Soccer Training Cycle for Coaches, Kids and Parents

Where to Start as a Parent or Coach with your Kids

How about it depends?  Well what does it depend on?  The big driver is the age of the kids. It is my belief–and that of many of the top academies across the world–that there is a developmental time in children’s soccer lives where they should be subjected to nothing more than the game in a small sided environment.

Now I realize that in California, our players start playing 11v11 at the age of 11. Honestly, I think that is way too early and we should continue with the 5v5 to 8v8 approach until they reach the age of 13, at which point they could more easily adapt to higher level soccer training. But that is just my opinion, although it seems to be the consensus at many of the finest academies around the world when it comes to optimal training for soccer.

So at age 12 and Under, I believe we should let the small sided game be the teacher and not directly focus on the physical and tactical side of the game. Of course you can still affect those areas secondarily and meet your objective of the kids having fun.

So what am I saying here?  I am saying that we should let the game be the teacher exclusively at these ages and get the players time on the ball, more ball, and then even more ball.

However, I will still spend my first week of each cycle conducting a player analysis and monitoring the four developmental areas via the 5v5 small sided game or small sided activities looking for the following:

  1. Technical:  Here I am looking at the first touch and inside of the foot passing and receiving.  Remember, we always start simple and move to complex soccer drills and maneuvers. The inside of the foot is the most commonly used surface as well as the largest.  We might do some skill circuit training here into some 1v1 offensive and defensive work.  Most of the sessions end with a shot on goal or a game.
  2. Tactical:  Through small sided games I will evaluate the kids and their ability to mark a player.  I might force them to play man to man and observe.  You can assess their ability to combine with other teammates with the give and go and movement off of the ball.  These young players need to play in all sectors of the field:  Offense, midfield, and defense.
  3. Physical:  Just observe the basic coordination of the players.  Which players react to the ball quicker, and which players move better or are more agile.
  4. Physiological:  Here I am looking at how the kids interact with each other. I will evaluate them on their personality, leadership tendencies, and ability to fit in.

Once this is done, I can sit back with my coaching staff and develop our plan for the season or upcoming cycle.  In another post I speak about the age appropriate areas of focus that we base our trainings around.

Once the kids reach 13, I think it is ok to start directly introducing the tactical and physical sides of the game.

At the age of 13 and beyond I like to start my training cycles by administering a physical test as a benchmark to build from.  There are a few different tests and programs out there to measure athletic ability but the following are the ones that I focus on with my players.

  1. Coopers Test:  This is a 12 minute run where the players run as far as they can.  You can look on line to see the recommended scoring zones.  This test measures your aerobic endurance and Vo2max.
  2. Vertical Jump Test:  A great measurement for the explosiveness of an athlete.  Explosiveness in athletes is what sets athletes apart in the realm of speed, quickness, and agility.
  3. 20 meter Sprint:  This is a test of the quickness of the athlete.  It is a byproduct of the force an athlete can apply to the ground while overcoming their weight.  One of the byproducts of explosiveness.
  4. T-Drill:  An agility and quickness drill which evaluates a player’s movement in all four capacities:  Shuffle right, shuffle left, forward run, and backwards run.

There is nothing more motivating to a young kid then to see their scores go up in these athletic tests and soccer drills. Evaluate these areas at least 3 times a year.

Now some coaches like to evaluate the kids on certain skills, I think that is a great motivational tool for the kids, however, I can evaluate their development based on their progression of play throughout the season and really don’t need those tests. But let me reiterate, if you are having issues keeping your kids engaged, motivated, and having fun, then definitely incorporate the technique evaluations.

The first week of any cycle with my kids this age I always do a player analysis. This is carried out via the tests above and small sided games from 5v5 to 9v9. The things I am looking for really aren’t any different than that above. The real difference being on the physical side where now I am monitoring their speed, power, and explosiveness.

If a coach stays organized and uses a structured approach like the one above, they will definitely have a leg up in terms of the development of their kids.

Let me know what you think?  Please leave your comments below.

Keep It Simple,

Coach Randle

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