now incorporate other elements.
One important thing you always need to consider is that they do not need to work on aerobic ranges for long periods, as aerobic capacity develops mainly as a metabolic result until puberty is past. Having your players work on pure aerobic ranges for too long will only create an excess of cortisol (the stress hormone). This will result in your kid associating training with a stressful experience and wanting to skip it, so NEVER have your kids doing training like running around the field for long periods of time.
This way, the main physical components of the stage are to incentivize speed, reaction, spatial orientation, basic motor skills (jumping, running, throwing, catching, rolling over), and coordination & balance. Add exercises that result in some safe physical contacts with others: Soccer is a contact sport, so we want kids to get used to this.
The stability period mentioned above provides a wonderful opportunity to focus on technical development. That’s why this stage is commonly understood as the “golden stage” of soccer coaching. A strong technical focus in this stage is responsible for a major part of the overall technical capacity the player will have in the future. Remember that there are 6 basic technical actions in soccer:
- Running with the ball
Focus on the first five, including ball control aspects, and skip heading.
There are other technical actions like shielding, challenging, and/or turning (it’s debatable if these are technical actions or individual tactics as they imply a second person: the rival), so this definition varies according to the school that presents them, but the 6 actions presented above are mainstream to all methodologies.
Tactical: The fact that the kid at this stage can’t interpret abstractions limits the tactical scope vastly. That’s ok, there will be other stages to focus on this. Remember that Tactics has a foundation and dependency on psychological, physical, and technical development.
Therefore, only focus on basic principles of game phases and individual tactics, such as:
Obviously, when you explain these things, do it in the most simple possible way, and avoid long explanations about game phases or differences between group and individual tactics, keep it simple.
To end with, I wanted to leave a cheat sheet for your coaching approach, considering all of the aspects mentioned above.
Hope it helps Coach!