Characteristics of U12 Player

·         They begin to develop the abilities to sustain complex, coordinated skill sequences.

·         Increased ability to acquire and apply knowledge.

·         Some of the players have reached puberty. Girls, in general, arrive earlier than boys.

·         Most players are able to think abstractly and are thus able to understand some team concepts that are foundational to the game.

·         They are beginning to be able to address hypothetical situations, and to solve problems systematically.

·         They are spending more time with friends and less time with their parents. They are susceptible to conformity to peer pressure.

·         They are developing a conscience, morality and scale of values.

·         Players tend to be highly self-critical. Instruction needs to be enabling. Show them what can be done instead of telling them what not to do.

·         Although they are more serious with their play, they are still mainly involved because it is fun.

·         They are openly competitive. A few may foul on purpose.

·         They are looking towards their role models and heroes in order to know how to act.

·         They have a more complex and developed sense of humor.

·         Overuse injuries, burnout and high attrition rate associated with high-intensity children’s programs.

·         The game of soccer must present the ability to think creatively and solve problems while moving



Things You Can Expect

Some coaches say that the 10 and 12 year-old players have "turned the corner" and are looking like real soccer players. However, games are still frantically paced and a bit unpredictable for the most part. These players know how much fun it is to play the game skillfully. As a result, we begin to see some the players drop out who recognize the importance of skill and become discouraged with their lack of it. This is a critical age for drop out. Players decided their own participation not solely the will of the parents. Overuse injuries and burnout are associated with high-intensity programs that fail to stress skill development and learning enjoyment. The coach not teaching or not making practices fun turn kids away from the game. Players can start to benefit from limited strength building activities. They also begin to develop abilities to sustain complex coordinated skill sequences. Players will question everything, and will begin to think in hypothetical situations. Practices should focus on problem solving while moving, while playing the game of soccer (or derivations of the game). Players decide which direction to go, whether to pass or dribble, whom to pass to, and so on. Peer pressure is significant. Team building becomes a very important consideration for the coach.


Some other things that we can expect when working with this aged player are:

·         They will yell at their teammates when they make a mistake.

·         They will openly question the referee's decisions.

·         Players will encourage each other.

·         They will pass the ball even when they know that they will not get it back.

·         Team cooperation is emerging. They will run to a spot, away from the play, even when they know that they might not get the ball.

·         They will point out inconsistencies between what you say and what you do. They are "moral watchdogs".

·         The difference in skill levels between the players is very pronounced.

·         Some players might be as big as you are, some might be half your size.

·         Not only will some of the players come to training with expensive cleats, but some will also come with matching uniforms, sweat suits, and bag.

·         Parents, during games, can be brutal. Some will yell at the referee at almost every call.

·         They will get together with their friends and be able to set up and play their own game.


U12 Coaching Rationale

Some of the players that are playing have had two years of soccer experience and thus have already touched the ball a few thousand times in their lives. This, however, does not mean that these players are ready for the mental demands of tactical team soccer. True, they do have some idea of the game, but the emphasis still needs to be placed on the individual's ability to control the ball with his/her body. They are still there to have fun, and because some of the players may be brand new to the sport, it is imperative that activities are geared towards individual success and participation.

·         Small-sided soccer is the best option for these players. Not only will they get more touches on the ball, but also, it is an easier game to understand.

·         Because of rapid growth spurts during this age, players will go through times when they seem to have lost control of their body. What they could easily do 2 weeks ago now seems unattainable. Be patient.

·         Passing is not an important part of their game, no matter how much anybody yells at them to do otherwise, it is much more fun to dribble and shoot. Let them.

·         Stretching is becoming more important, along with a good warm-up. Since the game is faster, make sure that they also have good shinguards. Safety and preventive measures take on added significance.

·         Training twice a week is plenty. Sessions need not go longer than one hour, fifteen minutes. Players should bring their own size #4 ball to training.

·         Learning how to control it should be the main objective. They need to touch the ball as many times as possible during fun activities that will engage them. Challenge them to get better by practicing on their own. There is no rule which states that they can't learn by themselves, no matter how important we think we are.

·         Incidental things are important. They are forming the habits that will impact their future participation. Ask them to take care of their equipment (water bottle included), cooperate, listen, behave, and try hard. Realize, however, that they often forget and will need to be reminded often.

·         Ask them to work with others to solve a particular challenge. Start them with just one partner and work from there. Put them into competitive environments as much as possible. This will not only keep them focused, but, it will allow the game itself to teach them. It also will keep things fun for them, and allow you to deal with issues such as 'winning' and 'loosing' which is now a very big concern for them.

·         Now it is possible to teach them positional play with the expectation that they will get it some of the time. However, it is absolutely necessary that you do not allow players to specialize in any one position. They need to learn basic principles of the game, first. Having them play all of the positions is best for their individual development. Remember, our first responsibility is to develop players and let them have fun.

·         Whenever possible, allow them to solve their own puzzles. Don't immediately give them solutions on how they can play better.