For any parent, the idea of having your child play football for fun – or for the long-term aim of making it as a professional – is enticing. Not only do we see the fame and fortune of professional football, but we know the massive benefits it has for fitness and quality of life. However, when your child is of a young age, it is very important that you let them experience football from more than one perspective.
In many nations where football is stagnating, part of the reason stems from outdated methodology. For example, many nations have problems with their players engaging in ‘football training’ without seeing any of the ball. Forcing young children to work on tactical shape all day or forcing them to run around the pitch all evening, is not good football training.
By all means, work in tactical and physical work to help them grow. But football training for children in Dubai has to be about one thing: the ball!
That is why, if you think about injecting your child into 11-a-side matches from a young age, you might wish to focus on small-sided games instead.
What, though, are the main benefits of changing this up?
If you want to work towards making your children generally fitter and healthier, you need to look closely at playing regular football matches. But to play matches, children need to be enthused – they need to want to play. And what better way to get your child interested in playing than by making sure they see as much of the ball as is possible?
If you believe in making your child really enjoy football, then here are some considerations regarding the use of small, sided pitches and 11-a-side pitches for your young starlet.
11-a-side football training for youngsters
So, the most common place to start for most people would be to head out on an 11-a-side pitch and start playing football. To an extent, this makes sense – it’s what we see on TV, right?
Playing on a full-sized pitch or in a full-sized team, though, can be detrimental to the game for many youngsters. The primary reason is the most important one – fitness. If you are asking kids to run the length of an 11-a-side pitch for the full game, they will be absolutely shattered come the end of the game. They will spend more time running up and down like automatons than they will spend time with the ball. And when they do get the ball? They are often so tired from the constant running that they will propel the ball down the wing or to the striker.
This creates panicky footballers who are unable to play the game in transition. You need to get used to working with your children to help them understand that life on a full-sized pitch and/or 11-a-side football is all about teamwork. The ball is faster than any teammate. Getting them used to moving the ball up the pitch to a teammate as opposed to trying to cover as much ground with one pass as they can is vital.
At the same time, children can find they do not see enough of the ball in this kind of game. Since every child should be seeing many touches of the ball per game, you need to get used to passing the ball. You need to get used to having a touch, moving it on crisply, and letting your teammates have a touch, too.
11-a-side football is great, but for technical training, at a young age, it is not the most effective method.
Smaller-sided football training for youngsters
By contrast, playing on a smaller pitch or in smaller teams, such as 5s or 7s, can be great for a youngster. Why? Because it avoids the two problems listed above. They become more used to being able to move the ball up the pitch with dribbling or with a quick movement. They won’t be as tired as they go from box to box. They can contribute in the entirety of the game as opposed to feeling like they lack the legs to play a proper game of football. Crucially, though, the primary benefit comes down to seeing more time with the ball.
The ball is your most important training tool as a youngster. That is why any small-sided game is often better for youngsters. They get more touches of the ball per game than they do on a larger pitch. This gives everyone more involvement, more opportunities to grow, and more chances to learn something. Education comes quicker.
The other major benefit of using a smaller-sided pitch and team, though, is that you often have to fill in multiple roles. You have to adapt to the game; you might not have two players on each wing, or three players in the middle of the midfield. You have to fill in for gaps in the team, take on multiple roles, and become a more versatile footballer. This can only serve any child well in the future.
Football, though, needs you to get used to moving the ball with swiftness and confidence. By using a smaller ball, players get used to working with an object which is harder to control than a larger ball. This means that by the time they grow up and start using larger, adult-sized balls, they are confident in control, dribbling, passing, movement, and technique.
Making the right choice
Naturally, we recommend you look to find a blend of the two as they age. In most countries, though, 11-a-side matches are a rarity before the age of ten. Some countries won’t introduce 11-a-side until their teenage years. The most important thing for a youngster is to feel good about playing more than one position and feeling confident they can control the ball without looking.
The more time spent in a mixture of both types of game, then, the better a player will become at anticipating situations and also using the ball in the correct ways.