Athletic preparation in 11-12 year olds: approach and some examples
The intent of this article is to express opinions regarding the physical-athletic activities of young 11-12 year old (rookie) soccer players based on what we have seen and experienced in the past two years firsthand. This means that in different realities you might find different groups, with different degrees of preparation, who will need different training.
The FOCUS of everything that happens on the field remains the BOY.
Although it seems obvious, it should never be forgotten that the FOCUS of everything that happens on the field remains the BOY, who finds himself at this age in a state of physical and mental confusion.
From the physical point of view during this period there can be a rapid growth of the skeletal system (increase in stature, more than in weight), often not in perfect harmony with other components such as muscle-tendon and hormonal.
As a result, the boy undergoes enormous postural changes in a short time. Hence the need for coaches to remedy any difficulties they may run into, emphasizing coordination work and joint mobility rather than strength and endurance.
The good fortune of the sport lies in the fact that one is always interacting with the ball or with other people, and the technical gestures that result from this interaction are the realization of the acquired coordinative skills.
These skills need to be trained through both technical gestures and dry work.
By finding ways to integrate one with the other, these modes of work will allow the boy to become familiar with the ball and work technically, but also to express and improve his physical and performance skills.
The weekly microcycle
Usually in each weekly microcycle I use the 3-day work method: endurance, strength, quickness. This working method that I was taught exploits the principles of increment, load transformation and recovery.
As mentioned above the first workout of the week we work on endurance. First thing to do when we meet on the field is to ask if there are some post-race aches and pains that may require differentiated work, otherwise we start with the established work.
After an activation done mostly with the ball and combined with some classic or specific coordination gaits, we move on to the technical part taken care of by the coach.
At the end of training we choose how to work on endurance: personally I like to “play” on alternating dry work and themed games, first one and then the other or even together.
If we do dry work first we probably give more emphasis to the ability to play under fatigue and recover in the game phase, by having them do 4′ blocks (20″+20″ or 15″+15″ stretch-slow run) or shuttles if we want to include strength and acceleration components (e.g. 25m+25m in 10″ + 20″ passive rec), followed by a themed game possibly with a wide field.
By reversing the parts we allow the players to give more intensity and quality to the small game so focus on the game, while, by alternating them, they are forced to keep the technical performance on the same level, despite the increase in their general fatigue condition.
We noticed that, with the right motivation, the boys not only increased their condition but also improved motivationally. Finally, the last 10′ are devoted to unloading and possibly stretching.
The second workout is dedicated to strength and coordination. In these sessions the activation I personally like to do it also dry (but it depends on the group of guys I’m with) otherwise I perform exercises with different balls to perform a nice warm-up and prepare the guys well.
After the warm-up, we can choose whether to work specifically on strength (core exercises or simple lunges, glute bridge…) for a preventive talk, or on functional gestures such as changes of direction, acceleration and deceleration.
Sometimes with the coaches we agree to divide the team into two groups: one works with the coaches, while the other performs exercises to improve running technique and coordination. In this way, the improvements made in running and posture are put into practice right away, often unconsciously. All it takes is 15′ per group.
In the third session of the week, the workload is decreased to preserve energy for the game and to transform the strength accumulated the previous day, thus power and quickness.
The work takes less time and begins with ball activation combined with exercises that target fast fibers. Any exercise with ladder, hurdles or other field equipment can be used, just remember to work over short distances and with ample recoveries. Foot quickness work is very useful.
Practice usually ends with a narrow field game with number of touches where kids are forced to use feet and quick body orientation to play well.
In short, this is the kind of training I personally offer to rookie teams throughout the week, obviously making modifications related to the infinite variables that can arise.
Following are some videos by athletic trainer Riccardo Mendicino to be used as working cues.
Proprioceptive training in the game of soccer
Resistance and strength training
Speed endurance training
Reactivity and speed training
These topics are constantly evolving and developing.
We publish in-depth articles Monday through Friday of each week of the year. If you enjoyed this article and don’t want to miss future articles subscribe to the site or follow us on facebook o instagram.