Coaching U7/U8's

Long Term Player Development 

Ontario Soccer have developed a Long Term Player Development Plan. This plan sets out different stages of development to produce confident, talented soccer players who enjoy the game. The stages can been seen in the picture below with the age groups that each stage relates to. As you can see from the picture the U8s fall into the Fundamentals stage which emphasis physical literacy.

What is Physical Literacy?
Physical Literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations. It supports long-term participation and performance to the best of one’s ability.

The basic generic movements for sports could include running forwards/backwards/sideways, hopping,skipping, jumping and general agility,balance,co-ordination and speed movements (ABC'S). Sport specific movements could include kicking the ball, running with the ball, dribbling with the ball and changing directions with the ball. 

Why Implement the Fundamental Phase with Physical Literacy?
Sports can be classified as early or late specialization. Acrobatic and artistic sports such as figure skating, diving and gymnastics are early specialisation sports while other sports such as basketball and soccer are late specialization sports. 

Because soccer is a late specialization sport, we actively discourages early specialization (i.e. prior to the age of 10 years) since premature specialization contributes to imbalanced physical development, overuse injuries, early burn out and inadequate development of movement and sport skills. Sports that are classified as late specialisation should emphasis building of basic movement patterns that can be used for all late specialisation sports.

Physical Attributes to be Introduced Through Physical Literacy 

The physical attributes indicated below should be introduced and developed through FUN games and activities.

•Continue with development of physical skills introduced in the Active Start phase, i.e. running, jumping, hopping, skipping, throwing, catching etc.

•Agility, Balance and Coordination (ABC’s): can be developed during warm-ups, cool downs and games.

•Stamina (Endurance): Very low priority. Developed through FUN activities and small sided games.

•Strength: Very Low Priority but can be developed through FUN activities and games that work with the child’s body weight (as opposed to weights and formal exercises)

•Speed: 1st window of speed trainability. Coaches should stimulate and encourage fast cadence of movement, developing linear, lateral and multi- directional speed using FUN games and exercises.

•Suppleness/Flexibility: Introduce exercises that mimic movements that are required in sport e.g. dynamic stretching. Should include whole body movements, shoulders, trunk, hips, knees.

•Acceleration: Should be developed using FUN games that use acceleration as a part of the activity.

•Reaction: Can be introduced and developed in conjunction with Speed and Acceleration, in FUN games and activities.

•Basic Motor Skills: As per Agility, Balance and Coordination introduce in FUN games and activities. Perception and Awareness Introduce and develop playing small-sided games

Characteristics of A U8 Player
• Tend to play well in pairs – unlike 6-7 year-olds; these children enjoy playing in pairs. Try to set up the pairs yourself to control the games and manage the personalities 
• Are now able to take another’s perspective – they now have a sense of how others are feeling 
• Still unable to think abstractly – still do not have this capability, be patient 
• Still prefer playing to watching – keep everyone active during practice and remember, no lines 
• Limited attention span (on average 15-20 seconds for listening, up to 20 minutes when engaged in a task).
• Have an understanding of time and sequence – they now understand “if I do this, then that happens” 
• Extremely aware of adult reactions – be very aware of your verbal and nonverbal reactions, as they look for your reaction frequently • Seek out adult approval – be supportive when they ask about their performance or try to show you skills. They very much need reassurance and you need to help build their confidence to try new things at this age. 
• Begin to become aware of peer perception – a social order is beginning to develop.
• Beginning to develop motor memories – by attempting fundamental technical skills they are training their bodies to remember certain movements 

How can we Develop effective practices?
Ontario Soccer advises using the four corner learning model when creating practices. The four corner learning model aims to develop players in four key areas: Technical ability, Physical Ability, Social Ability and Psychological Ability. Each practice can develop the player in all four of the area's. An example could be a dribbling drill which will develop:

-Technique for moving with the ball and dribbling.
-Physical aspects such as running, co-ordination,speed and agility 
-Social elements such as communication with the coach or confidence 
-Psychological elements such as deciding which direction to dribble in and confidence.  

