Kids First Soccer
Progressions and Player Development
by Daniel Frankl, Ph.D.
To be able to choose an appropriate coaching style and suitable skill progressions that address the child's special needs, the coach must acquire a broad knowledge base about the child and her/his learning styles. In addition, the coach must be familiar with the various game strategies of soccer. Presented below are phases of player development. These developmental phases of soccer skills may, when applicable, be used as presented, or may be further broken into sub-phases given a specific child's special needs.








k - 1


2 - 3


Fun & development of basic motor and soccer skills (e.g., getting used to the ball and its manipulation with hands and feet. Become familiar with the grid concept through lead-up games (using modified equipment and space). Slow controlled movemen with personal ball in open space, around cones, between two lines or targets. Fundamentals of trapping and shooting to target. Small court games 2 X 2 up to 5 X 5 players per team (practice goal-keeping skills but do not use goalie in games).



4 - 5


6 - 7


Fun & refinement of basic skills, and introduction to the fundamentals of team work. Development of health-related fitness components as a special emphasis. Safety & control using modified equipment. Fast controlled movement with ball and opposing player. All players take part in defensive and offensive coordinated team play. Medium size courts and goals with 7 X 7 up to 9 X 9 players per team--including goalie.



8 -10


11 -12


Fun & mastery of advanced skills and game tactics. Position playing and experimentation with offensive & defensive formations. Special emphasis on handling pressure and sports-personship Under pressure ball control & team play. Strategic knowledge & understanding of soccer. Health-and skills-related fitness, and 11 x 11 full-size court tournament play.
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Note that "fun" is a key general objective starting at the Informal Phase 1 through Formal Phase 2. Kicking a soccer ball down a field should never become serious enough to compel a youngster to intentionally hurt another player in order to gain some game related advantage. The whole league experience becomes a total disaster if the supervising adults allow themselves and the kids to walk away from the field angry with the other team.
The goalie position in the game of soccer is a very important one. In games between players aged 6-9 years, the goalie's performance often determines the game's outcome. At this level, however, more often than not, a game's outcome is determined by a poor as opposed to a stellar goalie performance. Thus, the pressure on a six or seven year old playing the goalie position is very high. Understanding, sensitive, and supportive teammates, parents and coaches may contribute to a more positive goalkeeping experience. Still, the goalie position cannot turn into a more active one, that includes a reasonable amount of opportunities for quality responses. Thus, the goalie position is a stressful role that provides a scarce amount of active participation. I therefore recommend to incorporate goalie skills in practice but to eliminate the position from competition until the age of 11 or 12. Playing without goalies will also sharply increase the total number of goals scored per game. Five to seven-year- old players have little recollection of the won/lost games in a season. Yet, they remember and are proud of goals they scored!
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Last Modified: February 19, 2011