PCSI Player Development Guide

(With excerpts from the Oklahoma Soccer Association U-6 to U-10 Player Development Guide)

The Purpose of this Guide is to: provide guidance and leadership for youth parent coaches as they go about their primary mission – developing players.


• to have fun
• to keep the kids playing the game
• to focus on developing players so they can play at the level they aspire to
• coaching goals and emphasis on game day should be focused on promoting player improvement, and not be focused on win/loss
• positive reinforcement is essential


• make practices enjoyable
• be prepared – plan practices prior to starting
• ensure every player must have a ball at their feet during practice
• aim for a high level of activity and a minimum amount of time spent standing in lines
• maximum number of touches on the ball by every player should be a major goal of all activities
• primarily coach technical skills rather than focusing on team tactics
• recognize that from their first practice onward, each skill builds upon a previous one therefore learn how perform, demonstrate, and teach each technical skill properly (it is easier to teach it properly now than to correct a bad habit later)
• practice should start off simple, and increase in difficulty – think simple to complex – first teach the skill in its most basic form and progressively increase difficulty or speed -activities which use that skill should progress more and more to a game like atmosphere
• end all practice sessions with the game- end practice with a scrimmage
• remember that the game is it’s own best teacher
• enlist parental support of the above principles and goals early on and expect everyone to maintain a positive, supportive attitude

Characteristics of U5/U6 & Primary U5/U6 Training Focus:

U5/U6 – Introduction to the Ball:

Soccer at this age group provides an introduction to the sport for all players.
Players must be introduced to simple ball mastery, i.e. ball control, dribbling, shooting, and basic body movements. They must be introduced to the ball in as dynamic environment as possible. The catch phrase which categorizes this age is, “My Ball and Me”. The basic body movements include hopping, skipping, jumping, balancing activities, etc…
The ‘Player’ is the focus. The concept of team and team results are not important at this age group. Our positive introduction of the game to ALL players will provide a foundation that grows into lifetime passion for the game. *

Characteristics of U5/U6 Players:

• focus is on themselves
• enjoy playing, not watching
• players look for coach’s approval – praise players frequently!
• limited attention span (15 seconds for listening; 10-15 minutes when doing a task)
• effort equals performance – if they have tried hard, they believe they have done well
• unable to think abstractly (teaching tactical and spatial patterns on the field is unrealistic)
• everything is about ‘here and now’ – they live in the moment

U5/U6 PRACTICES – General Points:

• Practices should be fun and have an environment to foster creativity and learning.

• Team play is very difficult to understand for kids this age.

• Do not dwell on passing. Children at this age have limited spatial awareness and tend to focus on what is in their immediate vicinity.

• Development of motor skills and coordination is crucial. Hopping, jumping, skipping, kicking, throwing, stretching, balancing, etc.

• Most important skill to be taught is dribbling, or moving with the ball.

o use all parts of the foot, i.e.: inside, outside, sole, instep
o both right and left foot!!!
o dribbling forward
o changing speed and direction
o shielding the ball from opponents
o dribbling past an opponent and away from opponents (i.e. into space or shielding)
o soft first touch (from balls on the ground)
o use target games for passing and shooting
o maximize the number of touches on the ball through activity repetition with many ‘ball each’ exercises
o lots of dribbling games
o reward creativity with dribbling, and changes of direction
o be content to dwell & spend time on personal ball skills early on (especially throughout the entire length of this age group) – later success will depend greatly on this foundation
o no positional play
o NO LINES UPS!!!(as in relays – have 5 lines of 2 instead of 2 lines of 5)
o every practice should include a scrimmage at the end
o practices should run 45-60 minutes with breaks

Characteristics of U7/U8 & Primary U7/U8 Training Focus:

U7/U8 – Introduction to Partnering and Experimenting with Group Play:
The ‘Player will continue to be the primary focus with this age group. The concept of team and team results are not important at this age group.

Players at this age group must refine the concept of “My Ball and Me” and be able to experiment with cooperative partnered activities and the associated techniques – “My Partner and our Ball”. These techniques are dribbling, passing, receiving, and shooting.*

Characteristics of U7/U8 players:

• play well in pairs
• limited attention span (15-20 seconds listening; up to 20 minutes for tasks)
• extremely aware of adult approval
• wide range of abilities at this age
• still unable to think abstractly (do not make drills too complex)
• multiple touches on the ball is still prime goal of drills
• focus on proper form when teaching individual skills is critical
• not generally able to conceptualize the field of play beyond their next closest teammate

U7/U8 PRACTICES – General Points:

• Always enjoyable, and have an environment to foster creativity and learning

• Coaches need a high tolerance for mistakes and trial and error

• Continue technical skill development and development of coordination

• Passing and receiving, while introduced at this age group, should not be stressed at the expense of  individual ball control skills introduced in the earlier age groups,  (i.e. dribbling and starting/stopping with the ball under control, using all parts of their foot, etc..)  Proper form should be a focus when teaching passing, receiving, and shooting, with specific attention paid to how to strike the ball properly with each foot surface, driving the ball with the instep when shooting or passing at longer distances, and focus on maintaining space above ball, balance, follow thru, good first touch, etc…)

• Passing and receiving, as well as refinement of shooting technique, however, should definitely begin to be introduced. Focus on controlling,  stopping and/or striking a moving ball (i.e. Stress importance of a good first touch, both a soft touch to keep ball at feet, and initial first touch to space away from pressure or into desired direction of play.)

