My my My my
 Format  6 v 6 with the option to play 7 v 7 if both coaches agree.
 Referees  Center Referee only
 Minimum  Ref Certification  Grade 9
 Game Length  65 minutes; two 30 min halves30 min halves. Game times are generally between 11am-2pm.
 Breaks  5 minute half time
 # of players No more than 8 v 8; no less than 6 players to be an official game
 Required Equipment Shin Pads worn under soccer socks. Athletic shoes, soccer cleats recommended. Visible uniform shirt, shorts, soccer socks. No jewelry of any kind. No football or baseball cleats permitted. No baseball caps. Eye glasses must have straps.
 Ball  Size #4. Home team is expected to provide a properly inflated game ball.
 Subs  On goal kick by either team, after a goal by either team, half-time, during injury stoppage by either team, prior to your own throw-in, prior to your opponents throw-in if they sub.
 Goalies  Yes - Any goal keeper distibution that enters the opposing Penalty Box or Goal before touching the ground or another player will result in a direct free kick from the center spot. Goalies may not play the ball with their hands if it is passed to them by a teammate. This will result in an indirect free kick from the spot of the foul.
 Goal Kicks/Corner Kicks  FIFA PLUS: a GK that enters the opposing Penalty Box or Goal before touching the ground or another player will result in a direct free kick from the center spot for the opposing team.
 Thrown-ins  FIFA
 Free Kicks  FIFA
 Kick-offs  FIFA
 Required Distance  8 yds
 Offside  FIFA
 Fouls  FIFA


Mass Youth Soccer Statewide U12 Curriculum

Age Group: U12
Skill Priorities
  • Continue with all U-10 foci
  • Speed Dribbling in Traffic
  • Ability to chip the ball
  • Accurately play long passes
  • Offensive/Defensive Heading
  • Power/Accuracy Shooting
Tactical Priorities
  • Communication
  • Basic Support Positions
  • Receiving the Ball Away from Pressure
  • Combination Play
  • How and when to switch the point of attack
  • Pressure vs Containing
  • Proper 2 vs 2 roles
  • Introduction to all roles in 3 vs 3
The period this age group is entering is often referred to as the dawn of tactics. Typically players of this age begin to understand the basic tactical situations of the game and are more aware of movement off the ball and the reasons for tactical choices. Problem-solving becomes systematic and these players tend to learn quickly. Children of this age typically are beginning to develop abstract awareness, so they can understand coaches when we talk about space and runs off of the ball. However, just because they understand these basic tactical concepts does not mean we should focus on these concepts entirely. Players are still developing technically at this age, especially as they go through growth spurts and awkward phases.
It is quite common to look out at a U12 field and see players that are physically the size of adults. Yet, other U12 players appear as if they could still be in the 3rd grade. These children are all growing at different rates and undergoing physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. The average age for the beginning of pubescence in girls is 10 years old with a range of 7 to 14; for boys it is age 12 with a range of 9 to 16. As coaches, we need to be sensitive to these changes and their social implications when coaching this age group. Some players may pick up skills quickly, where as others may struggle. However, it may be the case that this is simply the result of differences in maturation. In a year, the slower developer may surpass the player who developed earlier. For this reason we need to be patient and keep open minds about all players through these years. They are aware of their struggles more than anyone else as peer evaluation is omnipresent at these ages. When we see them struggling, it is important for us to help them and to keep the game fun.
Typical Characteristics of U12 Players

  • all children are maturing at different rates
  • players need to warm-up and stretch---muscle pulls and other nagging injuries are common otherwise
  • players will typically understand elemental abstract concepts and hypothetical situations they like to solve problems
  • peer evaluation is a constant
  • egos are sensitive
  • coordination may depend on whether or not they are in a growth spurt
  • technique still needs to be reinforced constantly
  • playing too much can lead to overuse injuries
  • playing too much and not feeling like they have a choice in the matter can lead to burnout and drop-out
  • this is the dawn of tactics!
  • keep asking the players to be creative and to take risks---we never want them to stop doing these things
  • ask for feedback from them---they will tell you how things are going
  • try to hand over leadership and ownership of the team to them
  • keep it fun!!!

