Youth Player Development

Today’s post is by SoccerFIT partner Tristan Tillette. Tillette serves as Director of Performance at Elite Sports in Birmingham, AL and On-Line Training Director of

Soccer is a simple & beautiful game…THE beautiful game as it’s known around the world.  The abilities of today’s soccer players – Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi – and what they do with feet is simply amazing! For those who don’t quite understand the fabric of the game, I explain it like this – Think Lebron James…see him dribbling down the court…weaving in and out of oncoming defenders leaving them in his wake…on his hands! How can you run full speed…change direction on a dime….receive a 50 yd pass in the air….and drop it through the eye of a needle? This is what soccer is to me – simply beautiful!

We challenge our athletes on a daily basis to watch the game….not A game but THE game! See how players move, how they receive, how they pass, how their touch takes them to space and not to traffic. This last point is the most important and critical to youth development in this country. A delicate and decisive first touch is about 2 things : preparation & position.  Athletes must be comfortable when they receive the ball, but they must also be in a position to attack, react, and quite frankly just PLAY.

Our program for this type of player development at the youth level hinges upon a rhythmic series of coordinated movements. This serves a nice physical warm-up to prepare the players for the technical work to come. COACHING POINT : If they can’t do it WITHOUT a ball, then they can’t do it WITH a ball.

All exercises/movements/drills are done in a series with 1:1 work to rest ratio (works well with partner)…with a little extra time thrown in for technique & coaching. The exercises should include some forms of squatting, lunging, jumping, hopping, jogging, shuffling, skipping, etc.  The emphasis through the progression should be “clean & effortless movement.” The athletes should be encouraged to move with more pace & intensity as they feel more comfortable with the movements themselves. The ball is then integrated after the movement portion of the session is completed. This gives the younger players a better chance to develop their agility and speed with the ball as they are now prepared to move into and out of athletic positions with good technique and better coordination.  Other players (first offense/then defense) are integrated into the sequence once a heightened comfort with the ball is reached.

Stay tuned throughout the Spring as we will posting video with all of our Academy partners’ programs.

Best wishes & Keep Playing Beautiful!

Tristan Tillette



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