How to Coach Different Ability Levels on the Same Team

I am currently coaching three youth teams all under the age of 9…a Boys and Girls U8 team and a Girls U9 team…

With all three teams there is a very diverse range of soccer ability…It is my philosophy and belief that each team needs impact players, role players and developmental players…the mixture of this group is what allows me the most harmony within my units…

If you have a whole team of impact players, then you will constantly battle the playing time issue and you will never be able to make the kids, nor the parents happy…not to mention that the chemistry on the field will never be there because you need role players to compliment your impact players or ego’s will take over and clash…

Finally, I always have a few developmental players whom are not quite ready to play at the current level but they exhibit qualities and characteristics that I believe can be harnessed over the years and developed into role players over the next few years…

So the real conundrum is, “How do you develop all of these different ability levels within your teams”?  And the answer is, “Very Carefully”!

First and foremost I have to ensure that my impact players are challenged and continue to develop and grow…that means about 60% of the time those players are executing together with one another on a daily basis in training…The concepts for all the groups are the same, but the execution and speed of play among the groups is very different…Many times, this group will have other limiting factors or rules the other groups don’t have…maybe a touch restriction, maybe a possession goal, maybe even numbers, maybe that each player will need to a touch before they can move forward, etc…

The role player group executes the concepts as they were originally drawn up…so if we are working on “finding line of sight (passing lanes)” with a 4 v 3 numerical advantage, then this group will play according to the rules…whereas the impact group might play 4 v 4 to make it more difficult for them…again, same concepts, I just adjust the rules according to the ability level…

Finally we have the developmental group…again, the concepts are the same, just the rules are different…with this group I might throw in an extra player on offense so they can play 5 v 3…or maybe if I have limited the touches in the above groups I will give this group unlimited touches…

The premise behind solving this conundrum is that the learning objectives don’t change and the concepts I need the kids to understand are universal…as the coach I just manage the game in different ways for each group so I can challenge them according to their ability levels…again, I don’t do this 100% of the time…there is a balance that has to be achieved…there is a lot of value that comes out of intermixing the three squads as well which we will talk about in another “Conundrum”.

I hope this makes sense and helps you coaching your teams moving forward…

Coach Randle

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