English soccer goes kid-friendly

English soccer goes kid-friendly

Recent changes in Canadian youth sports that promote children’s physical literacy are starting to happen in other countries.

The motherland of soccer, England, is making sweeping changes to kids’ “football.” The English Football Association (FA, for short) is officially backing a switch to small-sided mini games for kids, with an emphasis on developing skills and technique in childhood.

For England, this is huge news. It’s been one of the last soccer nations still making kids play like adults.

Among the new changes, seven and eight-year-olds will start playing five-a-side games on smaller fields instead of the traditional eleven-a-side adult game.

Most soccer experts and top professional coaches such as Arsene Wenger agree that small-sided soccer and skills development are the key to developing good players.

The Canadian Soccer Association officially endorsed mini soccer for kids in 2007 with the release of Wellness to World Cup [PDF]. Meanwhile, leading soccer nations such as the Netherlands have been playing small-sided soccer and emphasizing skills over winning for decades.

And the Netherlands have consistently outperformed England at the international level for years, despite having only one-third of the population.

Are you a soccer mom or dad? Are your kids playing on smaller fields? Tells us what that experience is like for them, and for you. Are they having fun? Have you noticed that they are developing soccer skills?

6 responses to “English soccer goes kid-friendly

  1. I really hope they don’t introduce LTPD which is what OSA (Ontario Soccer Association) has done – it’s completely screwed soccer in Ontario. Moving from a 11v11 to a 7v7 or 5v5 for the younger kids is one thing but they have taken it too far and changed the boundaries of leagues, etc. making it almost impossible for soccer to continue in 2015.

    1. I think Ontario has in essence changed boundaries for the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) by awarding team franchises to specific clubs, but that only affects about 5% of the players at very most. I don’t know how this makes it impossible for soccer to continue in Ontario? Also, Canada’s top professional players and coaches (DeVos, DeRosario) have backed the changes for ODPL — and LTPD in general — so that’s a pretty strong endorsement. I imagine there will be a few growing pains as Ontario introduces these changes and tweaks to the system, but that’s normal in anything.

  2. The other way to reduce “ball hogging”, Lynn, is to make sure that every kid has a ball. The more they touch a ball, the better their skill development – and confidence.

    1. I think Lynn is talking specifically about the games, as opposed to training exercises. There’s something to this — perhaps mixing and matching kids for “intensity” and ability in games if there is a big gulf. But I would also caution: less experienced players naturally learn and improve by playing with more experienced players, so you don’t want to create too much segregation and “streaming” at young ages. Best approach we have found at our club in U6-U11 is to mix and match during training session games, and for house league games, we actually have a “strong” U10/11 league and a “less strong” U10/11 league. There is still variation in ability levels, but the gulf is narrowed to a manageable level. Key is that ALL PLAYERS get same quantity and quality of coaching and training, regardless of level. We don’t play favourites. Because some players who appear “weak” now at U10 will later emerge as your strongest players in U14, U15 and beyond (growth and maturation factors) — it’s a serious mistake to imagine we can identify talent at U8, U9, U10 and even U11. Even the Dutch and Germans can’t do this. Lots written about this.

  3. The small sided games are such a great idea for “like minded players”. However less confident children are not excelling when grouped with confident and very coordinated children. You can reduce the “ball hogging” when you have like minded players on a field.

  4. I love the idea of the 5 a side for kids. Playing 11 a side is insanity. Might as well be mud-wrestling…

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