Skill Check

The Skill Check section is acknowledgement that there are critical periods for different types of learning.

Plasticity is a term that refers to the ability of the young brain to adapt to new stimuli.  The plasticity of the brain and nervous system declines rapidly in time, and actually may reach a functional limit, athletically speaking, by the late teenage years.  If a skill is not acquired during its critical period, then the acquisition of that skill later in life will be increasingly harder.  The development of a soccer player is a long process in which the players progress gradually from a simple to a more complex involvement in the game.

Part of our responsibility here at the Real Salt Lake Youth Development Academy is to outline the levels of what players of specific age groups can accomplish from ball manipulation to ball mastery.  We will do this in writing and also through video.  These technical skills are achieved through many hours of touches in competitions, practices, and most importantly in a facilitated culture created at home.

I don’t believe skill was, or ever will be, the result of coaches.  It is a result of a love affair between the child and the ball.”  –Roy Keane


These are the ages of FUNdamentals!  Learn all elementary movement skills.  Control of the body.  Acquire a base of general balance, coordination, and agility before soccer skills – movement education:  Balance, walking, running, start & stop, jumping, hopping, rolling, skipping, changing direction, bending, twisting, and reaching.  During the early stages of a child’s relationship with the ball use size 1 or size 2 ball. Understand that this is time spent together at home between a parent and a child and it does not matter if the parent has played the sport or not.  Cater the amount of time spent on the attention span of the child.  Sometimes 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there really adds up.  If you can help your child express creativity with a ball and experience feelings of joy through their relationship with the ball at this early developmental stage you will be off to a great start.

  • Manipulating the ball with the bottom of both feet, becoming more comfortable using all surfaces of each foot (bottom, laces, inside, outside, toe)
  • Dribbling (start & stop)
  • Changing direction

Ages 7/8

This is an age where relationships with teammates are beginning to emerge on the field and some initial basic tactical concepts are introduced like recognizing basic team shapes (triangles & diamonds).  The most important part of the skill check is still to help the child express creativity with the ball and experience joy through the expression of creativity.

  • Foundations
  • Dribble at Defenders while keeping the ball close
  • Change speed while dribbling (fast to slow; slow to fast)
  • Pass and recieve ball with all surfaces of the foot (bottom, laces, inside, outside)
  • Turn with the ball at a quicker speed
  • Lift the ball with foot
  • Juggle 5 times
  • Use dribbles & feints to attack 1 v 0
  • Use dribbles & feints to attack 1 v 1
  • Shield the defender while controlling the ball

Ages 9/10

Build even more comfort with the ball on both feet.  Passing and receiving the ball with multiple surfaces of both feet at speed.  Try different types of passing.  Look for my teammates and find them with passes.  Encourage more tricks and feints to pass defenders.  Pass and shoot while changing direction.  Shoot using different techniques (power & placement).  Polish moves and tricks at speed.

  • Foundations
  • Ball and a Wall
  • Pass with multiple surfaces of both feet
  • Pass & Shoot while changing direction
  • Shoot with power
  • Shoot with placement
  • Juggle 50 times

Ages 11/12

Understand all technical components and execute them fast: 1 – 2 touches.  Passing the ball with multiple surfaces of both feet.  Receiving the ball with multiple surfaces of each foot, and body – thigh, chest, head.  Try different types of passing – short & long, on the ground & through the air.  Use feints and moves to pass the opponents.  Pass and shoot while changing direction.  Shoot with power and accuracy.

  • 1 & 2 touch drills
  • Ball and a Wall
  • Dribble at speed on a hard unforgiving surface (changing directions)
  • Receive the ball out of the air to dribble
  • Pass accurately through the air
  • Receive passes accurately from the air
  • Feints & Moves with changes of speed
  • Juggle all day long

Ages 13/14

Invest time in the development of individual skills under the pressure of time, space and opponent.  Passing, receiving and shooting must be done consistently while moving.  Teach players that they are not to let the ball bounce.  Shooting while moving and turning, from various angles, from crosses and on volleys and half volleys.  Encourage players to shield the ball from defenders as well as take on opponents 1 v 1 using feints, spin turns, and moves to beat an opponent.  Improve players first touch on the ball.

  • Shooting volleys
  • Shooting half volleys
  • Receive the ball while shielding defenders (not standing still)
  • Attacking 1 v 1 using feints, spin turns and moves
  • Improve 1st touch using different size balls and difficult passes
  • Consistently receive long range passes calmly
  • Polish long range passing accuracy