Soccer players 12 to 14 years in age are more mature both physically and mentally than they were in the initial stage of introduction to the game between ages 7 and 11. They will be stronger and more able to withstand a greater training load, and they will be more socially aware, better able to work together in groups, and more able to understand more complex game situations. If they have developed the core skill sets necessary to be reasonably comfortable with the ball, they will now be able to shift focus to learning more about positional play and decision making. Training and refining technique is still very important.
Continued work to develop each player’s technical qualities remains important during the second stage of soccer development. Areas of strength and weakness may become more obvious when assessing a players’ performance, and these variations in skill sets can begin to suggest what position a player will ultimately be best suited for in the long term. Areas of deficiency must be improved, and areas of strength in each player must be refined. Players should focus their technical work on:
Training sessions should continue to present mix of games and activities with and without pressure that relate to the tactics the team will use on game day; however, the emphasis on decision making can now be increased. Activities without pressure can emphasize technique as suggested above, but they should be done with players making the correct movements in the correct areas of the field for a given position. Basic cues provided by the presence of a defender can be added to those provided by teammates in these situations, and the timing and spatial relationships between players can be taught. Training games should relate to positioning and shape as well in order to provide players with experience making the decisions they will need to make in games. Basic methods of accomplishing this are:
Players will be physically stronger and will have a more mature muscle structure now that they are older. They will also have developed some degree of sport specific strength and coordination during the first stage of development. As soccer players reach the their early- to mid-adolescence they will be able to handle a more demanding training load including up to 4 practices per week. Once players’ bodies have begun to mature, they will begin to benefit more from attention to developing their speed, explosiveness, and endurance. Players in this age range will benefit from attention to:
Please Note: Different players will enter their growth spurts and reach physical maturity at different times, normally during this phase. In some cases physical training may need to be individualized to accommodate these differences in growth rate.
Soccer players aged 12-14 will be considerably more emotionally mature, and their ability to understand more complex situations in the game will be much greater than it was in Stage 1. Players aged 12 to 14 will be more socially aware and able to differentiate between each other’s ability levels. They will also be better at understanding how to work together. The level of innate enthusiasm you see on a daily basis will not be what it was when the players were 9 or 10 years old, and they will need more individual attention and guidance. Coaches will need to pay particular attention to: