We have four months before our next FA tournament and I suggest we use this time to (among other things) encourage the lads to improve their weaker side in practice and play.
Our next few practices will be aimed at showing them just how much it’s costing them to be a one sided footballer. We’ll then teach them how to use their weaker side in the hope they’ll experience enough success to realise that they can improve the leg they thought was simply there to stand on.
You may be thinking…”I never put time into improving my weaker side and I turned out a pretty good footballer”.
Yep you, like me, probably got very good at shifting the ball from weak to strong before putting a shot on goal, a cross into the box or a long pass up the line but imagine if your opposite number had actually paid attention.
As part of our next month’s practice we’ll ask the lads to learn which leg each team mate is strongest on and how they can improve their defensive efforts with the knowledge that most under 8’s cannot shoot, pass or even dribble with their weaker foot.
Our next proper tournament is not until March (dates tbc) so after the mini tournament (8th of December) we'll get the boys back into groups which suit their ability rather than their tournament teams.
We’ll then use a series of games and activities which make it easy to see the improvements which are being made with the weaker side.
Asking the lads to attack situations which should utilise both legs will not only help them understand the importance of using both feet but reward them for taking the risk of using a leg which they’ve previously not trusted to do the job they want.
Fact is that Me, Frank, Andy, Jin and most lads who do not make it into top top teams have spent our time improving our ability to work around a perceived inability to pass and shoot with our weaker side.
It doesn’t matter how well you rate your child’s ability to use either foot right now. They can drastically improve their experience of football, simply by using their weaker side more often in an environment which will never reprimand them for having a go.
I’m sure you’ll agree that just because they practice it on Saturday, doesn’t mean they’ll remember it for the following week. If you’d like to help your son improve their confidence over the next few months then please remind them how hard it is to pass a ball fast and long to the left with their left foot or to the right with their right foot (if your child is left footed).
We’ll make it obvious that if the boys want to be able to pass left and right, without the opposition guessing their stronger leg, then they need to be strong at passing with both feet.
Passing with the weaker side
Take the time to pass with them. After congratulating them on their ability with the stronger side, tell them that you’re going to pass to their weaker side so they can improve their ability.
Practically every will rebel against this suggestion and tell you that they cannot use their weaker side. This is absolutely normal but if you can encourage them to have a go then they’ll notice the improvement every single practice.
One of the easiest ways (especially if you’re too busy) to improve their passing ability is have them kick a ball against a wall or rebounder. I personally don’t think a rebounder (at this age) will be useful but happy to be corrected, considering I haven’t bought one.
Have them count the number of passes they can get with one touch per pass. This sounds easy but when a ball bounces to their weaker side they will want to take a touch to control it, then pass with their strong side.
Keep it light hearted and ask them how it’s going. If they say it’s too hard to use their weak side don’t push it. If they’re attending practice regularly then each time they come home they should be more willing to give it a go.
Make a big deal of any improvement in effort, number of kicks or ability.
The next few months could either be used to improve our ability to continue using one leg or both. The easy option is to tell the lads they don’t need their weaker side.
The longer term (not as long as you think) and better option is to make them aware of every opponent’s weaker side, the ability of their own weaker side and their teammates’ weaker side. This way they’ll not only improve but make better decisions about how they move the ball and how they defend.
Conor is the Head Coach of the Bishops Cleeve Colts U8's Rovers and United Teams. The 2018-19 season will be his second in charge and he's keen to help the boys push on from the huge improvements shown in 2017-18.
Preparing for the 2019-20 Season
Attacking and Defending
Bishops Cleeve Colts U8’s Rovers Team Announcement
Rovers Session Plans September 2018
Participation vs Winning
Teaching Football Tactics to U7 Boys in Season 1
Playing Positions in 5 v 5