At the youth level, games are a forum for players to test their ball skills and game awareness, and should be considered an additional means of development, rather than the objective. Results are important as it gives the players a competitive focus in the match. Coaches are encouraged to promote soccer that: • is free flowing, • is coach-guided, not coach-directed, • demands that all players on the field, regardless of their specified position, participate in defending and attacking. GAME FORM: A maximum of 6 v 6 including a goalkeeper. GAME DURATION: 2 X 25 minutes SUBSTITUTION: Free GK STATUS: Players rotate as goalkeeper in game. All players should experience playing all the different spots on the field during the season. FIELD SIZE: 60 yards x 40 yards BALL SIZE: 4 DURATION, RATIO OF BALL-CHILD: Practices should consist of no more than 60 minutes of structured, adult-directed soccer with an additional 30 minutes allotted for free play/self expression and self-improvement. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING DURING PRACTICE: As much as possible, let players experience soccer through 3 v 3 to 5 v 5 games that last for no more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. The small numbers allow the players to gain critical practice at 1 v 1 and 2 v 1 situations, while still allowing for the fun and feel of a soccer game. The time limit gives the players a predetermined amount of uninterrupted play, while also allowing an opportunity after 10 minutes for the players to refocus. At this age, players are typically ready for games or activities that help them learn when to play the ball sideways and backward. They also can begin to appreciate and enjoy playing the game skillfully. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING IN MATCHES: A team of 9 year olds who hold their positions and maintain a steady group of defenders who rarely, if ever venture into the attack, looks like a well disciplined and well organized team. However, U.S. Soccer does not recommend this as a proper approach to developing players at this age. It does not develop good soccer players. This approach hinders the player’s ability to experience and enjoy the natural spontaneity of the game. It does not allow the players to have an equal opportunity to go and “find” the game based on what they see from the game or to handle the ball and develop instincts for the game. These are skills that they will need at the older ages and that are often lacking in the older players. This approach, while “successful” in the short term, fails the players in the long run because the environment does not allow the players to develop the tools they will need to be truly “competitive” i.e., prepared to deal with the game, at the older ages. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF INFORMATION THAT IS COMMUNICATED TO THE PLAYERS BY THE COACH: The coach should make comments that help players to stay involved and keep track of things without giving them all of the answers: “Join the game,” “Find the ball,” “Go get the ball,” “Don’t hide.” The coach for this age group does not focus on positions, yet encourages everyone to take part in attacking and defending. Try to manage the amount of information or feedback your players are receiving immediately after practices or matches. In today’s youth soccer landscape, kids at these ages are being overloaded with adult feedback and evaluation. Too much or inaccurate information can be counterproductive to your goals. NUMBER OF MATCHES PER CALENDAR YEAR: It is recommended that players play up to 20 matches per calendar year for their clubs. There should be a ratio of 2 or 3 practices per one match. Players should be given two days rest per week at least. In league play, there should be no more than the equivalent of 1 game per weekend. There should be no standings or post season playoffs and a limited number of small-sided round robins. Tournament play should not be encouraged. TRAVEL: In state travel only with a 1 hour maximum travel time. TOURNAMENTS, FESTIVALS, ETC.: May attend a few jamborees or festivals per year where no results are compiled. STATE, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: None.
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