CHARACTERISTICS OF U - 12 PLAYERS:
· They begin to develop the abilities to sustain complex, coordinated skill sequences.
· 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.
INVOLVING THE PARENTS
It is imperative that coaches get the parents involved. Not only are they are a major resource for your team, but U-12 player still relies on their parents for support and encouragement. A pre-season meeting should be held with
the parents so that objectives and team policies can be addressed. Some topics that you may want to address at
this meeting are:
· A means of contacting everyone without one person doing all of the calling. (phone chains)
· Choosing a team administrator, someone to handle all of the details.
· Complete all paperwork required by your league or club. ¨ Discuss the laws of the game.
· Carpool needs.
· Training and game schedules. How you feel about starting and ending on time, what your attendance
expectations are, what you think is a good excuse to miss training.
· What each player should bring to training: inflated ball, filled water bottle, soccer attire, shin guards cleats
· Most importantly, your philosophy about coaching U-12 players. Let them know that everyone plays; that
the game does not look like the older player's games; that you are there to ensure that their player is safe
and has a good time, as well as learn about soccer.
· What your expectations for them is during game time. How do you want them to cheer? Do they know that
they should not coach from the sidelines?
· Above all, try to enjoy yourself. If you do, they probably will too.
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. 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, sweatsuits, 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.
Coaching at this age level is a challenge because many of the players view themselves as real soccer players,
while others are at the point where it is not as much fun as it used to be because they feel that their lack of skill
development does not enable them to have an impact on the game. They see their skillful friends able to do
magical things with the ball and since they can not do this themselves, they start to drop out. Our challenge then, the players are willing, is to keep all of the players engaged, involved, and make them feel important. (as though
they are improving.) Skills still need to be the primary focus of training and players need to be put into
environments where they are under pressure so that they learn how to use their skills in a variety of contexts. Here
are a few other considerations as we think about working with this aged youngster:
· Our goal is to develop players in a fun, engaging environment. Winning has its place but must be balanced
with the other goals of teaching them to play properly. Some decisions will need to be made that might not
necessarily lead to wins (ie: having players play different positions, or asking players to try to play the ball
"out of the back".)
· Smaller, skilled players can not be ignored. Although it may be tempting to "win" by playing only the bigger
players in key positions, the smaller, skilled players must be put into areas of responsibility.
· Small sided games are still the preferred method of teaching the game. This makes learning fun and more
· Flexibility training is essential. Have them stretch after they have broken a sweat, and, perhaps most
importantly, at the end of the workout at a "warm-down".
· Overuse injuries, burnout and high attrition rates are associated with programs that do not emphasize skill
development and learning enjoyment.
· Playing 11-a-side games is now appropriate.
· Single sexed teams are appropriate.
· Train for one and one-half hours, two to three times a week. Training pace needs to replicate the demands
of the game itself.
· They are ready to have a preferred position, but, it is essential for their development for them to
occasionally play out of their preferred spot, in training, as well as during games.
· Training is now best if it focuses on one, perhaps two topics a session. Activities should be geared to
progressing from fundamental activities that have little or no pressure from an opponent to activities that
are game like in their intensity and pressure.
TYPICAL TRAINING SESSION
Here are some items that should be included in a U-12 training session:
A brief warm-up is appropriate in order to get the players thinking about soccer and to prepare them physically for
the time ahead. This should involve individual or small group activities that involve the ball. Since there can be one
theme to the session, hopefully, the warm-up will lead into the theme of the day. Static stretching is also
appropriate at this time, after the players have broken a sweat, again, hopefully done with the ball. The warm-up
should get the players ready to play. It should be lively, fun, and engaging as well as instructional. There is nothing
like a good, fast-paced activity to grab the player's attention and make them glad that they came to practice.
INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUP ACTIVITIES:
Follow the warm-up with some kind of individual activity, not necessarily a real 1v.1 game, but some kind of activity
where players act as individuals or cooperate in small groups in a game environment. An example would be a kind
of keep-away game, or small sided games that bring out or emphasize a specific skill or topic. Keep players in
motion at all times. Avoid having them wait on lines. Play games of "inclusion" instead of games where the "looser
sits". Be creative. These players like "crazy" games with a lot of action.
PLAY THE GAME:
Small sided soccer can be used to heighten intensity and create some good competition. Play 4v.4 up to 8v.8. Be
creative. Play with 4 goals, or 2 balls. Play with or without boundaries. Perhaps play to emphasize a particular skill
(can only dribble the ball over a goal line in order to get a point). Use cones if you don't have real goals. Keep
players involved. Have more than one game going on at a time if necessary. Switch teams often, give everyone chance to win. Also, it is important that every player has a chance to shoot on goal as often as possible. Finish this
stage with a real game with regular rules. Players need to apply their newly learned abilities to the real game.
