Junior Academy Philosophy

The overwhelming focus at these ages (U8-U10) will continue to be technical development, especially comfort with the ball in attacking dribbling and individual possession. Soccer at this age is a fun activity for the kids that encourages a lot of games to goals and encourages experimentation with the ball. The ratio of balls to players should be small enough that all the players are involved all the time. The focus is on developing a relationship with the ball in a joyful environment. We must develop players that are technically sound and can hold the ball under pressure before we move onto more advanced tactical concepts. At this age, there are some players that are becoming more physically mature at a faster rate than others. In each group, there are bigger and faster players whose eye-hand and eye-foot coordination is a little ahead of the majority of the other players. Some of the players may also demonstrate a greater capacity to stay focused for longer periods of time. Care will be taken with players, regardless of athletic ability, to address ball skill, especially in tight spaces. The faster, stronger players will not be encouraged to use their athleticism to solve all their problems, as someday soon everyone else will catch up and technique will set them apart, not athleticism. Building comfort with the ball at ages nine and ten will provide them with a variety of crucial tools they will need as they get older, and the level of ball skill and athleticism should rise in tandem.

Tactically, we will begin to introduce the players to the idea of thinking about their decisions and movement as being related to themselves and a few of their teammates and opponents. They do not have the mental ability or spatial awareness yet to see the entire field and relate to the position of all the players on it, and thus most of our training and matches are done in small sided games, which increase the number of touches on the ball and accurately reflect the players ability to relate to others on the field. The goal is to provide training and game environments that promote the continued growth of ball skill, an increased game awareness, and an appreciation for taking calculated risks in the attack through small-sided game model, all in an environment that the players enjoy.

COACHING U10 PLAYERS: Coaches will encourage and direct the enthusiasm of these ages towards attacking, technical and thoughtful soccer. All players should be encouraged to see their own role in the attack and the defense. At this age, games are not about winning and losing, but are a forum for players to test their ball skills and game awareness, and should be considered an additional means of development, rather than the objective. Results are important as it gives the players a competitive focus in the match, but they are not the objective and ultimate goal; player development is. Coaches are encouraged to promote soccer that:

  • is free flowing
  • is coach-guided, not coach-directed
  • demands that all players on the field, regardless of their specified position, participate in defending and attacking

Coaches are also encouraged to provide feedback that sandwiches positive encouragement with areas of needed improvement, and keep a ratio of 4:1 in the positive to negative comments. This focus on positive will allow players to play without fear of making a mistake, and fear of reprisal from their coach or teammates.

PLAYING TIME AND POSITIONS: There should be no set 'starters' at this age group. Every player should start at least half of the games in any season or tournament. Additionally, players should play at least half of every match in the season. This ensures that players develop at as close to the same rate as possible through these formative years, and allows a coach to truly see what a player is capable of; you never know how a player will do in a 1-1 game until you give him or her a chance to play in one! This is vitally important in a player's mental development. If a player is subjugated to being a consistent non-starter, that is where their mentality will be in training as well as games. If that same player is given an equal opportunity, he or she will feel of equal worth.

As far as positions are concerned, players should learn the game based on principles of the game rather than positions on the field; in other words, we are teaching positioning and not positions! Players' decisions on the field should be based on what makes sense to them in the game. We will let the players experience different positions and the different challenges that these positions create. If children are placed into the straightjacket of positional play too early it will only destroy their instincts to be involved in the game. Multiple players will rotate as goalkeeper in games until a few show interest in GK training and becoming a full time GK at U12.

ROLE OF THE PARENT: The role of the parent of a U10 soccer player is one of the most crucial aspects of their development. You need to release them to the game, allowing them to experience both success and failure on their own terms. You should be there to help them answer questions, help them communicate with their coach, and to give them positive reinforcement and encouragement. If they want help at home, please help them. If they want to watch high level soccer games on TV, make them available to them. But make sure the game is their game, and not yours. Release your child to his/her coach, and just be a spectator at games, not another coach on the opposite sideline! This is crucial, as they need to only hear one voice, and one instruction. If you want to ensure that your son or daughter DOES NOT succeed at soccer, then by all means be a sideline coach, but if you want them to be confident young players, release them to your coach and help outside of training and games.

Our emphasis is on technical development and basic tactical training, not winning or losing games. All players will get equal playing time and opportunities to succeed. All players will be given an opportunity to play in multiple positions. We follow the new curriculum developed by the United States Soccer Federation to provide challenging, age appropriate development in a fun filled and inspiring environment. We will train in the Academy style, which is saying that there are no set teams during training and team make-up may change game to game. This allows players to experience playing with different players. We want players to constantly be in situations where they are learning to make the best decisions for the given circumstances as well as feel free to express themselves in creative and imaginative manners. Our primary emphasis is still on individual player development, first and foremost.