Developmentally Appropriate Training For U8 Players

By Howie Blatt, Director of Instructional Programs, Mass Youth Soccer

When considering what a seven-year old is working on developmentally, it's important for us to think about what we all can do to help support and encourage that process.

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Seven-year-olds are typically negotiating their psychological sense of "self." They are concerned with being successful at tasks and following rules, can be highly self-critical, and can feel guilt and shame when making mistakes. They are experimenting with, and beginning to enjoy, their improving sense of coordination and improving gross and fine motor skills. In their increasing awareness of the existence of others, they are struggling with roles, and rules which often lead to frustration and conflict with peers.

In their youth soccer world, the idea of setting limits on more advanced competitive opportunities, such as travel team and tournament play, can be a real positive. This gives the seven-year-old child an opportunity to spend precious time challenging themselves individually by building upon individual successes and exploring their developing skill sets within a less socially competitive environment.

This can help to nurture their developing self-esteem and self-confidence, key elements to successful athletes and successful human beings. Considering their increasing concern about what others think of them, their tendency towards self-criticism and shame, and their fragile self-esteem, we want to make sure to set them up with opportunities to succeed and limit opportunities for them to perceive themselves as failing or not being good enough.

They will have plenty of opportunities to play in advanced competitive settings as they age. At age seven, however, it may be more helpful for us to support them in first building solid foundations.

If part of our mission as a youth soccer organization is to promote youth development through the game of soccer, we have a responsibility to take these developmental considerations into account when deciding on which programs to support.