Back 20 years ago it was so normal for novice soccer players to be older. Nowadays it’s another story because kids are being professionally trained year round by a coach. This doesn’t mean it’s too late for age 11 or even 14 year old novice soccer players to make the high school team. Matter a fact, I have seen players who were 10-11 years old at a rec level and end up playing D1 college soccer. Out of those, they put in a lot of hard work outside of team practice from 10-13. Waiting to play select or start getting skills training away from your team at ages 13-14 is going to be tough. With hard work and the right methods it can be done.
Common questions asked by novice soccer players
Q: My 11 year old kid needs training. What do you recommend they practice to improve at this stage? That is, what do you work on first?
A: We always want to know what experience your daughter has, what is her personality, soccer playing style, or any other information you think is important. We will often ask if you think your daughter [or son] needs footskills, passing, receiving, shooting, or a little of everything.
Q: My 14 year old has decided they want to play soccer again. It’s been since they were 8 years old when my kiddo played soccer. To make the high school team, what should we work on?
A: Soccer takes time, but with the right training you can catch up each week. Within 3 months just practicing on your own for 1 hour each week you can really improve. I would spend this time working on ball control, passing short with both feet against a wall which will also help your first touch. These are the 3 main things you want to focus on right now. If you don’t make the team this first year, please know that you only had a few months to prepare. Keep practicing and try again next year. 1 year of preparation will really have you playing like a different person.
Footskills [ball control] give confidence
What novice soccer players need to try and master first are footskills/dribbling/first touch.
One reason is because it gives them so much comfort with the ball.
Another reason is because they learn footskills fast, which is a early “win” for them. Cone drills are good, but really you don’t need them.
There are no cones on game day so players need to learn to dribble without them. Even better is just have the players dribble using both feet, right foot only, left foot only.
If you want the best methods get my online ball control program which is a safe platform with no ads.
The Basic has 5 lessons where the Advanced and Magic each have 10 lessons.
With this you only need 30 mins per week for 3 months they would literally look like a new player. Don’t stop after 3 months. The more you do the better you will become. I know this because this has been my full time [only] job for the last dozen years.
After you are comfortable with the footskills, then start to work more on first touch and passing.
Ways you can improve your first touch is by hitting the ball against a wall or rebounder.
Do these passing and first touch drills using a wall. Once all the passing fundamentals are sharp, athletes need to work in a group so they can work at game speed for a portion of the lesson, using 1v1 and 2v1 training.
More important than the amount of touches is, getting the right touches. If you have more questions, feel free to email me from the website.
Need more hours on the ball
Cool thing is if you are behind, you can catch up by putting extra hours in on your own.
Think about all the kids who played soccer from age 6-11. They are 5 years ahead of a player age 11 looking to get into soccer. If you get on a team and outside of that team train with a good trainer and on your own you will catch up in 1-2 years. As long as you are doing the right training you will improve fast!
Work on improving your form by dribbling in the backyard or at the park.
Make sure you are using different part of the foot. Most players only use the inside of the foot, so make sure you get used to using the outside and bottom of the feet.
Work on turning different ways, because this is something soccer players have to do often.
When using the outside of the laces try to bring your foot a little higher by bending your knee. When using the inside of your foot you don’t have to bring the foot as high.
Let your focus be doing it slow and correct over fast. Going too fast at this stage won’t help your muscle memory get it down the right ways.
Wall passes on your own to improve
Passing is a big part of the game and one of the best and fastest ways to get better at this is using a wall or rebounder.
I have put a few YouTube videos up of different ideas using a wall to improve passing. The quality of the video is not the same as my online ball control courses which are in a safe platform / ad free, but it gives you ideas. At first the form might be wrong, but the key at the beginning is that the player gets enough reps to even know they can connect.
Another good way to use a wall or rebounder is to get 2 yards away and work only on your right foot. Get 20-30 passes and then switch to your left foot doing the same. Being close up allows you to get more reps. Make sure your toes are up on most of these passes. There will be times when the ball gets wide and you need to adjust and use a different part of the foot.
Video below shows a few passing drills to do on your own.
How to kick with power
When kicking (passing and shooting) with power it’s important to know the different ways. There are 5 great ways to pass and shoot. Of the 5 ways these 4 are the best ways to kick a soccer ball. Most select youth soccer players aren’t good at all of these way.
There is the inside push pass, which is a must know.
Then to get more power you want to learn laces, bending inside and then inside of the laces. Top of the laces is probably the hardest for most players to become good at.
I would bet you that of the high school varsity players on the top 10 teams in the state, most can’t hit a clean ball with the laces. They can kick accurate and hard, but it’s not clean for over 50%. I know because I train a lot of these talented kids.
Remember to be patient and keep practicing. It will come.
Below is a short video of a college player from University of Texas Longhorns who I’ve trained since she was 9 years old. She can shoot with both feet, but even she needs fresh reminders and practice.
Video you see below is Syd working with the left foot (her weak foot). Click here to see us working with the right foot.
Motivate and encourage with facts
Kids all across America and the world start playing soccer/futbol as young as 4, 5, 6 years old. Some are even getting private lessons week after week as young as age 6 and 7.
So kids age 10-11+ years old are going to know the difference in skill level when going up against these kids who have been training for 4 years straight.
The KEY is that you let them know they will catch up within as soon as 1 year. Like I said above, I have seen kids age 10 who were playing rec soccer end up being one of the top 50 players in the state by 13 years old. So again, encourage these age 11-14 players that it’s not too late, just takes time and dedication with the ball.
Mental toughness is what it will take for a novice 14 year old
For novice soccer players ages 13-15 the key will be sticking with it and giving it time. When I say time, I mean 2+ years. If you only train on your own for 1 year, you still might not make the high school team depending on how good your school is.
Training on your own will help you improve every week. You have to understand that some days you won’t have the same drive or excitement, but those are the most important days to train. Everyone will train when they feel like it, the strong minded (YOU) will train on the days you don’t feel like it.
To give you a timeline, each element often takes about 3 months to really see big change in 1 element. So if you work on ball control give it 3 months. Passing 3 months, shooting, receiving, so on and so on. The hard part will be having to wait for something you want, but if you realize that with time and hard work good things will happen then you will be okay.
Timeframe for a novice 14 year old to catch up on skills
When I say “catch up” I mean for you to make a high school team and contribute with playing time. It also depends on what high school you go to.
If you are in North Texas, Northern Virginia, California at a big school it will be tough. If you live in a smaller community you have a better chance. States like Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, New Mexico. Even here in Dallas/Fort Worth, which is by far a top 3 youth soccer area in America, there are kids who move to smaller towns in the metroplex so their kids have a chance to make the high school team.
In my opinion, for novice soccer players it takes about 3 months to get really good at one attribute if you are working with a private trainer or on your own doing the right things.
You’ll need to work on short wall passes with proper form [toes up], trapping with the same part of the foot, long passes, dribbling and aerial control. Each of these elements will take 3 months, so that’s why I say give it 2 years. If you are not willing to put in the 30 mins per week on your own, then don’t even try because you won’t make it.