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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.

 

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.
 

Playing numbers for Small-Sided Games

Sam Snow

The intent is to use Small-Sided Games as the vehicle for match play for players under the age of twelve. Further we wish to promote age/ability appropriate training activities for players' nationwide. Clubs should use small-sided games as the primary vehicle for the development of skill and the understanding of simple tactics. Our rationale is that the creation of skill and a passion for the game occurs between the ages of six to twelve. With the correct environment throughout this age period players will both excel and become top players or they will continue to enjoy playing at their own levels and enjoy observing the game at higher levels. A Small-Sided Game in match play for our younger players create more involvement, more touches of the ball, exposure to simple, realistic decisions and ultimately, more enjoyment. Players must be challenged at their own age/ability levels to improve performance. The numbers of players on the field of play will affect levels of competition. Children come to soccer practice to have fun. They want to run, touch the ball, have the feel of the ball, master it and score. The environment within which we place players during training sessions and matches should promote all of these desires, not frustrate them.
·         We believe that players under the age of six should play games of 3 vs. 3. This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment. No attempt whatsoever should be made at this age to teach a team formation!
·         We believe that players under the age of eight should play games of 4 vs. 4. This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment. Players in this age group can be exposed to a team formation at the start of the game, but do not be dismayed when it disappears once the ball is rolling. The intent at this age is to merely plant a seed toward understanding spatial awareness.
·         We believe that players under the age of ten should play games of 6 vs. 6. This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment. The coaching of positions to children under the age of ten is considered intellectually challenging and often situates parent-coaches in a knowledge vacuum. Additionally, premature structure of U-10 players into positions is often detrimental to the growth of individual skills and tactical awareness. This problem is particularly acute with players of limited technical ability. We also believe that the quality of coaching has an impact on the playing numbers. We recommend that parent-coaches would best serve their U-10 players by holding a U-10/U-12 Youth Module certificate.
·         We believe that players under the age of twelve should play games of 8 vs. 8. This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate environment. The U-12 age group is the dawning of tactical awareness and we feel it is best to teach the players individual and group tactics at this age rather than team tactics.