Physical development: your players' perspective

Guide 5 - 11

Children are not mini adults – and this is never more apparent than when you watch a very young team play football.

In this situation, you’re likely to see a game:

  • with no real flow, pattern or momentum
  • that’s littered with mistakes, miskicks, unusual decisions
  • where the ball is often out of play.

However untidy this looks, it’s a great reminder that your team have a lot to learn and that you should avoid imposing an adult version of the game at this age. Whenever you watch children in training and matches, remember to consider how they view the world and how they may be feeling.

To explore some common ideas and behaviours from young Foundation Phase players – and how you can provide support – select the statements below. 

How to manage this:
As a coach, your aim should be to create a playful and positive environment. Use games that are fun, active and quick - and avoid simply telling your players to run around without a purpose.

How to manage this:
Young children only have basic awareness and scanning skills; they also tend to watch the ball, rather than the larger part of the field. Whilst this is completely normal, you can help: encourage your players to take part in lots of small-sided games, which provide the opportunity to get used to 'patterns' in football. You could also ask your team to consider how different parts of the game fit together and which bits are most important.

How to manage this:
In the Foundation Phase, your players' bodies are not fully developed. As a result, you should plan the intensity and flow of your sessions. Why not try building in some 'social down-time' – it's a great way for your team to build relationships.

How to manage this:
Young children can have difficulties with some movements and techniques – you might see that they use their hands when tackling or have trouble running backwards. To provide support, make sure that your coaching includes lots of opportunities to develop physical 'literacy'.

... but I'm not that good yet.

How to manage this:
When you're working with young players, remember to keep your expectations realistic: celebrate where each child is starting from and work together to build their ability.

As a coach, it's important that you understand that your players are on a learning journey: accept each child for who they are and recognise the ability, enthusiasm and commitment they bring to your sessions.


Next steps

  • Ask your team how they feel and whether they're facing any challenges – you might be surprised by their response.
  • Take the time to listen to feedback and think about how you can best support your players.

To learn more about Foundation Phase DNA, click here.

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