Falling In Love With The Ball

Club Academy
We caught up with Paul Holocher our Head of Academy & Methodology this week to talk about falling in love with the ball.

I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to oversee development for several youth clubs and academies over the years working with players from ages 4 to 24, from their first days with the ball to young professionals. My strong believe is that every age is a golden age of learning, but the earliest ages are especially important.

When we are speaking of the earliest of ages, 4 to 8 years, developmental guru, Tom Byer, author of Football Starts at Home™, has provided prophetic insights for any country, city, community, club, team, or family that wants to improve development.

Tom’s philosophy revolves around the importance of the entry levels of the game. The developmental message is that even at the earliest of ages, children can begin to develop and acquire the skills that can give them a flying head start in the game. Tom has encouraged clubs and countries alike to focus more efforts on supporting and educating the Parents of the young children in their influence – to educate and inspire them to introduce the ball to their young kids in simple, fun, and highly effective ways at home.

The home is the perfect place to continue to develop, especially when it comes to controlling the ball. One only needs a small bit of space – like a living room, bedroom, or hallway, for a young child to begin to control the ball. For a young U4-U8 player, simple ball mastery skills - like the Slide, Tic-Tacs, V-Pull – all require a certain level focus and effort to learn for a young child. It is when Parents encourage, praise, and celebrate their child’s efforts in learning these ball mastery skills that true development begins. Too often in our game, ‘kicking the ball’ is the first skill taught. Instead, a young player should be encouraged to dribble, protect, and control the ball. Let’s encourage our kids to play with skill right from the start!

Inside Christchurch United FC our Technification Program for players U9-U12 is growing and thriving. We have begun to see a strong culture of technical development emerge, not only at the practices at United Sports Centre, but also, and importantly, at home. Many wonderful young players are practicing their skills a few minutes each day, and these minutes are turning into hours of excellent development. These golden early years are special, and as young players begin to fall in love with the ball, their ability and enjoyment of the game will continue to grow, thrive, and last a lifetime.