General Thoughts about this age By 15 and 16 years old, players should be comfortable dealing with the ball in a variety of situations. With this in mind, the coach should look to address several issues over the course of the two year cycle that address how basic tactical issues can influence the game:
- Small group ideas on both sides of the ball (Moving forward together on the attack, realistic pressure, and how to help your team win the ball back).
- How the small group ideas tie into larger team concepts. Such as the similarities and differences between high and low pressure, keeping your back line connected with your attacking players during possession in your attacking half of the field, or rhythm of play issues (when to speed up and when to slow down).
- Some basic positional responsibilities and how, as a team, these responsibilities are interconnected. For example, how the backs share defensive responsibilities, how decisions that the defending line makes are related to the decisions of the players in front of them, or the role of the holding midfielder in your team’s possession.
- Accountability for their execution and decisions with the ball. Players at this age must aspire to have technical precision. Players need to be made aware of how their ability to collect and pass the ball has a direct impact on all aspects of the game.
Note: These concepts and goals are all based on the assumption that the players are good enough with the ball to be able to begin dealing this next level of soccer. If they do not posses the requisite skills to begin taking on these new challenges, it is the responsibility of the coach to make sure they continue to work on the tools that they lack.
Goals for Practice, Games and Season
At the U-16 age coaches should continue to address principles and themes of the game in generic situations i.e., not position-based, as well as in functional (positional) scenarios. Coaches can set up small-sided games to multiple goals where players and teams (of 6’s or 7’s) are dealing with pretty tight spaces, but with several goals. Defensively the players and teams are focusing on getting pressure to the ball so that they limit the number of goals that they need to actively defend. As these principles are being addressed, it should begin to make some sense to the players how to translate these concepts into team issues, such as how the backs work together in different parts of the field or the relationship between the different lines of the team (defenders and midfielders, midfielders and forwards, etc.). Creating games where these larger team issues are introduced, experienced and discussed is also important at this age.
General Description of What Should be Happening During Practice
Players at these ages still need to learn by experiencing the game. The majority of the game should still be taught by putting the players in realistic soccer environments and allowing them to feel their way through the challenges that the game presents to them. As much as possible, these concepts and themes should be taught in competitions where the games or exercises end with a winning and a losing team.
General Description of What Should be Happening in Matches
The matches should be an extension of the themes that are being addressed on a daily and weekly basis. There should be an awareness by the players and a discussion prompted by the coach about performance based on the players’ ability to recognize themes during the game, and the players’ technical ability to act on what they see.
General Description of Information That is Communicated to the Players
Charismatic. Experienced. Knowledgeable. Articulate. Disciplinarian. Managerial know how. Thoughtful persuader. An understanding of the 3 lines of the team and how each works as a separate unit as well as part of the team as a whole.