Pre-Academy Developing Game Understanding

We caught up with Paul Holocher - Head of Academy, Methodology to talk about the pre-academy players developing game understanding.

"Once a young player does cross the line into more organized team play, usually between the ages of 8 to 12 years of age, it is usually quite simple. There are a few practices a week and a match on the weekend. During the match, there are two teams, each looking to score on one goal, and there is one ball. Coaches and Parents line the field, and it is all good fun.

In these early ages, the game is highly transitional in nature. The ball is won, then it is lost, then it is won back again, and perhaps quickly lost again… a series of purposeful passes are rare. There are many factors for this, as the young players may just be gaining the technical qualities to control and pass well, but there are also factors outside the field that influence the game and how it is played, most notably if the instructions from the sidelines are - “go, go, go.” This is of course a positive message to “go, go, go” as we are all intent to get to the goal and score goals, but it is when this ‘drive to go forward’ becomes the overriding emphasis that we may be missing out on other vitally important areas of player development.

We must ask if driving forward is always developing a game understanding?

And is there a way to get to the goal and still value the possession of the ball?

Perhaps the developmental message can be to improve one’s position on the field, to look up and scan the field, then decide on a dribble, pass, or shot. Either way, the point is that we begin our developmental programming very early, whether we realize it or not. At these early ages our game model acts as a type of developmental compass; one that provides a clear direction from which to teach and share simple ideas and then more nuanced concepts.

Perhaps instead of playing a hopeful long kick into a general space, young players can be encouraged to build through the pressure, dribble with confidence into the open spaces and even connect passes across the full expanse of the field".