Let them Play

We want all young players to be enthusiastic and passionate about the game. As coaches, we quite often hear the question 'When are we going to play a match?'. Young players love it, and so they should, players with passion and enthusiasm embrace the game and have much higher chance of progressing further in the sport.

Can we help young players become more confident on the ball, more enthusiastic and passionate about keeping the ball at their feet, rather than clearing when under pressure? If these young players love playing against each other, challenging their skills and their opponents, then they will develop into very good technical players. What we aim for is to let players develop through technical training, giving them the skills to practise in match environments.

Players love to play, as coaches we don't want to interrupt that love of the game with frequent stoppages to raise a coaching point. This should be done at the right times, when required, but not too often.

Something at OpportunityElite, that we feel is very important, is the chance for young players to just play. Can the players play more recreational games, similar to street football. It used to be that we would see the local parks and playing fields with groups of children playing against others, typical 'jumpers for goalposts' football. Some of the best players in the world have developed hugely through just playing, playing against other players down the park, or in the street.

Culture has changed over the last decade or so, youngsters aren't going out to play as regularly as before. Therefore, can we coaches, provide players with something similar to these environments?

What we could do is give the players 15 minutes (or what suits you best according to your session) to just play. Place the ball in the middle of the pitch with two goals and let the kids play. The teams may be uneven, the Goalkeepers might change for every shot and players may play in totally different positions to what they would in a game. But, this is what makes it great, the learning that these players are receiving in these situations is huge.

Quite often the players will dribble a lot, forgetting to pass. In these games this is great, it is teaching young players new skills, experimenting to see what works best for them. If they make a mistake and lose the ball it is soon forgotten, the next player just comes in and attempts to win it back. In these situations the technical level of players improves hugely. Looking from the outside of the session it can seem a mess, players flying around everywhere, handballs which you would class inside of the area largely ignored by the players. The players are playing football in its purest form, aiming to score against the other team, removing the limitations that can be put in place.

If you can give players 15 minutes to just play then we will see huge development in their technical development and decision making. The relaxed environment allows for plenty of mistakes to be made and new skills to be attempted, only benefiting the young player.

In England at the moment the South East of London is a hotbed for technical footballers. Wlifred Zaha, Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reiss Nelson, and many others have all grown up in the street football environment, playing in local playgrounds, park pitches and caged areas. All of these players have immense talent and are all capable of beating their opponent with fantastic skill. These skills were honed and developed in these environments, free of the limitations that organised football can sometimes place on them.

If we can let the children play, then we will see some fantastic development in the young players.

Feel free to have a look at these 15 One v One skills, can any of your players perform these in their disorganised games?

Let them play and see the benefits in their game.