This is an area that I’m constantly thinking about. Especially with players that are moving from one developmental stage to the next. My focus currently is on my U10 that plays in a U11 division. We have focused on individual technique to the point where they are very confident with the ball. But at times this confidence betrays them because at times they hold the ball with they should pass.
Toward the end of the season I’ve spent more time possession and decision making. We’ve played a lot of keep away games where making the right choice is rewarded and the rules are structured to encourage ball movement. I’ve been careful not to make the rules to restrictive. I don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm or lessen their confidence.
A warm-up game that I’ve often used starts with all of the players dribbling in one half of the area. One defender from each team enters the other team’s area and tries to win the ball or force the players to dribble out of bounds. When a player loses their ball they stay in the area and helps their team mates by providing a passing option. The game eventually because 5 v 1. This is a great warm-up and starts to work on the possession tactics.
A natural progression is to play a focused possession game with limited pressure. My team has done well playing 4 v 2 recently although it didn’t start out smoothly. At first they struggled to play quickly and retain possession. They would dwell on the ball too long and often play back into pressure because they didn’t have they’re body open to the field which limited their options. They have begun to understand the importance of proper body position so they are having more success keeping possession.
At times I limit the number of touches but letting them play with unlimited touches allows for more creativity so I’d rather make the space smaller to provide more pressure.
This transitional game is our next step. The team in possession gets a point for every five passes they make in a row. The defending team starts by sending two player but they add one ever time the attackers complete five passes. This increases the pressure and complicates the decision making. When the defenders win the ball they must move it back to their side of the field before counting passes.
Moving to end zone games gives the game direction but still puts a premium on possession while giving the players a lot of latitude to be create. I like to start with 4 v 4 so that situations can be related back to the 4 v 2 game.
Teaching young players to be comfortable and confident with the ball will mean that they want to express themselves and use their skills beat opponents and score goals. As they mature and the game moves from 6 v 6 to 8 v8 and then to 11 v 11 the challenge is to teach structure without discouraging creativity.
How do you strike a balance between creativity and decision making with your young players?
Have a great day!