Coaching the U10 Player

Characteristics of U-10 Players
•    Gross and small motor skills becoming more refined and reliable. Boys and girls begin to develop separately.
•    Ability to stay on task is lengthened. They have the ability to sequence thought and actions.
•    Greater diversity in playing ability and physical maturity.
•    Skills are emerging. Becoming more predictable and recognizable.
•    Some children begin moving from concrete thinking to abstract thinking.
•    Able to pace themselves, to plan ahead.
•    Increased self-responsibility. They remember to bring their own equipment.
•    Starting to recognize basic tactical concepts, but not exactly sure why certain decisions are better.
•    Repetition of technique is very important, but it must be dynamic, not static.
•    Continued positive reinforcement needed.
•    Explanations must be brief, concise, and mention "why."
•    Becoming more "serious". Openly, intensively competitive, without intention of fouling.
•    Still mostly intrinsically motivated. Peer pressure starting to be a factor.
•    Adult outside of the family may take on added significance.
•    Prefer identification with a team. Like to have good uniforms, equipment, balls.
•    More inclined towards wanting to play instead of being told to play. Will initiate play more

Involving the Parents of U-lOs
It is imperative that coaches get the parents involved. Not only are they are a major resource team, but the U-b player still views their parents as the most significant people in their lives. Season meeting should be held with the parents so 'that objectives and 'team policies can be addressed. Some topics that you may want to address at this meeting are:

1.    A means of contacting everyone without one person doing the entire calling. (Phone chains)
2.    Choosing a team administrator, someone to handle all of the details.
3.    Complete all paperwork required by your league or club.
4.    Discuss the laws of the game.
5.    Carpool needs.
6.    Training and game schedules. How you feel about starting and ending on time, what your attendance expectations are, what you think is a good excuse to miss training.
7.    What each player should bring to training: inflated ball, filled water bottle, soccer attire, shin guards’ cleats or sneakers.
8.    Most importantly, your philosophy about coaching U-10 players. Let them know that everyone plays; that the game does not look like the older player's games; that you are there to ensure that their player is safe and has a good time, as well as learn about soccer.
9.    What your expectations for them are during game time. How do you want them to cheer? Do they know that they should not coach from the sidelines?
10.    Above all, try to enjoy yourself. If you do they probably will too.

Things You Can Expect from U- lOs
Some coaches say that the 9 and 10 year-old players are beginning to "turn the corner" and starting to look like real soccer players. However, games are still frantically paced and unpredictable for the most part. These players are starting to find out how much fun it is to play the game skillfully, but they will.                      
still stop and laugh if the referee gets hit in the backside with the ball during a game. Some other things that we can expect when working with this aged player are:

•    They start to understand offsides but still forget themselves when 'the goal is in front of them
•    They will really beat up on each other during practice  especially boy's teams
•    During a game, the parents will scream out "HAND BALL" or "COME ON REF, CALL IT BOTH WAYS" at least fifteen times
•    They might cry after a game if they lose, but will forget it if you ask them to go for burgers and fries
•    You might actually catch them practicing on their own without you telling them to do so
•    Their parents are telling them to do one thing during the game, you are telling them another
       thing, but what they end up doing might be what their friend is telling them to do
•    You will see a pass that is deliberate You might even see a "back pass"
•    You will see your first $100 pair of cleats during practice
•    They will call the other team bad names, really bad names

U-10 Coaching Rational
Some of the players that are playing as U - 10's are seasoned veterans of the youth soccer scene. Some of them may have already been involved in traveling to play in tournaments. As a result, some of them might be very nervous about the whole process it is our job to keep things in perspective or these young, developing players. True, some of them are becoming quite skillful and are seeing how fun it is to play the game when they can really control the ball. However, many of them are still learning the ropes. Even the more experienced players need to have the game be fun.

Emphasis is still placed on players learning to control the ball with his/her body, but now, they need to find themselves in more game-like situations. Training is more dynamic and starts to have players make simple, basic decisions such as, "Which way is there more space?" or "Who should I pass to?"

Following are some more items that a coach of U-10 players should consider:
•    Use small sided games as the main teaching vehicle Not only will they get more touches on the ball, but the full 1 1-a-side game is still too complicated for them to understand
•    How we group players during training takes on even added significance because of the wide margins of ability levels. We need to mix players up often
•    Stretching becomes more important, along with a good warm-up Since the game is faster,
       make sure 'they also have good shin guards Safety and prevention takes on added
•    Training twice a week is plenty Sessions need not go longer 'than one hour, fifteen minutes
•    They should all come with their own size #4 ball In fact; they still need to be encouraged to
       play with it by themselves.
•    Put them into competitive environments as much as possible. This will not only keep them focused, but, will allow the game itself to teach them it also keeps things' 'fun for them, and allows you to deal with issues such as 'winning' and 'losing' which is now a very big concern for them.
•    Now it is possible to teach them positional play with the expectation they will get it some of
       the time However, it is absolutely necessary that you do not allow players to specialize in
                                                   any one position They need to learn basic principles of the game, first. Having them play a lot
      of the positions is best for their individual development.
Remember that our first responsibility isn’t to develop players and let them have fun.
•    Whenever possible, allow them to solve their own puzzles. Don't immediately give them solutions on how they can play better
Typical U- 10 Training Session

