With a huge shortage of officials throughout the nation, and worryingly here in the Bay Area on our doorstep, we are looking to put together another referee course. Leave your information at the following link, and with enough interest we will host our third course of the summer – https://forms.gle/kvYQC35t48oSVqs8A
Youth sports needs officials to help provide the positive learning experience the youth athlete craves. Join our excellent group of officials, giving back to the youth of the local community. Officials are compensated, adding the already rewarding experience of being actively involved in the community and being a positive role model for the youth players.
This weekend we approach the first game for most of the players for nearly two years. Above anything else, we are so excited just to see kids back on the field again. With that said, we must look beyond emotions of returning to the field and operate within our structure. The following information will provide insight and depth to the soccer operations around a game day.
We are proactive and focus on what we can do. This is opposed to a reactive approach where we prioritize a response to opposition. Our priority is the Fremont YSC individual player, and therefore process orientated and not outcome. The following video is great at grounding us as adults in the game:
Jersey Numbers and Team Composition
2013 and 2012 teams are created through having players of similar birth age. Players born early in the year are FN I, and players born later in the year are FN II. This is completely different to other teams who look to either load by playing ability, or balance through a mix. Our is purely based on age, and for reason. Research shows that youth performance has no positive correlation to future performance and ability, with ‘better’ players largely dominant due to early maturation, or genetics in their size, speed, and power. The research shows that early identification is detrimental to long term participation, and most elite level players are not identified until 16 – 19 years old, with many early identified players dropping out. Our method of assigning players treats the players as an age group rather than a team (utilized by Icelandic FA, one of the most successful countries based on population size), and addresses Relative Age Effect where there is no bias towards players based on size due to being chronologically older (utilized by Tottenham Hotspur).
2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010
Jersey numbers are assigned to players based on their birth date. This is so coaches and parents have a visual aid in recognizing the Relative Age Effect, but also grounding us when we stray away from the process and slip into the temptation of comparing players against other. Players wearing a higher number will be the youngest in the age group, and therefore potentially almost a full year younger than other players. We must focus our attention on the individual, and not teammates, nor opponents.
2011 and Older are assigned to a team based on their rate of development in reference to our player pathway, and not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We would prefer to do this at a much older age, but we are still working against a culture that doesn’t support this. What we must do though is understand that players are in an environment to support ‘flow’, where the challenge presented can be matched by skill level of the individual. Finding this state of flow provides an appropriate challenge, and a focus on the process, which has a positive knock-on effect for the psychosocial pillar in confidence and motivation. As soon as we switch to focusing on outcome, we undo all these great positives from a process driven approach. Players in youth development are in current rates of development, and are not ‘elite’ or ‘poor’, we need to move away from this perception.
Field Size and Dimensions
2009 and 2008 (2008 missing the move up due to Covid) will be playing 11 v 11 for the first time, and on full size fields. This is a huge jump from the 9 v 9, and for the 2009 having only played a few months in 9 v 9 from the 7 v 7 this is a massive jump (something US Soccer should have considered for this season). Players will struggle to perform all the actions needed, and therefore recognizing the game insight of a player is important. A player can make the correct decision, but still be developing their physiological pillar and therefore the pass they pick out cannot be performed as they do not yet have the strength in kick to pass over a longer distance. A great video to see how this effects players:
Players over a large range could be going through maturation. An early developer could be up to 3 years ahead in maturation, while a late developer could be up to 3 years late. Even within one team that’s a 6-year swing, based on the two extremes, but another reason why we need to focus on the individual. While going through maturation the physiological challenges are great with a temporary loss of agility and co-ordination, which will affect skill performance and athletic ability. These are temporary, and during this time we need to be patient with players and showing empathy to what they are going through.
Our club captains can be recognized as the only players in the club who wear the #9 jersey. The captains are from our Senior teams, and have demonstrated the behaviors and values of Fremont YSC, and honor the jersey in memory of Arunay Pruthi.
Congratulations to the captains, we are incredibly proud of you.
