by Horst Wein
1. THE NEED FOR SECURITY
During training children need a familiar and intimate atmosphere which gives them security and confidence. It’s not recommended to change either the training site or the coach/educator frequently. Returning to games which they already know (but presenting variations) is welcomed by children so long as the contents of the training sessions link with something that they already know. Children demand stable relations like in their family. Besides, the coaching should take place in a safe environment (for instance on playing fields without stones or holes), applying specific rules which assure safety and avoiding any dangerous situations.
2. THE NEED TO GAIN NEW EXPERIENCES
Nothing can be understood completely if it isn’t experienced. Instead of telling children, the teacher should allow them to experiment with the task. Children need to discover on their own everything which surrounds them. This applies also to the world of sports and for soccer in particular. Instead of being instructed, children should get stimulated with simplified games and multilateral activities which are within their physical and mental capacities. Taught this way, children will develop their intelligence step by step through discovering.
3. THE NEED FOR THEIR EFFORTS TO BE RECOGNISED BY OTHERS
Children get highly motivated when they are praised for heir efforts to master a skill or a problem. Through praise they are encouraged to try even harder. For the under 12 years old children, the teacher, coach or parent is like a mirror in which they see their capacity or incapacity. That is why educators and parents have to learn to be positive, praise the children frequently and keep critical comments to a minimum.
4. THE NEED TO SHOW RESPONSIBILITY
Children prefer to do things on their own without depending too much on the adults. They like to reach as quickly as possible independence. The coaching methods and the behaviour of the educator should consider this need, making sure that the children find frequently on their own the solutions to the problems which they present. The educator only should interfere when the problems can’t be solved by the pupils.
Putting down or collecting cones, modifying the rules of a practise game or choosing players for demonstrations or certain tasks should become also a task of the children. Their need to demonstrate responsibility can be stimulated by allowing children to choose freely for 10 minutes what to practise, how to do it, where and with whom to execute a determined skill or game.
5. THE NEED TO PLAY
Playing games is as vital for children as sleep: necessary for the health of their body and their mind. As children learn by playing, the central part of each training session is the practise and understanding of a simplified game. The art of coaching is to always adapt it to the children’s ability and capacity level and not vice-versa. Playing games, communicating with others and decision making are stimulating. Playing without thinking is like shooting without aiming.
6. THE NEED TO SOCIALIZE WITH OTHERS
Instinctively children look for communication with others. The older they are, the more they need company of a similar age. They love to be associated to a group and to identify themselves with a group or team with the aim to achieve common objectives.
7. THE NEED TO MOVE
Nature wants the child to be active. He is no patience to wait in queues until his turn arrives. Standing isn’t child-like. Rules of the adult games have to be modified to allow the children to play the ball more often. Games with few players assure active participation.
8. THE NEED TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT
Generally speaking, neither the past nor the future interests the children very much. Their sense of time is completely different to that of the adults. A child lives the present moment with intensity without worrying about tomorrow or yesterday.
9. THE NEED FOR VARIETY
More variety, less boredom and fatigue. Without varying the method of presentation and the contents of soccer coaching sessions, the attention of the children usually wanders. It’s also necessary to vary the intensity of the exercises and games. Variation can also be assured through mixing the specific with the general or multilateral preparation, through switching from the global to the analytic method or from individualised training to group practise.
10. THE NEED TO BE UNDERSTOOD BY ADULTS
Children seem to live in a different world to adults. They have different problems to adults, learn in a different way and don’t think as logically as adults do. Their ideas, thoughts or reasoning are lacking coherence. Their emotional constancy depends in a high degree on their speed of biological growth. Generally they don’t know to manage their energy and therefore get tired very easily. They behave in the way they feel.
For all these reasons, adults who live and work with children, should be well-prepared in order to be able to stimulate and guide them well in their search for personality and identity.
Horst Wein has worked for many top clubs such as Real Sociedad, Leeds Utd, Sunderland, Inter Milan and is currently at the Centre of Research and Development of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. He has also written numerous books on soccer, offers regular coaching courses and recently ran a session for the English Football Association.