Conditioning & Your 9-Step Practice #1

Coach:  This is my first year coaching, I have a U8 girl’s team. We have played only 2 games and I notice that during practice conditioning is not a big issue. But during these games they seem to really tire out early. The FUNdamentals seem to be improving during every practice. But what should I do with regards to conditioning for the game?

Note: Coach was asked and provided a sample of his typical practice session allowing Karl to comment on each Step. 

Coach: 5:00 PM start practice with the team simply dribbling the ball with in a square, no particular direction or speed just touches on the ball.

Karl: There is no mention of Step 1. Starting the Practice -and telling your players that you will be focusing on the theme of ‘Conditioning.

Dribbling at no particular speed means walking which does not help in conditioning… Why not increase and decrease their speed and get some conditioning by asking them to walk, jog and go at speed with the ball? You should go so far as asking them to increase speed after a fake/feint and decrease speed after that initial burst! Result = Some conditioning 

Coach: 5:10-5:20 we have each team member set up their figure 8 and we have them dribble around stopping only for light stretching.

Karl:  Again, at what speed are you asking them to go around the figure 8? I am sure they go at their own speed which is barely faster than walking which results no conditioning. Ask them to go around the cones at various speeds: walk, jog and full speed. Results = more conditioning..! 

Coach: 5:20-5:30 we have them dribble around a grid half the length of a regulation field at about half speed keeping control of their ball.

Karl: Half-speed…Results = Half conditioning. For the last time … Our game is not a half speed game but a change of pace game … Ask them to at least walk, jog and then go at full speed ever once in a while …Results= Even more conditioning..!

Coach: – 5:30 Half-time

Karl: What happened to Step 3 (One +One) and most important for conditioning Step 4. (One vs. One)???

Why do you give them a break if they are not really/really tired? You should teach them ‘how to’ play the 1vs.1 game so that they get really/really tired.. You have to get them to a stage where they need to take a break… just like in the game on Sat. Results: Some really/really good conditioning

Coach:  5:35-5:55 We have 4 on 4 or 5 on 4 scrimmages, usually stopping only to change the girls into different positions forward, defender, or goalie. We also stop the girls during these scrimmages to talk about where the defenders, and forwards need to be also try to explain there roles as first attacker or first defender. We believe that the girls actually enjoy the scrimmage the most in practice.

Karl: What happened to Step 6. Small Sided Games which, when played correctly results in tremendous conditioning? 

Twice you mention the word ‘stopping’ them from playing. But, you don’t mention how long you talk to them. When they are standing still and listening to you talk at least two major things are taking place:
1. No conditioning because they are standing around and looking dreamily at you
2. Probably not understanding a word you are saying because they are 6-7 years old and their attention span is somewhere around 10-15 seconds

You also need to break down Step 6- Small Sided Games and Step 7 Scrimmage into two distinct sections: First the Cooperative when you stop action and teach followed by the Competitive when you do not stop action and note their progress.

Coach:  5:55-6:00 we have cool down period and I give the girls a little homework that mostly consists of touching the ball for a few minutes each day in between practice.

Karl: Rather than giving them ‘touch the ball’ homework… Teach them the 1vs.1 game and give that to them for homework. Maybe, Mom & Dad will also benefit by getting a little ‘fitter’ when playing against their daughters

Coach: This is also my first year at coaching and I’m basically trying to keep it simple but yet give the girls proper instruction on there beginning years. I have read some of your articles and also referenced numerous times to your “FUNdamental Soccer Practice Book, any and all advice that you can give me is really appreciated.

Karl: Thank You for taking the time to work with the children … I know they will have a very positive experience because you are asking questions to improve yourself.

If you want to keep it ‘simple’ then Teach them how to play soccer:
-As individuals (1 vs.1)
-Then in small groups (small sided games)
-Finally as a team (scrimmage) …

Allow them to experiment with their techniques in these games …Once they know ‘how to’ play these games then start focusing on teaching them techniques such as dribbling, etc. Technique development will take them approximately 10,000 hours. I am sure you can see that they have plenty of time to improve.

One last comment … Frankly you are wasting your time attempting to get these 6-7 year olds to play positions … They will play ‘bunch ball’ until at least the age of 10-11 when some of the techniques are mastered. More details on this later… hope this is of some help and I’ll get more to you in the future.

Thanks for allowing me to help out and I hope you continue filling-me in on what is happening with you and your players. In the meantime you may want to go to my web site: www.fundamentalsoccer.com and check out the U10 Diary of a Coach where I take several coaches through their beginning years.

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