Want the U.S. to excel in soccer? Then youth should be playing 5-a-side until they earn their way onto the big field

Here’s a good account of the soccer culture in Brazil from Mike Singleton and a key part of his commentary about the Brazilian soccer culture and how futsal is integrated into it:

2) Futsal demands great technical skills and forces high speed of play (both thought and execution) upon players. In addition, players have to learn the basic principles of the game to play futsal and play both offense and defense … our players seem to sometimes take breaks in transition from one to the other in either direction.

3) The goals set up on multiple beaches and stands to watch beach soccer games show how pervasive a love this country has for soccer.

4) The goals set up in every small park in every neighborhood shows the pervasive love of soccer … these parks rage from sand to grass to turf to concrete.

I agree. I also think there’s more to it.

In the U.S., youth advance to the next field size and number of players on the field by age. For example, when a child turns 8, they progress from 4v4 small field soccer to 7v7 soccer on a bigger field.

This age advancement takes place before most kids have mastered the level they are on.

I have a simple recommendation to fix this: Advance kids by competency, instead of age.

A child should play 5-a-side until he has the skills to move on.

Soccer basics are 1st touch, dribbling, passing, tackling, winning 50/50s, defending and shooting.

If kids move up to more players on the field before they are proficient on these basics, their progress will slow down, by definition, because they will get fewer touches on the ball.

I see the results in my local soccer league.

Each age bracket has 8-10 divisions of ‘premier’ teams and 2-3 divisions of ‘rec’.

Only the top 2-3 ‘premier’ divisions have players who are proficient on most of the basics (often, just barely).

The rest are filled with players who aren’t competent in most or all basic skills. Playing full field soccer doesn’t give them near enough touches on the ball they need to improve and many of them quit after a few seasons because they don’t improve.

I believe they’d improve quicker and maybe would stay more interested if they played 5-a-side soccer until their skills were ready for the larger field, instead of pushing them onto the larger field before they are ready.

 

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2 thoughts on “Want the U.S. to excel in soccer? Then youth should be playing 5-a-side until they earn their way onto the big field

  1. Pingback: More thoughts on 5-a-side | Our Dinner Table

  2. Pingback: “Soccer Starts at Home” | Our Dinner Table

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