Intro to Tactical Developmental Phase: 13 Year Old Soccer |Coaches Manual

Best Qualities of a Coach for This Age Player

Energetic. Plays while facilitating practice. Stimulates ideas.  The coach should have a firm grasp of both the youth game and the junior game. He or she should have an appreciation for creativity and independent thinking. At the same time, he or she should be able to communicate group and team themes to the players in a clear and simple manner.

Consider This:

At the latter stages of the youth level (U-11 through U-12), the goal is to provide training and game environments that promote the continued growth of ball skill, an increased game awareness, and an appreciation for taking calculated risks in the attack through the 3 v 3 to 9 v 9 (U-12) game model, all in an environment that the players enjoy. The small-sided game model is an effective method for developing ball skill and game awareness because it increases opportunities for players to have contact with the ball and to both attack and defend without the tactical regimentation that can occur in 11 v 11 soccer.

Characteristics of Soccer Players at this Age

  • They begin to develop the abilities to sustain complex, coordinated skill sequences.
  • Some of the players have reached puberty. Girls, in general, arrive earlier than boys.
  • Most players are able to think abstractly and are thus able to understand some team concepts that are foundational to the game.
  • They are beginning to be able to address hypothetical situations, and to solve problems systematically.
  • They are spending more time with friends and less time with their parents. They are susceptible to conformity to peer pressure.
  • Players tend to be highly self-critical. Instruction needs to be enabling. Show them what can be done instead of telling them what not to do.
  • Although they are more serious with their play, they are still mainly involved because it is fun.
  • They are openly competitive. A few may foul on purpose.
  • They are looking towards their role models and heroes in order to know how to act.
  • They have a more complex and developed sense of humor.

Things to expect:

Some coaches say that the 10 and 12 year-old players have “turned the corner” and are looking like real soccer players. However, games are still frantically paced and a bit unpredictable for the most part. These players know how much fun it is to play the game skillfully. As a result, we begin to see some the players drop out who recognize the importance of skill and become discouraged with their lack of it. Some other things that we can expect when working with this aged player are:

  • They will yell at their teammates when they make a mistake.
  • They will openly question the referee’s decisions.
  • Players will encourage each other.
  • They will pass the football even when they know that they will not get it back.
  • Team cooperation is emerging. They will run to a spot, away from the play, even when they know that they might not get the ball.
  • They will point out inconsistencies between what you say and what you do. They are “moral watchdogs”.
  • The difference in skill levels between the players is very pronounced.
  • Some players might be as big as you are, some might be half your size.
  • They will get together with their friends and be able to set up and play their own game.



This game is great for focusing on teaching players attacking skills such as taking on their opponent or learning to attack space. Defensively it will teach players the responsibility of man marking.

Setup: Make a 40X40 grid. Split your team into pairs with one ball per pair. Randomly set up small goals (approximately 2-3 yards wide) with flags within the grid; one goal per pair. Each pair should begin at their window.


Each team will play 1v1 using their goal only. Goals are scored by dribbling across the goal line. Goals can be scored from either side of their own goal. Players play 1 to 2 minute games and rotate players.


Open it up where each pair can score on any of the other goals. They are still paired up with only their partner and should not interfere with any other pairs going on. Goals can still be scored from either side of the goals by dribbling through the goal.

Coaching Points:

Attacking: Head up and aware of other players, change of direction, close control, and change of pace

Defending: Bent Knees, aware of attacker, tracking attackers movement and protecting the goal

Focus: Attacking, Control, Defense, Dribbling, Shooting

World Cup

This is a lot of fun for the older kids. The game focuses on teamwork and is very fast passed.

Setup: Using the penalty box as the field and divide all the players into two person teams. Each team will need one ball. You will need one goal for this game.

Instructions: First each team needs to quickly pick their favorite national team. All the teams start inside the penalty box. The object is to score a goal to advance to the next round. The teams can pass and dribble around inside the box until they get an opportunity to shoot. While doing so the teams are trying to steal another teams ball and kick it out of the penalty box. If a team’s ball is kicked outside the box or team misses their shot they are eliminated from the tournament. Continue rounds of the tournament until one team is left. This is the team that wins the cup.

Coaching Points:

  • There are no goal keepers for this game so keep the players off the goal line and encourage them to go play defense.
  • Have the players keep their heads up so they don’t run into each other
  • Good passes to feet
  • Good trapping technique
  • Accurate shooting

Focus: Passing, Receiving, Teamwork, Attacking, Defense, Dribbling

1v1 Competition

This game is great to focus on 1v1 play. It is flexible and can be used to work on the offensive side or the defensive side. On the offensive side you can get attackers to attack the defenders with speed, quick change of pace with an explosive touch to get away, getting behind the defensive players and shooting at half chances. On the defensive side, you can focus on closing down quickly, forcing the attacker to the side and closing down the attack.

Setup: Split the team into 2 groups with each group wearing alternate jerseys with a keeper in the goal. Place a cone about 25 yards from the goal. If you don’t have a goal, use cones. 1 team defends by the goal, and the other team attacks by starting at the cone 25 yards from goal.

Instructions: The 1st defender plays a ball into the 1st  attacker and steps out to defend.

The attacker attempts to beat the defender and a point is awarded to the attackers team for each goal that is scored. After a goal is scored, or the defensive player wins/clears the ball, the next defender plays a ball into the next attacker and play continues. Each team attacks for 5 minutes and defends for 5 minutes. The team with the highest goal count wins. Play 2 games awarding a winner after each match.

Coaching Points:

Offensive: Attack the defender with speed, quick explosion to get away, try to get behind the defender, and shoot at any half-chance.

Defensive: Close down quickly, force the attacker to the weak side, break down, and close the attacker down. Remember Fast, Slow, Outside, Low. Fast – approach the attacker with speed. Slow – when the defender gets close to the attacker, the defender must slow their run and start stepping back with the attacker. Outside – force the attacker to the outside. Low – low center of gravity and get player low.

Focus: Attacking, Control, Defense, Dribbling, Shooting, Goalkeeping

Split the Defender

This game is great for a little more advanced player from 11 years old to 14 years and focuses on passing to split two defenders.

Setup: Make a grid approximately 18×18 yards. Split team into three teams of two players per grid. Build multiple grids for additional games.

Instructions: 2 teams work together on the outside of the grid while the 2 defenders work on the

inside of the grid. The four players on the outside keep possession and keep the ball from the defending team in the grid. The outside team scores a point when the ball is passed between two defenders (SPLIT) and is received by their teammate across the grid. If a player on the attacking team makes a mistake, he and his partner become the defenders and the team winning the ball comes outside the cones and joins the other attackers. When the defensive team gets split, they have to win the ball 1 extra time. So for example, say the 2 defenders get split 2 times before winning the ball, they must win the ball 3 times before switching with the attackers.


  • Limit the number of touches per possession
  • Play the same game, but expand the grid 3-5 yards on all sides and have the players play inside the grid instead of outside the grid.

Coaching Points:

  • Make sure the attacking players are moving for their partners and opening up in space.
  • Make sure balls are passed with good pace and on target
  • Encourage players to communicate verbally and with their body and hands.

Focus: Passing, Communication, Vision