Coaching Different Age Groups

Treating all players in the same way, no matter what their age or ability, does not work.  One common mistake Coaches make when working with younger players is to communicate with them in the same way and have similar expectations of them as they would adults.  There is a lot of research in this area but we have included some information to keep in mind about different age groups:

The ages 5-11 are known as the FUNdamental development stage and are very important in the physical development of a child.  This is the foundation stage where the keys components of Agility, Balance, Co-ordination and Speed should be worked on together with running, jumping and throwing.  There is a huge difference in physical ability and also understanding between a 5 year old and an 11 year old so we have broken this down further and also included younger children in the descriptions.

3 - 5 Year Olds

The youngest age group that it is possible to work with.  A high ratio of coaches to children is required to keep players engaged.  Instructions must be incredibly simple and games/drills must be very straightforward.  Focus on fun, use examples from their world (for example, talk about Star Wars or cartoon characters rather than using football terms) and slow everything down to give them time to get used to the practice.  Sessions should be 45 minutes maximum.  For the older children in the group it is possible to play small sided games and matches but it is generally better to focus on very simple drills.

5 - 8 Year Olds

This group of players are still very young but by now should understand the basic principles of the game.  Drills can be more complex but still kept relatively simple.  Focus on basic techniques and introduce the concept of ball mastery.  With this age group there should be a big emphasis on fun, again using examples from their world rather than football terminology, although drills should be more game orientated and realistic to what you would find happening during an actual match.  Ideally incorporate a lot of small sided games into sessions to ensure maximum number of touches of the ball. 

9 - 11 Year Olds

By now your players should know the basics of the game fairly well and also be able to understand more complex instructions and drills.  It is possible to start introducing concepts such as positional play although small sided games are still very important to allow maximum number of touches on the ball.  Again at this age the emphasis should be on fun and participation but drills should be much more realistic and game orientated.

12 - 16 Year Olds

This is generally known as the Youth Development Phase