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Athens United Soccer Association

Academy Manual

Introduction

 

The Academy playing environment must provide the right balance between challenge and success.  The players with stronger abilities should have the opportunity to compete with and against players of similar abilities. Players with less ability should be allowed to compete at their own level in order to enjoy the game and to improve performance.

 

The program must provide environment where every player is given the opportunity to improve and to gain the maximum enjoyment from their soccer experience and ultimately, what is best for the player.

 

 

Season Plan

 

The development of the Season Plan must take into account the following:

 

·     Objectives are identified and a season plan is developed that balances training, competition and rest and recovery.

 

·       The interest of the player must be dictated by the quality of scheduling and the choice of events.

 

·       Entering all the possible competitions/tournaments available can have a long lasting negative impact on basic skill and fitness development.

 

·       A systematic approach will maximize the chances of achieving peak performance by bringing players to peak form for important competitions and minimize the   chances for over-training, over-use injuries and burnout.

 

·       We recommend the following training session to match ratios:

 

         U9-U12                      2:1

·       In order for an athlete to adapt (improve technical, tactical and psychological components) there must be periods of low intensity activity or complete rest interspersed with periods of high intensity activity.

 

·       ""More is not better.""  Quantity alone does not improve quality; soccer should be a test of skill not survival.

·     Practicing or playing in matches where players are ""going through the motions"" due to fatigue or lack of interest reinforce bad habits and retard development.

 

·      Sound nutrition and ample rest allow for more rapid recovery from intense activity.

 

 

 

League Play and Matches Per Year

 

We believe that the optimal playing and learning environment includes participating in no more than three matches per week.  We also believe that players should not compete in more than two full matches per day and no more than three full matches per weekend.  There must be a day of rest between full-length matches.  We strongly oppose the practice of scheduling regular season and/or make-up matches in a manner that results in four full matches in the same week. In addition, we believe that players should not compete in more than 40 playing dates in a calendar year.  Players should have one full month off per year from all “organized” soccer activity.

 

We believe that U9-U10 players should play games of 6v6.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment. The coaching of positions to children under the age of ten is considered intellectually challenging and often situates parent-coaches in a knowledge vacuum.  Additionally, premature structure of U10 players into positions is often detrimental to the growth of individual skills and tactical awareness.  This problem is particularly acute with players of limited technical ability.

 

We believe that U11-U12 players should play games of 8v8.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate environment.  The U11-U12 age group is the dawning of tactical awareness and we feel it is best to teach the players individual and group tactics at this age rather than team tactics.

 

Educational Philosophy

 

The Game Within The Child (Quinn, 1995) is at the center of all belief, decisions and actions taken by the child, coach and organization. Our goal is to unlock the game within children to reach their full soccer potential.

  • Play- Children come to play the game, not to work, not to listen to the coach lecture, and not to discuss the game. They come to PLAY, and playing equates to fun.
  • The Game is the Teacher- players learn best by actually playing the game in an environment where they feel free to try new ideas.
  • Organized Spontaneity- Encouragement of free and unbridled play by modifying the playing environment to small-sided games (3v3, 4v4, 6v6, 8v8) and limiting the amount of input from the coach. Again, the game is the best teacher.

 

The game is for all players - everyone should be encouraged to participate, particularly the "non-assertive" player(s). We always encourage in practices & games the use of skill, creativity & decision-making. We don’t expect youngsters to play a "passing game", we don’t get caught up in tactics & formations or positions. KEEP IT SIMPLE! Systems of play at young ages will only lead to "Agriculture Soccer" since they dictate those players be "planted" rather than "playing".

 

Also we should never stifle the creative, gifted dribbler. Eventually all players will learn to pass as they get older. This is the time for players of all abilities to experiment & learn from trial and error. Encourage talking in practices & on the field, let them know this is their game and that they own it. If you believe that the difference between kicking and passing is thinking, and the difference between drills and activities is thinking, then you should understand the premise that "Soccer Is A Player’s Game" and our sessions give players as many opportunities to both play, think & communicate as possible.


