Are the activities Fun? Players learn better in an enjoyable environment. When players feel that a specific activity is fun, it is a good indicator that the activity is developmentally appropriate.
Are the activities organized? This does not mean regimented, it means there should be rules and objectives.
Are the players involved in the activities? Players enjoy activities that present an achievable challenge. Activities that are too difficult will frustrate players and activities that are too easy will cause boredom. Design activities that engage children in play at all times.
Are players using creativity and decision-making? Player development is enhanced when challenges require players to solve problems by using their own skills and cognitive abilities. Children need to be challenged to “Fix It.” “Fix It”, implies giving the players the first opportunity to solve the problem. Let them fail at first if need be.
Is the space used appropriately? A space that is too large or too small will affect the quality of an activity. Also, make sure the area is safe.
Is the coach’s feedback appropriate? It is important to encourage young players. Positive feedback will encourage players to continue to try.
Are there implications for the game? Players should be engaged in activities that help develop psychomotor, cognitive and psychosocial abilities that are needed to play soccer.
Developmentally Appropriate? This challenges the coach to examine the appropriateness of the activity. The requirements or demands of the activity should fall within the range of player’s abilities. Examples include: Attempting to teach a wall-pass to U8’s when they cannot think in advance of the ball or asking a U6 player to stay in a specific position when their spatial awareness is limited and possess a strong desire to chase the ball.
Clear, Concise and Correct Information. How instructions are given is crucial when dealing with young children. Too much information overwhelms them and too little information doesn’t give them enough to get started. Provide enough information to get them started and then add new challenges.
Simple to Complex. Are the activities presented in a way that allows for ongoing modifications and new challenges to meet the players interests and abilities?
Safe and Appropriate Training Area. The area should be free of hazardous materials (e.g., glass, stones, branches, holes, etc.) and be safe from traffic or other environmental dangers. The training environment should be psychologically safe. Does the child feel emotionally secure? Is the fear of failure reduced? Can the child take creative risks without the fear of admonishment from the coach?
Decision Making. Are there opportunities for the players to make decisions? Decisions may be spatial (where to run or pass), temporal (when do I pass or run), or kinesthetic (how do I handle the ball)? These need to be present in all activities for learning to occur. Remember that learning is not efficient and that effective learning may be the result of inefficient trials.
Implications for the Game. The activities presented in a training session must in some way reflect the demands a player faces in the game. The younger the player the less clear this may seem, while the older the player (i.e. 10 or older), the more clear it will become. However, the implications for the game are even more important for the younger players. The coach at this level is providing the foundational movement and thinking skills that will enable the player to later solve more complex problems.
Aspects that are flexible and help organize the practice:
|Space||Keep the organization of the space simple. The initial set up, with small changes, should be maintained throughout the whole session. Resetting cones during a session can easily disturb the flow of training. Attention during the session should be focused on making the coaching points.|
|Time||Time is flexible. Let the practice flow and make the coaching points at the right time, using breaks to give feedback to the group|
|Intensity||Use short periods of time at high-intensity and utilize resting periods to explain the practices or make coaching points.|
|Rules||Use different rules to adapt the practices to the characteristics of the players and make the exercises age-appropriate.|
|Number of players||Practice should progress from smaller to bigger groups of players. Use support players to create superiority in numbers and to make the exercises easier for the attackers.|