CHARACTERISTICS OF U12 SOCCER PLAYERS
They begin to develop the abilities to
sustain complex, coordinated skill sequences.
Some of the players have reached
puberty. Girls, in general, arrive earlier than boys.
Most players are able to think
abstractly and are thus able to understand some team concepts that are
foundational to the game.
They are beginning to be able to address
hypothetical situations, and to solve problems systematically.
They are spending more time with friends
and less time with their parents. They are susceptible to conformity
to peer pressure.
They are developing a conscience,
morality and scale of values.
Players tend to be highly self-critical.
Instruction needs to be enabling. Show them what can be done instead
of telling them what not to do.
Although they are more serious with
their play, they are still mainly involved because it is fun.
They are openly competitive. A few may
foul on purpose.
They are looking towards
their role models and heroes in order to know how to act.
They have a more complex
and developed sense of humour.
INVOLVING THE PARENTS
It is imperative
that coaches get the parents involved. Not only are they are a major
resource for your team, but the U-12 player still relies on their
parents for support and encouragement. A pre-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:
A means of contacting everyone without
one person doing all of the calling. (phone chains)
Choosing a team administrator, someone
to handle all of the details.
Complete all paperwork required by your
league or club. ¨ Discuss the laws of the game.
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.
What each player should bring to
training: inflated ball, filled water bottle, soccer attire, shin
guards cleats or sneakers.
Most importantly, your philosophy about
coaching U-12 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.
What your expectations for them is
during game time. How do you want them to cheer? Do they know that
they should not coach from the sidelines?
Above all, try to enjoy yourself. If you
do, they probably will too.
THINGS YOU CAN EXPECT
Some coaches say that the 10 and 12 year-old players have "turned the corner" and are
looking like real soccer players. However, games are still frantically
paced and a bit unpredictable for the most part. These players know how
much fun it is to play the game skilfully. As a result, we begin to see
some the players drop out who recognize the importance of skill and
become discouraged with their lack of it. Some other things that we can
expect when working with this aged player are:
They will yell at their teammates when
they make a mistake.
They will openly question the referee's
Players will encourage each other.
They will pass the football even when they
know that they will not get it back.
Team cooperation is emerging. They will
run to a spot, away from the play, even when they know that they might
not get the ball.
They will point out inconsistencies
between what you say and what you do. They are "moral watchdogs".
The difference in skill levels between
the players is very pronounced.
Some players might be as big as you are,
some might be half your size.
Not only will some of the players come
to training with expensive cleats, but some will also come with
matching uniforms, sweatsuits, and bag.
Parents, during games, can be brutal.
Some will yell at the referee at almost every call.
They will get together with their
friends and be able to set up and play their own game.
Coaching at this age level is a challenge because many of the players view
themselves as real soccer players, while others are at the point where it is not as much fun as it used to be because they feel that their lack
of skill development does not enable them to have an impact on the game. They see their skilful friends able to do magical things with the ball
and since they can not do this themselves, they start to drop out. Our challenge then, if the players are willing, is to keep all of the
players engaged, involved, and make them feel important. (as though they are improving.) Skills still need to be the primary focus of training
and players need to be put into environments where they are under pressure so that they learn how to use their skills in a variety of
contexts. Here are a few other considerations as we think about working with this aged youngster:
Our goal is to develop players in a fun,
engaging environment. Winning has its place but must be balanced with
the other goals of teaching them to play properly. Some decisions will
need to be made that might not necessarily lead to wins (ie: having
players play different positions, or asking players to try to play the
ball "out of the back".)
Smaller, skilled players can not be
ignored. Although it may be tempting to "win" by playing only the
bigger players in key positions, the smaller, skilled players must be
put into areas of responsibility.
Small sided games are still the
preferred method of teaching the game. This makes learning fun and
Flexibility training is essential. Have
them stretch after they have broken a sweat, and, perhaps most
importantly, at the end of the workout at a "warm-down".
Overuse injuries, burnout and high
attrition rates are associated with programs that do not emphasize
skill development and learning enjoyment.
Playing 11-a-side games is now
Single sexed teams are appropriate.
Train for one and one-half hours, two to
three times a week. Training pace needs to replicate the demands of
the game itself.
They are ready to have a preferred
position, but, it is essential for their development for them to
occasionally play out of their preferred spot, in training, as well as
Training is now best if it focuses on
one, perhaps two topics a session. Activities should be geared to
progressing from fundamental activities that have little or no
pressure from an opponent to activities that are game like in their
intensity and pressure.
TYPICAL TRAINING SESSION
Here are some items that should be
included in a U-12 training session:
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 or small group 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. The warm-up should get the players ready
to play. It 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
Follow the warm-up with some kind of individual activity, not
necessarily a real 1v.1 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 keep-away game, or small sided games that
bring out or emphasize a specific skill or topic. Keep players in motion
at all times. Avoid having them wait on lines. Play games of "inclusion"
instead of games where the "looser 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 4v.4 up to 8v.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.
Finish this stage with a real game with regular rules. Players need to
apply their newly learned abilities to the real game.
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.
Challenge them with some ball trick. Can they complete a juggling
pattern? Can one player kick a ball to a partner and then back without
it hitting the ground? Can they do that with their heads? How many times
can they do it back and forth? 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.