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.
Recently a reader commented “…while our state association now allows U10 teams to travel our club has resisted. We made this decision because the pressure to win is ramped up when playing against other communities and this may retard the individual player’s development. Instead we continue to play in-house in small-sided games against their local friends with less emphasis to win, but more emphasis on skill development. Yet many parents say we should allow U10 travel since other communities do it. What’s your take on this?”
In a nutshell the less travel for the U10 age group the better. In some circumstances though traveling to another town to play is a necessity. This may be for the small soccer club with a small number of U10 teams. Or a club that’s geographically isolated from other soccer clubs may need to travel just to have games. However U10 teams should travel a maximum of 100 miles from the home club. Overnight stays should be avoided. Given the fact that soccer is a long term development sport gives us time to ease children into the rigors of competition on the road.
Aside from the need to teach them how to travel, behave well in a hotel, eat and rest properly when away from home in order to perform well, how to handle downtime between matches and so on we do the kids a disservice when we give it all to them early in their soccer careers. This is one of the symptoms of the too much-too soon syndrome from which many adults in youth soccer suffer. If they have been there and done that what is there to look forward to as they grow into their teens? Little wonder then that many 15-year-olds are already jaded about participating in tournaments and leagues. And this at an age when they should be the most involved and excited about competition.
The distances and time involved in team travel should be gradually expanded during a youngster’s career. At U6 and U8 everything is in-house. At U10 some travel could be allowed, short one day trips, but most play should continue to be in-house. At U12 travel to a tournament or two in state makes sense. At U14 travel within the region is fine. At U16 travel around the USA and perhaps one foreign trip too. Start off with foreign travel within CONCACAF. By U19 the world is your oyster and travel to soccer destinations anywhere on the globe makes sense.
By using a progressive plan of soccer tours for the growing player there is always a new horizon to be explored. Soccer is the world’s game and it will give our participants a chance to literally see the world. But let’s take it one step at a time!