Bishops Cleeve Colts Football Club
About the Squad

How the Squad was Started

"Do you want me to tick this box about helping to coach?" my wife shouted from the kitchen. 

She was putting an enquiry through for my son, Tyler, to join Bishops Cleeve Colts u7s. 

"Ok", I bellowed back, figuring I could help out if needed. I've played a fair bit of football and coach fitness for a living and even coached children in sports like Water Polo and Badminton as a teenager.

I figured I could help and the more I thought about it the more excited I became...

Coach Reality Check and a Big Decision

That confidence was soon squashed when I watched Adam, Head Coach of the u7's squad expertly direct the boys through a series of skills and games. The more I watched the more I thought he must be paid by the club to take teams in that particular age group.

As the weeks progressed it became obvious that the group was growing and that Adam wasn't employed, he was just a dad who started coaching because no one else would. 

The squad grew quickly It wasn't long before Adam mentioned he didn't really want the group to get any bigger. He mentioned there was another parent keen to coach and that maybe we should split off to form another team. 

The Coaching Team

 Adam assured us he could teach us to put the goals up and provide session plans to follow if we needed them. Clint, the other parent who'd ticked the box and I got on well and we brought Frank in to help as a bit of an assistant. 

Frank quickly took over the admin roles of collecting session fees and providing the final decision about some things like practice cancellations when Clint and I couldn't agree. 

Ongoing Player Inquiries

 The squad steadily grew from six to eight to 12 and it wasn't long before we had to discuss what our cut off point was going to be. 

I have always dreamed of having so many people wanting to get fit through sport so the thought of turning people away didn't sit well with me. I was also aware that attendances would likely drop through Winter but that without eight or more children there'd be no point having 3 parents to coach. 

I pushed for a limit of 18, Clint for 16 and Frank finally swayed to a final cut off of 18. 

Clint Leaving for Tewkesbury

On the morning of yet another freezing practice Clint messaged Frank and I to say his son had been asked to play for Tewkesbury, just down the road from their home.

His son liked the idea of playing with school mates and Clint expressed a desire to just watch his son develop as a parent so would move to Tewkesbury FC. 

New Coaches and More Players

On seeing Clint's leaving message to the parents, Matt, one of the lad's dad's offered to step in and help.

We also asked Andy to come and help as a Goal Keeper Coach, since he plays in goal for his team. 

It was extremely helpful having two new coaches as we were still getting good attendance through Winter and I had to take a step back while my Mother in Law was in the final stages of terminal cancer. 

We continued to get new inquiries and finally cut the maximum squad at players. 

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Coaching

Teaching Football Tactics to U7 Boys in Season 1

It was plainly obvious that we had a squad full of boys who had yet to play a season of club football.

Looking across at Adam's squad, many of whom had started with him back when they were just 4 or 5 years old, I wondered if all the teams we'd play would be this strong. 

The first encounter our lads actually had together was as a 7-aside mini tournament with Lakeside FC. We were trying to explain formations before kick-off and we hadn't even coached a practice yet!

Safe to say we got thumped in every match. Scores were not counted and Tyler, my son, for one said he never wanted to play any of those teams, including Adam's, again. 

Where to Start?

Without any coach education, we went straight to the activities we were taught as players. We knew we couldn't have the lads lining up for long periods in the cold but we couldn't agree on any game based activities except for all vs all football matches which tended to be around 6 v 6, 7 v 6 or even 8 v 8. 

We taught them how to pass and how to shoot with demonstrations and paired them up to kick balls at one another or in to goals. Dribble and shoot. Pass to coach, receive and shoot. 

We knew we wanted them all to touch the ball as often as possible so tried to use activities which didn't include too many passes before a shot. Some things worked and others didn't but we'd stay with a concept for 3-4 weeks, tweaking bits to get some carry over from one practice to the next. 

Introducing Broad Tactics

All Back on Defence

We were giving the lads about 20-25 minutes of game time each practice and soon started to introduce the concept of "everyone back on defence". 

There were a lot of benefits to this:

  • it encouraged the lads to run more and try to win the ball back or protect the goal
  • more running meant higher body temperatures and less tears
  • the lads were forced to defend more as they often ended up between the ball and their goal
  • even if they didn't win the ball back they clogged up space around the box so the other team struggled to score. 

Offering an Easy Pass to Goalie

My pet peave is seeing a Goalie pass to someone who is standing around half way between the goal line and the half way line.

