Bristol is one of the largest cities in the UK. In recent years there has been a splendid regeneration of the city with vast new shopping centres and the old docks being transformed into a thriving area full of restaurants, bars, cinemas and clubs. However the fortunes of the two football clubs have not kept pace with these exciting developments and other than a brief flirtation with the top flight some two decades ago the city, based in the south west of the country, has always been seen as a bit of a football backwater. There are signs that all this could change with Bristol City currently leading the second division, two divisions below the Premiership, however their city rivals, Bristol Rovers are currently languishing in the bottom half of the Nationwide 3rd division. It is a great credit to the clubs Academy system that no less than six of the current first team squad were once U9s at the club. This could be the key to the clubs future in what are financially difficult times.
The club set targets for the U9s so that when they reach the U11s age group they are expected to be at a certain development level. The coaches then put their own coaching programs together to help the children reach these targets. The coaching program for the 9-11 age groups should focus on developing techniques and applying it in small-sided-games and achieving the following age related targets.
By the age of 11 a boy should:
1. Understand the importance of a disciplined approach to training which includes:
- Arriving on time for every session
- Properly dressed and equipped
- Enthusiastic attitude- Willing to practice between sessions
2. Be able to perform basic individual moves and be able to control the ball in the air.
4. Be able to receive the ball comfortably across the body.
5. Be able to play 2 touch football in tight situations.
6. Be able to execute the wall pass (give and go) and cross over.
7. Be able to dribble and run with the ball in 1 v 1 situations.
8. Be able to defend in 1 v 1 situations.
9. Understand how to keep possession which includes:
- Spreading out as a team.
- Support early in front of and behind the ball
- Pass quickly
- Use moves where necessary
10. Be able to select when to pass back, pass forward and between players.
11. Be prepared to run unselfishly to support the man on the ball.
12. Be able to complete a lap of Ashton Gate (Bristol City stadium) in 72 seconds or less.
At the end of the season each player is evaluated by the coaches and given the following ratings: excellent, very good, fair, average, poor, needs special attention.
The evaluation is then broken down into individual sections:
It is quickly evident that the three coaches understand the needs of the young children they are coaching and are very much on their level. The atmosphere is friendly but professional and the children are clearly enjoying themselves. Frank Jacobs, Ian Tincknell and Ian Rossiter begin to put the players through their paces. Everything is done with the ball and the players pair off with a ball each. As one would expect with children of this age, there are the usual Coerver ball familiarity exercises such as toe taps, ball dancing and step-overs.Frank Jacobs explains the reason why they do everything in pairs is that it encourages the boys to look at each other while they are practicing their ball exercises as this brings their head up. Frank is very keen that children learn good habits at the start and continually encourages the players during the small-sided games to “get their head up”. During the winter months when the evenings are dark the U9s, 10s and 11s train indoors on three tennis courts. This is by no means easy with 20 children on each court and does limit the coaches in what they can do. There is a lot of 1 v 1 exercises where children have to beat their opponent and run the ball over the line for a goal as well as with no goals where one player has to keep possession by keeping the ball away from his partner by turning, looking up and making sure his body is always between the ball and the opponent. The players then work on their turns and moves such as the Cruyff turn and the step over move. The children are encouraged to express themselves and repeat with both left and right feet. The sessions normally end with 3v3 or 4v4 games. Tonight they play 3 games of 3v3 line soccer with the emphasis on getting their heads up and opening the body up to receive a pass. The children are encouraged to practice the moves they learn at home; indeed it is essential for them to do the extra work if they are to develop any further in the Academy program. The children I saw were very bright and extremely keen to further their skills in their own time.
Bristol City is a club with a future and with players that represent a good cross section of the local community. The next few years will see if the sleeping giant will awake and play on a bigger stage that the size of the city should warrant. There are certainly some good strong foundations that the club can build on thanks to the efforts of a dedicated bunch of individuals such as Frank, Roger and the two Ian’s.