Let Them Play

Guide to Coaching Youth Sports

You’ve probably heard the saying "Let the kids play" before and we want to make sure that as a coach with Rainbow Soccer the focus is on having fun while playing soccer. It has been shown that kids have more fun and learn more at a younger age just by playing the game. In addition the more they learn and become skilled the fun level increases.

So it only makes sense that in youth soccer it has been found that the primary reason for players dropping out of soccer is that they were no longer having fun followed by not liking their coaches.

Bobby Howe from the US Soccer Federation says that... 

"Both reasons would indicate that those players were not exposed to an appropriate playing environment for their age and/or ability levels. Too much at too young an age would cause players to become disenchanted with the sport. Too little activity in practice sessions (drills) and games (too many players on the field) would cause players to become bored.

As coaches and administrators of our sport, we must listen to the players. We must create the environment for players to learn the game at their own pace without the pressure of impossible decision-making or the stress created by parental (adult) influence. We must allow kids to be kids and allow the game to provide their enjoyment."

He further expands on this concept by talking about the benefit of small-sided games and the role of fun in teaching youth soccer. 

 

"...Over the last few years, we have seen a gradual move towards small-sided games for our youngest players. Many people have recognized modified and micro soccer as the most successful vehicles for the development of players under 12 years of age.
 
Fewer players on the field.
·         Reduces the size of the "swarm".
·         Creates more touches.
·         Does not allow players to "hide" or be excluded from the activity.
·         Presents realistic but simple soccer challenges.
·         Requires players to make simple but realistic soccer decisions.
If all of the above is presented in an environment, which downplays the importance of winning, the result creates great enjoyment for the players.
 
Realistic experience + Fun = Improvement in play.
For all players the game itself is a great teacher and for our youngest players (6, 7, & 8 years of age) it should be the only teacher. However, as players become older, good coaching can accelerate the learning process. At what age should we start to give the game a hand?
Educators as the most productive in terms of the ability and desire of children to learn have recognized the time between 9 and 11 years of age. It is no less applicable to soccer. Children at this age are coordinated and eager. They have a great relationship with parents, teachers and coaches. It is important, therefore, that the influences in their lives are providing the best possible information.
Physiologically and psychologically, the ages of 9-11 are ideal for development.
At that age, children have grown out of infant instability but are not yet encumbered by the awkwardness of their early teens. This is ideal for challenging skills practice.
This age group also observes the important crossover from "selfishness" to the ability to socialize. In soccer terms, through this age period, children learn to understand the importance of cooperation in team play..."