The U12 Age Group


The effect of the role model is very important at this stage of development.  Hero worship, identification with successful teams/players and a hunger for imaginative skills typify the mentality of this age.  Players at this age can be extremely self-critical.  This is the “Golden Age of Learning” and the most important age for skill development.  Demonstration is very important and the players learn best by doing.  This is an appropriate time to introduce and teach basic Principles of play:
Attacking Principles                                       Defensive Principles
Penetration                                                      Recovery (Immediate Chase)
Support                                                            Pressure
Mobility                                                           Cover
Width                                                               Balance
Depth (length)                                     Compactness
Improvisation (deception, creativity)               Counter Attack
Role of Coach
The role of the coach in the U12 age group is to be a patient and motivating teacher.  At this level, in addition to understanding technique, coaches should be able to provide environments conducive to problem solving (decision-making) by the players utilizing guided discovery methods.  Specifically, individual and small group tactics should be the focus of the training sessions.
License Recommendation
MYSA “F” License is recommended.


The U12 Player Characteristics

Mental/Psychological (cognitive)
  • Fertile period for learning…eager to learn
  • Ability to sequence thought and actions and perform more complex tasks…can simultaneously run, strike a ball and think!
  • Ability to use more abstract thought to meet the demands of the game (i.e. well-timed overlapping run)
  • Use their teammates to solve game problems
  • Training must replicate the game
Physical (psychomotor)
  • Continue to gain a tremendous amount of physical strength, endurance and power
  • Flexibility training is key to prevention of injury
  • More confident with physical technical demands above their waist (receiving with the chest; heading the ball)
  • Goalkeeping skills are becoming refined
  • Children continue to be in growth spurts
  • Overuse injuries occur when age appropriate development is ignored
  • Height can be well over 5 feet and weight can be 100 pounds
  • The age range for the beginning of pubescence in girls is 7-14, with the average being 10 years of age
  • The age range for the beginning of pubescence in boys is 9-16, with the average being 12 years of age
Socially (psychosocial)
  • Gender differences are more apparent
  • Whether a child enters puberty early or late has important psychological implications regarding relationships with their teammates
  • Spend more time with their friends and less time with their parents
  • Children tend to conform to peer pressure
  • Developing a conscience, morality and a scale of values

What to Teach U12 Players (Game Components)

Technique (skills):
Dribbling: To beat an opponent (penetration); To possess (shielding)
Feints with the Ball: Subtle body movements to unbalance the opponent
Receiving Air Balls with Feet, Thighs and Chest: Away from pressure; to beat an opponent
Heading to Score Goals and for Clearances : Accuracy (direction); Timing
Finishing: Chipping; Bending; Toe; Introduce Half Volley and Volley Shooting
Passing: Deceptive use of foot surface (toe, outside of foot, heel)
Crossing to Near Post and Penalty Spot Space: Driven; Flighted                        
Introduce Slide Tackle: Timing; Poke Tackle
Goalkeeping (skills)
Footwork for Goalkeepers: Post to post (lateral); Forward
Throwing: Side-arm; Round-house; Baseball
Kicking: Drop-kick
Diving: Step and Collapse (low); Step and slide onto forearms and thighs (forward)
Angle Play: Fast footwork; Body shape
Introduce Parrying and Boxing: One hand, Two hands

Psychology (mental and social):

  • Teamwork
  • Confidence
  • Desire
  • Mental rehearsal
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Handling distress
  • How to learn from each match
  • Sportsmanship
  • Parental involvement
  • Emotional management
Fitness (conditioning):
  • Speed
  • Strength
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Proper warm-up and cool-down now mandatory
Tactics (decisions):
  • 2 v 1 through 3 v 3 attacking & defending
  • Introduce the principles of play
  • Verbal & visual communication for all players
  • Half-time analysis
  • Beginning to identify potential roles for players (goalkeeper, defender, midfielder &/or forward)
  •  Commanding the goalmouth by the goalkeeper
  •  Near post play by the goalkeeper
  • Saving penalty kicks
  • Simple set play patterns
  • Speed in setting up walls

The Training Session

  • The training session should involve fun and imaginative game like activities, as well as technical and tactical repetitive activities.
  • üThe training session has a technical and/or tactical theme (focus).  For example: dribbling technique and/or 1v1 decision making.
  • üIntroduction to functional training (position specific) is appropriate.
  • üSmall-sided directional games such as: 4v4, 5v4,5v5, 6v5, 6v6 and 7v6 should be included as well.
  • üTraining should always conclude with a 8v8 game with goalkeepers if possible. (7 field players and 1 goalkeeper on each team)  The duration of the training session should be 90 minutes.
Some Recommended Games for U12 Players:

