After another entertaining Waltham Lions u7s game yesterday, I’m really pleased to see some of the clear progress the players are making. Not just individually, but also in beginning to play as a team.
For the last few weeks I’ve tried to ask the boys not to all run after the ball at the same time, when the opposition have the ball. I’ve explained why in as simple terms as I can, but we’ve not quite got there with it. Yesterday however, was a different story. I got the players to explain to me before the game why it’s important that we don’t all run to the ball. And after mentioning it in recent weeks and a little more in the 2v2 practices before the game, they were answering correctly, showing that they understand it; “if we all run to the ball it is easier for the other team to pass around us to their other players and they could score.”
Great answers. And it worked in the game. I don’t remember once seeing an instance where 2/3/4 of our players were chasing down the opposition player with the ball, other than in the final 5 minutes when they were just eager to get the ball back and score one more goal.
Because this aspect of the game went so well, it meant our goalkeeper’s weren’t as busy as they have been for the last few weeks. We didn’t concede as many situations where an opposition player would be one-on-one with our GK, with no-one in our defensive area and opposition players in lots of space. Because of this, I think, regular volunteer goalkeepers Ethan Lowe (a.k.a. The Cat) and Rhys Racey didn’t fancy staying in goal for longer than one of the 10 minutes quarters.
The other main point we spoke about before the game, was to not be afraid of trying any kind of skills, tricks or turns. We’ve been working on some different ways of ‘turning’ in the last few weeks at training, and while they all had a ball each pre-match, I got them to dribble around within a marked square and freestyle with some of the skills and turns, or try and invent some from their own imagination. Lucas Gill told me he was going to do one turn in particular during the game, which was encouraging and was my cue to gather them round for a quick word. I asked all the players to be confident on the ball (or “nice and relaxed” as Lucas Jex often reminds me that I tell him during the game), to not worry about losing the ball because if we lose it we’ll just all try hard to get it back, and to have a go at doing some of the turns and skills that we’ve been doing in training. We had another minute or two of this freestyle practice in the square while other players told me what they were going to try and do during the game too which was great.
During the game we had Lucas Gill, continuing to grow in confidence, doing a couple of dragback turns when under pressure from two players. I think after the second one we may have lost the ball as he eventually got crowded out by more players, but I was quick to praise what he had just done as not only did he do it well, I want to make sure he isn’t afraid to do it again, and again and again.
Lucas Jex, buzzing with confidence after blasting an absolute rocket into the top corner of the net from about 20 yards out, also had a moment where he was our ‘last man’ chasing back to get a loose ball, when he took two opposition players out of the game with a quick stop turn, which started another one of his mazy runs. He later added a 2nd goal with a clinical finish after mesmerising the defender with some ‘lollypops’.
Leyton Bolton showed his usual George Best-like close control in dribbling past players and also having the awareness to know it is when a good time to pass. He took a few kicks during the game but as I told him afterwards, that will happen when other players just can’t get the ball off him, so to take it as a compliment.
Oliver Hendry, who was asking for goal-line technology after thinking he’d scored a last minute goal, showed his confidence in running with the ball in the lead up to goal-machine Rhys Racey’s 13th goal of the season. Rhys also kept a ‘clean sheet’ during his spell in goal, for a good all-round contribution.
Ben Crolla was heavily involved as ever, having one run from his own half to get into a shooting position where he was unlucky to hit the side-netting. He was also involved in a great passing move with Leyton Bolton which nearly brought a goal.
Ethan Lowe showed he is more than just the best best goalkeeper in Grimsby’s Under 7’s League (and possibly the whole world if you listen to his Waltham Lions teammates) with some good defending at the start of the match, along with carrying out his role as self-appointed on-pitch organiser, telling team-mates to mark players and making sure only one player chased the ball at a time. He then followed this up with some confident play as a striker later on, almost scoring a goal himself.
So after the two main points before the game being avoiding crowding and chasing together, and having a go at some of the turns and ways of dribbling we’ve been working on in training, it was great to see the boys put in a great effort to do both and do them very well too.
Only one more game before the Xmas break now, long may the progress continue. I can also commend our players and also the watching parents in allowing our boys to make their own decisions and to play in a way that will benefit them in years to come. I could hear shouts of “whack it forward” and “big kick up” from further down the touchline yesterday, and I’m pleased we don’t have that apparent ‘need’ to win in a friendly under 7s match, as we continue to show signs that in a few years we will be playing football in an entertaining way, within an environment where the kids are making their own decisions as opposed to being told who to pass to or what to do.
Up the Lions!