Kids Soccer is all about the ball. Young kids chase the ball aimlessly and continue to do so until their energy tank runs dry. Its no surprise when you watch young kids playing competitively on a Sunday morning and notice that all the players are positioned around the ball. The majority of the game is usually played in one half and the keeper of the dominating side stands alone kicking at weeds that have protruded through the mud that was once grass. Have you experienced this? Have you seen this?
This is very natural, young kids are full of energy and are extremely hungry for the ball. So what happens when the kid finally gets the ball or receives it? Most kids are not accustomed to having the ball so they quickly give it back and return to the never ending pursuit for the ball. Young kids have the energy, they have the fitness because they are continuously active and they have the hunger to play the game. So what is lacking?
Most kids lack and most youth coaches fail to teach player awareness. A player in possession of the ball must be aware of what is going on around him. He must be aware of all the possible options, whether its passing the ball, shooting, dribbling or kicking the ball out of danger.
Awareness is an essential skill of soccer that is commonly overlooked. After running for some time, the kid finally gets the ball. Most kids touch the ball and feel like they have achieved their goal. This is a common mistake that needs to be rectified at once. Once the player gets possession of the ball, he should be thinking
- where are my team mates?
- where are the opposition?
- where are the goals?
- am I under pressure and at risk of losing the ball?
This sounds very easy in theory but how do we implement this in reality? For starters the child must be able to get his head up off the ball and see as much of the playing field as possible. By lifting his head off the ball he is creating vision for himself. By doing this he has a better chance of making the correct next move. The next move might be to pass to a team mate, dribble his opponent or quickly clear the ball up-field to avoid the opponents scoring a goal.
In order to make the right decision, the player must be able to scan the field by looking up off the ball. He must become aware of the surroundings and become mentally quick to adjust to those surroundings. He must be one step ahead of the game.
Keeping your head down and focused on the ball for too long will deny them the chance to make the right decision. If eventually he makes the right decision, he will make it late and the opportunity goes begging.
Lets use a quick example. Player A has possession of the ball and is completely focused on the ball by looking down at it. The opposing team all rush to get the ball leaving one of his team mates wide open on the wing, lets call him player B. Player B is free and completely unmarked and waiting for the ball . Can you see what the problem is? Player A is not aware of this situation. If he had the awareness and looked up at times, he could pass the ball to his team mate. Player B would receive the ball in the open with wind in his sail and sail towards a goal.
Like I said earlier, this is extremely difficult. But teach your young players good habits at an early age. Let them lose possession of the ball by looking up and making decisions rather than keeping their heads down and not making any decisions at all.
Any player with the ability to keep his head up, make quick decisions and read the flow of the game will become tomorrow’s superstar. I can make this prediction without knowing anything about the kids height, weight, strengths, skills or fitness. Any player that effortlessly controls the ball, looks up and gives a piercing pass through the defence will have no problem playing soccer professionally for the team of his choice.
There is no need to teach young kids to chase the ball. The secret is to teach them what to do when they have possession of the ball. Teach them to look up off the ball and become aware of the situation they’re in. This is a great way for your youngster to stand out above the millions of kids that play the game every day.