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.)
I often wonder if in the "American Landscape" we should be content to allow our youngest players the freedom to play in swarms. Our country's philosophical dynamic is heterogeneous and/or non existent. Teaching a new set of values to players at 10 seems unnecessary when we can begin to craft their perception at 5. I know, from 1-10 players must first develop a close relationship with the ball. However, sufficient mastery of the ball cannot be attained in once or twice a week team practice. This development must happen on players own time every day. I am starting to believe that in this country our coaching at the youngest ages needs to lay the perceptual framework for the type of tactical execution a coach/club wants to accomplish at age 10. Otherwise once players reach 10 years of age the coach is essentially starting from scratch. Watch this 3 minute video of a u6 recreational team with 6 practices and 6 games under their belt. Should their coach have acted more like a chaperone and let the kids do whatever they like? Is his training stunting their development?
10 tactical questions ? For a 11 year old kid's team ? Collage, "academies teams " and MLS teams can't figure how to play soccer and you think a parent will do by asking your "tactical " questions ? How about we just let the kids play , soccer it's not for coaches or parents , playing its unique form of actions, a way to mold the body coordination into specific ball movements,and the understanding to make things practical or efficient for any goal , its doesn't matter how many books you read o how long you coach if you never play" your game"as a kid ,most likely you don't have a soccer player identity, and you will not be able to be sensitive to motive kids emotions.
El juego por el juego en SI "
Los zapatos se gastan, las pelotas van y vienen, pero el juego esta en vos"
Soccer is a coaches game, not a players game. "letting the kids play" is the type of rhetoric that kills American player development. Do players need to spend thousands of hour playing with limited interference? Yes. That is what freestyle/street ball is for. If they are playing on a team, then they must educated. When teaching math do teachers write the numbers 1-10 on the chalk board and tell the kids to play with them? No, because the students would never figure it out. Check out these teams, their coaches run highly regimented training twice a week using the opposite of your "let the kids play" methodology. Would they have just beaten Ajax u12 if every day at practice the coaches just told the kids to play? www.3four3.com
“Soccer is a coaches game, not a players game” that is the most horrendous thing an adult, especially a coach would say. This is the type of coaches that uses kids for their sick glory.
The outcome of youth soccer development is actually the players only.
Not coaches no parents
If a parent or a coach does not have the ability to improve a young player’s game then live him alone.
Then” let the kids play”, they will be better alone than with a bad teacher, right?
Bryan, coaching is not about knowing only, it’s about getting there on time, even if you are right, at the wrong time, you will be wrong anyway. A 10 year old has more technical needs, than asking 10 tactical principals of a team, at that age he is most valuable as an individual than the team itself, at that age they have major issues with their body coordination, they can’t balance at ball, they don’t know the principals or concepts of technical movements, and each one is in a different time, general group drills not always work the same for everyone, their emotions can be positive or negative they can easy asses situations negatively and you need to be there on time, to control and motive them properly, they have to believe no because you say so, because it needs to make sense for them, then you will have confident players, we need to produce great players, don’t get all exited if the U- 12 wins a game, think like a pro.
A different perspective – I’m one of those pay-to-play Dads that did not grow up with soccer, watching soccer or knowing anything about soccer, however I have a son who seems to excel at it and since he is a first generation player, had no preconceived ideas about what position he played in, therefore has taken extreme pride in his Left-Fullback play (he is left foot dominate). When playing 3V3 tournaments, he is often a scoring threat however maintains a defensive posture until his rush forward to either distribute the ball or shoot. On his 8V8 competitive U11 team he almost exclusively plays the Left-Back position during games and only rarely Left or Center-Midfield in the club scrimmages(3-3-1). I have been concerned about his creativity, however have decided modern soccer creativity no longer resides at the individual level nearly as much as in the days of Pele when carries were 10’s of seconds long. Studies show that the average carry today is two touches with a single possession lasting about 1 second, covering something like 15 meters on average. Those stats seemed to have evolved out of a change in playing styles which includes higher speed aggressive defender development and stronger defensive team sets. The modern game IS different than in the past and most of the creativity seems to lay at the team level where total team rhythm and player synergistics (different roles and egos mesh). I simply can’t imagine how long it would take for youth players to learn the patterns and skills like passbacks, lateral passing to change attack points or chain passing without active or knowledgeable coaching. Just my thoughts.
At the younger ages kids have to be able to express themselves on the field. This could be called ball hogging. But to much structure will constrict there comfort level and fun with the ball. Let them try to take on 4 kids. Sometimes they will succeed and that will make them feel good and make them confident with the ball. A good coach will realize this. A good coach will not start to implement the tactical side of the game till u14 or u15. When they are able to understand and process the information. Sure ... at those younger ages you start teaching tactics here and there but dont be to rigid with it. Just be patient and keep teaching it without yelling at the kids if he holds it to long because he is being confident and daring. This came is all about confidence. The more a kid has the better he will perform on the pitch, at trials, etc etc. Of course... all this in my humble opinion.
I hope we learn from people that know soccer, like Jorge Raffo, Boca Jrs youth director. a real coach that will visit California some time this Summer