Not all of Piaget’s stages are relevant to youth soccer coaches – unless you are into coaching six month old babies!
His theory of intellectual development, however, (when combined with what we know about how children develop physically), provides a very useful framework for all our children’s soccer practice sessions.
The article below takes Piaget’s theory and combines it with what we already know about how children develop physically.
It gives an indication of what most of your players will be able to do and how they might be thinking at a variety of different ages.
Ages 7 and 8
- Begins to understand the concept of teams,
- Can catch a gently thrown ball,
- Can learn and understand the rules of soccer,
- Thinks playing is the major thing,
- Winning is not a major concern,
- Is easily embarrassed by negative criticism,
- Might get overloaded by parents and fans giving instructions so needs direct, unambiguous directions from one person only (you!!).
Ages 9 and 10
- Has more mature motor skills — can throw, catch and kick a ball in a controlled manner,
- Has a well-established team concept,
- Is still easily embarrassed by negative criticism.
Ages 11 and 12
- Can begin to understand soccer tactics,
- Can throw and catch while being challenged by an opponent,
- Can accept decisions of officials, even if they disagree,
- Understands that practice improves skills.
Ages 13 and 14
- Combines physical skills at a more competent level,
- Has tendency to practice skills learned in practice on own,
- Shows growing interest in keeping body fit,
- Understands ethical and unethical behaviour,
- Recognizes the long-term physiological and psychological benefits of physical activity,
- Accepts instructions of coach (usually!),
- Might become angry at a negative fan or parent yelling during games.
Putting theory into practice
So…if you know something about how children develop you won’t:
- Expect six year olds to understand rules,
- Be surprised when some children are embarrassed by negative criticism, no matter how constructive you think it is,
- Waste your time trying to teach tactics to children under the age of eleven,
- Expect younger children to practice skills on their own.
If you combine this knowledge of child development with what we’ve already learnt from psychological studies about why children play sport, all your sessions will have the following elements:
- Gentle competition,
- A focus on learning appropriate new skills,
- Build on existing fitness levels,
- More fun!