Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Recently I received this note from a youth coach.
I have been working with a recreational soccer organization the past two years. We have been focused on player development and getting all of the kids out there involved. Our program is over 60 percent Under-8, with the rest spread out over the U-10, U-12, and U-14 ranks.
After this past season, parents of one team of U-8 boys complained that they didn't think that all three U-8 boys' teams in our organization were balanced amongst each other even though they all had nearly identical records. Long story short, the parents are demanding a tryout scheme be step up before spring soccer starts.
There are three USSF certified coaches in the organization and we keep telling the parents and the organization's Board members that the idea of having tryouts for U-8 in a recreational league is silly, but no one seems to be listening to us. Is there anything that the US Youth Soccer Association may have in writing we can show them that may drive this point to them home? We have been having great success by focusing on Player Development and working with all of the kids on all of the skills. The three of us coaches that have gone through training think that the idea of tryouts on such a young age will hurt the program overall because it implies a win at all cost mentality.
The 55 state Technical Directors agree with your stance and have stated so in the Position Statements. Here are the ones pertinent to your situation.
PLAYING NUMBERS – SMALL SIDED GAMES No. 1
The intent is to use small-sided games as the vehicle for match play for players under the age of 12. 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 12.
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 v 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! These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2009.
• We believe that players under the age of eight should play games of 4 v 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. These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2009.
• We believe that players under the age of ten should play games of 6 v 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 Youth Module certificate. These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2009.
• We believe that players under the age of twelve should play games of 8 v 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. These playing numbers for the U-11 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2011. These playing numbers for the U-12 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2012.
REALIZING PLAYER POTENTIAL No. 3
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.
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 U-12
FESTIVALS FOR PLAYERS UNDER-10 No. 9
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 U-10 teams from traveling to events that promote winning and losing and the awarding of trophies.