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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.

 

Players Train Player

Sam Snow

In our youth soccer environment the training sessions tend to fairly sterile in that the U7 team only practices with the U7 age group, girls only practice with girls and so forth. We have evolved into a situation where there's little interaction between age groups and sometimes gender too. By allowing this to continue we devolve our clubs into mere associations of loosely connected teams without allegiance to the club. We also miss out on opportunities for the players to help one another grow in the game. For example in soccer times past we had pick-up games with mixed ages and occasionally mixed gender. Now-a-days far too much of our training environment is isolated by age group and gender. We are missing out on the chance for older players to help the younger players learn a bit more about playing the game. Not all teaching of the game comes from coaches nor should it. Players should also learn from watching college, professional and USA national team matches. They can also learn from the players in their own soccer club at practices. The coaching leaders in a club should organize times for older teams to practice with a younger team. The U9 and U10 teams combine in a training session one day for example. The U14 boys team has a practice game versus the U17 girls team as another example. From this environment within the club the players help each other grow in the game, they get to know one another better and a feeling of club unity expands. They may also begin to support each other's matches. If the older players come and cheer now and then for the younger players at one of the matches the impact on self-esteem, confidence and club loyalty will be profound. When the younger players go to watch a match of an older team in the club the crowd atmosphere improves and the younger players are exposed intimately to a higher level of play. The older players could attend younger team training sessions to play alongside of them or help coach them or just to be the example of how to do certain ball skills. The possibilities are many if we take advantage of clubs with a full range of age groups developing players from within. So in a club these are the older age groups to come and help with the younger age group with training and to cheer at their games. The U12 age group works with the U6 age group. The U14 age group works with the U8 age group. The U16 age group works with the U10 age group. The U19 age group works with the U12 age group. The adult teams work with the U14, U16 and U19 age groups. Indeed players 16-years-old and older should be encouraged to play on both a youth team and an adult team.
 

Age of competitive play

Sam Snow

The U.S. Soccer National Staff Coaches, the state soccer association Technical Directors and the US Youth Soccer Coaching Department have Position Statements on several topics in the youth soccer realm.  Here is one on appropriate playing ages for elite play.

Age of competitive play        No. 4
 
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 v 8 at U12
 

Realizing player potential No. 3

Sam Snow

To maximize player potential, we believe that State Associations and progressive clubs should work to expose their better coaches, who should hold the "Y" License, to their youngest players.  It is also seen as important that mentoring programs be established for community soccer coaches to improve the quality of youth soccer training.

The developmental approach emphasizes the growth of individual skills and group tactical awareness.  We feel too much emphasis is placed on "team" play and competition in the preteen years.  We believe in an inclusion model for preteen players.  From this perspective, the goal of youth soccer programs at all levels is to include players in matches at an age when experience is more important than outcome.

Further options for players in their teen years that are not interested in competing at the highest level, but still have a love for the game should be created.  Perhaps older teen coed teams or high school based teams on a recreational basis.
 

No. 2 Goalkeeping

Sam Snow

We believe that goalkeepers should not be a feature of play at the U6 and the U8 age groups.  All players in these age groups should be allowed to run around the field and chase the toy, a.k.a – the ball.
 
For teams in the U-10 and older age groups goalkeepers should become a regular feature of play.  However, young players in the U-10 and U-12 age groups should not begin to specialize in any position at this time in their development.