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Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.

 

U8 Tournaments

Sam Snow

Please note that the Under-8 age group is not playing in tournaments nor do they all have flights or divisions of play across the USA. Indeed, most U8 teams play strictly intramural soccer (in-house; a.k.a., inside their own club). However, in some locals there is a rush to results oriented youth soccer and the questions and issues such as the one below come to being.
 
"Our U8 team attended a B, C level tournament with our C team. The host team played some of their designated B team players in all of the B games and also two for each of their C games along with their C players. Do you feel it is a skill building method to move the kids designated as B level to play against C players? And is this fair to the other teams who only brought C players?"
 
The intent of matches for the U8 age group should be to first and foremost deepen the love of the game within the children. The development of ball skills and game understanding is of secondary importance. Having players from two different levels play with and against each other can indeed be good for their development. That mixing of capabilities is what will happen when the kids have pick-up games in the neighborhood, at school or at the soccer club.
 
When the adults involved are less concerned with the score of the game and more attentive to how the kids play the game, then there’s a chance for real growth to occur; this where the question of fairness comes into discussion. Whether using a few "B" players in a "C" level match is fair stems from an outcome mindset. The mindset of the adults associated with the U8 age group should be on the process of play not the outcome of the match. While the players are aware of the score it is not the driving factor for their participation in soccer. They play, one hopes, because they enjoy the game. At this time in their soccer lives the emphasis must be on learning the game.
 
Please take a look at the U8 chapter in the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model. The information there will help to guide coaches, players’ parents and club administrators on meaningful developmental guidelines.
 
My final thought is really a question. Why are U8 players involved in a tournament in the first place? A tournament by definition is, "a championship series of games or athletic contests." So by definition, a tournament does not allow the opportunity for realistic development of such young players. They instead should participate in a soccer festival which is set up with round robin play, allows for players to play in several flights of competition and could even allow for players from different clubs to play in mixed matches. Oh, did I mention co-ed play? Give these children a fun soccer experience with a variety of levels of play and in time you’ll see their growth within the game. Now get out and play!
 

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