We established in Perspective Check (Part 1) that the very nature of our soccer culture produces more losers than winners. Let’s reverse this trend by understanding…
There are two ways we eliminate youth soccer players. The first is cutting players. Cutting includes either cutting the player from the sport totally or cutting the player from a “travel” team. Both suggest to the player that he or she is not good enough to play the game. This can cause a sense of rejection and questionable self-worth. It is true that, as players grow older and try to play the game at a higher level, the cutting may be justified and even necessary. But there is no reason to cut a player from a youth team. We cut a player from a youth team because the emphasis is on winning, and the coach believes that player will not help the team win.
The second way we eliminate youth players is far more subtle. This is very serious because the coach often does not understand what is happening. This type of elimination takes place when children quit the game. It is important for the youth coach to understand how and why youth players quit. Dr. Tom Turner, Director of Coaching and Player Development for Ohio Youth Soccer Association-North, says the research is clear. Seventy percent of children quit sports by age 13 because:
• They are not being taught skill
• Adults are too critical of their mistakes and self-expression (creativity)
• Adults don’t understand the needs of young people
• The children do not develop ownership in the sport
• The children are not having FUN
When any of the above happens to young soccer players, they quit and are eliminated from playing the sport. How many “late bloomers” have been forced out of soccer because they were not having fun? How many potential national pool players quit the game because adults wanted to win? We never really will know, but we do know that young boys and girls are quitting the game.
What can be done about this problem? The following suggestions are not new or revolutionary. Many of you have heard some form of these for years, but for the new coaches who are fighting hard to make sure their U-11 team cracks the Top 10, here is some advice that is supported by research:
• Emphasize skill development, not winning. The LTAD Model for soccer coaching suggested by Istvan Balyi (National Coaching Institute, Canada) shows that competition should not be emphasized until ages 13-14, and training to win should not be emphasized until ages 17-18. The emphasis is on skill development until the age of 13 or 14.
• Build self-confidence.
• Play small-sided and multi-goal games.
• Rotate players, so they play all positions.
• Be patient with the mistakes players make.
• Recruit better coaches for the younger players.
• Emphasize the big picture and the future for the players.
• Maintain a balance between the number of games and the number of practices.
• Be sensitive to the reasons kids quit playing soccer. Pay attention to what the kids are saying.
We know all this. It’s time to put the words into action.
I think the big thing missing from both parts is the amount of pressure the parents put on the child!
How can you develop a child when their parents are telling them they should only play front in attack?
Or their parent pulls them from a team because the coach has identified that they are good playing up front but are lacking in the defensive side of the game so play them in both the defensive role and in goal!
I run an Under 9s team (7v7), and my biggest problems with developing the kids are the parents!