Here are some items that should be included in a U-10 'training session:
WARM-UP:    A brief warm-up is appropriate in order to get the players thinking about soccer and to prepare them physically for the time ahead. This should involve individual body activities that involve the ball. Since there can be one theme to the session, hopefully, the warm-up will lead into the theme of the day. Static stretching is also appropriate at this time after the players have broken a sweat again, hopefully done with the ball. Again, the warm-up should get the players ready to play lit should be lively, fun, and engaging as well as instructional. There is nothing like a good fast paced activity to grab the player's attention and make them glad that they came to practice

INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUP ACTIVITIES: Follow the warm-up with some kind of individual activity, not necessarily a real lv1 game, but some kind of activity where players act as individuals or cooperate in small groups in a game environment. An example would be a kind of tag game, or a keep-away game. Keep players in motion at all times. Avoid having them wait on lines. Play games of "inclusion" instead of games where the "loser sits". Be creative. These players like "crazy" games with a lot of action.

PLAY THE GAME: Small sided soccer can be used to heighten intensity and create some good competition. Play 4 v 4 up to 8 v 8. Be creative. Play with 4 goals, or 2 balls. Play with or without boundaries. Perhaps play to emphasize a particular skill (can only dribble the ball over a goal line in order to get a point). Use cones if you don't have real goals. Keep players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. Switch teams often, give everyone a chance to win. Also, it is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible.

WARM-DOWN & HOMEWORK: Finish the session with a warm down. Give them some more stretches to do with the ball. You may want to review what you started the session with. Also, give them some homework so that they practice on their own. Think of some ball trick that you would like to see them try to do, like, bounce it off their head, then thigh, then foot, and then catch it. Can one player kick a ball to a partner and then back without it hitting the ground? Can they do that with their heads? It is important to finish on time. This is especially essential if the players are really into it. Stop at this point and you will get an enthusiastic return.

Appropriate Training for U-10 Players
1.    Players in pairs. Coach tosses the ball and each pair must bring it back with a specific number of touches as determined by the coach. Then the pairs must accomplish the task with alternating touches by passing.
2.    Groups of four. As before, the coach tosses the ball and designates the number of touches to return the ball. Requirements can include: maintain a 10 yard distance apart, each person in the group must touch the ball at least once; the group must keep the ball in the air, keep the ball in the air with one-touches, one-touch passing with a time limit, changing who you pass to each time.
3.    Partners with a ball. Partner serves ball in a variety of ways to be returned, such as overhead 
       or between the feet.
4.    Groups of eight. Coach tosses' 'the ball for return with requirements as above for partners and groups of four.
5.    One touch passing. Two dynamic lines are formed. Upon pass, player goes to the end of the other line. The lines must adjust their position to stay in the part of the ball. Challenge is to string as many completed passes together as possible.
6.    4 V 4, score by dribbling past the goal line, score by passing to a teammate on the goal lines.
7.    "The Game". 4 V 4, two goals. The game may start with conditions, but it must finish without restrictions.                                     

U-10 Training Ideas
Here is a game to use in the 'Small Group Activity' phase of the practice. It is an engaging game that is fun to play and challenges players in almost all aspects of the game

             Divide the squad up into two teams
To start, each player on the team that is inside the field will need a ball. Those on the outside of the field do not need a ball.
•    When ready, players on the outside run into the grid, attempt to steal any ball they can and put it through any one of the goals that are marked by the cones.
•    Players with the ball attempt to keep the ball away from the defenders by dribbling or passing to a teammate that has lost their ball.
•    If an attacking player loses a ball, they immediately try to 'steal' it back.
•    The game stops when all of the balls have been kicked through the goals. Then the two teams switch 'roles.
•    Keep track of how long it takes each team to steal all of the balls.
•    If a ball is kicked out of bounds it goes over to the other team for a throw-in

This game is good for teaching dribbling skills as players find themselves in situations where they have to dribble to keep possession as well as dribble to beat an opponent. Also, they find themselves in situations where they may have to pass to a teammate as well as find themselves playing defense as well. Because there are so many balls, and so many goals, it is just a crazy enough game to be appreciated and enjoyed by a typical nine- year-old.

Here is a 4 v 4 game that is free flowing and gives players allot of problems to solve. It is a good game to use towards the end of the session as it is very close to the 'real' thing.

One particularly good thing about this game is that since teams end up attacking in two different directions, it forces players to play in different positions. They are at' 'the back of the team when 'their team attacks one end zone, while they will find themselves at the top of the team when they attack in the other direction. This is great for their development.

•    Set up the field as shown with a seven yard 'End-Zone' at each end.
•    Score a goal by getting the ball from one 'End-Zone' 'to the other by passing or dribbling.
•    Once a goal is scored, immediately attack going in the other direction.
•    Do not give the ball to the other team.
•    The 'End-Zones' are free, only the attacking team can enter these areas.

This game also encourages players to "SPREAD OUT" and work together, which, players are starting to be able to do at this age. At first, players will be tempted to just kick the ball up the field instead of passing With patience, and demonstration of what is possible, this game could have a dramatic impact on their ability to play attractive, skillful soccer.




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