Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sam's Blog - Level of Play - Feb. 13

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

At some point in their youth soccer coaching career most coaches eventually face the question of should a team move up a division in the level of competition.

Here’s a typical scenario from an American youth soccer coach:

I recently met with the parents of our U12 boy’s team to discuss what division they would be participating in the spring. The team was invited to play at a more competitive level by our youth association. Two dads sent out an email taking it upon themselves to make sure the boys would stay at the lower division due to the fact that if they move up they are in danger of not winning any games for the season. The team was in the top four places in their age bracket and I assured them that their children would benefit by playing at higher level even though we did not win the division. The parents’ final stance is that when they win the division then they can move their children up to play at the higher level. Am I wrong to allow our kids to stay at the lower division and have success or would playing up hinder the children’s development or stifle their love for the game.

By this age, 12 years old, the players need to begin making decisions that fit their individual needs. Some of those kids may have the talent and drive to play in that next competitive level as offered by the association/club. Others may be better suited to stay at the current level of competition. In any case the entire team likely will not stay together as a unit. Just as in school at this age some kids in the same grade begin to be on slightly different academic tracks with the classes they take at school. They are still part of the same school and the same grade, but their classes are fitting their current academic needs. In soccer too they will still be part of the same club and age group but in different teams (class) and at different levels of play (curriculum) to fit their current needs.

Here are the overall objectives for this age group:

Ages 10-14 Puberty
More combinations on offense and defense. Many decision making environments. Psychologically positive with correction. Advanced competitive skills against match opponents. Tactically work on the roles of attack and defense and the basic principles of play. Exercises should focus on endurance, rhythmic movement, flexibility and running mechanics. Application of where it all fits into the game – the part of the field.

Matches of 8- to 11-a-side. Selection (try-outs) should not begin until the U13 age group. Less emphasis on the match results and more emphasis on players’ performances.

From the state Technical Directors Position Statements:
Age of competitive play # 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

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