Why Does Middle School Seem to be the Cut-Off in Youth Soccer?
The most fundamental skill in soccer is individual mastery of the ball and the creativity that comes with it. This why we encourage and allow lots of individual work in our training and games, especially in the early years. As this skill is mastered, the more complicated and tactical decisions of the game become easier to teach and learn. The area that needs the most improvement in the American soccer landscape is our approach to technical development. Something this country lacks is technical players. The solution for this is creating environments where young players frequently touch the ball when they are very young, and having them spend lots of time with the ball. There is also an unfortunate trend in the American youth soccer culture for kids to stop playing soccer after middle school. This is a component of our nation’s youth soccer culture that Mockingbird Valley Sports Complex (MVSC) strategically aims to rectify. To ensure players stay playing the game they must:
· Have Fun
· Improve Skills
· Stay In Shape
· Enjoy the excitement of competition
· Embrace playing a role in a team
· Rise to the challenge of competition
· Keep learning new skills and improving fundamentals
US Youth Soccer has around 3.2 million registered players. Interest in playing organized soccer rises and peaks between U-6 and U-12. Many players will never compete in organized soccer past middle school. The stark reality is that the vast majority of our players never develop a comfort level with the soccer ball. Furthermore, most youth coaches are unfamiliar with soccer and are ill-prepared to work with young players. That’s why at MVSC, we only hire coaches who have played soccer in high school and college. This guarantees they can demonstrate what is being taught. Furthermore, we monitor and train our coaches to constantly improve.
Youth soccer is all about the individual loving the game: dribbling and shooting, playing games and scoring goals, experimenting and copying. It is very simple and lots of fun. Adult soccer is all about the team and results. It is physical, tactical, complicated and very serious. At mockingbird we structure our practices so that the individual gets the most out of the practice. In the adult soccer game, the adult-imposed pressure to perform often supersedes the natural inclinations of young players to engage in friendly, balanced competition. With the adult soccer model, competition for league standings, particularly at U-6 and U-12, promotes a no-risk, win-now, exclusionary mentality, which has the potential to stunt development. According to US Youth Soccer Coaching Committee, based on player retention figures, 70% of parents become dissatisfied with youth soccer and leave the sport before their kids enter high school. In response to this, Landon Donovan of the US Youth Soccer Coaching Committee says,
“You can always learn the tactical side of the game later. It’s amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn’t matter when you haven’t even learned to control the ball. We’re going to have big, strong, fast players. We’re Americans, we’re athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it’s just useless.”
“We don't demand that the youth teams win, we demand that they play good soccer. We don't use the word, “winning”. Not until after the players reach age 16 is there fitness training. Before that age we mainly play soccer. Everything is with the ball. We work on skills and some tactics.”
Jose Ramon Alexanco
FC Barcelona Youth Director
The vast majority of soccer parents are unfamiliar with the sport and serve to perpetuate the “just boot it” culture instead of encouraging the “control the ball” culture. This past week at MVSC, I instructed our coaches to choose a practice plan from one of the previous weeks to repeat and reinforce. I am pleased to say that as I work with our coaches and oversee their practices, the players are getting lots of touches on the ball and are developing appropriately. Please consider re-enrolling for the upcoming 2015 MVSC "Winter II" Soccer Session early in order to secure your place in the Session as the numbers are always very high during the dead of winter. We want to see your child stay in the game and get more comfortable with the ball at his feet so he/she can continue thriving past middle school. Simply click on any of the "Register Now" buttons on the website TODAY to secure your child's place in the upcoming Winter II Soccer Session, and to see all that MVSC has to offer over the holiday season!
As always, thank you for trusting us at MVSC with your child’s soccer experience and development. We will see you on the pitch!
MVSC Youth Soccer Program Technical Director | 502.896.2412