Coaching Elite Youth Soccer Players

15th November 2019
The key to becoming an elite youth soccer coach lays in properly training the aspiring players. In our post today, we want to explain just how you can help move their progress along.

When it comes to elite youth players that are on their way to becoming professionals, implementing training that suits their current age is crucial. The right training can maximize the potential of both an individual and a group.

Pushing their learning forward and using the right tactics to help them understand soccer fundamentals is also important. These soccer basics will go hand-in-hand with their cognitive, emotional and motor development.

In addition, positive approaches to problem-solving both as an individual and a group are the base of being part of a team. It anchors them in values and appropriate behavior. Every practice should have all the seriousness, joy and motivation a session needs in order to create a setting where enjoying the sport to the fullest can be the first priority.

Methodology for the elite youth

In their practices, coaches should use as many elements and as much infrastructure as possible. The workouts should be fun and include using the ball. They need to be able to stimulate the players’ attention.

Meanwhile, coaches also need to progressively work on individual skills such as passes, control, shots at the goal or sprinting and group skills such as positioning, keeping control of the ball and covering an opponent.

In order to train an elite youth team for success, coaches need to constantly evaluate group and individual ability and traits. Some of these might include, positions, group work, being right- or left-handed, duties on the field and attention span, etc.

Practices for aspiring and elite youth soccer professionals

There are different kinds of training plans in elite youth soccer. They vary in intensity and objectives or exercises:

  • Warm-up: dynamic games that help children focus and get into the right rhythm for the practice to follow. Coaches have to give ample instruction and in a way to exercise their players’ reaction capacity, integrating various learning elements at the same time into the warm-up. Warm-ups finish with a stretch and last from 10 to 15 minutes.
aspiring football players warm up

  • Starting exercises: short pair or group exercises that activate the motor movements that the players need for the practice. Group exercises for team building are also an option and time frame of 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Mid: set of in-place exercises, each 5 to 8 minutes, that progressively increase in difficulty.
  • High: exercises that cover more of the field. These exercises aim to help players work and move together, following the coach’s strategy. They also aim to strengthen the skills the players need for each position on the field. Total time is 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Final: players move on to practice exercises such as penalty shots, regular shots at the goal and playing by orders. The final part of the practice lasts five minutes and finishes off with stretches.

Specialized training

Every child needs special direction on the position they usually play. As the players play more and more games, their coaches evaluate the skills they need to work on and design personalized workouts for their players.

In every practice, one or two players are selected to follow a different workout routine. The personalized treatment builds their relationship with their coach and makes them feel important.

Development

Between six and eight years old, children have a similar level of potential— excluding exceptional cases of course. Coaches can develop their potential into skills by trying to reduce the distractions in their training.

Thus, practices have to be dynamic, progressive and not too extensive. In addition, the exercises need to capture the players’ attention. Just because children understand the game doesn’t mean they all have the proper motor dexterity to be a good soccer player.

Progressive training is the solution. Over time, the responsibilities are distributed in a way that children can learn how to follow through movements correctly. In turn, they’ll be more confident when they need to execute those movements in an actual game.

Progressive exercises

For example, practicing a header is an example of a progressive exercise where players work on their jump, body positioning and head movements with a lighter ball– such as volleyballs. The exercise helps the players follow through the right movements with more confidence and precision.

Once the players show good progress in the first phase, they move on to do the exercise with an actual soccer ball. By practicing with a soccer ball, they’ll adjust to real-game conditions over practices.

aspiring soccer players progressive

How do coaches manage the emotion on the field?

Emotion is a crucial aspect of soccer; we can’t forget how coaches face victory or defeat will always be an example for the children. Another thing we can’t, and shouldn’t, forget is that joy and excitement should be what’s fueling them to play.

Soccer teams should experience frustrations and celebrations together. The dynamism of the game should serve to teach the players how to face obstacles and the awards that will come with time.

Every player should feel content as a player on their team. Lastly, patience and positive reinforcement will both become basic ways to treat all the players.

Elite youth soccer, a social tool

Understanding soccer as a sport that can help develop a positive character, coaches need to impose rules that encourage a sense of belonging and fraternity. For the right group dynamics, the following conduct norms should be present in practices:

  • Punctuality
  • Compromise
  • Hard work
  • Positive relationship with teammates
  • Respect towards the opponent
  • Respect towards uniforms and appearance
  • Belonging

Managing situations between children and parents

Within the first weeks of getting started, coaches should contact elite youth parents in order to communicate how they work and solve conflicts. The parents should also play a role in their child’s training. They should support them and help create a healthy setting for everyone.

On another note, bullying can’t be a taboo nor humiliation a way to relate to others. Coaches need to work with the children who are more inclined to bully to use their influence in a positive and unifying way for their team. Likewise, coaches must also work with those children who are most likely to be victims to disconnect from that role.

You might think that a elite youth soccer coach would be an easy job. But working with children means being an active part of their development, working with them every day to improve their skills.

Coaches need to be versed in other areas besides sport. More often than not, coaches need to put tactics and techniques to the side and place a priority on emotional aspects.

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