Tips for Kids Transitioning From Under 8s to Under 9s Football

under 8s to under 9s
The move from under 8s to under 9s is a big one on junior football, with a considerably larger pitch, a change from 5 a side to 7 a side and longer games too. So here are some tips to help your team with the transition.

Contents

In junior football, the move from under 8s to under 9s brings with it a whole host of changes. In fact, it’s arguably one of the biggest jumps throughout the all of junior football. So here we’re going to share the key differences and some tips on handling the transition.

Differences in Game Play and Pitch Between U8 and U9

In summary, these are the key differences between under 8 and under 9 football.

 Under 8s footballUnder 9s football
Ball size33
Format5 a side7 a side
Pitch size1/8 of a full size pitch1/3 of a full size pitch
Goal size12 feet by 6 feet12 feet by 6 feet
Match lengthUp to 40 minutes (2 x 20 minute halves)Up to 50 minutes (2 x 25 minute halves)

It’s worth noting that there can be variation from league to league. In the East Manchester Junior Football League, for example (where my own team plays) under 8s play 30 minute games (2 x 15 minute halves) while under 9s play 40 minute games (2 x 20 minute halves).

The table above shows the maximum permitted.

With that in mind, here are some tips for your transition from under 8s to under 9s.

Familiarise yourself with your league’s changes

I mentioned above that while an under 8s game can be 40 minutes and an under 9s game can be up to 50, different leagues have different lengths.

So check the specifics for the league you’ll be playing in so you know what the biggest changes are.

Talk to the team about the changes and what they mean

The two biggest changes are the number of players on the pitch and the size of the pitch. They’re the things your players are going to notice the most.

Many junior 7 v 7 teams set up in a 2-3-1 formation. But whichever formation you adopt, under 9s is likely to be the first time that your players playing in defence have had another player alongside them in defence.

Think about this and other things that are likely to be noticeable differences and talk to your team about them.

Quiz them in a fun way on what they think the changes will be, how it will affect them and how their gameplay might need to adapt.

For example, if you’ve got players who’ve enjoyed two seasons of sprinting the whole length of the pitch with the ball, under 9s will likely be when this becomes much more difficult for them, so there’s an even greater need to pass and combine as a team more.

Chat through the changes with your team.

The Same Core Principles Apply

While there are notable differences that it’s worth talking to your team about and coaching around, it’s also worth reminding them that many of the core principles remain the same. Finding space, passing, knowing when to press forward or push back – they’re all very much key principles.

Fitness Will be More Important

With a pitch more than double the size of the previous season, new under 9s will find this a big jump in terms of fitness.

Incorporating fun, football centric fitness drills into training will help here. But ultimately, a bunch of children who are active anyway will probably adapt better in fitness terms than many adults to an increase in physical demand.

Organise Friendlies in the Off Season

Without a doubt, the best way to get your former under 8s used to playing on a bigger pitch in a 7 a side format is to…

… have them play on a bigger pitch in a 7 a side format.

All the other clubs close to you whose under 8s are moving up to under 9s are experiencing the exact same thing right now and we’ve found so many of them are keen to organise friendlies.

Try to find teams who are a similar level so it’s a more even game and make sure the focus is on exposure to the 7 a side game without the pressure to win.

If you don’t already have contacts, consider posting in your league’s Facebook group or other Facebook groups for grassroots clubs in your area.

Resources

There are some incredible resources for coaching junior football on the England FA website

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