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U12 - The Romance Stage

The 4 Phases of Player Development – “The Romance”


Development of individual skills — individual and small group tactics:

The effect of the role model is very important at this stage of development. Hero worship, identification with successful teams and players and a hunger for imaginative skills typify the mentality of this age. This is a time of transition from self-centered to self-critical. Players of this age have a high arousal level in relation to the training of basic skills. This is the “golden age of learning” and the most important age for skill development. Demonstration is very important and the players learn best “by doing.” This is also an important time to introduce and teach the basic principles of play. It is important to establish discipline from the beginning.

Coach must be: A sensitive teacher, enthusiastic, possess soccer awareness, ability to demonstrate or utilize someone who can paint a good picture (older player, assistant coach), knowledge of the key factors of basic skills, give encouragement.

Technique: It is important to establish a good strong solid base. The coach must develop individual skills under the pressure of time, space and an opponent and increase technical speed:

  • Dribbling: Encourage risk taking. Teach moves to beat an opponent and to keep possession.
  • Shielding: Spin turns, change of speed, change of direction.
  • Receiving: Ground and air balls — all surfaces from a partner and on the move.
  • Shooting: Proper striking technique, partner serve from all angles, turns, cut backs, volleys.
  • Passing: Emphasize the proper technique by using the laces; inside and outside of the foot and short and long crossing.
  • Heading: Start with self serve, then add a partner to serve. Teach jumping to head, turning the ball and partner juggling.
  • Tackling: Teach the proper technique with emphasis on balance and having no fear.
Tactics: The dawn of tactical awareness
  • Individual: Start with 1 v. 1 situations in attack and defense. Play 1 v. 1 frequently.
  • Small Group: Continue with 2 v. 1, 2 v. 2, 3 v. 1, 3 v. 2, 3 v. 3, 4 v. 2, 4 v. 3, 4 v. 4.
  • Positions: Players must play a variety of positions. They must develop an awareness of the game. Emphasize the complete player and the basic principles of play.
  • Attacking: Encourage keeping possession and risk taking. Have players take opponents on 1 v. 1 in proper areas of the field. Teach the concept of support, basic combination play (wall pass, takeover). Promote attacking soccer.
  • Defending: Emphasize the proper pressure both in front and behind. Teach the concepts of channeling the player, immediate chase, cover and marking.
  • Team: Team tactics do not take priority at this age. Focus is placed on maintaining balance and playing skillful soccer. Players play a variety of positions and emphasis is placed on player development instead of getting results as a team.
  • System: Put players out on the field for the love of the game, without spending much time coaching a system. Focus on teaching principles of play as opposed to systems. If playing 8v. 8, then play a 2-3-2. If playing 9 v. 9, play a 3-3-2. Most importantly, players should enjoy the great game.
Note: a great deal of coaching/teaching within 4 v. 4 games

Physical: All fitness work should be done with the ball, with partners, and using fun and engaging activities. Physical activities should include the following components:

  • Keep it fun and enjoyable to foster a desire to play (intrinsic motivation)
  • Encourage decision-making
  • Imagination /creativity
  • Increase demands in training
  • Emphasize discipline
  • Encourage players /teams to watch professional and National Team games on television
The Game:
  • 8 v. 8 or 9 v. 9 (includes keepers)
Click to read the other phases of player development
Background | Phase 1 | Phase 2 |Phase 3 | Phase 4

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