First football steps

Once, we went through multifaceted physical preparation while playing in the streets. Today, coaches working with beginners have that task on their sessions and activites.

While thinking about how to write an article about coaching the youngest kids that come to football clubs to train and have fun, I am thinking of guys born in ’94 who are now senior players and with whom I’ve started working at Orijent football club. Time flies…
Today I’ll write a little note about beginners I’ve spent wonderful two years with at NK Orijent, having previous experience with the same category at NK Pomorac. In those two years we had 75 kids, of whom at least 50-60 little players trained regularly. These were the kids who learn, have fun and with no too much official games. Too much official games in these years are not to good for the kids. This is theme for some other article.
There were three coaches in that age groups back then, so we divided players in three groups based on their motor abilities. We didn’t ignore technique, but primarily we worked on motor and functional abilities. Kids, which had obvious “feel for the game” and good kinesthetic feel for the ball had a coach who could implement technical elements (receiving, kicking, dribbling) into the motor skills training. In any case, our main guideline was satisfying development stages for motor and functional abilities in that age. It was a program any child could take part in because, unfortunately, there was no selection process. There were differences in the programs for each group because each group had different needs that had to be satisfied.
Three groups of boys performed three different trainings. For example, group 1 dominantly worked on base strength and speed, but also flexibility and coordination. In the second practice in the week, the groups changed. On the third, they changed again…
In different ways (relays, animal flow, circular training), during 40-45 minutes (young player’s concentration limit), we tried to work on default content and then we played 4 vs 4 or 3 vs 3 in small playing area, appropriate for the age group. This kind of players ratio is perfect for kids. Many touches on the ball, perception of time and place, both phase playing(attack-defence).
Group 2 dominantly worked on coordination, flexibility, but also endurance, on the 50m squared track where kids enjoyed jumping, crawling, running etc. Let’s say four laps in the first set, and then three laps in the second set and again four laps in the third set. One lap wouldn’t last for more than one minute. Pause between series was 4-5 minutes. When we talk about little kids/athletes and endurance my motto is “better less, than to much”. We need to introduce endurance training to the kids in fun way.
Group 3 dominantly worked a program like Group 1 (strength + speed), and after that we worked on basic technical elements with “advanced” group of boys.
Why did we do it so and not in the way of early specialization that was a method before I came to the club? I think, and based on scientific facts and research, that times aren’t as they used to be. Some time ago early specialization could have been administered, because my generation played all the sports in the streets: volleyball, basketball, table tennis, baseball, handball, swimming in the summer, football-tennis and of course, football. After spending time in such activities in your free time, football coaches had no need to do basic elements (when we talk about kids fitness and motoric abilities) because some of the kids were already universal little athletes. Today it’s different and methodologies need to be changed. In fact it has to change because if basic and universal program isn’t done properly, it’s like we’re building a house without foundation.
Famous Ajax academy incorporates in its plans and programmes “base sports” like judo, gymnastics and athletics into their training for years. Coaches have to follow trends, learn new contents and learn how to present them, cooperate with coaches from other sports (why a child wouldn’t end up in some other sport, anyway), because only in that way we can guarantee universal and diverse development of young athletes that will realize their potential n a good way. A child and its potential to grow into a quality person that will have sports as an important part of its life in psychological and social aspect, has to be in the first place, no matter of the level of its sport participation.
Let’s be smart with kids in sports. Support them, encourage them!
Have a good summer!

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