The fall 2018 season was successful in every aspect for the U7-10 Youth Academy. The girls had a great time, were motivated to improve and be creative throughout the season, and showed off what a little hard work and time with the ball can achieve! The winning combination of fun and learning was contagious as every week of training saw more players determined to get better with their teammates.
The Youth Academy prioritizes teaching very specific ideas and techniques, most importantly: basic techniques with the ball (ball manipulation, passing, and dribbling), basic understanding of the use of space in attack and defense, basic concepts of individual attacking and defending, and basic movement mechanics. The players showed great progress in every area this fall.
Reflecting the players' enjoyment of the process, eighteen different U9 and U10 players participated in the club’s Technical Improvement Program (TIP) this fall to learn how to train with a ball at home in a fun and productive manner. Madison Burns, Lexi Maier, Hannah Howard, Quinn Nielsen, Avery Malen, Kylee Bell, and Sophie Lee each had over 18,000+ touches on the ball at home through the season, with some of them exceeding 30,000 touches! While our U7s and U8s don’t track their touches formally, the players got a little taste of what the program entails with a training curriculum providing tons of time on the ball, allowing each one of them to get more comfortable with the ball at their feet as the season progressed. It was clear that all of the Academy players improved with the ball by the fact that they were better able to make and execute decisions, even under pressure, as the season went on.
The Academy players also learned the core spatial concepts in the game this fall (getting "big" (deep/wide/long) in attack, and getting "small" (narrow, tight) in defense). Their increased comfort with these concepts was clear as they became quicker and quicker in their positioning in transition from defense to attack (and attack to defense).
Claire Vandenburg from the U10 team and Brynn Jancyk from the U9 team showed patience and composure in every game, connecting passes out of the defense to help the team progress up the field. Keira Klippel, Josey Laabs, and Kenley Bolyard made great use of their space on what can seem like a very small 4v4 field and did a brilliant job at sharing the ball with their teammates.
While learning positioning concepts, the term, “open body position” was frequently used throughout the season, and just about every player in in the program could tell you what it meant in great detail by the end of the fall. Avery Burns and Kaitlin Glynn from the U7/8 team, as well as Matilda Micallef (U9), Sierra Duvernell (U10), Payton Nodolf (10), and Macy Burling (U10) all showed great body positioning and vision, allowing them to gain a picture of what was going on around them and connect with their teammates.
In defense, the players learned how to press and tackle to win the ball back as quickly as they could. Once the concepts were clear, the girls all showed that they could be aggressive, work hard to press, and fight to regain possession. Peyton Bentrup (U9) and Isla McManigal (U8) were two individuals who consistently used their body especially well to tackle and fight to win the ball back.
Every player in the Youth Academy program made fantastic progress this fall and have set themselves up for a positive winter and spring season! Most importantly each player had fun and continued to develop a love for the game! We look forward to working with every one and seeing their growth!