 

 

Player Development Model

 

 

 

Program

Age

Technical Emphasis

Tactical Emphasis

Training Environment

Game Format

Academy

U9-U10

·Dribbling

·Juggling

·Short Passing

·Receiving

·Shooting & Finishing

·Shielding

·Support near the ball (ahead and behind the ball)

·First Touch

·Combination Play

·2 Line Shape

·2 Line Interaction

·Technique:(70%)

oUnopposed (35%)

oOpposed (35%)

·Tactics(30%)

o2v2 to 4v4

U9 = 2v2 Mainly

U10 = 3v3 Mainly

6v6 (2 line)

3-2 Formation

U11-U12

·Dribbling

·Juggling

·Medium Passing

·Receiving

·Finishing

·Heading

·Shielding

·Support

·Combination Play

·Deception

·3 Line Shape

·3 Line interaction

·Technique:(70%)

oUnopposed (35%)

oOpposed (35%)

·Tactics(30%)

o2v2 to 5v5

4v4 Mainly

8v8 (3Line)

3-2-2 Formation

 

 

Player development plans (curriculum) should answer the question “How does this activity affect players’ desire to remain active on their own?” If the answer is negative, the activity is counterproductive. Soccer coaches must be involved in the curriculum process as active decision-makers. They should respond to player needs and interests, and not blindly accept pre-packaged curriculum formulas (drills). Developing interesting and varied activities creates a well-balanced club program.

Training activities must be modified to increase activity levels and player success rates.

 

A top-down communication style in which the coach mostly tells and the athletes mostly listen and obey will reinforce a team culture in which players are compliant and wait to be told what to do. And this can be costly on the playing field where initiative and aggressiveness can make all the difference.”

 

A characteristic of effective coaches at all levels is ongoing learning and reflection. For great coaches there never is an “off-season.” Virtually every portrait of great coaches shows them to be active learners in constant reflection. It is often argued that effective coaching is as much an art as it is a science.

 

Avoid the three "L’s"- Lines, Laps, and Lectures. Modern methods of coaching youth place emphasis on "game activities" rather than "drills". Game Activities are easily understood childhood games that have the element of a ball added.

Avoiding "lines" in coaching soccer is not difficult. "Tag" games while dribbling a ball are valuable in that every player is forced to dribble and chase others in an effort to tag them. Since directional changes occur quickly and in an unpredictable fashion tag begins to resemble the real game of soccer. Opposite to this method would be to arrange several cones in a row and have players dribble through- zigzagging through the cones. Not a horrible activity, but predictable and it definitely does not resemble the "real" game.

When we have young players standing in line "waiting their turn" we are wasting valuable training time. Kids like and need action in their activities and who likes to wait in line? True, "drills" with lines are sometimes easier for the novice coach to organize, but often behavior problems occur when young players are idle.

Take a lap. Almost every athlete has heard that phrase from his coach. Why? Well for one, long slow distance training is regarded as excellent conditioning for endurance sports. And it’s quick and easy for the coach to organize. Many coaches think of soccer as an endurance sport so it figures that lap running is an ideal warm-up. Unfortunately good lap runners do not equate good soccer players. A far more effective method of training soccer players would include the ball and game activities as the warm-up. As fitness training lap running is not ideal because soccer is not played at a consistent pace throughout the match. Soccer is a game with periods of standing, walking, jogging, and all out sprinting- training should replicate this type of action.

When do we get to play? This "want" to play coupled with a shorter attention span requires coaches to use activities that are "action packed" with brief (10 seconds) instructions. Lectures and detailed explanations have no place on a youth soccer field. Let the game be the teacher.

The "L" that coaches must use- "LAUGHTER"-if the players are silent, odds are they’re not having fun. Laughs, screams, giggles and noise are what coaches need to hear, that way you know that the activity is FUN. And that’s the object of sports.

Every aspect of play coached at one age must be reinforced at the next age. Aspects taught at U9 must be taught again at U10, U11 and U12 and so on. What was learned at a previous age group or groups must be refined at the next age group. 




U9/U10 Overview
 

 

Players must have basic technique before they can successfully learn individual tactics, and advanced technique (the ability to execute skills with only one or two touches) is a pre-requisite for group tactics, taught at older age groups.

 

Players at this age do not possess the analytical thought process to look back or think ahead. They live for the moment. For this reason 5 to 9 year old players should focus primarily on developing their technique. In these age groups, ball contacts are the most crucial consideration.

 

Players need to spend a lot more time practicing and not play too many games.

