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A good game spoiled

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 Picture a beautiful spring evening, sunny and not too warm. A great game is being played between two evenly matched U12 teams. While this is a game between two recreational teams, many of the players from both teams would be comfortably playing at the academy level. The game is close throughout and late in the second half one team breaks through and scores the only goal. As the director of this program, this is really the best that I can ask for in terms of player development and having an environment where players are challenged to do their best and grow from the experience.  Unfortunately, because of scheduling issues brought on by spring weather and a chronic lack of referees in youth soccer, I am also refereeing this game. In my job description, this falls under "other duties."  Each season, I end up refereeing a few games and usually it is not a problem. My coaches and parents generally understand how they are supposed to behave and even if they don't normally act t

U8 season goals

Since we moved to a large group training approach for the U8 in 2018, we have developed a set of season goals for the age group that are developmentally appropriate. I have listed them in sections below and then added some detail about the most important elements.  Skills :  Passing control of bouncing balls dribbling skills- pull back, outside foot push, inside/outside, inside/inside Team shape Head/ Wings/ Tail Tactical goals Head stays high (in the attacking half of the field) Find the head- complete a pass to the head.  Team goals Bananas split- concept is to keep players from bunching up.  Visual cues: if your teammate has the ball, don't go towards the ball.  Individual goals:  when the ball is in a clump of players, pull back dribble around defenders, not through them.  Go to the side, not forward first.   In making the transition from U6 to U8, we move from One player and her ball Find the ball, go to the ball to a team shape for the first time (Head, Wings, Tail) where the

"Get Outta Here" The best game ever

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If you are looking for a game that can be used to emphasize a technical skill like passing or to present players with a more tactical focus like solving problems in groups of 2-3 or creating space in the final third, then look no further than GET-OUTTA-HERE. This game has all the skill elements you need and most of the tactical elements you will need up to 4 v 4. In addition it is a competitive game that always gets your team motivated. Finally, players are forced to communicate both on and off the field to ensure success and if they cannot communicate effectively, their team will lose, so there is a real penalty. The setup of the game is simple. Break your team into two approximately equal level groups. Assemble them on the sideline on either side of you with all of the balls next to you. Give each team a goal to defend. I usually start out with 2 v 2. Set a time limit of 2-3 minutes for the game and play up to three rounds. The team that wins two out of three rounds is the winner

The "show my skills" pinkie promise

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American Soccer has long been derided as little more than "kickball." We have a large number of players, but produce relatively few truly outstanding players compared to a country like the Netherlands which has a much higher success rate at developing young talent. There are tons of reasons why we lag behind other countries including the lack of infrastructure and the lack of a "soccer culture" where people had grown up with the sport and therefore have parents with prior experience. Our parent coaches are often transplants from other sports that are primarily coach directed like football and baseball. Employing the same coaching strategies in soccer is not very effective due to the player-centered nature of the sport. The problem As the director of coaching for a recreational program, my most persistent problem was finding coaches for U5 and u6 teams. When I did find these coaches, they had little idea of what to do with the kids during a training session o

The golden rule of free kicks

In a U10 game, a player is offsides. It happens all the time because 9 year olds, like the rest of us have difficulty understanding (or accurately calling) an offsides infraction. The other team gets a free kick. The coach calls out a player to take the free kick and then has most of the team move up the field. The player taking the free kick gives it a big run up and kicks the ball as hard as possible. Most of the time, it goes directly to someone on the other team and immediately, the team which, moments before had the advantage, is now in scramble mode. They just ran up the field for the free kick and now they run back down the field to chase the other team and try to prevent a goal. Does that sound like a familiar scenario? I see this regularly every week. In addition to free kicks, it happens on throw-ins, goal kicks and almost every time the goalkeeper gets the ball. There is a rush to get the ball down the field as quickly as possible. Next time you watch a game, count how man

U6 game models

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We are wrapping up the season and I wanted to record some of the action so that I could see how players have grown. I have observed a great deal of growth in the players in terms of their skill and attention to the game. Many parents have commented about how their child is starting to "get it" when it comes to game play and how to use the skills we focused on in training. When I started the group training for the U5/6 in the fall of 2017, I did it because I was dissatisfied with the quality of coaching at practices and game play. I thought it would be easy to train a large group of 4/5 year olds and improve the quality of their development. As you can probably expect, it wasn't easy. Activities that are easy to do with 6-10 players on your team are almost impossible to carry out with 40-50 players. Getting 8-10 teams of players to the correct field and have the right color was crazy some weeks. Despite the challenges, I was able to modify the sessions to focus on my p

Calming your inner voice

I had the chance to observe two U12 games this past weekend. Both games featured some quality play by both teams. One game was close, the other was not close. Even in the game that was not close, the losing team was creating chances to score so it felt more even than the score would indicate. What really differentiated these two games was the behavior of the parents and the coaches. In one game, the majority of the talking was coming from adults on the sidelines in the other game it came from the players in the game. If you have read some of my other articles (the cheer don't steer program, "helping" your players during the game), you probably already know that I prefer the game where the players are talking. I thought it might be helpful for us to consider why parents and coaches feel compelled to speak during the game. You already know that soccer is a player-directed sport where the coach can have little impact on the game because it is moving so fast, there are fe