Physical Training in Football: Youth – All Ages Guide
When it comes to physical training of younger categories, the work and activities of a fitness trainer are adapted to the age and individual needs of each player.
From working on creating a general motor skills’ base at an early age to football-specific training in the older junior category. In each of the phases of development training, it is necessary to start from an angle of the child himself.
Physical training in football should be included as a part of regular training sessions from an early age. By exercising coordination and body balance, you can help their growth and development. When it comes to young children aged six to nine, these physical training exercises should be at some introductory, basic level.
Their goal is to improve their level of motor skills and to prepare them for advanced physical exercises when they are older and physically capable for harder sessions.
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Players Age 6 to 9
Knowledge of children’s physical growth and development of their cognitive abilities and the way they are building social and emotional relationships with their friends is a crucial part of understanding their growth potential.
When understanding their interests, attitudes, basic problems and dilemmas, as well as basic current state of their motor skills, will enable the coach to adapt his work much more successfully to the real possibilities of the children and help them reach the full potential of their abilities.
The initial training period for a child should be from six to nine years of age. During this period, children should be exposed to low-intensity training with an emphasis on developing a wide range of abilities. It is necessary to emphasize the multifaceted development of motor and functional abilities with a wide range of exercises that include these basic movements listed in the image below:
Motor abilities are the abilities that participate in solving physical, motor tasks and ensure successful movement, regardless of whether the mentioned skill is innate or acquired during the training process. Every person owns those skills, but on a different level. The level of motor skills depends on a number of factors such as:
- Heredity and genetics
- Training regime
Each of these factors have great influence on players’ mental and physical state and strength. You have to take into account all of them together. Then create appropriate training methods and direction of further development.
Players age 8 to 12
Although the dominant role in working with football players aged 8 to 12 is technical preparation, it is very important to pay enough attention to the development of motor skills in this period, because it will greatly facilitate further work and development.
Of the numerous motor skills, the number of which is defined differently by most authors, in working with football players aged 8 to 12, the basis of work are listed in the image below:
In working with football players aged 8 to 12, it is necessary to pay a lot of attention to the development of coordination skills, because this period is considered the most optimal for establishing coordination between the nervous system and legwork, which is extremely important for football players.
When working on the development of coordination in this age period, it is necessary to take into account that some children mature earlier than their peers, and that is how early maturation can lead to a coordination crisis.
Therefore, in working with such children, exercises and games must be used as much as possible in a way that helps youngsters overcome this phase as “painlessly” as possible. The basic path for the development of coordination takes place through two methodological directions:
- The systematic adoption of new movements and
- The practice of already adopted movements, but in changing conditions.
Modern football today is based on fast players. Hence it is very important that children start improving their coordination from the first football training sessions. There are various devices for coordination exercises such as ladders, obstacles, cones, spears and usually these exercises are done in the initial part of training for younger categories.
The focus of these exercises should be on their proper performance, the knee must go high and the legs should work quickly as possible.
At this age, attention should also be focused on the improvement of their speed and quickness. When working with children, you should use short physical training sections that do not require great muscular effort. The advice for children is to run fast in continuity for not longer than six seconds. It is very important to use a variety of exercises, and the use of elementary, relay and sports games is of great value.
The development of explosive power in football players should begin in their initial stages of physical training in football, with the application of exercises adequate for that age. Otherwise, severe injuries may occur and completely disturb development of abilities.
This means that in working with children up to the age of 13, exercises with only a small load (the best option is their own weight) are applied.
Agility and Flexibility
When working with children in this age group, the overall flexibility, which includes all joints of the body, should be emphasized, because it will result in good fundamental development. This way, the child will continue to develop joints and more easily endure the anatomical difficulties that can appear during puberty.
Specific flexibility develops from puberty onwards. Then special attention should be paid to the joints involved in the motor structures of a particular sport.
Flexibility exercises must be an integral part of every training. It is done in the introductory-preparatory phase of physical training in football, basic and final part of the training, through body shaping exercises and movements.
It can be practiced with some other motor ability or technical-tactical exercises, independently, with the help of a partner or with the help of smaller devices and props, such as medicine ball, football balls, screws, sticks, etc.
Players Age 11 to 14
The period between 11 and 14 years is the period of shaping the athlete. This phase involves gradually increasing the intensity of training. Physical training of football players of this age must be predominantly directed towards multifaceted and basic sports preparation, with the beginning of specific fitness requirements.
At this stage, the young footballers have adopted basic skills and tactics specific to their sport. They play not only for fun, but also to win games. So in this age range they need to dedicate most of their time to enhancing key skills and physical development.
Players Age 15 to 18
The third period lasts from 15 to 18 years and known as the period of specialization. During this time, the young talent prepares to submit himself to the higher demands of physical training in football. After quality warm up and basic preparation, he starts with fitness exercises that are specific to footballers.
At this stage, it is important to increase the intensity of specific fitness exercises in order to improve the level of competitive performance. Physical training in football must be adequately dosed. This is achieved with a well-prepared plan and program when it comes to such training.
Importance of Warm-up Training Sessions
Warm-up is very important in physical training in football as well as not to overload the footballers. When it comes to the prevention of acute injuries, the situation is quite clear.
Athletes should be included in a fitness-training program during the preseason that focuses on increasing cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. The fitness program should also include sport-specific exercises to prevent injuries.
Football players should focus on exercises to strengthen muscles and flexibility of the groin and legs. Studies have shown that initiating demanding and sudden strenuous physical activity without prior gradual warm-up exposes the athlete to the risk of cardiovascular disturbances. It should always be borne in mind of children that good preparation also improves sports performance.
The intensity and duration of warming up and cooling varies from athlete to athlete, form one age group to another.
In order to achieve an optimal increase in body temperature and heart rate, an athlete who is in good condition needs longer and more intense warm-up than a person who is in worse condition state. Regardless of the athlete’s fitness level, each exercise should include five stages:
- Preparation (5 minutes)
- Stretching (5-10 minutes)
- Warm-up (5 minutes)
- Basic sports activity
- Cooling and stretching during cooling (10 minutes)
Fitness in football represents the level of those physical possibilities and possibilities of the functional system, which most directly condition the success in the realization of training and competition tasks. Only precisely selected means, methods and loads for each individual lead to optimal preparation and development of certain characteristics.
The goal is to prepare the player to be faster, stronger and more endurable in a real game, so they can play competitive football. Each age group of youths has different needs and wishes. That is why careful analysis of specific factors of each group is essential before planning drills.
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