By Stan Baker
The 10 questions found below are especially directed toward parents who have children 10 years old and above.
Below this age level, the players are still very egotistical and focused on themselves rather than on any sort of collective play. The infamous swarm is actually just a reflection of the natural process. The best thing to do is to keep the numbers low for this age group since fewer players mean more access to the ball and less suffocation by both teammates and opponents. This will ultimately lead to better player development.
To avoid confusion and disappointment from parents, coaches of players under 10 years old should communicate to them that it is OK at this age level for the players to gravitate to the ball, and that the game played by the youngest players shouldn’t reflect that of a professional team.
The intention of this list of 10 questions is not to put any extra pressure on the coach, but rather to help solidify the parent support for long-term development.
Parents who understand what the team is trying to accomplish and what our style of play looks like, will be more likely to lend support and back what the coach is attempting to do. With this said, the process will require much more ongoing communication throughout the season. It should be communicated that the process of long-term development requires patience.
10 QUESTIONS FOR PARENTS
(Analyzing my child’s team -- U-11 and above)
1) Are the players attempting to pass the ball on the ground to teammates, or are most passes just played long and far into space?
2) Does the team try to possess the ball? How many passes does the average possession last?
3) Is the ball up in the air or out of play for a large part of the game?
4) Does the team pass the ball laterally from one side of the field to the other switching the point of attack? Are they patient in building an attack, or do they hurry to kick the ball forward?
5) How often is the ball passed backwards? On a more evolved team the ball should be played back once every three to four passes.
6) Does the team rely almost solely on kicking the ball forward to a big fast player up front to score, and on another big fast player in the back to cover for mistakes and send the ball forward? If so, what kind of soccer experience is the rest of the team getting? (As the players move to a more advanced level of play we must remember that most defenders will be as big and fast as our team’s primary goal scorer. Also, better players and well-organized teams learn to defend long straight passes quite easily.)
7) Does the game appear to be out of control? Are there frequent, consecutive changes in possession?
8) Are all players moving to create space or to support the ball, or does the team rely on only a few players?
9) Do the players always play in the same position on the field or is there a rotation?
10) Has the team evolved from the beginning to the end of the season? Has your child progressed as a player?
(Excerpted from “Our Competition is the World: Ideas for implementing the United States Soccer Curriculum.” By Stan Baker 378 pages, 2012. Lulu Publishing. $22.99.)