The Discovery Phase
Coaching in the Discovery Phase is all about:
- There should be little to no 'coaching' however there is a need to organise fun football exercises
- Allowing players to discover one's (im)possibilities through trial and error
- Natural development: players 'learn FOOTBALL by playing football'
- Replicating the 'street/park football' environment of the past
- Emphasis on building a love of the game.
For U/6’s and U/7’s two weekly training sessions of 45 minutes and one game during the weekend is a suggested workload, while for U/8’s and U/9’s the length of the sessions can be increased to 60 minutes.
A training session for children in this age consists of 3 components: The Beginning, The Middle and The End. It’s important to note that coaches should respond to the players needs and manage how many and what type of practice to use in their situation. Sometimes you might go straight into a game after a brief warm up.
- The Beginning
The purpose of The Beginning (better known as the warm-up) is to get the kids in the right frame of mind and activate their bodies. It’s unnecessary to run laps around the field and do stretches to achieve that: all sorts of relays and tagging games with and without the ball are much better (more specific, more fun) and also help develop the children’s basic coordination.
- The Middle
The Middle is the section of the training session where we conduct fun football exercises such as dribbling, passing, shooting, etc.
- The End
The last part (The End) is allocated for playing all sorts of Small-Sided Games
WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHILDREN IN THIS AGE BRACKET?
- They are still ‘clumsy’ (lack fine motor skills), because they are still developing their coordination
- They have a short span of attention and are quickly and easily distracted
- They are ‘self-centred’ and not yet able to really work together (so do not ask them to perform team play, it is impossible for them!)
- They play or participate for fun with short bursts of energy and enthusiasm
- They are unable to handle a lot of information (instructions; feedback)
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TRAINING SESSIONS WITH CHILDREN THIS AGE?
Just let them play a lot of varied fun football related games!
In the ‘good old days’ as a kid you learned to play football in the street or the park. There were no coaches involved who made you run laps or do stretches and push-ups. When you were with just one mate you played a 1 v 1 game, when there were 8 of you, you played 4 v 4. There were no referees either, you made your own rules and every problem got solved. You just played, every free minute of the day. Funny as it may seem, this was (and still is) the best possible way to develop a basic skill level, understanding and passion for football.
The old saying “the game is the teacher” still applies and is one of the reasons why we find so many creative and technically good players from Africa and South America where there is less structured coach led sessions for younger age groups. As parents we now send our children to a club or academy to learn to play football and, despite all good intentions, here we make the mistake of ‘coaching’ children this age. The first and most important step when ‘coaching’ the youngest kids is to take the word ‘coach’ out of your mind. Your most important job is to recreate that street football environment, be an organiser of fun football-related practices and.......let them play! This approach, where they can ‘discover’ how the game works in a natural way, is the right one for the Discovery Phase.