Coaching U5'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 U5's fall into the active start phase 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 Active Start 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.

Characteristics of a U5 Soccer Player
  • Players at this age have a very short attention span and practice has to be fun with lots of changes 
  • Players want to play with their ball and do not like sharing 
  • Passing and sharing the ball is still alien to them 
  • Can only understand basic rules so don't get hung up on throw-ins, corners etc.  
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?

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 U5 curriculum 

This curriculum is by no means extensive and Ontario Soccer do provide their own curriculum and guidance for the active start 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 Active Start Grassroots Soccer- Provisional Curriculum on the Ontario Soccer website. 


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