Coaching U10 Players (and their parents)!

At this age the coach’s task is to provide the opportunity to play soccer.  These students have minds and bodies that are like sponges and we need to keep their attention.  The instruction can be directed at the development of the entire player, their physical, cognitive, social and psychological needs.

Remember U10 players are still children not adult players, their attention span is getting a little longer than last year but still not fully developed.  Their motion is gaining in balance and strength but not yet fully developed.  Psychologically U10 children are becoming stronger in understanding how to cooperate and share with others.  Boys and Girls are beginning to develop at different speeds, girls getting their growth spurts a little earlier.  Motor skills overall are becoming more refined.  Muscle memory is very elastic and receptive to good instruction.  At this age player memory is absorbing content as fast as it can be delivered and players are able to think ahead because they can tap into new information they have recently experienced.  

 A love for the game starts to come when students have fun, players see their accomplishments and their own level of skill begins to grow.  Creating an environment where students are praised for their efforts will boost their confidence and will help each player to gain respect amongst their peers.

As players experience mutual respect, the bonding and enjoyment of their fellow team members magnifies their feel of appreciation and pride gained during a season of play. These players will reflect back in time as to when they were turned on by this great game and what an opportunity their coach gave them to benefit in many life lessons that will give them good footing later during their life in the real world.

During the first meeting of the season the coach will need to conduct an organizational meeting where the coach, like it or not, has to educate the parents on how to behave as a parent during the season. The first topic the coach needs to address is why young players want to play soccer – because it is Fun!  That then grows into an appetite for the game that develops into self-esteem and self-worth as their skill and experiences are developed.  Players always talk about their team mates as they learn to cooperate and have good social interactions.

The coach will have to inform parents of the team’s expectations of their behavior.  Parents can support their child by watching their efforts and giving positive body language.  A player looking over to the side line and seeing their parent continually on their cell phone is not ‘Support’!  Spend the entire game watching your child.  Actually tell your player that you enjoy watching them play and mean it!  That is support!

Parents should not be coaching from the side line.  It is counterproductive and very confusing if the information is different to what the coach has just informed players, especially tactically.  Parents should always give positive feedback to their player and talk up the good things that happened:  the pass, the control, the effort.  Parents should stay away from the won-loss record and focus on each game building upon the last output.  For instance the number of consecutive passes, the shots on goal, the counter attacks, inter player communication, etc.

As the parents and players become more instructed into the correct coaching philosophies, parents can ask and develop their soccer understanding with the major topics to be found in the game.  Teaching points and moments in the game come from Attack which is broken down into penetration, one and two touch play, support, mobility, range and shape.  On the other side of the game Defense teaches pressure on the ball, cover, balance, support, shape and distances.  

These nuances of the game can be focused on with individual players then collectively with the team.   You can open up conversations that include team shape in attack and defense, the tasks and roles of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd attacker, and the tasks and roles of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defender.  Then move into observations on the speed of play, and the transitions between offense and defense.  To complete the analysis you can discuss the positional play of players with and without the ball during the entire game.

Coaches are responsible for facilitating a positive coaching environment so players can have fun and get feedback that promotes development in accordance to their individual needs and standing in the game.  Enthusiastic coaching is always preferred and promotes activities and experiences that are positive and geared toward players achieving success within the game.