As the old saying goes, you’ve got to walk before you can run, and you’ve got to crawl before you can walk. The initial stage of development is absolutely vital – without a foundation of basic knowledge and fundamentals, any training of an advanced nature is useless. For young soccer players, nothing – nothing – is as important as familiarity with the ball. The game is all about the ball. It is more than merely a tool; it is also a measuring stick, both in terms of player development as well as its role as the arbiter of plays.
It is the ball that decides key moments of the game. Unlike other sports such as football or basketball, which considers play stopped when the player steps out of bounds, only the location of the ball matters in such decisions. Pundits on television broadcasts reference physical challenges in this manner – was the player going for the ball or looking to foul the player?
In terms of development, all player decisions are processed in relation to the ball – its location, direction of movement, velocity, spin, height, etc. As a tool for evaluation (whether in a pick-up game or a professional environment), both coaches and teammates are looking to answer the basic question – what can the player do when he gets the ball?
As a tool for evaluation, coaches observe what a player can do with the ball as their primary assessment focus. How can a player’s ability improve so that he can employ proper technique at the appropriate moment in a game (a question of skill)?
For young players, this means becoming more familiar with the ball. A young player needs to explore and discover the many methods of controlling it. The great players became stars because they always had a ball at their feet when they were young, always trying something new. A few examples can be found in this youtube video. Enjoy.