This is the “golden age” of learning and the most important age of skill development. According to the research of New York Times bestseller Dan Coyle, this period is the cornerstone for any individual wishing to attain elite status in any trade. It is important that the players be inspired and motivated. Demonstration is very important and the players learn best “by doing”. It is important to establish discipline from the beginning. At this stage, a coach must be enthusiastic, possess soccer awareness, knowledgeable of the key factors of basic skills and principles of the game, and be a role model for the players.
According to U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna, the following points (AND ONLY THE FOLLOWING POINTS) should be emphasized at the U6-U8 age groups:
Technical: It is important that the player establish a strong technical base. The coach must maximize the time each player spends with the ball, as well as making the experience enjoyable for the player in training and games.
Dribbling: Promote risk taking. Teach the players moves to beat opponent and to keep possession of the ball.
Receiving: Ground and air balls-all surfaces from a partner and on the move
Shooting: Proper striking technique, service from different angles, turns, cut backs, volleys.
Passing: Emphasize the proper technique by using the laces; inside and outside of foot; short and long passes.
Tactical: Beginning of tactical awareness
Individual: 1 v 1 situations in defense and attack. Play 1 v 1 frequently
Attacking: Players should be encouraged in risk taking. Players should be encouraged to take opponents on 1 v 1.
Defending: Emphasizing proper pressure both in front and behind.
Team: Team tactics should not take priority at theses ages. Focus should be placed on playing skillful soccer. Players should play a variety of positions and the emphasis should be placed on player development instead of getting results as a team.
Physical: All fitness work should be done with the ball, with partners, using fun and engaging activities. Physical activities should include the following components.
Agility with and without the ball
Psychological: The training and playing environment should be kept fun and enjoyable to foster a desire to play (intrinsic motivation).
Increase demands in training
Encourage players/teams to watch professional and National Team games on television