To put this information into action, we've got four top tips.
1. Play lots of games
And keep things interesting. Get your side involved in sessions, matches and tournaments. Challenge them with stronger teams and weaker teams. Even chuck them in with an older group. To learn, players need to play.
2. Explore different formats
This is about the number of people in your matches. Young players tend to start with small formats, like 3v3 or 5v5. Then, as they grow, so does the size of the game – right up to 11v11.
It's important to recognise that different formats present different challenges. So, whatever the age of your players, remember to mix things up. For example, if you work with an U12s team that plays 9v9 on matchday, use your sessions to try out 7v7 or 3v3. Alternatively, arrange other matches and give a new format a go.
3. Vary your surface
From grass to 4G, concrete to sports hall – each pitch provides a new challenge. For example, hard and smooth surfaces allow the ball to travel faster. This forces players to make quick decisions. In contrast, uneven pitches can help players develop their 'first touch'.
By switching between surfaces, players learn to manage the ball as it moves in different ways. They become more adaptable.
4. Embrace informal football
This type of football is player-led. It's a playground game or a kickabout in a cage. And it's a breeding ground for creativity.
To encourage informal play in sessions, let players make their own decisions. For example, ask them to pick teams, create a rule or choose the next activity. Alternatively, recreate street games. In many countries, this type of informal play is the bedrock of player development.
As a coach, it's essential to recognise the importance of volume and variety. The tips above will help you unlock the possibilities of a balanced football diet. To read more on this topic, check out this article.