Now that a new soccer year is just around the corner coaches will need to prepare for the meetings with the parents of the players. Any number of items will need to be discussed and some of the items will depend upon the age group of the players. Training session and match schedule is information for every age group as is the location of fields. Health and safety matters will be another common thread for every age. Some issues though will be somewhat age specific. For the coaches and team managers of the Under-6 and Under-8 teams who is bringing the post game snacks is more important than it will be to the staff for the Under-17 team. In a few instances some big decisions will need to be made at these pre-season meetings. Such is the case of one coach as you can read below:
“I recently met with the parents of our Under-12 boy’s team to discuss what division they would be participating in the fall. 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 a higher level even though we did not win the division. The parent’s 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?”
The Under-12 age group is a crucial one in player development and a transitional age group. Kids in this age group begin to have distinctly different aspirations within the game. Here’s how I replied to the coach’s questions.
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 your association. 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.