The Talent Identification and Team Selection process is not defined by creating winning teams or grouping players together that have chemistry and size to power their way though games on a weekend. By selecting teams purely in reference to a playing bracket or their ability to win a certain level of league or cup, we are getting pulled into the ‘results trap’. This is where we use a short-term outcome of a game result, to define if learning is taking place. Youth sports are not defined by wins and losses, and neither do early ‘elite’ level players provide an accurate indicator of a players future performance levels. All of the research proves this, yet the youth sports model is not adjusting to incorporate what we know, and governing bodies are still not utilizing this information to form its coach education.
A long-term player development plan is always communicated to parents at every club, how we are developing the players for the future. But ultimately, without the process of short-term goals and objectives, and ensuring players have fun and enjoy the now, the long-term player development plan is redundant. If burning out player from early specialization, treating young kids as elite athletes, and focusing more on the league, cup, and tournament entered across numerous States, is still the priority, then there are a huge number of potential players not reaching the elite levels of senior soccer, and a significant number of young talented players not making it to senior levels.
There here and now is more important, and what frames the evaluation and selection process.
Firstly, we identify the age-appropriate expectations of the individual player, in reference to the game model. Providing a road map towards that long term goal, but with a short-term view to guide the process.
Fundamental to Specific Specific to Performance
The evaluation process uses this short-term goal to help assign players to groups in which they can find the appropriate level of challenge and accompanying support. To often this process is seen as excellent, good, poor; and teams perceived to be ‘elite’ or not good. This is far from what a talent identification is aiming to do. Talent Identification is a predication of future potential, guided by the current rate of development. From the game model, age-appropriate individual elements are identified from player structures, and objectively viewed against the perceived rate of development.
Age and maturation is hugely influential on the youth players development, and to group players into teams of ability at ages below maturation is not found in any research to be accurate future predictors nor provide any benefit to the individual. In fact, it can be detrimental through the relative age effect. Where players are selected based on their characteristics through early maturation. Early physiological and cognitive development over technical performance.
To address this the Fremont YSC U9 and U10’s are not assigned by perceived rate of development, but by birth month as an age group, with club age group numbers assigned to their jerseys in reference to their age, providing a reminder that players should not be compared against each other, but focused on individually. The process takes priority over any short-term outcome, and curriculum design must match these objectives, and be heavily influenced by deliberate play to ensure a fun and engaging present, so the long term development can be realistic, through focusing on the now.
This week, in addition to the responsibility of coaches to deliver practice sessions to players, coaches were also completing parent meeting. These were to provide an opportunity for parents to meet their coach for this season, but to also provide parents with engagement on what expectations and objectives have been set, based on the current rate of development of the player, and also the current learning stage.
Coaches are currently involved in their internal coach education program, where the focus is on the framing of sessions for players, and the effect they have on the person through connection and not transaction. This is also important for how we engage with parents.
As mentioned in the parent welcome meetings, parents are always being told it’s their fault, or they are bad for youth sports; when the reality is it’s the organizations and adults in decision making positions which are causing the problem (coaches, directors, administrators). Just like how we should coach players, we should engage with parents through framing of the development pathway for the now and future, and having connections with the parents in how we can best support the understanding of youth development and how it differs to elite/senior levels.
The following podcast offers insight to how we as coaches and organizations can do better for the parents of youth athletes, and create a club environment where everyone can feel involved in the process. It provides some excellent thought provoking movements, with information beneficial to everyone involved in the youth athlete experience.
This weekend sees the first game of the season for many teams, others will have their first game starting September 8th. Before we get started with the games, just a few reminders from our club meetings so we can all have a great experience.
Respect Officials: there is a shortage of referees greater than ever before. Without referees there is no soccer game on a weekend. Like the players, and the coaches, the referees are going through a learning process, they will make mistakes, so let them embrace their own process, and show them the respect players and coaches expect.
