Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Let them dribble
by Mike Woitalla, December 13th, 2007 1PM
Subscribe to Youth Soccer Insider

MOST READ
TAGS:  youth boys

MOST COMMENTED

By Mike Woitalla

It's one of the most common screams heard on the youth soccer fields of America: "Pass it! Pass it! Pass it!"

Unfortunately, parents and coaches often aim their shouts at young players who are at a stage of their development when they should be encouraged to dribble.

Becoming a confident dribbler is the first step to developing a comfort on the ball necessary to be a good passer and shooter. Discouraging young players from dribbling is like telling toddlers to shut up when they're learning to speak.

"This whole routine of 'pass, pass, pass' is unrealistic for the young age groups and it's been pounded into so many of our kids for so long I would argue a little that it helps explain why we lack outstanding dribblers on our national teams," says Sam Snow, U.S. Youth Soccer's Director of Coaching Education. 

Former U.S. women's national team coach Tony DiCicco addresses the issue in his instructional book, "Catch Them Being Good":

"At a youth soccer game you'll probably hear parents and coaches on the sidelines yelling, 'Pass the ball! Pass the ball!' ...

"When we continually tell our young players to pass the ball, we're not allowing them to develop their full potential, especially those who have the ability to take their opponents on and beat them one-on-one. As a result, we run the risk of diminishing a player's artistry and potential."

Mia Hamm credits pickup games she played with her older brother and other children as a key to her success, because, "I was able to dribble all I wanted."

Youth coaches often emphasize teamwork before children can comprehend the concept.

Those who sit back and let the children explore the sport at a natural pace will usually find that the players begin to ask each other for the ball. And there are ways to create a practice environment in which all the players get a share of the ball without forcing them to pass.

Small-sided games ensure that all players are close to the action. Coaches can play along in practice and aim their passes at players who haven't gotten enough touches. You can even throw an extra ball into the scrimmage.

That passing is a crucial part of the game at the older age levels doesn't mean it should be demanded of young children.

"You can learn the tactical side of the game later," says Landon Donovan. "But if you don't learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it's just useless."

The U.S. Soccer Federation's Player Development Guidelines point out that "At the younger ages (6 to about 10), soccer is not a team sport. On the contrary, it is a time for players to develop their individual relationship with the ball.

"Do not demand that the more confident players share the ball. Encourage them to be creative and go to goal. Do the same for the rest of your players."

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches U-10 soccer in Oakland, Calif. He is co-author of Claudio Reyna's book, More Than Goals: The Journey from Backyard Games to World Cup Competition . Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com .)

 



0 comments
  1. Joe Braun
    commented on: January 10, 2008 at 2:11 p.m.
    Absolutely 100% correct! This needs to be taught and encouraged at the earliest possible opportunity. I think that micro soccer games should be cut back and a skills challenge added to the Saturday game routine. Kids can still compete but it would give more emphasis to learning the essential fundamentals like dribbling. The number 1 reason for micro soccer games, in my opinion, is just to amuse and entertain soccer parents. It does little in terms of player development.
  1. Tom Gass
    commented on: January 11, 2008 at 9:53 a.m.
    I'm currently a U9 coach although I assist a U14 team. There is a lot that I agree with in the above article and comments. If sports were set up differently, as Joe suggests for Micro Soccer (nice idea BTW), then I would entirely agree. I am not all about winning. I like to win but mostly I want teach the kids skills and provide the opportunity to have fun. I spend a portion of every practice working on dribbling and ball control because I want the kids to know how to handle the ball so they can keep possession. I also emphasize passing a great deal because it is a team sport. If one kid is holding on to the ball the whole time, the other kids don't get a chance to handle the ball. This tends to breed resentment and a much more selfish attitude, in my experience. We are limited to practicing two times a week for an 60-90 minutes per session. It is my belief that kids need to take some responsibility for their development by playing games on their own. Make believe they are Roladinho or Kaka or Beckham and play. Most of these kids play a number of sports and many will never go on to play soccer in HS let alone college. But I can show them how to be successful as team. I will work with them on their individual technique but they have to do the homework if they hope to go to the next level. And there's nothing wrong with entertaining the parents. They pay the bills. Thanks for the interesting article.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Youth Soccer Insider
Girls Development Academy taking shape: First 25 clubs accepted    
Twenty-five clubs have been accepted so far by U.S. Soccer to compete in the Girls U.S. ...
Is it OK to take pain medicine in order to continue playing?    
Several factors cause athletes of all levels to continue to play through pain: the warrior mentality, ...
California clubs shine at Development Academy playoffs    
FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake-Arizona were the only clubs to qualify for the U.S. Soccer ...
Tips for attending a college ID camp    
With summer being a popular time for young players to attend College ID camps, we've asked ...
Gottschee and FC Dallas take No. 1 seeds into Development Academy playoffs    
FC Dallas and BW Gottschee of Queens, New York, are the No. 1 seeds in the ...
Teen stars sign with MLS clubs    
In the wake of Atlanta United, set to begin MLS play in 2017, signing 15-year-old Andrew ...
How refs deal with trash-talking    
"Look at the scoreboard" and "You got nothing" are two common things that trash-talking players say.
Does American soccer really only work for white kids?    
Les Carpenter's article for the London-based Guardian on American youth soccer is headlined: "'It's only working ...
Changing the Canvas: Finding Inspiration Outside of our Beautiful Game    
My wife is a developmental psychologist. For two decades she has been studying children and the ...
'Toughest World Cup yet' awaits U.S. U-17 girls    
The USA will face Paraguay, Ghana and defending champion Japan in the first round of 2016 ...
>> Youth Soccer Insider Archives