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Performance Improvement Tip: What players aged 9-12 should focus on – a 4 corner model

By Ian McClurg

Owner of 1v1 Soccer FC + Performance Coach + Author

In the future, the best players will be those who can excel in a fast-paced environment. There will be even greater demands on technique, tactical understanding and physical conditioning. Players today are faster and cover greater distances than previous generations. Passing combinations are faster and there is an increased importance on controlling possession. More goals are scored through quick counter-attacking play and decision-making is of critical importance.

I am often asked what young players, aged 9-12, should focus on. The effect of role models is very important at this stage of development. Young players should seek out role models and identify players and teams to follow. Young players should also begin to transition from being self-centered to being self-critical. This is the “golden age of learning” and the most important age for skill development. This is also an important time to start to understand basic principles of play.


It is important to establish a good strong solid base. Young players should continually work on their dribbling ability, passing and receiving and how to successfully execute individual skills under the pressure of time, space, and an opponent.

  • Dribbling: Take risks! Develop your moves to beat an opponent

  • Improve your ability to keep possession. Work on shielding, spin turns and changes of speed and direction to get away from opponents

  • Receiving: Work on the ability to receive and have a quality 1st touch – when receiving on the ground and in the air. Receiving using all surfaces should be developed

  • Shooting: Proper striking technique from different angles should be worked on and taking shots on the volley and half-volley with both feet

  • Passing: Proper technique – Laces, Inside, Outside, Short and Long; Crossing

  • Heading: Jumping to head

  • Tackling: Proper technique, in balance, no fear.


Team tactics do not take priority at this age. Focus should be on knowing how to maintain balance in the team (between attacking and defending) and playing skillful soccer. Players should be open to playing a variety of positions to develop awareness and begin to understand basic principles of play such as:

  • Retaining possession

  • Taking players on 1v1 in proper areas of the field

  • Off the ball movement to support teammates in possession and execute combination play

  • Communication with teammates

  • Apply proper defensive pressure from front/behind and be able to press and channel opponents


All fitness work should be with the ball with an emphasis on developing :

  • Flexibility

  • Agility – with and without the ball

  • Speed – teaching proper running technique

  • Strength

  • Endurance

  • Balance


Enjoy the game and foster a desire to play. Focus in on the following areas:

  • Encourage decision making

  • Imagination / Creativity

  • Discipline

  • Good academic study habits

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