Characteristics of U8 Players


         Attention span is a bit longer than U-6 players but still not at a "competitive" stage

         Inclined towards small group activities.

         Always in motion: scratching; blinking; jerking; rocking....

         Easily bruised psychologically. They will remember negative comments for a long time. Shout praise. Give "hints".

         They want everybody to like them.

         Developing physical confidence. (Most are able to ride a two-wheeler.)

         Starting to imitate older players or sports heros. Want the same "gear" as them.

         Lack sense of pace. They go flat out until they drop.

         Skeletal system growing rapidly. Often results in apparent lack of coordination.

         Cardiovascular and temperature regulation system is not developed. Their heart rate peaks quickly and they overheat quickly. Make sure they get adequate water breaks.

         Limited understanding with personal evaluation. "If they try hard, they performed well" regardless of the actual performance. Thus, they need to be encouraged constantly, and asked "Now, can you do this?"

         Better at recognizing when the ball is out of play, and remembering what goal they are going for... but, in the heat of battle, they will sometimes still forget. They still find it difficult to really be aware of more than one thing at a time.


Things You Can Expect


6, 7, and 8 year old players are a bit more compliant than their U-6 counterparts. They will be able to follow 2 or 3 step instructions and are starting to have a good understanding about what it means to play a "game". They are also starting to cooperate more with their teammates. In fact, they now will recognize that they even have teammates by the fact that they occasionally, and I mean occasionally, will pass the ball to a teammate, on purpose. Often, they will repeat the phrase "I can't do that!", but, will quickly run to you to show you that they can, even when they only think that they can. Some other things that you can expect to happen during a season with this age group are:

         There will be at least 200-300 falls during the season, but now they will usually pick themselves back up.

         The puddle in front of the goal is still too tempting to resist.

         Keep a spare pump in your bag, as the players usually do not realize that their ball is flat until they try to kick it, or the coach tells them that it is flat.

         Some of the girls are a lot tougher than the boys.

         They will still want to wear a pinnie, even when the color is identical to their shirt.

         It will be impossible to remember who is who's best friend as you try to make up teams.

         School conflicts will come up... please, let them go (they must face their teachers five days a week).

         They will wear their uniform to bed.


U8 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 #3 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 'losing' 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.