Coaches Blog

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


To travel or not to travel

Sam Snow

This question was posted on the US Youth Soccer Facebook account.

"Sorry to bother you with what might be a silly question. I was unable to find this on your website. We were told by our local organization (not the State) that a child cannot play on a travel soccer team at the U9 level unless the child is at least a U8. My son is a U7. We were told this was a USYS rule? Any help you can provide would be great. Thank you."
To be clear, the restriction noted in the question is not a US Youth Soccer policy because it would be the local state association policy.
Here are some portions of the Position Statements from the State Association Technical Directors that pertain to this question.
While it is acknowledged and recognized that preteen players should be allowed to pursue playing opportunities that meet both their interest and ability level, we strongly discourage environments where players below the age of twelve are forced to meet the same "competitive" demands as their older counterparts therefore we recommend the following:
1. 50% playing time
2. No league or match results
3. 8 vs. 8 at U12
We believe that Soccer Festivals should replace soccer tournaments for all players under the age of ten. Festivals feature a set number of minutes per event (e.g., 10 games X 10 minutes) with no elimination and no ultimate winner. We also endorse and support the movement to prohibit U10 teams from traveling to events that promote winning and losing and the awarding of trophies.


Jim in Wolfeboro, NH said: Rodolfo, the answer to your question is interesting. If the purpose of the game is for a trainer/instructor to observe the skills being used and then using those observation formulate training sessions to improve needed skills, then the outcome of the game has little to do with that basic instructional process. Turning up the competitive environment for a player without good basic skill mechanics is like turning up the volume on an old radio, the noise that comes out is loud (and maybe impressive) but not very pleasing. If the trainer/coach focuses on winning instead of skill development then the outcome will be players that try really hard but lack the skill to make the game look easy and fluid. Too bad there is a small goal at each end of the field instead of a judge who decides the winner by who attempts to play the best soccer. U-10 is exciting soccer but the outcome is decided by the team with the biggest and fastest players who are willing to take the least risk. Focusing on scoring goals and winning games at U-10 unfortunately encourages coaches to focus on superior physical play and not the development of technical play which is critical for developing players in these ages.
05 November 2013 at 1:33 PM
Rodolfo in Columbus, IN said: Hi Sam, Festivals are a great idea. I understand the need to reduce competitive pressure for U10 kids and let them enjoy the game. However, I see part of their enjoyment comes from winning. And I see determination build up in some kids after they lose. Hence I am questioning the lack of an ultimate winner. Shouldn't we still keep score so the kids are motivated to win?
05 October 2013 at 11:02 PM

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