I’m going to start this post by sharing a couple of videos I’ve recently seen being shared around the coaching community on Twitter.
This first link is to a video of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, with some clips of him as a 9 year old:
Some great individual skill shown by the young Messi, but nothing so outstanding that you couldn’t see play like that in your local park.
To show there is ability like that in the UK, here’s a link to a video of an 8 year old young footballer in the Chelsea set-up:
Messi, and others like him, didnt learn to dribble like that by having his coach making him pass it all the time at age 9.
We don’t need young kids, especially those under 10, to be passing it about like an professional adults team.
I wouldn’t go as far as to tell them not to pass, obviously, but young kids should be encouraged to keep the ball for themselves and be brave enough to take risks.
Help your kids to love the ball and give them the confidence to be able to keep it.
Kids at this young age are naturally more selfish anyway, so they’ll naturally want to keep the ball to themselves. Why should we fight this early-years instinct?
If they’re naturally going to want to dribble and keep the ball, let’s embrace this as Coaches/parents. Let them love having the ball. Let them practice the art of dribbling during the years when they’ll want to do it anyway.
Most teams in the u7-u10 age groups I’ve seen play in the last few years seem to want their kids to pass the ball every time they get it. We must remember that the whole “pass and move” idea is one that originated from, and really applies to, the adult game.
Kids under 10 don’t need to be told to get rid of the ball and pass it as soon as they get it. It’ll soon become a robotic reaction if that’s all they’re taught to do. First of all, LET THEM PLAY, don’t tell them what to do in the first place. Second of all, allow them to practice dribbling in games if they want to. In later years they’ll share the ball by passing it as they mature and their head comes up through being comfortable with the ball. And then it’s all about decision-making. But don’t force them to miss out on being able to dribble in these early years and mastering how to control and manipulate the ball.
Don’t criticise kids who try a dribble and lose the ball. Too much of that and you’ll put them off it forever and restrict their creative ability. If anything, guide them on choosing when to dribble and help give them the tools to make sure they are more successful dribblers.
Love the ball and don’t be afraid to keep it to yourself kids!