 

Basic principles of play that must be mastered at this level:

 

Receiving the ball, passing the ball, dribbling the ball, shooting the ball

Keeping possession, but knowing when to take risks

Knowing where and when to take players on 1v1

Communication and awareness of other players

Pressuring the ball defensively (in front and in back)

Giving immediate chase defensively to regain the ball

 

Important elements of the game:

 

Dribbling: Encourage risk taking! Moves to beat an opponent. Keeping possession.

Shielding: Spin turns. Change of speed. Change of direction.

Receiving: Ground balls. Main surfaces, from a partner and on the move.

Shooting: Proper striking technique

Passing: Proper technique – Laces, Inside, Outside, Short and Long. Crossing

Heading: Introduction - Self serve; partner serves

Tackling: Proper technique, in balance, no fear.

 

The number one goal of the U9/U10 Academy Program is to develop players. Players grow and develop at different rates. Just because a player isn’t the strongest, fastest or most technical player today, does not mean they cannot grow and develop into the great player of the future.

 

U9 Curriculum

Technical Skills

  • Passing (long, short, inside of foot, crosses)
  • Receiving (balls on ground, balls in air)
  • Dribbling (beating challenges from front, behind, side)
  • Finishing (instep, inside of foot, volleys, half volleys, headers)
  • Heading (basic introduction to proper technique)
  • Individual Defending (very basic introduction).

Tactical

  • 1v1 - 3v3 games to develop technical skills.
  • First defender (role of pressure) and Second Defender (role of cover)
  • Combination play (wall pass, takeover, overlap)
  • Angles of Support
  • Possession (small games 2v1, 3v1, 4v2).

Psychological

  • Create fun practice environment.
  • Introduce competition to training environment.
  • Begin to create students of the game. Encourage players to attend professional games, or watch them on TV, take your team to college games or to watch older teams in the club.

Physical

  • All fitness is done with the ball or is agility based.
  • Focus on developing player coordination and balance with ball.

Training Focus

  • All training should be fun.
  • Sessions should be devoted to 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 games to develop technique with the main focus on attacking.
  • All training should involve transition
  • Players should be going to goal as often as possible.
  • Begin keeping score throughout the year to make games competitive.

System of Play

  • Choose a system and organization of system that best suit qualities of players.
  • Style should be attractive attacking soccer, attempt to focus on keeping possession as much as possible. Winning is NOT important, having fun and playing good soccer is.
  • All players should have experience during the season playing in back, midfield, forward, and goalkeeper (if desired) positions.



U10 Curriculum

Technical Skills

Establish a base. Develop individual skills under pressure of time, space and an opponent. Increase technical speed.

  • Passing (long, short, inside of foot, crosses)
  • Proper technique for instep, inside and outside. Work on short and long.
  • Receiving (balls on ground, balls in air)
  • Body behind ball, cushion ball ­ ground, bouncing, and air. All surfaces from partner on the move.
  • Dribbling (beating challenges from front, behind, side)
  • Risk taking. Moves to beat your opponent. Keeping possession ­ shielding and spin turns: changing speed and direction.
  • Finishing (instep, inside of foot, volleys, half volleys, headers)
  • Proper striking of the ball ­ plant foot, toe down, ankle locked, strike ball with instep and follow through. Hitting moving balls.
  • Heading (basic introduction to proper technique)
  • Self serve to Partner serve ­ jumping to head and partner juggling.
  • Individual Defending.

Tactical

Basic principals of play. Promote attacking soccer. Individual ­ 1v1.

  • 1v1 - 3v3 games to develop technical skills.
  • First defender (role of pressure) and Second Defender (role of cover)
  • Combination play (wall pass, takeover, overlap)
  • Angles of Support
  • Possession (small games 2v1, 3v1, 4v2).

Psychological

  • Create fun practice environment.
  • Introduce competition to training environment.
  • Encourage decision -making.
  • Increase demands
  • Discipline
  • Begin to create students of the game. Encourage players to attend professional games, or watch them on TV, take your team to college games or to watch older teams in the club.

Physical

  • All fitness is done with the ball or is agility based.
  • Focus on developing player coordination and balance with ball.

Training Focus

  • All training should be fun.
  • Sessions should be devoted to 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 games to develop technique with the main focus on attacking.
  • All training should involve transition
  • Players should be going to goal as often as possible.
  • Begin keeping score throughout the year to make games competitive.