Respect the Players: this is youth soccer, a place for kids to play the sport the love and to be on a journey to improving their soccer ability and overall individual self. Many of our teams have been placed in to higher level leagues to continue to be challenged, rather than have comfortable seasons. Give them the time and space to adjust, improve, and find the solutions to their newest challenge. Remember, it’s about the player and their individual development: https://thecpsu.org.uk/resource-library/2013/my-magic-sports-kit/
For the 09 age group this will be the first time on a full size field. For many players the full size field is still a huge challenge. Our recent education meetings covered the effects of age. Each individual is different whether chronologically, biologically, or with a different sports age from their experiences within sports. This video is a great eye opener to how some players are effected due to their stage of age: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9Pc1vf_tlg
Framing the Game
We are all too focused on the outcome of a single game. Player development is a long term, non-linear, and messy journey, filled the moments of the now for coaches to provide support and guidance. ‘Joy sticking’ the player is not coaching, shouting and gesticulating like your Pep or Klopp is not coaching; allowing the players to experience the game, providing support at moments of high challenge and allowing players to be empowered to make mistakes and learn from their experiences is coaching. Having a clear framework in which the players clearly know the objectives of the game, desired objectives, and providing individual feedback, is coaching. The weekend game should be seen as an extension of the practice week, and not a test, or must win outcome. The game is part of the process.
Ultimately youth sports is a place where everyone should be able to enjoy the experience. When on the field be mindful of this, support all players and coaches no matter where they are from, be social with other parents, and show great examples of respect and patience towards referees.
Have a great season, we look forward to seeing everyone on the field.
This week is less of a specific review of the session content, as many teams used the club structure and environment to play in scrimmages as we get closer to the start of the season. These scrimmages were large sided games, replicating the game structure of their age group.
It’s important though that we frame these games appropriately. The scrimmages are not seen as tactical preparation for the season, or a warm up for the season, but an introduction to new players to the sport for greater understanding of the stoppages and restarts, and for those returning a refresher and game realism to what the Saturday environment demands. The games on a weekend should be viewed as an extension of the practice week, with framing of the objectives of a game around the individuals development, and not the strategy of tactics on how we are going to beat the opponents. These are two very different philosophies, one which is player-centric, focusing on the process of development and the individuals experiences; while the other is more coach centered, relying on an outcome of a game and with more concern for what the opponent will do, rather than being proactive about how we can support the individual players.
In addition to last weeks excellent podcast on Play, and the role of Deliberate Play, the following podcast casts light over coaching as a profession, and the standards we should be held accountable to. For me, one golden nugget of insight is how learning is about change, yet we are reluctant to change in our coaching philosophies and practices and to stay with what was traditionally done. We preach learning, but are we actively involved in learning as coaches. Enjoy this great listen – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/way-of-champions-podcast/id1223779199?i=1000532727851
Week 3 is the start of the in-season, with sessions ranging from skill-acquisition, to physiological small sided games, and specific physiological age appropriate activities..
Session structure will depend on the objective of the activity. For younger players who will be in the optimal range for improving agility, speed acceleration, and deceleration, the activities will be short on total length, and with 10-15 second intervals, or constraints to where the player performs short bursts of sprinting through different directions.
Players in the later ages will have longer activities, more continuous in design, and will see the player hit top speed more than short bursts of actions. This design will challenge the aerobic conditioning of the player, replicating more of a game based situation, and activities lasting 12 – 16 minutes.
Week 2 was the second and final week of our introduction to the new season, two weeks which focus heavily on the concept of play.
Play is as youth friendly as you can get. It’s dictate by the athlete, and encourages empowerment of the athlete as they are the decision makers within games, and nurtures confidence and self-motivation, as a desired outcome is not the focus, but process of learning through experimenting in game situations, and with freedom of creativity in problem solving.
Playing any sport should be fun, it’s not an occupation, but a hobby and a passion, and therefore a focus needs to be on the players having fun and importantly maintaining a motivation to keep playing, and staying physically active beyond their youth.
As part of our Parent Engagement, we are sharing with everyone a presentation on the importance of play, and the theory and research beyond the benefits of play, and the negative impact of treating a youth athlete as a ‘mini-professional’, or creating an ‘adult focused’ environment.
Going beyond the first two weeks of the season, our curriculum design continues to incorporate a high volume of play, and is structured around the individual player and their personal development.