Tab Ramos: 'We need more players who can make important plays'

In the wake of announcing new Player Development Initiatives -- standardizing small-sided play through U-12 and changing the birth-year registration to January -- December, U.S. Soccer released the following statements from U.S. Youth Technical Director Tab Ramos. Ramos is also the U-20 men’s national team head coach and an assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann with the full national team. Ramos’ Hall of Fame playing career for the USA included appearances at the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups, the 1988 Olympics, and the 1983 U-20 World Cup.

On the benefits having players play on smaller fields with teams of fewer players …

TAB RAMOS: We are helping players develop by putting them in an environment where they are constantly involved in the play. That could be with the ball or without the ball, in small-sided games, all players are involved in the play.

If they are defending, they are trying to win the ball back, cutting angles, communicating with teammates or just getting goal-side of the ball quickly. If they have the ball, they are immediately being challenged so they have to adjust to thinking quickly either to play the ball to a teammate, protect the ball to keep possession or more importantly take a player on and make a play to goal.

When the game is on a big field, there are many different ways to not be involved or to hide. With these initiatives we believe we will be developing players much more comfortable on the ball who will have an easier time making better decisions under the opponents pressure.

Tab Ramos (Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer)

How these small-sided standards directly impact the players …

TAB RAMOS: By being involved constantly, the players will learn from a young age how to make important plays and make plays individually that can break down teams. That’s something we lack. We do have good players and every day we produce better players, but in general I think we need to develop a higher number of players who have the ability to make important plays that can make a difference in the game.

They will be able to see plays develop in high-pressure situations from a younger age and will learn to find solutions faster. They’ll be able to break down teams on their own, even with the right timing of a pass.

In general, we would like for players to be able to process information faster, and when they’re in this environment they’re going to learn to do that over a number of years. When you have young players in an 11v11 game there are only so many involved in any one play at a time, by taking numbers away and playing 4v4, 7v7, and 9v9, you are multiplying their chances on the ball, increasing their touches and making it overall more fun by being an active participant at all times. Fast forward 10 years and there are thousands of game situations added to a player’s development.

On changing birth-year registration from an August-May format to January-December …

TAB RAMOS: It makes the process easier. Over the years you go through coaching youth soccer you are constantly finding parents and players confused about what age group players belong in. The current August 1st cutoff meant that two players born in the same year could be in different age-group. To make it more confusing, different school systems have different cutoff months for going into the new grades. It was just very difficult for parents to take it all in.

This new calendar year system makes soccer easier. If you’re born in a certain year you belong in that certain age group. Simple. It also puts our players on the same age-playing calendar as the rest of the world so they will be used to competing in the right age-group. Much easier for us to scout for the national teams and find players ready to compete internationally”

On the timing of the birth registration changes happening right away?

TAB RAMOS: We are easing into it and working towards it. Best practices will come into effect next year as we work towards getting everyone ready for 2017.  Some teams have been together for a couple of years already so the goal is to make the change without disrupting too much. At this point clubs have to decide on their own how they manage the transition over the next year and a half or so. Some clubs have already made the change starting this year and are already ahead of the curve, which is great. That helps so much. In general we have to give everyone the opportunity to get comfortable with it, but it will come so the sooner the clubs react the better.

6 comments about "Tab Ramos: 'We need more players who can make important plays'".
  1. Ric Fonseca, August 25, 2015 at 10:29 p.m.

    This is world-known concept that has taken US Soccer more than 50 years to implement, and it will be transitioned in more smoothly than not. The eara that will be reluctant to implement the small-sided games are/will be some local associations to state associations. So kudos to Tab Ramos and US Soccer... after all hope springs eternal!!!

  2. Emile Jordan, August 26, 2015 at 11:06 a.m.

    This is awesome. Obviously the age group realignment and small group play addresses many issues for all concerned in a positive way.

    NOTE: Having players play up is a valuable tool as long as it is applied wisely. Players need to always be challenged to be the best they can be in a fun productive way.

    I have coached many players at a big club on lower teams that have moved on to the top age group team and even DA teams. Sometimes kids are missed and need to be fast tracked to a more challenging level of competition. Sometimes there is development and or maturity issues that are better addressed on a lower team.

    In those cases a coach can challenge that player in different ways to prepare him for higher level play.

    Meanwhile his teammates will more rapidly develop ball control and understanding of the game. This reveals more diamonds in the rough and better exposes players that think they are better than they are and do not put in the effort to get better.

  3. aaron dutch, August 26, 2015 at 11:35 a.m.

    Awesome! Tab & Klinns deserve all the credit for pushing this thru the political /drama factory of american "pay to play" football business

  4. Wesley Hunt, August 26, 2015 at 7:21 p.m.

    Small sided games on smaller fields has been a long time coming. I am very glad they are finally doing it.

  5. Jeffrey Organ, August 27, 2015 at 3:07 p.m.

    This standardization of small sided fields is an excellent move. There has been a movement to more of these types of games at the younger age levels and hopefully this will continue. The speed of thought and ability to make attacking plays is one of the biggest issues we have had for years. I am concerned that it is a bit of the cart before the horse though. The inability of our teenagers who have played soccer for 7 -10 years to perform simple basics like trapping, passing and being comfortable with both feet is endemic to our current system. Hopefully the focus on youth small sided games does not become focused on winning vs. teaching.

  6. Thomas Hosier, September 4, 2015 at 2:04 p.m.

    What I have seen in coaching is focus on the formation or "the system" with creativity, vision, and spontaneity being coached out of teenagers for the sake of "the system or style of play." I definitely agree with the forthcoming mandates but when "cream rises to the top" don't stiffle it .... encourage it! Just sayin'

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