11 Tips for Optimal Youth Soccer Development (2024)

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

How do you make sure that your player receives optimal youth soccer development? The beautiful game is arguably the most competitive sport in the world which is why parents, coaches, and players are constantly looking for the next secret to skyrocket their development.

However, one thing most people do not realize is that becoming a better soccer player is not that complicated. Becoming a better soccer player is simple, but that does not mean it is easy, because it is hard and extremely competitive.

In this blog I will explain tips and everything that you need to know for optimal youth soccer development.

youth soccer development Image by Adria Crehuet Cano

What is Youth Soccer Development?

Youth soccer development focuses on improving the mental, physical, technical, and tactical development of young players in a positive and supportive environment, guiding them through various stages of their soccer journey.

From mastering basic motor skills and spatial awareness to mastering advanced techniques like ball control and game intelligence, youth soccer development programs emphasize player growth through regular team practices, specific training exercises, and specialized coaching.

Youth soccer development not only contributes to individual player development, but also lays the foundation for a team’s success, instilling values like fair play and encouraging players to overcome challenges while striving for improvement. Additionally, youth development programs often incorporate elements such as game footage video analysis, strength and conditioning programs, and injury prevention strategies to ensure well-rounded development.

Be in the Right Training Environment

One of the most important things for young athletes to develop properly for soccer is making sure they are part of a team environment and are attending regular team practices. Being part of a team is by far the best way to improve your soccer skills because not only will you be competing against other players on a regular basis, but you will also get feedback from coaches and be able to learn by watching your teammates as well.

The best way to train is to train how you play and team training sessions closely resemble a real soccer game, which is why this is the best form of training. Being in a team will help players gain valuable insights about the physical demands of the game, what healthy competition looks like, the importance of teamwork and emotional growth, as well as teach players basic skills, such as technical skills, and more advanced skills, such as tactical concepts through effective coaching strategies.

Play Variations of the Beautiful Game

One of the main reasons why soccer is called the beautiful game is because it has a ton of variations that can help players prepare for the full field game on grass fields. On days off from team training, players should be playing variations of soccer such as small sided games, futsal, pickup games, beach soccer, or soccer tennis to keep improving their soccer skills.

These variations of soccer will help players get a lot of touches on the ball, as well as put them in many game situations, which can help improve their decision making and spatial awareness skills needed for the full field game.

Let Your Player Play Other Sports

Young soccer players that are still in the developmental stage of learning should focus on playing a lot of sports and not just specializing in soccer. Even if your main goal is to become a better soccer player, learning new skills and movement patterns used in other sports can make you more athletic, which can directly improve your soccer skills.

For example, tennis will improve how you track a ball, basketball will improve your hand-eye coordination, and so on. You can start off your soccer training sessions by playing other sports for a couple of minutes or spend one day a week playing another sport.

Seek Guidance from Experts

If your player is in a team environment already, but needs extra training then it is smart to invest in private soccer lessons. If possible, find a coach or trainer that can do more than just coach soccer and that can offer guidance on other important topics such as athletic training, injury prevention, mental training and more, which is exactly what we offer here at The Art of Football.

youth soccer development Image by Grant Durr

Encourage Your Player to Spend More Time in Nature

It is no secret that we live in a world where technology is used more than ever before, even in the sports world. Every year it seems like there is a new “smart” technology or tracking vest for people to get addicted to.

One of the most important tips in this list is to let your player spend more time outdoors in nature. Being in nature not only improves your recovery, physical, and mental well being, but it also directly affects your mitochondria, which are the most fundamental aspects of health.

Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle

Along the same topics of spending more time in nature it is also important to encourage players to live a more natural and healthy lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle means embracing nature, optimizing sleep, nutrition, hydration, limiting EMF exposure, and spending your time in a productive manner such as by reading books, listening to podcasts, or watching soccer documentaries, TV shows, or anime that can directly help you learn more about the game and gain an edge over your opponents.

Living a healthy lifestyle will help your player better limit and prevent injuries because all of your choices, from the minute you wake up until the minute you fall asleep, affect injury rates in one way or another.

Focus More on Progress Rather than Winning

When a coach or a parent is trying to develop youth players properly it is very important to focus more on progress and real development over winning the most.

While victories and rankings can seem very important, those rankings don’t really mean much at the youth level because they are only important at the higher levels. During youth levels player development is the priority over winning championships and trophies.

Record Soccer Games and Analyze Them

One of the best ways to improve the learning process of youth soccer players is to start recording their soccer games. Watching game footage, analyzing it, and noting what things they are doing well and what things they can improve on plays a crucial role in how players mature and develop.

The sooner the players start learning how to analyze themselves the better their own development will be from technical development to physical development and of course tactical awareness as well.

Encourage your Player to Watch High Level Soccer Games

Along the same lines of analyzing their own soccer games, youth players should be encouraged to watch high level professional soccer games. By watching, analyzing, and learning from the same players that they are striving to become, youth players can get a much deeper understanding of the game and how to play their preferred position.

Make Sure Your Player has the Right Training Equipment

Although soccer is a very simple game that requires very little equipment to start playing, the right equipment can enhance your player’s training and playing experience as well as overall development.

Make sure your player has the following soccer equipment:

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a crucial aspect of youth soccer development, offering young players a roadmap for progress and achievement. By setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals, players can channel their energy effectively towards improvement and towards reaching their goals.

These goals encourage players to set both short-term and long-term goals and empowers them to track their progress, stay motivated, and strive for continuous improvement throughout their soccer journey.

youth soccer development

Image by Kelly

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you develop as a youth soccer player?

  • Technical abilities: Play the game as much as possible in a team environment and through futsal and pick up games
  • Tactical abilities: Join a team and learn from your coaches, read soccer books about soccer tactics, analyze and watch high level games
  • Athletic abilities: Play the game as much as possible, play other sports, optimize your fascia system, fix your breathing patterns

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

Conclusion

In conclusion, optimal youth soccer development is no accident and requires knowing what to do and most importantly taking action. In this blog, I have listed some of the best tips to help younger players develop properly in the competitive world of soccer.

So now that you are done with this blog, make sure you apply the information so that you can begin improving your player performance.

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