WARM-DOWN & HOMEWORK:
Finish the session with a warm down. Give them some more stretches to do with the ball. You may want to review
what you started the session with. Also, give them some homework so that they practice on their own. Challenge
them with some ball trick. Can they complete a juggling pattern? Can one player kick a ball to a partner and then
back without it hitting the ground? Can they do that with their heads? How many times can they do it back and
forth? It is important to finish on time. This is especially essential if the players are really into it. Stop at this point
and you will get an enthusiastic return.
U-12 TRAINING IDEA
Here is a good warm-up that will get players prepared for a session on passing and receiving skills. It is an
example of how players can be challenged in an environment that is dynamic and can demand specific, targeted
technique that has direct implications to the demands placed upon players during the real game. Since there is pressure from an opponent, it is appropriate to use this activity during the warm-up.
· Assign each player a number.
· Players pass the ball to the player with the # one higher than their own # (eg: 5 passes to 6, 11 to 1.)
· All balls travel through the entire team.
· After they pass a ball, they must run to a different spot on the field.
· Players are first allowed unlimited touches, then only two touches, then one touch if they area able.
· Ask the players not to let the ball stop, or to let their pass hit other players or balls.
TRY THESE VARIATIONS:
· Left foot only.
· Outside of foot only.
· No talking allowed.
ASK THE PLAYERS TO:
· Make eye contact with the person they are passing to.
· Perform good passing technique.
· Keep their body and vision open to the field of play.
· Keep the person they are passing to in their line of sight.
· Be active. Look like a soccer player.
U-12 TRAINING IDEA
'CORNER GOAL GAME'
Here is a game that can be used in the middle phases of the training session. This game involves passing and
receiving skills and is also a good activity for showing players the benefits of 'spreading out'. It is a dynamic game
with a lot of running. It provides a lot of 'puzzles' for players to figure out and demands that they cooperate.
· Set up the field as shown on approximately half-field, depending on how many players are on your team.
(16 players shown. It is OK if one team has an extra player. If there is an odd # of players on the team, gives the players a different puzzle to solve.)
· 10 yd. 'squares' are set up in each corner.
· Goals are scored when the ball is passed into the square and then out to a teammate.
· Each team can attack any one of the four goals.
· Whoever has the ball is on offense until they loose possession, or if they kick it out of bounds.
· Score can be kept.
· Play with two balls at once to make the game exciting. (This will actually make the game two, separate
smaller games going on at the same time.)
· Ask the players to keep spread out and to try to attack the goal that is 'open'. Keep possession, make the
other team earn the ball. See if the players can recognize where pressure is coming from.
Written by Jeff Pill, NHSA Director of Coaching. Special thanks to
Dr. Thomas Fleck and the National Youth Coaching Staff, Bill Buren,
Dr. David Carr, Dr. Ronald Quinn, Virgil Stringfield.
This article was taken directly from the New Hampshire Soccer Association website
OYSA Coaching Manual
Fitness for the U11/U12 Player
This coaching manual is provided through the graciousness of the Oregon Youth Soccer Association. They have
allowed us to reprint it here. The majority of the information is here but because of its large size we have deleted
some of the references to local (Oregon) rules. You are encouraged to print it out for your personal use. It is a
very thorough guide for both recreational and competitive soccer coaches, players, trainers, managers and
parents. This manual represents a lot of time and effort by OYSA. If you would like to view this document in its
entirety it is available at the Oregon Youth Soccer Association's fine website. Please leave them a note if you
visit their site thanking them for the use of this document.
Fitness and Conditioning
for the U11 and U12 Player
At this age, all fitness and conditioning should be done creatively with a ball. The level of play and the age of the
players will determine how much conditioning is needed. Most players will be fairly fit from their recreational
pursuits, and will derive fitness from properly organized soccer training sessions. Hopefully the players have
already been "conditioned" to stretch both before and after training and matches. If this is not the case, the U12
coach should reinforce this.
Stretching Increases Performance
It is fairly obvious that reduced flexibility will decrease performance. Good flexibility produces better mechanical
functioning of joints and muscles. Increased flexibility will give the muscle power a longer range, which leads to higher final speed of motion. Most professional athletes perform lengthy stretching routines daily.
It is known that it is better to have greater flexibility for strength training. As far back as 1951, H E. Billig
demonstrated that muscles that have been lightly stretched can perform stronger contractions. The stretching
method of tighten-relax-stretch also gives some strength training for muscles. This ‘Isometric’ technique used for
muscle tightening has been shown to be the method that develops the greatest power generation, when you
compare different types of muscle work.
