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.
The question below is from a US Youth Soccer coach working in his community with grassroots soccer. Please see my response at the end.
What is your advice on managing younger kids with superior abilities?
My youngest son is a Under-6 (only misses being a Under-7 by just over a month) and is dominate on the field. He has superior technical abilities (e.g., changes direction dribbling, shoots with both feet) for his age and very knowledgeable about the game. I won’t bore you with the details, but he can score at will and no one on the opposition can score when he’s in the game.
He’s not bored and is still having fun. Luckily for me, he is not consumed with scoring and limits his shoots. He gains possession and passes to a teammate. He does so on his own; I did not tell him to do this.
My larger concern is with the other kids. As a coach, he changes the dynamic at practice. I cannot put him with anyone if I’m doing something in pairs. I set up two games to end practice (2 v 2 and a 3 v 3) and he dominates the game he’s in. I’ve tried 2 v 3 with him on the short side to no avail.
As someone involved with our club, I’m concerned with kids on other teams. No one can advance the ball when he is in the game. This past week, I only had five kids show up and he had to play the whole game. Needless to say, the opposing team did not score and anyone who advanced the ball into our side of the field had it taken away.
I’m sure this is not a unique situation and I assume US Youth Soccer has some suggestions on how to handle this. I’m looking for a solution that is both fair to him and fair to the other kids. Any information/advice would be greatly appreciated.
On a side note, I am planning to attend the National Youth License Course this summer. I have also offered to run the Under-6, Under-7, and Under-8 programs in my club next year. My goal is to educate our coaches with what is taught by US Youth Soccer. Some members on our board are very stubborn, so I’m uncertain as to whether it will be accepted.
I am pleased to read that all is well with you and your soccer experiences. What you have is a “good problem.” Yet I know that it is indeed a challenge. Here are a few suggestions for your situation:
- During training sessions have him teach another player one of his favorite moves…peer teaching can be a powerful tool…next week he teaches someone else
- Ask him in training when you are playing a small-sided game to make passes to set up teammates to score (how many assists can you get?). After doing so in training a few times then ask him to do the same in a match.
- Give him more leadership responsibilities…this component of athlete development is often overlooked as coaches focus too much on the physical components
- Give him cooperation challenges that will stretch him beyond his social/emotional age such as combining on passes with more than one teammate (small group play – say of 3 players) or to make passes to teammates other than his closest friends.
- Be sure he is getting the opportunities to play in all of parts of the field.
Those are just a few ideas to get you started.