Pete Sturgess argues that we should “let them play” more in youth sports:
In play children have to learn how to self-regulate, negotiate, compromise, empathise and deal with differences of opinion plus many other things associated with their wider social and emotional development. This is a very important part in the development of the executive functioning skills that continue to develop well into the second decade of their lives and help with planning, predicting, sequencing and cognitive flexibility. This approach can help to build skills for life as well as for football.
He offers this advice to coaches:
Some formal games are needed and some structure can be good but not all of the time. If you have limited time with your players then organise an arrival activity or games night where the main focus is on them playing and you observing critically so that when help and advice is needed you can base it on really detailed observation. This is good coaching and should be valued every bit as much as the “old methods” when everyone had to stop to listen to the words of wisdom from the coach.
Pete Sturgess works for the FA as the National Lead for the Foundational phases (age 5-11). You can find his full essay here.