For young players, improving their quality on the ball is a primary focus for us. Their ability to control and receive the ball, their range and capability to perform an effective action with the ball, and the mental capacity to recognize and select the correct solution to a given situation with the ball. Considering this, our teams will always strive to control games by dominating possession of the ball (this starts with our goalkeepers!). This will often lead to us losing some games that we should probably win, but we firmly believe that this approach to the game is one that lends itself to the developmental principals and outcomes that we want to achieve with our groups.
One key tenant of our playing philosophy is the old saying “The keeper is the first attacker, the striker is the first defender.” Every player in our team is expected to contribute to both attacking and defending phases of play. We pride ourselves on the teamwork and cohesiveness of our teams on and off the field and a key component in our playing philosophy is teaching very talented young players how to take their new-learned technical ability, and to combine it with the also-talented players around them in order to produce attractive, exciting, and successful play.
While defending, our teams are more varied in their approach. Our primary focus when we defend is to promote teamwork, and recognition of key threats through good awareness and communication. You may see some of our teams press higher, while some may drop slightly deeper to deal with those threats…the one common theme, however, should be a great togetherness from the group and a unity in working together to execute that team’s strategy. We do, of course, coach the defensive principles of the game in our sessions, however, we most often apply these as counter-principals to our attacking and possession play, as we believe there should be a greater focus on time spent with a ball for players at this early age.
As far as playing time goes, we will never sit a kid on the bench or deny them time on the field purely to win a match. This does not mean, however, that all playing time is equal. There are many considerations that go into deciding the playing time of a match, such as:
– Using extra/less time to motivate a player
– Using extra/less time to discipline a player
– Using extra/less time to reward a player
– Using extra/less time to affect morale
There are also more considerations than just the ones above, but the key point is that we will not deny playing time to kids to win matches. Even with the considerations above, outside of extraordinary circumstances the least that a player can expect to play is around 50%. See our Development Philosophy for the rationale behind this.