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The problem of having players on the team, that have a very different level of soccer skills

 by  Coach Gianni Mininni

I recently receive this email. It underlines a problem that is very common. Considering how the American youth teams are formed, without try outs but just putting together a group of friends, probably all the teams have this problem. I think that it could be useful for teams and parents in the same situation, to read what I wrote to this mom.

My words are after GM-

Dear Coach Gianni

Thank you so much for all of your interesting articles. I find them all very informative. thanks! I was wondering if you have an article that addresses how the best teams utilize (or not) all of their players during practice and/or games.

GM- I don’t have a specific article about this topic, because soccer in America is based on a misunderstanding. A soccer team is formed ‘after’ a try out, in which the best 20 players are chosen, and not just a group of 15 friends that clearly couldn’t be at the same good level of soccer skills. This misunderstanding provokes the situation that you underlined. There is too much difference in soccer skills, which inevitably leads to a WRONG situation of A and B players!

There are several parents on my daughter’s U10 team who want practices and games to be centered around the best players (i.e. the girls who start which I’ll call the A Group). I’ll call the girls who don’t start the “B Group”

GM– Girls U10, that means 9 year olds, ARE NOT SOCCER PLAYERS. At this age, there are not categories! At 9 years they have to be there to LEARN the basic soccer skills, like in a soccer class. If after the learning they play a game, it’s just to have fun and try to put on the field what they’re trying to learn. So, for no reason in the world should there be A and B level players! There is only a group of girls who are learning the fundamentals of soccer.

During practices they would like:
The A group to learn their positions and how to play with each other. Have the A Group all be in their positions and use the other 4 girls (B Group) to help the A Group learn where and how to move. The B Group could be sub-ed into these practices after the A Group gets it. Right now, the coach divides them equally 6 vs. 6 and teaches them positions using a smaller sized game.

GM– If the parents are asking for this (you say: they would like) this is even more incorrect. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to decide this matter that is exclusively a coach’s responsibility. Besides it’s too early even to teach them to play in a fixed position. They have to rotate in all positions on the field.

During games they would like:
The A group to play most of the game – a little time for the B Group. Right now, the coach lets all the girls play a min. of 50% of the game. Some of the parents would like that to be much less.

GM– At 9 years old, playing soccer should ONLY be about having fun! It is not correct to teach kids that some of them deserve LESS FUN because, apparently, they are not good enough!

I don’t feel like this is a good way to manage the team (my daughter does start right now, so that’s not my reasoning). I feel like this would divide the team into two groups – those who feel good about themselves right now, but are probably worried that they could be demoted and those who feel horrible about themselves. Do you have any article that would help me??

GM– As I said, I don’t have some specific article about this topic. What I can say is that this is more about ‘good sense’ than soccer. Let the kids have fun, without dividing them into A and B categories at 9 years old.

In your email, you often refer to “them”. If the majority of the parents like to do that, besides the fact that it’s deeply wrong, there is nothing that can be done. They don’t understand that at this age, sports have a totally different meaning than to play and win games.

Thank you for any information that you can provide.

GM– Anyway, as I said in the beginning, kids should play, BASICALLY, pick up games. This means go to a place where they can spontaneously come together and have fun. Just a few, with a clear predisposition, could enter a soccer club and act like a ‘soccer player’, submitting herself, maybe, to the situation of ‘starters’ and ‘reserves’ even if this should begin around 14/15 years old and for sure not at 9.

Reach Coach Gianni –

Gianni Mininni

Coach Gianni Mininni is the author of "The Team", a Soccer Novel. The novel is for people of all ages, even if they are not strictly soccer lovers. Players and coaches will find dozens of situations and suggestions that will permit them to improve their soccer knowledge and consequently, perform better at any age. Learn more about Coach Gianni Mininni at The Coach Gianni Soccer Academy.