Flexibility training also increases the metabolism in the muscle, tendons and surrounding soft tissues. This is an
advantage during work periods, but stretching after practice can also reduce the risk of aches later. Muscle
soreness (and other pain connected to physical activity) is significantly reduced or disappears when the training
includes stretching exercises. In conclusion, speed, strength and precision are all improved.
Stretching Prevents Injuries
It is important that your training be both effective and free of risk. All training, especially strength training and
endurance training, produce shortened muscles. Studies show that a single session of strength training can
diminish flexibility as much as 5-13% for a period of at least 48 hours. Poor flexibility can cause improper stress joints and muscles. The risk of injuries, especially tears and inflammation, increases considerably when the
muscles are shortened and stiff. This is due to the fact that during training, the durability of tendons, ligaments and
bones does not increase as fast as the strength of muscles, since these tissues have a slower metabolism than muscles.
Muscles with a postural function, especially the extensor muscles, contain more of the above mentioned connective
tissue structures and have a greater tendency to be shortened. Typical muscles that have a tendency to be tight
are the muscle in the back of the thigh (hamstring), the muscle on the inside of the groin (adductors), the calf
muscle, the big hip bending muscle (iliopsoas), together with the great chest muscles and the back extensor
muscles. There is a definite correlation between shortened groin muscles and the occurrence of injuries among
soccer players. Injuries on tendon and muscle attachments decrease significantly when stretching is done
according to the tighten-relax-stretch method, parallel to other training.
The following sheet contains eight warm-up/cool down stretches for sets of muscles that are most commonly
shortened by athletic participation. The basic principle is this: after a muscle contraction (without shortening)
against resistance, is that the muscle is relaxed first, then stretched. When the muscle works with resistance, it still warming up. This is actually the most specific form of a muscle warm-up. The stronger the muscle contraction,
the higher the temperature, and in our stretching method, the contraction (tightening) is always as strong as
possible. This type of muscle warm-up is of great benefit and should always precede the stretching of muscles. addition, it is known that the stronger the contraction, the greater the muscle relaxation in the next phase. This is
also an advantage, since the muscle should be as relaxed as possible during the stretch.
To learn more about the tighten-relax-stretch method, please try to attend the Care & Prevention module of our
State Coaching Licenses.
WARM-UP / COOL DOWN STRETCHES
(RELAX BETWEEN A and B)
FORWARD MOVERS OF THE ARM
Function: Moves the lifted arm forward
B. Clasp your hands behind your neck and hold them against your head. Let your practice partner
hold your elbows forward for approximately 20 seconds.
Passive stretching by having your practice partner pull the elbows
backwards and keeping the position for approximately 20
THE CALF MUSCLES
Functions: Bend (downward) all the joints of the foot and the ankle
B. Stand as high as possible on the tip of your toes for 20-30 seconds, preferably with hand support
for better balance. To get maximum results, push in the opposite direction with your arms up
against the door frame, bar or partner.
Stand with your feet close together and lean your straight body
forward against a wall, partner, etc. supporting against the wall far
enough so that the tightening can be felt in the calf, and keep it
there for 20-30 seconds.
THE DEEP BACK MUSCLES
THE EXTERIOR LAYER
Function: Extend the back, bend the spinal column backwards
B. Lie down on your back, pull up your knees and grab them with your hands. Push your buttocks to the floor
and press your knees downwards as hard as possible using your hands as resistance, for approximately
Pull your knees up as far possible against your chin and keep the position for 20 seconds.
THE DEEP HIP BENDING MUSCLES
Function: Bend at the hip
Stand with one foot relatively far behind you and rest your hands on the other knee, chair or
partner. Press the back leg "through the floor" as hard as possible for 20-30 seconds.
Move your hip forward, keeping the upper body straight up and the back leg stretched out. Feel the
tightening of the hip and keep the position for 20 seconds. The stretch can be accentuated by
putting the back knee on the ground. Note: Don’t keep the front knee at such an angle that it is
front of the ankle, since this hinders the real stretch in the hip.
THE HAMSTRING MUSCLES
THE BACK OF THE THIGH
Function: Extend (and move toward) the hip and bend knee
Stand on one knee and keep the other leg straight out in front of
you with your heel against the floor. Press the stretched out leg as
hard as possible against the floor for 20 seconds. Hold until the
back of the thigh is tightened.
Fold your upper body forward over the straight leg and keep your
back as straight as possible. Keep your hands behind your back if
you like. Feel the stretch in the back of the thigh. Keep the stretch
for 20 seconds.
THE MUSCLES IN FRONT OF THE THIGH AND HIP
Function: Bend the hip and extend the knee
Stand on your knees with your ankles stretched backwards. (Point
your toes straight back). Fold your straight upper body backwards
and keep it in a position where you can feel the tension in front of
the thigh for 20 seconds.
