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Fundamental Soccer Blog

FC Portland’s New Approach by Jason Carney

In the fast-paced world of youth soccer, finding the balance between rigorous training and maintaining a love for the game can be challenging. Recently, Jason Carney, coach of the FC Portland U14 Girls team, shared a refreshing perspective on LinkedIn that has garnered attention and sparked conversations among soccer enthusiasts. As a passionate advocate for making soccer enjoyable for five decades, I was thrilled to witness this exchange and would like to share it with you!

“Meet Kay, the FC Portland U14 Girls team mascot,” Carney began, setting a light-hearted tone. “If anybody was observing our practice last night and saw the team playing chicken tag at the start of practice, they would have thought, ‘WHAT IS THE COACH DOING?’ We have a new team with new players, and many have stories of how they were falling out of love with the game. We focused on FUN, RUNNING, and BEING COMPETITIVE. There is no coaching on our principles. Let’s just focus on the three main aspects of playing soccer. It was so much FUN!”

Carney’s approach represents a significant shift in youth soccer training. The focus is now on creating an enjoyable and engaging environment, a departure from the traditional emphasis on technical drills and rigid structures. This new approach is beginning to resonate with many youth coaches, who have seen its positive impact on player development, long-term passion for the sport, and the prevention of burnout from intense training regimens.

Sean Chapman, a respected voice in the soccer community, enthusiastically responded to Carney’s post: “There’s that word again: FUN! That’s the key: Less Talk, more FUN. Next? Shorter practices, not longer… You want your players leaving wishing there was more FUN! Explore more at  fundamentalsoccer.com.”

Coach Chapman’s remarks, “Made My Day,” made me feel FUNtastic. Since the early 1980s, I have been emphasizing, despite some resistance from the traditional perspective, the importance of making hard work look like FUN.

The resulting “FUNdamental SOCCER—Practice” has been widely recognized and adopted throughout the USA and Canada as one of the most flexible and enjoyable approaches to dramatically improve younger players.

The Key:  Keep It Simple! All that is needed are:

  • Players
  • Safe facilities
  • Micro-goals for each player
  • Some essential equipment
  • A timetable

Realistic themes: Ask yourself,

  • Does or could it happen in the game?’ If the answer is ‘YES,’ then practice it.
  • If the answer is ‘NO,’ then don’t practice it!
  • Create an environment where players are constantly engaged, whether playing soccer vs. opponents — individually, in pairs, in small groups, or in team scrimmages.

The Key Again: Keep It Simple!

The conversation between Coach Carney and Coach Chapman is a testament to the evolving landscape of youth soccer coaching. By prioritizing fun and fostering a positive atmosphere, coaches can help players rediscover their love for the game and develop their skills organically. As Carney’s team mascot, Kay, might attest, the entire team benefits when soccer practices are filled with laughter and joy.

This evolving landscape prompted me to research why we can’t also have more enjoyable and skill-advancing league games. This led to the creation of the FUNdamental SOCCERevolution!

This unique and innovative approach to youth soccer has become extremely popular in Europe. It not only prioritizes fun and development but also offers a fresh perspective on player engagement and skill advancement. After decades of traditional soccer, findings reveal that a staggering 70-75% of our children/players stop playing by the age of 13-14. Clearly, We’re Ready For & Need to Make Changes!

Together, we can and must change youth soccer for our U-6 to U-12 players, coaches, and their families to decrease the dropout rate! Therefore, …

I invite you to join me in the SOCCERevolution! Please share your ideas, experiences, and suggestions on the changes that need to be made and how we can reach and teach decision-makers to have their input, embrace, and eventually adopt this new approach. Your input is invaluable, and together, let’s make a lasting impact on the future of youth soccer!

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