Stage two of the National Curriculum (NC) is the 8 and 9 age group. The field size increases to ¼ field and extra players are added including a goal keeper (7v7). Adults who play 7v7 summer competitions should also take note of this blog. The concepts of the formation are the same.
The 8/9 age group are much more willing to participate as a team compared to the age 6/7 group. Their concentration span is still short but they are capable of practicing for longer. They also easily identify between not so good, average and good players. They start to understand the idea of space.
The coach's role for 8/9-12 year olds is extremely important. This is also the skill acquisition phase. He or she should guide and give self-confidence to players. Encourage them to take risks and explore football and their limits.
This is an ideal age to start focusing on technique training (see TIC below). This acronym is frequently used in the NC and in Dutch football texts.
T - Technique
I - Insight
Game related training is emphasised with many repetitions. Use the C.H.A.N.G.E acronym to improve sessions (please see my previous blogs). A coach once told me drills are for putting into walls. Attempt to make the training session resemble football. Coach the game! Train with game related situations with opposition as often as possible. Saying this, an introduction to technique or correction can be done for short periods in isolation especially at the start of training. In the older age groups, pass patterns are introduced to practice technique and position.
Technique includes passing and receiving (both feet), first touch, 1v1 (attack and defence), striking the ball (both feet), introduction to heading, and basic goal keeper training. From age 9 years, talented players gain access to representative and academy systems. Specialised skill acquisition coaches from the FFA will be present within these systems to accelerate talented player's development.
Attack and Defending Shape
In attack, the team should be encouraged into a 1-2-1-2-1 shape. In defence, the team should be encouraged into a tight 1-3-3 shape (see figure 1). We can now start to see many triangles and a relationship with the 1-4-3-3 playing system.
Figure 1. Attacking and Defending Shape
Getting young players to understand these shapes can be as simple as making out some cones and playing a game to change shape upon the coach's signal.
Positions should be rotated regularly including the goalkeeper. Please remember to include some basic goal keeper techniques during training.
An introduction to the 3 moments of football could be made to this age group i.e. attack, defence, and transition.
A regular question and answer session during training will help educate players on the 3 moments of football.
Attack - width, depth penetration
Defence - recover, make playing field as small as possible.
Direction should be given on positional play. Every player should be given an opportunity to play all positions (including goal keeper). Do not specialise until after 12 years of age as this may limit development.
Role of Goal Keeper
- Takes up a position relative to the two defenders
- Restarts play by passing or kicking the ball, rolling or throwing the ball
- GK acts as a central player to build the attack or switch the point of attack
- In defence 1v1, and shot stopping
Role of Two outside Defenders
- Takes up roles wide apart in attack
- Play the ball to attackers or run with the ball if space allows
- Participates with the attack
- In defence, recover and "squeeze in". Don't get beaten in a 1v1 and win the ball back as soon as possible.
Role of Central Defender
- Takes up a position between attackers and outside defenders
- Plays ball to the attackers or defenders who are taking part in the attack
- Run with the ball and move forward if space allows
- Takes part in attack and attempts to score if the opportunity arises
- In defence, recovers centrally between outside defenders. Don't get beaten in a 1v1 and win the ball back
Role of Outside forwards
- Takes up a position in relation to the 3 defenders. i.e. wide and deep
- Takes the ball to opposition goal as quickly as possible. This may involve running with the ball or passing to a teammate who can score
- Attempt to score
- Position in front of goal
- Recover in defence and "squeeze in".
Roles of Centre Forward
- Get forward as early as possible (depth)
- Attempt to score by a 1v1, running with the ball
- Become available to receive a longer pass
- Pass to another team mate who may be in a better position to score
- In defence recover centrally and prevent a back pass and place pressure on attackers.
Training Session 1v1 and Possession
Below is a typical training session for U8/9 year olds. The session was designed for 9-10 players. From this stage onwards my sessions are broken down into warm-up games with a technical aspect (which can include passing patterns), positional games, main part and final part. A guided discovery method with technical correction is used.
Start with a game of tag. A player can be momentarily safe if they give another player a "piggy back". This helps develop some team work in your players. Stop regularly to allow dynamic stretches. A passing box (figure 2) is another excellent way of warming up young players and gives the coach an opportunity to gently correct technique. Passing and receiving coaching points can include; passing with the inside of the foot with the toes up (this locks the foot), looking before passing, getting the plant foot and shoulder facing where the pass is directed, first touch into space, keep the ball moving when received, body shape and communication. Instructions are given to pass then move to a new area to receive the ball. Vary the number of balls in play according to the skill level of the players. This style of technique training can be progressed later on without spatial constraints. Endless variations can be used with the passing box including short passes, long passes, limited touches, sprint away after a pass and even goal keeper training. The Coerver box is also an excellent way to start a training session with each player having a ball to practice dribbling, touch, 5 football turns (can you name them?), fakes and feints and using both feet in various exercises.
Figure 2. Passing Square
Figure 3. Dutch Passing Square
The Dutch passing square or basic passing patterns can be introduced as players progress (figure 3). Players follow their pass. Vary the direction to practice passing and receiving with both feet. Coaching points include; pass and move, and receiving with furthest foot. Variations can include; running with the ball then passing, or practicing bounce ball and running onto a pass.
I have included these games as an introduction to training insight and decision making. These games can be introduced without spatial restrictions, then later on with a defined area. Use 3v1, 4v1 and 4v2 style games. The 4th player can be positioned in the middle or on the outside with the defender in the middle. Change the defender/s regularly. These games introduce 2 and 3 passing options, and decision making. Positional games are the corner stone of insight, and technique training. For advancing players, introduce boundaries to make the game more complex. Vary the number of touches and size of the field.
Figure 4. 3v1 Open 1
Figure 5. 4v1 Open
Use areas of 10x20m for 1v1 and 20x20m for 2v2. Variations include; neutrals to maintain possession on the sides. Coach attack or defence in a 1v1 situation as per the warm-up.
Figure 6. 1v1 on 4 Goals 1
Figure 7. 2v2 on 4 Goals 1
Play a game 4v4 +1 neutral on 4 goals (note the shape in attack and defence). Use a wide field to encourage switching the point of attack and providing extra opportunities for 1v1 situations (see figure 8).Encourage the players to take another player on and recognise 1v1 situations using the techniques that were learnt in the main part of the training session. There may also be an opportunity to coach 4 passing options, and correct passing and receiving technique. Ensure players change positions regularly.
To provide more realism, change the game by adding a goal keeper with 1 goal on one side. Play 4v4 + Goalkeeper on 3 goals (see figure 9). Change teams and the goal keeper regularly.
Figure 8. 4v4 +1 on 4 Goals
Figure 9. 4v4 +GK on 3 Goals 1
Finish the session with a dynamic warm-down and debrief. Ensure the players have understood the session with a question and answer session.
During the past month I instructed a Grass Roots Coaching Course for 43 coaches. This was a great experience. It was clear that the participants were eager to learn and provide the best for their young players. The national curriculum appears to be confusing for many but with knowledge comes confidence. What is your opinion?
In future blogs we will discuss the U10/11 age groups and provide a model session. Once players enter the full field, 11v11, we can start to discuss the tactical advantages and disadvantages of the 1-4-3-3 system. I am trialling a different method to coach the 1-4-3-3 system which seems to show some promise. I will update you on this alternative system in future blogs.