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Jan, 2018

The Dark Ages of Youth Soccer Development (Short Version)

What kind of games are most actually playing?

Soccer, when played extremely well, is known as The Beautiful Game. Rarely in the US will a true example of this be witnessed. Are games fast, forward, frantic and forceful or are they played with precision, composure, cunning and finesse? Are goals scored off of a methodical build up of skilled teamwork with a player properly striking the ball ... or was it a random bounce to a player that just happened to be in the right place? Was it from a more athletic player crudely out maneuvering an inferior athlete or was an obvious display of skillful ball manipulation? How many times is the ball simply kicked forward without any obvious precision or accuracy? How many times will a player blast the ball directly into the defender immediately in front of them?

Are the initial games for most young players beneficial or possibly detrimental to the process of hopefully creating  passionate and skillful soccer players?

Imagine, if you will, a group of youngsters playing their first baseball games. Being young and inexperienced none yet are able to catch, throw or even hit the ball but we are going to have a game anyway. This obviously will not be fun to watch as spectators/parents and it probably won't be much fun for the players. And its going to be a long game. Without the basic skill set needed to play there is no reason to have a game yet ... and we don't. Young players go through steps and eventually we get there. There's a bit of logic with this process, a method and we create nice players over time.

For young soccer players this logical approach does not exist!

Unfortunately, with soccer we can form a group at any age and start games right away ... because we accept such initial crude activities as a game and we assume it's the only way. We also assume that it's enjoyable for the players. This is not to pick on young players but their journey starts by playing the crudest style of this game ... because they don't have a single skill other than being able to run and kick "at" the ball. Their idea of the game is formed by this crude style and it's not necessarily positive image.

What happens is that the players being simply more athletic at this age are the ones that touch the ball the most and they might be having more fun if were being honest about these games. They all have loads of potential but this is an idiotic way to start actually.

Is this the only way? Is it necessary and most importantly is it actually enjoyable for most players???

What's even worse than this faulty method of introduction for young players is to see the large majority still playing such a crude unskilled game season after season, year after year believing that more games, driving further for those games and spending more on camps, trainers and switching clubs constantly will rectify the situation. This is part of the typical journey, unfortunately.

The most honest observation is this ...

"In the rush to play all those games no one is really learning how to play the game really, really well."

The traditional developmental recipe is suspect. We play overly crude games at the onset. As players age we add a degree of physicality to these games ... more force is added and not as much skill nor IQ and this continues at at every level.  Later, in the last years, since the technical and tactical abilities were not developed as desired ... now only more force can be added ... not finesse. It's too late to get those numerous touches. Unfortunately it's not about playing "harder" or "faster" ... but with more skill and thought. This is understood by very few.

This is the American Tragedy regarding soccer development for young players. It's Futbol ... NOT Football!!!

Even at the highest level we are struggling and here is an honest assessment.

WE DO NOT BLAME THE PLAYERS BUT DO CONDEMN THE TRADITIONAL PATH THAT EXISTS WHICH CREATES THIS PROBLEM.  There is a better way, a better game and a more enjoyable journey that most are missing.

REVO SOLUTION - Avoidance of full sized games for the younger players. Smaller games are simply better ... more touches. Smaller game type variations are better yet. Smaller IQ type free-play games are absolutely the best and the more the better for the younger ages. These are unique games not found elsewhere. A few full sized games will be introduced when appropriate. Anyone can play Whack-a-mole soccer trying to score goals. How many understand that mastering "keep-away" is actually a totally different game? Master Keep-away and you will get all the goals you want ... later.


Why is everything backwards is the simplest of questions? (Please apply your common sense to the following)

Running before Walking ...

Why are so many playing those beginning games where running at full speed is natural but with minimal skills?  Bulldoze first ... dance later???  This is Backward thinking!

Practice/Game ratio ...

Very few older players might play for a Development Academy or DA which, the claim is made, is the highest level of development. A major change typically is that they will now practice more and have fewer games with a ratio of 4:1 or so. This is a good thing for developing. Why did it take so long?

U8s might have a ratio of 2:1 but when you add tourneys it's usually about 1:1. This is a bad thing for development. This is backward thinking! The question might be ... who really wants all those games? Parents or the Players?

REVO SOLUTION - At every age there is an appropriate number of practices per week. It's about time with the ball, numerous touches and creating confidence and comfort on the ball. Games totally detract from this objective initially. To improve the practice/game ratio or goal that is actually trying to be achieved, a better solution is to realize there are many soccer type activities that can replace full sized games.  More touches, a greater variety of touches, less "game"pressure and actually more fun overall. This is actually the way to create passionate talented players and too many games will do the opposite.

About league play, games and winning

Who's Coaching Whom ?

Most Directors of Coaching (DOCs) know that the best coaches should be with the youngest teams. This very rarely happens if at all. That is if we are talking about what is the best for long term development. Most are not thinking about the long term. This is Backward thinking!

What is questionable is how much of the younger teams Club fees go towards the higher level coaches with the older teams. Remember ... the majority of young Club players quit by the 7th/8th grade so they will not get the benefits of those better coaches later.

Traveling and Tournaments ...

Long ago when there were fewer teams maybe traveling was necessary. Today there are over 400 Club teams locally. If a typical player spends more time in a car seat traveling to the field than on an actual field then we have a problem. Traveling to Tournaments is even more absurd for the most part. A tournament once in awhile is not such a bad thing. Now that Clubs increase revenues tremendously by hosting tournaments we really have a problem. Excessive tournament play is detrimental to long term development!!!  A social event for families but not so much fun for the players. Maybe ask them once in awhile? Typically backward thinking!!!

Surviving Tourney Play

Guest Players ...

A guest player is a player from another team. If a team is missing existing players than there is a logical reason for a guest player to help the roster. If a guest player suddenly pops up for those more important games or tourneys ... then beware. The coach either failed to develop his own team or has not much confidence in the team. Either way he is more worried about his pride than letting the team develop. Every minute the guest player is on the field is time his own players could be learning.

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