WARREN BARLOW GIVES HIS INSIGHT INTO YOUTH FOOTBALL: Getting the preparations for the game right is so important

I HAVE touched on subjects such as behaviour, development over results, moving away from the emphasis on league tables and the benefits of sports and the arts on individuals and the community as a whole.

This week I stood pitch side watching two teams warm up and it got me thinking.

Both teams started with some light jogging and then one team did a little stretching whilst the other did none, before one team got in a big circle with one ball being knocked about from player to player.

The second team lined the team up at the halfway line and they took it in turns to knock a ball to the coach who was stood on the edge of the 18-yard box who passed it to one side or another and the player ran onto it to have a shot at goal.

This is no criticism to the teams as if you don’t know how can you see what you are doing is wrong?

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Bolton Wanderers training ground many years ago to watch a Dutch coach working with Bolton’s Under-16s.

This guy changed me forever. The whole coaching emphasis was on speed of thought, confined spaces, lots of touches and decision-making.

At one point I saw him set up a game and I shook my head in disbelief, but it worked.

He had two full teams and put a 24ft by 8ft goal on the edge of the 18-yard box, put two players, one either side of this goal as players that can be used by either team. He had another goal on the traditional goal line and two players, one either side of that goal. He had a goalie for each side and the 16 players left (eight per side) had only the 18-yard box to work in.

The game started and the speed of movement, thought and touch of the players was superb. Every player was making complex decisions and having to adapt to the changing game every couple of seconds.

This is the essence of mini soccer.

Now going back to the warm-ups in which each player was making a decision once every couple of minutes when it was their turn to go and it was not a complex decision as they knew what was coming and what they had to do before it arrived.

I urge coaches to give the players light jogging, increasing in tempo as they warm up, stretch them properly, but then break them down into one-v-ones, twovtwos, threevthrees etc so they do have to make lots of complex decisions and they do improve their technique.

Then let’s take that technique into the game and develop better players.

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