Unless the ball is thrown or kicked hard enough for them to run on to it is inevitably intercepted or taken away from the receiver's first touch. To prevent this we asked the lads to offer an easy option either side of the keeper so they could roll or pass the ball to someone who could then take a touch and look up for their next move. 

It took a while but when we started playing with a maximum of 5 v 5 the lads started to click. 

That first pass soon became a sure thing and players although the next pass wasn't assured, the Goalie could get the ball back in play quickly as opposed to looking at a wall of players standing around the centre of their half, shadowed by the defence. 

Offering a Square at Goalie Ball

Building on the previous cue, we asked players receiving the first pass where they wanted their team mates to be so they could get the ball up the field. 

They pointed to half way because any closer and they'd just be in the way. Having two lads stood at either side of half way meant they could either receive a pass in a relatively safe area or turn on the pass and head for goal.

We taught the lads how to let a ball run past them about this time because until then they needed to stop or kick every ball which came nearby and that wasn't helpful when the ball was going in the direction they wanted to run anyway. 

Crossing and Finishing

The last month before our first proper tournament of the year we taught the lads the easiest way to score a goal.

Knowing where far post was and how much easier it is to score when a keeper is running across the box gave the lads motivation to get into this scoring position each time they were on attack. 

It worked well with practising corners even though we were just telling the corner taker to smash the ball at far post. 

Bringing it All Together

The lads demonstrated huge improvements in understanding the concepts above and while the execution has a long way to go, I'm confident it'll be far more effective as they now know what they're trying to do. 

There were some magical moments when ball was played from keeper to the easy option, up the line for a team mate to run on to. This play earned double points on numerous occasions and we even had the play finish with a cross to far post where young George shot first time to score. 


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Coaching

Playing Positions in 5 v 5

5 v 5 is a fantastic game for our lads to learn and develop confidence in football. 


Read about our approach to roles and positions in 5 v 5 football.

Positions vs Roles

There is a temptation to allocate each player a position such as attacker or defender, even right back and left but at this age my preference is to have the children playing where they see gaps. 

Gaps exist when two team mates are stood right next to one another. Our boys have learned to identify gaps at goal kick so I see no reason they can't learn the same  at throw ins, corners and even in general play. 

If they can see where there is a gap then they can either fill it or suggest a closer team mate fill it. 

The easiest example of this so far is at goal kick.

The lads know that the keeper needs someone either side of him to create space up the middle and offer an easy pass. As soon as the keeper gets the ball they're looking to see if there's anyone in either of those two gaps. 

If there is then they're heading to half way to offer a passing option up the field. 

Player Preference

Most players have a natural tendency to fill the gaps they feel most confident in. This is natural and we don't want to dissuade them from developing their abilities in that role but we don't want to box them as just a defender or attacker.

If, as a naturally defensive player, they find themselves at half way when our goal keeper get's the ball we don't want them to rush all the way back to the keeper and offer the easy pass (discussed in example above) when there are already people there to fill the gap. 

Specialisation

I am of the opinion that all players should learn to play in defensive roles, transition/midfield and attacking roles in their first few years. 

Attackers

In order to become a good attacker a player should have defended a lot of attacks. It will give them better insight into what it's like to defend someone who's doing different things like moving around a lot or simply standing in front of the goal and asking for the ball. 

Attack minded players should spend time learning what it's like to be the goalie when an attacker faints to shoot, then passes across the box for a team mate to tap in. 

Defenders

The same obviously goes for defenders learning what it's like to be an attacker and how much easier it is to go around a defender if you know which leg is strongest. 

Goal Keepers

Learning whether it's easier to shoot at far or near post is vital for a goal keeper's positioning awareness. We don't want those keen to play in goal specialising in that position until they've played a few seasons in the field and goal. 

Expectations of Team Mates

We all rely on team-mates but our expectations aren't always realistic. Asking for a pass when there is no clear channel, expecting someone to cover for us when we've lost the ball in our own half. 

One of the most common causes of conflict on the pitch comes down to unrealistic expectations. The more our players play in different roles the more accurate their expectations and the less bickering. 

Everyone Defends and Everyone Attacks

The other downside of allocating positions in 5 v 5 is attacking players will be less inclined to come back and help on defence and vice versa. We will, over time, learn to make the most of getting more players up the field on attack and limit scoring opportunities by getting more players back on defence. 

