A crucial area of development with 12 & under soccer players is the development of physical literacy. This is critical for the overall enjoyment of soccer and sport in general but also for development of top players. The development of overall athleticism and fundamental movement, motor and sport skills is a priority during these stages.
Physical literacy is composed of three fundamental skills:
- Movement: running, jumping, throwing, catching, striking an object, wheeling.
- Motor: agility, balance, coordination.
- Sport: balance, lateral movement, hitting, throwing.
If the fundamental motor skills are not developed between the ages of 9 to 12 for boys and 8 to 11 for girls respectively, skills cannot be fully recaptured at a later time (although carefully planned and early remedial programmes can contribute to limited success).
It is obvious then that to become physically literate, children need to master fundamental movement skills. For almost every skill, the developing child needs to go through a series of developmental stages.
Prepuberty, puberty, and postpuberty are a simple way to describe different development stages. Since each stage is very general and not very specific to athletic populations, different models of the Long-Term Player Development have been utilized to offer a more strategic approach to the athletic development of youth.
No matter the model used, coaches should be aware of the fact that the most essential component of an effective training programme is the concept of individualization and that any programme should have a holistic approach in order to encompass some of key interdisciplinary perspectives for sport and soccer development.
Some coaches feel that 12 and U12 players do not need training plans. This is not true. Even at the initial stages of player development a specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout a player’s career.
Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long-term rather than winning in the short-term. There is no short-cut to success in athletic preparation!
Optimal windows of trainability are critical stages during which training produces the greatest benefit to each player’s long-term development. Coaches should ensure that players are exposed to the adequate training contents at the right stage.
|-Boys: between 6-10 years of age;
-Girls: between 6-10 years of age;
Agility and speed
|-Boys: between 7-9 years of age;
-Girls: between 6-8 years of age;
|-Boys: between 9-12 years of age;
-Girls: between 8-11 years of age;
|-Boys: between 6-18 months after Peak High Velocity;
-Girls: immediately after Peak High Velocity;
|-Before players reach Peak High Velocity.|
It is crucial to note that, in the development process of children, they are responsive to particular stimuli that facilitate the development of a specific physical capacity or quality at different points during the biological maturation process. The stimuli that each child is presented with, should be specific to that individual.
It has been shown that there can be extreme variability in rates and timing of growth and maturation among soccer players. Due to this, it is crucial to be aware of the athlete’s status with regard to puberty, so that care and consideration can be given to the progression and intensity of physical workouts.
It is important to understand that once puberty begins, the biological age of each individual is more important than chronological age. Most training and competition plans refer to chronological ages, however, these should be used as general.
Competitive activities should be at the core of all fundamental motor skills programmes. Coaches should ensure that players remain motivated and challenged by games and exercises that emphasise enjoyment, personal improvement and 100% effort. Giving 100% while learning from wins and losses, will build character in a young soccer player.
For the young soccer player, an understanding of growth and development needs to be at the forefront of any training and competition programme. It is a long process of development and requires patience, especially as a child is going through the initial stages of their life.
All involved should be aware of the importance of introducing the adequate contents by using the appropriate methods while respecting the individual characteristics of each soccer player.
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