Fold your upper body further backwards and support yourself with
hands on the floor behind your body. Move your hips up as far as
possible and feel the tightening on the front of the thigh and stay
in that position for 20 seconds.
THE MUSCLES IN THE FRONT OF THE LOWER LEG
Function: Bend upward (extend) in the ankle and the toe joints
Tighten the upward extensor muscles of the feet (that counteract the calf muscles) as hard as
possible with resistance, for example, by standing on the heels and raising the toes up as far as
possible, preferably with a heavy piece of furniture for resistance. Note: you can have a partner
hold your feet while you are seated.
Sit down on your knees with your heels under your buttocks, and your toes pointing straight back.
Keep the position for 20 seconds. The exercise can be accentuated by leaning your body
THE GROIN MUSCLES (THE INSIDE OF THE THIGH) – THE ADDUCTORS
Function: Move the hip (bend and rotate outward)
Sit on the floor with knees bent and move your feet back towards your buttocks. Keep your knees
apart by holding your ankles or by placing a ball between your knees or (as in the diagram) by
placing your forearms straight across. Press your knees against each other as hard as possible for
Move your heels towards your buttock by pulling your ankles closer. Push lightly with your elbows
to move your knees out to the sides as far as possible. Bend your upper body slightly forward and
keep the stretch (which will be felt along the insides of the thighs for 20 seconds.
To take players to the next level of conditioning, the coach needs to provide a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic
activities. Soccer is an anaerobic game for aerobically conditioned athletes.
Anaerobic training has to be done at intervals and should raise heartbeat to 90-100% of maximum. As a general
rule, maximum heartbeat = 220 - the player’s age. Interval training, should begin with a ratio of rest periods to work
of 4:1 during the warm-up, building to 1:1 at the end of the training session. A coach can measure his players’
fitness over a season by timing the length of time it takes the player’s heartbeat to recover to normal from a
maximum work rate. This time should decrease as the season progresses!
For the U12 player, the coach should concentrate on ball gymnastics and fitness with a ball. Included below are
some excellent activities to encourage flexibility and explosive power (anaerobic exercise).
I. Warm up
These are some fun exercises for U11/U12 players during a warm up to get the heart rate going. The coach must
remember to have the players STRETCH intermittently. Remember that the rest rate:work rate ratio at this stage
should be about 4:1. A player may juggle, stretch or jog lightly at rest.
o Bounce ball and get player to jump (bounce) at the same time
o Throw ball up (forward), get on toes, move and control with instep
o Pass ball over head, from hand to hand using straight arms
o From a sitting position, throw ball up, stand up and catch before bouncing
o Same as above, only roll over, get eye back on ball and catch
o From a standing position, throw ball up, sit down, stand up and control with foot
o Same as above, only get into a push up position, get eye on ball and control
o Same as above, only roll over, get eye back on ball and catch
o Hop two-footed sideways over ball, the back to starting position, repeat
o For goalkeepers, sit back to back with a partner, hold a ball in two hands, then twist trunk to side order to pass ball to partner, repeat to other side, increase speed
II. Fundamental (Small group activity)
Included are some basic exercises for explosive power, within a group. Work periods of 30 seconds are usually
appropriate. Remember that the rest rate:work rate ratio at this stage should be about 3:1. A player may juggle,
stretch or jog lightly at rest.
o Play pass to partner, sprint 10 yards at an angle, look to receive, partner does same
o Play ball through partners legs, sprint around and repeat, count number in 30 seconds
o Same as above, only have partner on all fours, and jump over to retrieve ball
o Player shadows partner, at freeze, if he is over a certain distance away, gets exercise
o Playing 1 v 1 for a period of 30 seconds in a restricted area
o Same as above only include target players in corners for wall passes
o Same as above only introducing scoring on a certain diagonal
o Player sprints 5 yards between 2 servers, playing alternate feet passes back to server
o Playing keep away in an appropriate sized area, either 3 v 1, or 5 v 2
o Player sprints (__ times) around circle of teammates, all attempting one touch passes to player center. If the player completes his/her sprint before the team completes all their passes, he/she
wins. The winner chooses an exercise for other(s)
III. Match related (Large group activity)
Included are some ideas for match related larger group activity.
o (7 v 7) in an area 50 x 30, line 6 cones up just in front of either end line. If a team can knock over
one of their opponents’ cones and keep the ball in play then the team is awarded one point
o (7 v 7) each player is paired with an opponent, who is the only person able to tackle him/her, open
up space with sprint runs, spread out and play to two goals
o (7 v 7) start with a goal in the middle of each half, facing the end lines, start with ball in middle, team has to break out of middle to score into goal
o For variation, award 3 points if the whole team were goal side when goal was scored
** EACH COACH SHOULD COME UP WITH THEIR OWN UNIQUE GAMES **