[U5/U6 Psycho-Social Considerations]
Players in this age group are egocentric – possessing a “me, my, mine” mentality. Young children usually do not play “together”. Instead, they play “next to one another” and do not necessarily interact by formulating ideas together as they play. Additionally, empathy or the capacity to consider the thoughts and feelings of others is very low.
The previously described psychosocial reality is called “parallel play”. Each child is engaged in his or her own game and is not sharing or cooperating in a game. Players in these age groups swarm around and go after the ball because it is the only toy on the field. They have not yet mastered the social skill of sharing, hence passing the ball (sharing) tends to occur by chance. All adults around the field when these age groups are playing must realize the children are not small adults. Why should the children suddenly display the social skill of sharing when they do not yet truly display that ability in any other setting?
During a 3v3 game, a typical 4/5 year old perceives the environment as 1v5 or “me vs whoever else is playing”. Consequently, during a 3 vs 3match, the player needs and want to focus on the task at hand which is “trying to control the ball.” Unfortunately, they are often distracted by adults yelling from the touchline and become overstimulated which in negatively affects their attentional focus. The goal is to allow their brains to begin mapping the movement of multiple people/objects and while learning how to control their own body within that environment. If adults want to help the children play their best, they should refrain from yelling instruction and remain mostly quiet while watching them learn the game. Encouraging and reinforcing effort is the productive communication focus for parents if they desire to interact with the environment in a positive fashion.
[U7/U8 Psycho-Social Considerations]
Players in this age group continue with a generally egocentric view of the world – possessing a “me, my, mine” mentality. They tend to play “next to one another” as oppose to “with one another” as they engage in what is called “parallel play”. However, many will begin to find value in working in pairs or small groups. Empathy or the capacity to consider the thoughts and feelings of othersis still low for these age groups during “play situations”. But children begin to improve their consideration of others during this stage of human development and “intentional passing” slowly becomes a part of their understanding of the game.
All adults around the field when these age groups are playing must realize the children are not small adults. During 4 vs 4 or 5 vs 5 small-sided games, these young player needs to focus on the task at hand which is “trying to control the ball.” Unfortunately, young players are often distracted by adults yelling from the touchlines. In this situation their young minds have to make a choice: A) either focus on controlling the ball and playing the game or B) listen to the adults instructing me how to play the game. The results of the previously described environments are largely detrimental to player development. If adults want to help the children play their best, they should remain quiet while watching them learn the game. The trainers managing these environments will provide suggestions and offer support during the flow of the game, as opposed to stopping the frequently stopping the game completely to explain a concept or offer a correction.
At these ages, children begin to show a desire to emulate their “heroes” (big brother/sister, mom/dad, favorite professional player, etc.) for the first time. Support for this emulation is a key component for motivating young player towards self-confidence with the ball!
Ultimately, there is still very little to no interest in competition or outcome. The idea of winning only appears at this age because that concept is being introduced and encouraged by adults. Adults who unfortunately do not have the best interest of “individual player development” in mind.
[U9-U11 Psycho-Social Considerations]
Somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10 years-old children reach the beginning of what is known as the pre-pubescent stage of human development. During this stage, each child’s ability to solve problems increases significantly. Subsequently, basic tactical concepts will be introduced slowly and methodically during this year of development.
Children of this age also normally experience a small growth spurt that increases the length of the bones and the length of the muscles but it does not include a significant increase in muscular strength and power relative to bone growth. It is important to remember that pre-pubescent children still have very limited physiological capabilities.
The u9 program will provide children an introduction to a set of official game rules, games managed by official referees and scores that are kept officially by the league. It is important to keep in mind that this is the “Introduction Phase” of competitive awareness for children. Scores are not important and should not be emphasized. Instead, children should be taught that through individual skills practice, positive teamwork and a consistently high work ethic, they will improve the amount of fun, confidence and competitive balance they experience individually and as a team during game situations.
Socially they tend to form deep bonds with their teammates for the first time and very much enjoy the idea of being on a team. Individual play still dominates most game environments, but the concept of intentional passing will become more and more influential as the year progresses.