The Fire Path To Success: Developmental Growth & Progression
Ages 5-8 : At this age the ball itself is the biggest obstacle and opponent as these players are learning to combine basic motor skills (walking, running, jumping) with ball handling. These players must spend the maximum time possible in contact with the ball and experiment individually. The activities we implement are heavily oriented towards dribbling, giving the players as many touches on the ball as possible during their early years. Activities include dribbling, ball handling, ball control, 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4.
U9-U10 : At this age we reinforce ball handling skills and begin providing exercises that are fun but also challenging with a repetitive element to them, helping to ingrain habits the players will need as they take their next step forward in the game of soccer. Players at this age have a special ability to learn, but because they are still quite egocentric and lack significant ability to engage in abstract thought, this is the prime age to focus on specific soccer techniques and skills. Activities we implement focus on dribbling moves, tackling, passing, trapping, shooting, unbalanced numbers activities, 4v4, 6v6, and concepts of team shape.
U11-U12 : These players still possess a special ability to learn, but are now beginning to grasp abstract concepts (combination play, attacking/defensive/transition principles). At this age we build upon acquired technical skills training in a tactical environment. We start to take advantage of players increasing strength, speed, agility and mental capabilities to understand the game. Our focus is on activities such as dribbling, passing, receiving, heading, and shooting, reinforcing proper technique while providing introduction and exposure to tactical concepts and games. (1v1, 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, 8v8 and unbalanced numbers activities.)
U13-U14 : As these players are mostly post-pubescent, we begin to focus on development of strength and endurance within the training sessions. Warm-up and cool down become important along with consideration and preservation of the players’ health as their bodies will be continuously changing. With this age we are able to harness the players drive, determination and competitive nature and begin to develop discipline by expecting instructions to be followed both during and outside of training sessions. We begin to focus on the speed of play and teaching group tactics to help improve individual skills and team awareness. Training session often include early support, changing the point of attack, transition, possession, team defending, counterattacking, and building up from the back. (1v1, 5v5, 6v6, 8v8 and unbalanced numbers situations.)
U15-U18 : As these players have mostly finished all aspects of rapid growth, we can now focus on providing opportunities for them to test the limits of their bodies (physical strength, endurance, speed, leaping ability, etc). We are continuously paying attention to the player’s attitude, discipline and mental focus on the game. As these are the peak years for learning to solve problems, we use a wide variety of small sided games, training in the most realistic game environments possible to provide players with the opportunity to reach their maximum potential. We are also reinforcing technical proficiency while training in tactical situations.
As we continue to provide opportunity for growth and development we are always encouraging our players to find additional ways to stay involved with the game. Whether it’s a foot skills clinic, catching a match on TV, a pick game or some good old fashion back yard fun, we believe this to be a very important piece in the advancement of the total player. There are also many other opportunities for young players to increase their knowledge and understanding of the game. Volunteering to help with local soccer associations and becoming a licensed referee are both great ways to give back to the sport and learn the laws of the game. Becoming a well rounded player helps build character and will provide challenges that will teach young athletes valuable life lessons.