The lads will become fitter this way and start wearing oppositions down through the amount of running required to mark our players as they move from goal box to goal box. 

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Bishops Cleeve Colts
Coaching

Substitutions

We're expecting to have a good sized bench for most matches this season so we thought you might like to know how we plan on using them. 

Read how we plan to make the most of this advantage and manage player expectations of playing time.

The Numbers Advantage

The 2018 Bishops Cleeve Annual Tournament showed us how physically demanding an u7 football match can be. There were numerous times when I was glad we had fresh players on the bench because the look on a players face told me they needed a breather. 

Playing football when your lungs are screaming increases the chances you'll make a dangerous tackle which leads to injury. It also makes it harder to get into areas which support team mates and open opportunities. 

By rolling the subs regularly and always having fresh legs on the bench the boys will be able to give everything knowing, a rest is available any time they want it.  

Equal Playing Time

The idea of offering equal playing time is great in concept but very hard to manage in reality. This is mostly down to the fact making subs during play is near impossible thanks to their attention being on the football, not the coach.

Subs will typically be made after a goal or before a throw in or goal kick. 

Playing time will not be recorded but we will be taking better check of how many times each player has been subbed in a match, when there are 3 or more subs. 

There should be absolutely do difference between playing time based on ability, age, who's son is who and it's important that you let us know if you think we've got this wrong at any time.

The Effects of Fitness and Work Rate on Playing Time 

There are times when I can visually see that a player is unable to run as much as they'd like in which case I'll sub them to recover.

Fitter players usually run more so unless they're slacking off are actually more likely to be subbed based on fatigue than a less fit player who doesn't run as much. 

Player Expectations

There's nothing harder than having to tell a lad "I'll get you on soon" in reply to the inevitable question "when can I go on?".

When we have three or more subs players are typically required to wait much longer than the time it takes for their little lungs to recover. 

My expectation is that if these lads get time on the ball, score more goals and feel like they've worked hard then their expectations will be met even if they spent 3-6 minutes less on the field due to 3 or more subs in the team. 

The Solution

In order to meet the lad's expectations, reduce fatigue and improve overall performance we'll be encouraging the lads to play a fast game. One which means a lot of running, quick throw ins and goal kicks. 

The more we play this way the fitter our lads will get and the better they'll feel about the contribution they've made to each match.  

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Bishops Cleeve Colts Football Club
Tournaments

Tournament Team Selections

With standard tournament team sizes of 7-9 and our overall squad of 19 there's a good chance we're going to have to ask some lads to miss certain tournaments this season. 

Read on for an idea of how we plan on approaching this challenge.

Always Testing

A key consideration we'd like you to understand is nothing here is concrete. This is our first season with this challenge and we'll continue to learn what works and what doesn't. 

Please consider this and feel free to let us know if you have alternative suggestions.

Player Availability

We'll typically know the allowed squad sizes for each tournament and enter a number of teams based on parent/player availability. Our expectation is that there will usually be 1-5 players unavailable for any given tournament meaning we'll have two teams of 7-9 players at most tournaments. 

When Team Limits Restrict Players able to Participate

When, like in the Bishops Cleeve Tournament, the teams are limited to 7 players we'll first check how many players are available. We'll typically want at least one sub per team so can enter three teams of 6. 

If we only have enough to enter two teams but too many to give everyone a place then we will have to give some players a rest. 

Rested players will be rotated so no one player should miss two tournaments due to limited team sizes. 

Any Volunteers?

Before having to make a decision on who is "rested" for a tournament we will ask if anyone is prepared to give up their spot and miss the tournament. 

No pressure here but if there's anyone who's available but not terribly fussed for any reason then it may make someone else's day if they sit the tournament out. 

Worst Case Scenario: Deciding Who Misses Out First 

The only fair way we can think to make this decision is through attendance records at this stage. We don't want to go down the ability route this early in the lad's development.

Other options include doing it alphabetically but unless we get any complaints we'll be doing it by attendance. 

Summary

We're really hoping it'll all work out without having to "rest" any of the lads who'd like to attend tournaments but the will be lot's of them this season so plenty of opportunities to play more matches. 

The main thing is for us to let you know about tournaments early as possible and for you to let us know if your son is available as soon as possible. 

That way we can move on to figuring out how many team's we'll enter and which players will play. 

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