Tips for Coaching Technical Elements 

• Use the coaching activity to challenge and develop players technically. Encourage players to try new skills.
• Appropriate challenges may be set for the whole group or for individuals within the group. For example in a passing practice some players may be challenged to play one-touch passes whenever they think it’s appropriate
• When appropriate, practice activity should replicate the demands of the game, encouraging players to think and make decisions just as they would in a game.
• Use mini competitions to encourage repetition of technique 
• Focus on one technique per practice.
• If they find it easy/are progressing make it harder by adding interference/defenders 

Tips for Coaching Physical Elements 
• Children are not mini adults and shouldn’t be subjected to running laps of the field and doing push ups. 
• Through well-designed practice all coaching activities can include physical outcomes- Our curriculum includes playground games each week to encourage physical literacy 
• Appropriate movement skills such as tag games and activities which develop agility, balance and coordination should be encouraged through enjoyable games. 
• Don’t expect too much from young players too soon
• Encourage using different movements in every practice.

Tips for Developing Psychological Aspects 
• Use different methods to communicate with different types of learners. 
• Visual (seeing): tactics boards, posters, diagrams, cue and prompt cards as well as arrangements of cones on the pitch are some ways in which coaches can communicate with players visually. USE DEMONSTRATIONS to aid these learners. 
• Auditory (hearing): As well as speaking with the players and asking questions, coaches can encourage players to discuss aspects of the game in pairs, small groups and also with the whole group. Through communication with others, players can help solve game-related problems and learn more about the game. 
• Kinaesthetic (doing): physically ‘walking through’ positional arrangements and freeze-framing parts of the game can help paint pictures in the mind of the players and contribute to the understanding of the game.
 • Help players learn the game and develop their decision-making skills by setting game-related problems for players to solve. In our curriculum we have weekly challenges which we use to emphasise deciding when to use a specific skill.

We can promote decision making through questions such as:
-CAN YOU try to use this turn whenever possible?
-WHEN CAN WE use this turn?
-WHAT DO WE DO if there is a defender in front of us? 
-TRY TO dribble into space

Tips for Developing Social Aspects 

• Coaches should strive to create a positive environment which is welcoming for players both during games and training. How you treat your players is crucial to ensuring this is positive and fulfilling for the young player. 
• Players should be praised and recognised for effort and endeavour as well as ability. This will highlight the process of learning and striving to get better rather than just the final outcome.
• As coaches are in a significant position of influence with their players it is important to give consideration to the type of role-model you are. What are your values and beliefs and how is this demonstrated in your behavior?

Practice Recommendations for U8's
• Start to develop individual technique work: Dribbling, passing, shooting 
• Everybody with a ball as much as possible  
• When teaching dribbling use: both feet when rolling the ball, pushing it, stopping it, introduction of surfaces, running with the ball, intro of specific moves (fakes, feints and turns) using above skills 
• Passing Technique: Inside of foot, outside of foot, under the ball, techniques with movement, head up 
• Receiving Technique – feet, thighs, chest, – catching, receiving ball w/feet, preparing 
• Finishing Technique – both feet, volleys – all very introductory and basic 
• Tackling Technique: Introduction -basic techniques, block tackle, toe poke 
• Try to include ball Mastery with more movement, creativity, and all surfaces 
•Introduce Individual Tactics: Players are starting to conceptualize the game, so just allow for games/activities bring out decision-making opportunities. 
• Games, activities, exercises should mirror the game and tactical implications are within the game, but keep objectives on technical development. 
•  Use Small-sided games that are fun and challenging, 1v1-2v2-3v3-4v4 and 5v5 
• Use Simple Tactics – get away, keep ball, get ball back, and pass it – all focusing at an individual stage that is about all they can understand, with no pressure to play

Session Plans
North Bay Youth Soccer Club has developed a curriculum in partnership with Jamie Smith our Technical Coach. The curriculum encompasses the theory outlined in the above sections, in games that are age appropriated and which he has found to be effective. 

CLICK HERE to access our U8 curriculum 

This curriculum is by no means extensive and Ontario Soccer do provide their own curriculum and guidance for the Fundamental stage. We actively encourage all our coaches to use these resources to improve the standard to practices we are delivering. Jamie will use the North Bay Youth Soccer Club Curriculum when delivering sessions but you are more then welcome to plan your own sessions and deliver them.   

For more information on the coaching practices please visit the Fundamentals Grassroots Soccer- Provisional Curriculum on the Ontario Soccer website. 

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