System of Play

  • Choose a system and organization of system that best suit qualities of players.
  • Style should be attractive attacking soccer, attempt to focus on keeping possession as much as possible. Winning is NOT important, having fun and playing good soccer is.
  • All players should have experience during the season playing in back, midfield, forward, and goalkeeper positions.

 

Under 9-10 Summary


Technique: running with the ball; passing; instep drive; receiving ground balls with the instep and outside of foot; receiving bouncing balls with the instep (cushion) and sole- inside-outside of foot (wedge); throw-in; fakes in dribbling; introduce heading and crossing. For goalkeepers ready stance; how to hold a ball after a save; W grip; catching shots at the keeper; punting and introduction to goal kicks and throwing 
Psychology: working in-groups of 3, 4 or 5; stay focused for one entire half; sensitivity; how to win or lose gracefully; sportsmanship; parental involvement; “how to play”; communication; emotional management 
Fitness: endurance; range of motion-flexibility; proper warm-up and cool-down are mandatory now 
Tactics: 1 v 1 defending; roles of 1st attacker and defender; 2 v 1 attacking; man-to-man defense; introduction to set plays 




U11-U12 Curriculum
Technical 

By this age players have established a strong technical base. From the intense skill training in the foundation phase they have mastered the ability to receive the ball on all body parts (the mini-dribble), and can execute moves with the ball at speed in a game situation. This is an absolutely critical component to master in the foundation phase because it allows them to begin to learn the larger concepts of the game, where ball control is a necessity and seeing the field is done with the head looking up.

 

Tactical 

Dawn of tactical awareness - with the basic techniques mastered, now they can successfully learn individual and team tactics. In this age range, the “Golden Age” from a developmental viewpoint, players can exhibit great enthusiasm toward game activities that teach tactics, and they will absorb concepts like sponges.

 

For this reason 10 to 13 year old players should focus primarily on exploring the limits of their ability and becoming confident to express themselves and try the unpredictable. We want our players to feel unrestricted in their play, and begin to understand how to use all of the skill they’ve learned within the team concept.  

 

Player also will play a variety of positions to develop awareness all over the field and become a more complete player.

 

Basic principles of play

 

Attacking: keep possession; encourage risk taking; take players on 1v1 in proper areas of the field; support and cover, basic combination play (give/go, take over); promote attacking soccer; communication (who, what, where, when).

 

Defending: proper pressure (in front and behind); channeling player; immediate chase; cover; marking; introduction to zonal defending and man-to-man; communication (who, what, where, when).

 

Team: focus is placed on maintaining balance, playing skillful soccer and keeping shape. Players play a variety of positions and emphasis is placed on player development.

 

Recommended systems: focus should be on teaching the principles of play and team shape as opposed to systems. Our coaches will teach within a variety of systems.

 

Physical

 

Focus on fitness at these age groups should become more intense and challenging.

 

Psychological

 

Encourage individual decision making

Promote creativity – individual and within the team

Discipline – honoring teammates, respecting the coach

Establish pre-practice and pre-game routine (as an individual and team)

Encourage players to watch professional and national team games on TV.

Academics – learn good study habits and maintain good grades.

 

There should not be dedicated tactical practices.

The tactics are an extension of the technical work. For example after passing with the inside of the foot, ask two players to pass to beat a defender: this is introduction to the 2v1.

 

Under 11-12 Summary


Technique: feints with the ball; receiving ground, bouncing and air balls with the heel, shins, thigh, abdomen, chest and head; heading to score goals and for clearances-standing and jumping; chipping to score; outside of foot pass; bending shots; crossing to near post and penalty spot space; heel pass; kicking and receiving with inside of the instep; introduce half volley and volley shooting; introduce slide tackle. For goalkeepers footwork; bowling; low dives and forward diving; angle play; near post play; saving penalty kicks; introduce parrying and boxing 
Psychology: teamwork; confidence; desire; mental rehearsal; intrinsic motivation; handling distress; how to learn from each match; sportsmanship; parental involvement; emotional management 

Fitness: speed; strength; aerobic exercise 

Tactics: 2 v 1 defending; 2 v 2 attacking and defending; roles of 2nd attacker and defender; combination passing; verbal and visual communication for all positions; commanding the goalmouth for the goalkeeper; half-time analysis; corner kick plays-defending and attacking; kick-off play; wall pass; beginning to identify potential roles for players-goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and/or forward; introduce the principles of defense