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Do You Pick a Youth Team to Win or Develop?

Last year I wrote a blog on 'How Much Game Time Does Your Youth Team Players Get?' & some may have argued it is easy for me to write that but do I carry it through with my own team? Why should you look to share game time? Below is some of my findings from last year & how it compares to what I've done with my own U12 team this season.

The Scenario...

It’s a cold winters morning & your squad of 16 players have been up from 8am getting ready. They meet at 9am to travel 1 hour to the venue. 10.30am they’re doing the warm up for the 11am kick off. So 3 hours have passed by & 11 players take to the field to kick off while 5 others watch on…

This is a common situation in youth football. The scenario I have used above puts the manager against the ‘best’ side in the league. So he picks his best 11 players to play the game which is 30 minutes each way. His team come in at half time 2-0 down. He looks to the bench & simply thinks he has his best 11 on the pitch & the other 5 won’t make a difference so doesn’t make any changes. The 5 kids on the bench are freezing & disappointed, they have all went to training during the week & have been up from 8am…now at 11.40am they still haven’t got anywhere near getting on! Mid way through the second half the manager finds his team 3-0 down so asks the 5 subs to get warmed up.

10 minutes to go & it is 4-0. He replaces the 2 forwards with 2 subs thinking they can’t do any worse. 5 minutes left he replaces a winger like for like. In the last minute he makes the other 2 changes so everyone gets a game. The game finishes 4-0 & everyone is disappointed. They do a cool down & get changed before making their way home. They leave the ground at 12.30pm & return home at 1.30pm. Jonny who has been up at 8am got back into his house just before 2pm…nearly 6 hours dedicated to the team that offered him 2 minutes on the pitch today.

How many minutes each of our players have played to date…

How many minutes each of our players have played to date…

This is common in youth football. So many parents have said to me over the years that their child doesn't receive equal game time while signed up at other clubs. This season was the first time in 5 years that I ran my own team. I wanted to insure ALL of my players received similar game time. I have scanned my record time for my team for you to see. You'll notice against some players there is a second time in brackets. This is to allow for weekends away, suspensions, injuries or rarely a player arriving late. This helps keep a balance.

I purposely keep my squad to 14 players so that I only have 3 subs. I always try to make 3 subs at half time so everyone receives at least half a game. We have noticed a real difference as some players in the summer were behind others in terms of development. With insuring they play similar game time as the rest, in some cases more time, we have noticed a real improvement.

The project is only 6 months in but as we review at the end of the year the game time is pretty much the same. Obviously we only have one goalkeeper hence he is at the top of the list (Dale) while we don't have many centre backs so they also are a little ahead of the rest of the pack.

As a coach or manager do you review game time? Do you try to be fair to aid development for all players? I also want to insure that players don't get complacent either. We ask the subs can they be impact players? Basically they only have half the time to make a difference so can they become an impact player! At the same time we now will balance out the second half of the season. If we feel any player is getting too complacent in terms of thinking they will get a full game so not work as hard they will be subbed. We now ask the question to players, 'play so we can't sub you'. It's not to add pressure it is simply to get them thinking more about their game.

We realise that at a young age players will never have consistency in their games but we always expect the basics of time keeping, appearance, attitude, work rate & always wanting the ball. We offer a positive environment that allows them a platform to perform.

Let us have your feedback to this article regardless if you are a coach, parent or player. My next blog will be based around what the subs can do while waiting to get involved. Below is our end of year video review. Some funnies, tricks, great football & goals after kicking off this project in June. Enjoy!

Goalkeeper Training – The Forgotten Man? (Part 3)

During Part 2 we looked at reflex sessions along with pressure saves & crossing.  In grassroots football the goalkeeper is generally the forgotten man.  Simply the training they receive is in group format or via a shooting drill.  Obviously at this level resources are limited but to find someone to do a little work is better than forgetting about one of the most important people on the pitch.  Below I will share a copy of my session plan notes specifically for our keepers.  This is the final part of our 3 part series.