  1. Four Square Passing---Form a grid 35x35 with squares roughly 4 yards across in each corner. Two teams of 4 to 6 players try to score by passing the ball to a teammate who makes a run into one of the four squares. Players in the squares cannot be defended against they can pass or dribble the ball out. Balls out of play can be passed or dribbled back into play.
  1. Shield-Steal---Half of players in the group have a ball and half do not. If you do not have a ball you need to steal one from someone who does. If ball goes out of bounds, person who touched it last does not get possession. You can teach players the technical points of shielding as a group at start of activity. Show technique with body sideways, arm providing protection, ball on outside foot, knees bent, turning as defender attacks, using feel to understand where defender is going. Fix technical shielding errors throughout this activity and make sure entire group knows how to properly shield.     Version 2: make this competitive by breaking the group into two teams and seeing which team has more balls at the end of the time.
  1. Colors-Warm Up---Half of the players in red pennies, half in blue. Teams playing together in the same space combine in the passing sequence blue-blue-red-red-blue-blue-red-red etc. etc. Ball can never stop, players can never stop moving, and ball cannot leave area of play. Coach can limit touch-count, mandate which foot to pass with or which side of foot to pass with as sees fit. When players can do first sequence adequately and without frequent errors change the sequence to blue-blue-blue-red-red-red-blue-blue-blue etc. etc. Stress communication and technical passing points throughout. Make this activity competitive by counting errors and setting goals by lowering allowed errors.
  1. 2v2 2 or 3v3 3---Three distinct teams in colors (red, green, white), one team starts as  defenders and the other 2 teams play together to keep the ball away from the defense (so it is actually 4v2 or 6v3). When the ball is taken by the defense, the color (two/three players) they stole it from becomes the new defenders. Players must pay close attention to who the defenders are, to score the teams in possession must make 6 passes before losing possession. If they do this, both teams on offense receive 1 point.
  1. 2v2 with 2 2---In a grid 15x15 yards, each team has two players in the grid and two on the outside, on opposite sides from each other. The teams score by either making six passes (with teammate inside the grid or support players) or by executing a 1-2 (wall pass) with a support player. After 3 minutes switch inside and outside players.
  1. 5 Goal Game---4v4 2 in 35x40 yard grid. Five 2-yard goals are spread out throughout the grid. The plus 2 players are always on the attacking team. The teams score by passing through any of the goals to a teammate. Must receive with inside of foot, then outside, weak foot inside/outside are different expectations that can be put on the players. First team to 10 points wins. Players need to be able to see where the open goals are, and receive with a “picture” of what is around them. With this in mind, if the players are advanced enough, the player receiving through the goal must play 1 touch. Coach could require receiving player to perform a feint before touching ball.
  1. 3v3 or 4v 4 To Four Small Goals---In a 30x30 yard grid, two teams attack the two opposite goals and defend their two goals. The goals are three feet wide and setup near each corner. With three attackers the players now have the 1st attacker (ball) and 2nd attackers (support) and a triangle shape in attack, looking to change the point of attack away from pressure. The defending team now has the 1st defender (pressure), 2nd defender (cover), and 3rd defender (balance). This game can be played to lines, goals with keepers, four squares or targets.
  1. Bread and Butter---Typical 4 vs. 4 but with an additional 4 players who stand on outside of field and can be used by either team as outlets (with only 2 touches). If a team gets scored upon, they become the team on the outside and the outside team plays on the field. Use approximately a 20x25 yard area. Stress correct technique, receiving sideways on, and facing where they wish to play. May restrict the players to 2/3 touch to force quicker decisions, and better body position before the ball arrives. Keep score and make the game competitive.
  1. 6v6 team touch---Play a normal 6v6 game except for the fact that every player on a team must touch the ball before their team can score. This forces players to show for the ball, to communicate, and to spread out the field. Version 2: If players are advanced, you can enforce a 3 or 2 touch limit on players.
  1. 8v8 dual sided goal---Using a coerver goal or setting up a goal in which the goalie must protect both sides of the goal, play 8 against 8. Both teams can score from either side of the goal. If a goalie makes a save she just punts the ball out. Teams must learn to change the point of attack and must give support to each other and communicate constantly. This will help teach teams to make the field big when on offense and to try to compact the field on defense.
******************* Every practice should include a scrimmage***********************