• Running with ball at speed, sharp changes of direction and pace, proper shielding of ball from opponents while maintaining openness to the field of play (shield while facing opponent using good first touch and cuts, instead of back to opponent and to field of play) – take opponent on, using your skills

• Depending on skill level, may introduce basic control of balls in the air (trapping using feet, thigh, head, and chest. Focus should be on “softness” of receiving surface, thus facilitating the trapping of the ball to immediate area around feet to maintain possession and control.)

• Introduce 3 main scenarios in soccer:
o our team has the ball
o our team does not have the ball
o transition between possession and loss of possession

• games and activities at this level should primarily be focused on the 1v1, 2v2, & 2v1 level of difficulty – master the possibilities of what “me and my partner” can do with “our ball” against an opponent

• LIMIT STANDING IN LINES (as in relays-have 6 lines of 2 not 2 lines of 6)

• No positional play but by U8 initially introduce ideas relating to shape on the field (width, depth, movement). Introduce shape concepts of triangles (width with options left and right of the ball) and diamonds (width and depth)

• Every practice should end in a scrimmage

• Practices should be 60- NO MORE THAN 90 minutes with breaks

Characteristics of U9/U10 & Primary U9/U10 Training Focus:

U9/U10 – Foundation Development for Group Play:
In this age group, our focus still remains squarely on the development of the ‘Player’. Players of this age should be introduced to using their developing skill sets within the concept of “team interaction”. There is major difference between team performance and team results. How the team works together as a ‘bunch’ of small and large groups is an area for potential evaluation. Team results are not important and not an appropriate developmental indicator.

This is the critical age for appropriate long-term development and later participation in the full sided game. Players at this age group must refine the concepts of “My Ball and Me” & “My Partner and our Ball” and be exposed to cooperative small-group activities and the associated techniques – “Small Groups and their Ball’.

Continuing the enhancement of the foundation techniques at this age group is pivotal. These basic techniques are passing, receiving, dribbling, and shooting. Additional techniques can be introduced at this age group. These are basic goal keeping skills, heading, tackling, and longer passing.

While learning and expanding on foundation technical skills for the game, players must be introduced to the Principles of Play. The teaching and playing environment for the U10 player must be dynamic and allow the player many realistic repetitions.*

Characteristics of U9/U10 players

• attention span and ability to stay on task lengthens

• begin to think ahead (cause and effect)

• Start to recognize fundamental tactical concepts like pressuring opponent with ball, moving ball to open space or players, recognizing options and making correct choices.

• Begin to teach concepts of movement away from ball (to offer support)

• Spatial awareness evident (width, depth, support)

• Wide range of maturity at these ages – continue to be aware of wide range of capabilities both physically and mentally

• Crucial age for technical skill development – they are on the doorstep of the Golden Age of Learning, ages 11 and 12

• Motor skills becoming more refined. It is realistic to expect ongoing improvement in shooting, passing, dribbling techniques.

U9/U10 PRACTICES – General Points:

• need to continue to focus on refining technique during practices

• maximum repetition of technical skills is key (no lineups)

• begin to introduce more game like situations through the introduction of small group drills 2v2, 3v3, & 4v4 conditioned games, possession/keep away activities

• individual attacking and defending games should continue with the 1v1 & 2v2 concept, but expanded to 3v3, 3v2, 3v3+1, 4v3, & 4v4 and build upon team shape concepts of width (triangles) and width + depth (diamonds)

• learn to control ball with all parts of the body from the ground and air and control to feet (maintain possession and ability to continue with dribble)

• dribbling continues to be a huge part of practices especially under game like pressure – develop more advanced fakes and feints and gradually increase pressure under which they are performed – continue to refine and praise use of various cuts, step-overs, scissors, etc., learned at earlier ages

• all technical skills learned at earlier ages should be refined by increasing both speed and pressure

• stronger and accurate passes (10-15 yards) using all parts of the foot, inside, outside and instep of BOTH feet

• perform accurate passes at speed, with proper pace, on the dribble

• introduce juggling – start simple- 1 touch, then catch, 2 touches, then catch, etc., progress to multiple uninterrupted touches and multiple body surfaces

• introduce proper form for heading and concepts of attacking & defensive headers

• Introduce Basic Tactical Ideas:

o goal side of attacker while defending and cutting off the path to the goal
o ball side of attackers making runs to interrupt passing lanes
o idea of supporting teammate who has the ball (width, depth, support)
o play the ball away from pressure
o movement off the ball to create attacking space
o wall passes, 1-2, give and go, overlaps
o gaining numbers up in attack
o handling numbers down on defense
o group defending, balance, pressure on ball, cover, & compactness

• practices should end with a scrimmage

• practices should run 60-90 minutes with breaks

*Excerpted or paraphrased from the Oklahoma Soccer Association Under 6 to Under 10 Player Development Guide
For a complete copy of the Oklahoma Soccer Association U6 – U10 Player Development Guide, Click here