We will focus on goalkeeper games during part 3.

Goalkeeper Games

Distribution Games.

1. Object of the game is to score in the other goalkeepers net by throwing the ball. Goalkeeper 1 starts the game by throwing the ball towards goalkeeper 2 & their net. If goalkeeper 2 saves by catching the ball they are allowed maximum of 2 steps towards goalkeeper 1 before throwing the ball. If either goalkeeper tips ball or punches ball out of play the goalkeeper who had the shot gains possession.

Variations include kicking the ball from the hands, volley or drop kick the ball, kick the ball from the ground or play 2 goalkeepers in each goal & if 1 shoots wide or over they must complete a lap of playing area before continuing in the game.

Session 1

2. To practice good all round distribution of the ball set up areas so that the goalkeeper has targets to throw or kick the ball to.

Session 2

3. 3 players; A, B & C, & positioned along the half way line. They each have a supply of balls & stand beside a mini goal. Each take it in turn to cross the ball towards the goalkeeper. Once goalkeeper collects the ball they should look to distribute toward any of the 3 mini goals by throwing or kicking.

Coaching points include communication, distribution, winning the ball, work both feet, throwing & kicking technique & rapid build up.

You can develop by having players A, B & C dribble the ball & performing back passes for the goalkeeper to deal with in same way. You can add a second player to look to close the goalkeeper down automatically to help it become more realistic to a game. Finally, after collecting the ball the goalkeeper should look for a defender to play out to for them now to score into the mini goals.

Session 3

Crossing Games.

1. Goalkeeper 1 throws the ball to W1. W1, within 3 touches, crosses the ball long & high into the penalty area for goalkeeper 2 to collect. Distribute the ball to W2 to cross for goalkeeper 1.

3 important factors to handling crossing situations are; positioning, judgement & action (to attack cross or not). Goalkeepers positioning will vary according to the angle & distance of the cross. Goalkeepers should wait until the cross has been delivered & quickly decide whether to attack the cross or advise defenders to attack it.

Goalkeepers need much practice on positioning & decision making on crosses coming into the box. This practice is simply organised & allows goalkeepers to practice all that is mentioned above. Make sure that the winger varies the crosses, i.e. hard & low, near post, far post, etc.

Session 1

2. Players remain in zones. Goalkeeper delivers to W or to A1 & A2. A1 / A2 passes wide to W. W crosses the ball within 3 touches. Goalkeeper then communicates & decides whether to come & collect the cross or allow the defenders to deal with it.

This session adds to the previous one by testing the goalkeepers ability to deal with crosses while under pressure from opponents being marked by the keepers defenders. If is important that the goalkeeper communicates with the defence to remind them of their marking responsibilities as well as taking up a correct position. Then the keeper has to decide whether to attack the cross or advise his defenders to challenge. In taking the latter course, the goalkeeper needs to give clear information to attack the cross, shouting clearly & loudly, 'AWAY!' If the goalkeeper decides to attack the cross, they should shout loudly & clearly, 'KEEPER'S BALL!'

Session 2

Duel Games / Mini Games.

1. This session is to practice & improve a goalkeeper when faced by oncoming attacker in a 1 v 1 situation. The goalkeeper should always look to come off his line (although not to quickly as to avoid being chipped) & narrow the angle for the attacking player. The goalkeeper should not be easily tricked after a feint & should remain big & confident as to outwit the forward.

(S) plays the ball to X1 or X2. X1 or X2 runs with the ball through the cones & at the goalkeeper. The attacking player attempts to score past the goalkeeper in a 1 v 1 situation by shooting or to try & dribble past the keeper.

Session 1

Every club should allocate some time & personnel to work with the goalkeepers.  Whether that be to bring the goalkeeper in early of have a keeper group night it is essential that the last man in defense is not forgotten about.  I hope you have enjoyed my 3 part series.