The San Ramon FC U8 Academy program philosophy provides our young players with the best possible start to their soccer experience. This information is provided to help those not familiar with the competitive program understand our program philosophy.
Developing a Love of Soccer Through Learning and Play
The focus of the SRFC U8 Academy program is to guide and develop young soccer players through the vitally important early years of soccer, where the learning environment and coaches can have the biggest impact, be it good or bad.
The SRFC staff coaches working with these players are specifically selected because they are superb at training and understanding young children. The focus at this age is to create a fun and enjoyable environment where children can learn and play under the guidance of coaches who excel with youth development.
Children at this age are like sponges, absorbing a great deal of what they see and experience first-hand. They are also capable of developing a serious love of the game at this age if exposed to the right environment. By providing a nurturing atmosphere for young players, the U8 Academy program helps create positive habits and attitudes, which in turn create the foundation for soccer excellence in future years.
Our Focus is on Developing Individual Players
Creativity and enjoyment are highly encouraged through training and games, as kids who enjoy the game in these youngest ages most often thrive, and are much more likely to continue playing and enjoying the game for years to come.
Our U8 Academy program focuses on developing individual players versus focusing on the results of any game or season. It is much more important to develop players within the proper framework at this age as opposed to demanding that a team win at all costs.
If the goal is simply to win there are shortcuts that coaches can take at the expense of developing the player and the team. Our ultimate goal is to help each child in the program develop skills and techniques to play the beautiful game with creativity, passion and a better understanding of their role within the game.
When players improve their technical ability they grow in confidence and give themselves a greater capacity to process information. This is vital in the development of young soccer players. Improving individual technique within the game is our focus.
IMPROVING MOTOR SKILLS
Focus on helping players develop and improve their basic psychomotor skills, coordination, balance, and agility.
IMPROVING TEAM WORK
Our program primarily focuses on 1v1 play and creativity. However, the staff will also encourage interaction between teammates through small group activities to enhance skillful and imaginative play. For example 2v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 games and activities supplement the 1v1 skill training. The focus is for players to appropriately apply their technical skills into the game environment with teammates in small groups.
ENJOYING THE GAME
It is critical that players have fun and enjoy the game. To do so, the staff creates an environment that is fun and exciting for the players as they learn new skills and make new friends. The staff believes that kids who enjoy the game of soccer tend to improve more quickly, and are much more likely to continue playing and enjoying the game for years to come.
You will notice that nowhere in these goals is winning placed above player development, learning, and fun. In fact, winning as an end in itself is not written anywhere in these goals, though we do promote our players to be competitive and play to win by focusing on the developmental program goals.
The entire emphasis of play in our youth development stages is on learning skills, improving decision making and learning to compete while having FUN.
Many of the players in the U8 Academy program were players in the SRFC U7 recreational Fall league program. In that program they are evaluated by the club’s professional staff throughout the fall season and many are then invited to join the U8 Academy program prior to tryouts based on those evaluations. Players are selected based on skill level, athleticism, soccer IQ, and attitude.
In addition, SRFC holds an open assessment date for all interested players not directly invited to join the program at the end of the Fall recreational season, as it is difficult to effectively evaluate every player during the Fall recreational season. The open assessment period is typically held at the end of January each year.
One of our club's Technical Directors will oversee the selection process of all potential U8 Academy program players. Once selected into the program, the academy staff will offer optional training to all interested players beginning in March for two days per week and continue through the first week of June.
We highly encourage all U8 players to attend as many sessions as possible during this time. Players will begin official team training early in July and play some friendly scrimmages beginning in August, once the coaches have had more time to work with all players.
Players will be shuffled and mixed for various scrimmages, play days and games over the course of the year with flexibility provided by the academy style format. There are no fixed teams at the U8 age group.
Players are identified and grouped by ability and skill on most training days. Players will train two times per week beginning early July each year. The staff will teach and encourage players to effectively apply technical ability, insight, creativity and confidence while training and playing at the U8 level.
Practices will mostly be held in station style group training. Simply put, each training session will consist of a number of stations that vary in theme, i.e. dribbling, passing, finishing. Groups will rotate through each different station in order to experience all activities and coaches. The groups will be organized by skill level in order to keep the training environment challenging for all involved.
Players will be encouraged to improve at home with the introduction of the SRFC Dribbling Moves Reference Sheet and the SRFC Juggling Program. These skills will be assessed throughout the season, with recognition given to encourage practice outside of the club setting.
The Advantages of Group Training
- Player development at the youngest ages is very fluid due to different rates of physical and mental maturation amongst kids. The group training system rewards players who continually work to improve their skill and understanding of the game throughout the season without limiting kids to one team.
- Players are placed in an environment that allows them to develop an awareness of the “club culture.”
- Gives the SRFC U8 Academy program staff a chance to continually evaluate across the entire age group.
- Age group training is a competitive cauldron giving players a chance to learn from, and measure themselves against, the best talent of their own age group.
- Group training allows SRFC to build the future of the club.
- Group Training is NOT a lowest-common-denominator approach. We firmly believe in placing the best players together to train, compete and push each other. But the most effective U8 player may not be the best U12 player in four years’ time, so our training environment must encourage every player.
Each year the U8 program is assigned club staff coaches for training and games. SRFC trains its entire coaching staff through national and international coaching courses, and the staff work together to implement the club curriculum for all U8 players.
All coaching should be left to the coaching staff, and parents should not offer advice to players during games or practice. Parents should refrain from giving any tactical feedback to players regarding performance unless they have consulted with the coach as they may give contradictory information which can lead to confusion or frustration for the player.
Positive support is vital during times of disappointment, not just when things are going well. The ups and downs are a natural part of a young soccer player’s developmental process if handled appropriately. Positive parental support does not include coaching your child from the sidelines.
Positive encouragement from parents is vital in helping young soccer players succeed and enjoy the game. The job of the parents is to be their child’s biggest fan. Positive feedback and encouragement should outweigh constructive criticism. This allows players to grow in confidence, which is a key to success in soccer, or any other sport.
Positive coaching from our staff is very important to our players’ development. We must ensure that our players are instilled with confidence, understand the coach's instructions, and also have the ability to handle constructive feedback from the coach. Encouragement at this level is a massive motivational tool to making our players successful, creative and well-rounded soccer players.
As a club, we know that the age group training system will benefit your child and accelerate their development in the game of soccer. We believe that by implementing these ideas, players improve at greater rate, all while having fun in a safe and positive environment. The SRFC U8 Academy Staff is confident that your child will thrive in a setting that encourages creativity and skill rather than in one which is focused on results and standings. If you have any questions that this page has not answered, please feel free to e-mail one of our Technical Directors, Mani Salimpour (Boys) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Zlatko Tomic (Girls) email@example.com.