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Skill Acquisition Phase

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The Skill Acquisition Phase – U10 – U13:

The Football Federation Australia links below provide some great material to give you an overview of what you can expect for these age groups.

We’re now moving past ‘discovery’ and towards a more structured approach to training. The children still require a safe and nurturing environment to allow them to continue to develop their love of the game, with positive encouragement on-going. Remember: “F” is for fun, friends and ‘football’! It is NOT for ‘fitness’.

As coaches and parents, please continue to focus on the children’s enjoyment of the game – make it fun for them, and they will be want to come back year after year after year.

For the parents:

On match day, please remember that there is one coach (and possibly an assistant coach). Please enjoy the game for your child; no screaming ‘kick it’ from the sidelines! “Good shot”, rather than “great goal”; “great effort”, rather than ‘bad luck”. Over-enthusiastic but well-meaning parents can be a real distraction, and often confuse the players. The coach is there to continue to provide guidance and watch the players apply what they’ve been taught through the week-day coaching sessions (not instruction). His/her voice should be the only one the players should listen to from the side-lines; the most important voices during the game will be their own team-mates on the pitch.

You might also wish to consider this: (U10 & U11) (U12+)


For the coaches

The FFA style of play requires a ‘play out from defence’ approach, encouraging play to develop from defence to midfield, from midfield to attack, rather than a ‘boot it’ from defence to attack. It is designed to facilitate a deliberate constructive build-up in play, progressing in advances of ‘thirds of the pitch’.

The FFA Skill Acquisition training program focuses upon developing four core skills when in possession of the ball:

  1. Striking the ball
    This includes all forms of striking the ball such as short/long passing, shooting and crossing
  2. First Touch
    Controlling the ball with all allowed body parts
  3. 1v1
    All moves, feints and accelerations to get past and away from an opponent
  4. Running with the ball
    At speed (with a lot of space) or ‘dribbling’ (in tight areas), this includes techniques for protecting the ball and changing direction


When the kids start playing 11 v 11 while they are still in the Skill Acquisition Phase, (U12/13) there is a common tendency for coaches to become totally obsessed with results, and forget that the players are still in the skill acquisition phase. This has a very negative effect on training session content as well as Match Day behaviour.

Training must remain focused on skill development; it is poor practice and detrimental to the players to sacrifice critical skill training time in order to conduct unnecessary ‘tactical’ coaching.


For those wishing to undertake on formal coaching accreditation, then the Skill Training Certificate course is for you. The course requires 14-hours of your commitment, and is typically conducted over two days on two separate weekends; alternatively, some courses are conducted on four separate evenings – check out course availability here:

There is also a very handy participant e-manual available to download:


The following links provides 18 model sessions – these can be used throughout the season in whatever order each coach feels appropriate: or here:


Again, the basic building-blocks of each training session remain consistent with the Grassroots structure – that is:

1. Beginning (Skill Introduction) –  every child just simply needs a ball at their feet; no laps of the park (15-20 mins)

2. Middle (Skill Training) – focus on specific skills – and don’t stress over how this looks in practice to how you thought this ‘might’ look (25-30 mins)

3. End (Skill Game) – this is the children’s favourite section; keep it fun, don’t interrupt the flow of play and “don’t” critique technique! (20-25 mins)


For week 1, take a look at these training exercise suggestions:

There’s a Beginning, Middle and End exercise to try out.


Then in week 2:


…and don’t forget to take a moment to become familiar with the rules of the game for these younger age groups – it’s not the adult game yet. For U12 and above, the age group formally enters ‘Competition’, so the rules become a little more like the adult game…

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