What does US Soccer’s new mandates mean for you?

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The implementation of US Soccer’s 2015 Player Development initiatives is right around the corner.  There has been lots of discussion on the topic, but few concrete answers, which is leaving many involved in youth soccer a bit confused and unsettled about what these changes will mean for players.  These initiatives are changing the youth soccer landscape completely, so there are a lot of unknowns for parents, coaches and players alike. The bottom line is, what’s best for the kids? Do these mandates help or hurt?

Here in Oregon, youth tryouts for club soccer are taking place May 9-14.  In this article we will take a closer look at the changes coming up, give our take on them, and what they will mean for the youth soccer community.

{SPINw is hosting Tryout Prep Mental Game Workshops to help players go into tryouts focused & confident}  -Click on the link below for more information and to register-

SPINw Soccer Tryout Prep Workshop 2016

First off, why all the changes?  Why now?

Click here for a video explanation from US Soccer

According to US Soccer, here’s the reasoning behind the changes:

Despite the increased popularity of soccer and the success of our national teams, the youth soccer landscape at the entry level needs to be improved.
Our soccer culture at the youth level focuses on winning and results rather than focusing on developing the skills of individual players.
The concept of a team outweighs the importance of players having fun and developing to the best of their abilities.
As a country, we need coaches and parents to spend less time caring about wins and loses, and more time devoted to teaching individual skills.
Part of this initiative is to educate and empower coaches and parents to change the way we look at the sport.
One example of this is U.S. Soccer’s new online F License, which is designed for coaches working with players ages 6-8.

Our take:  Hard to disagree with the reasoning behind it. Player development over winning titles, especially at the younger ages, is common sense (although sadly, not so common, which is why some changes are needed!) In sport psychology, we strive to have athletes focus on the process, improving skills, and growing as a player over results. So this logic fits from a development perspective. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win, and learning to compete, but it should not be more important than technical and tactical player development.

First initiative – Small-Sided Standards

standards_chart
Basically, the size of the field and the number of players on the field start smaller and progress as players get older (see chart above). Here’s the why according to US Soccer:

Fewer players on the field means more touches on the ball and more involvement in the game, which helps develop more individual skill.
Players who are more skilled may become more confident and comfortable when in possession of the ball.
The ratio of players to field size is designed to assist players with making the right kind of decisions and improving their awareness.
As players get older, and numbers increase on bigger fields, this approach builds on itself.
And as players get older, the building block approach also allows them to better integrate into a team model where they develop partnerships with other players that make up the team.
Overall, the standards provide for an age appropriate environment where players can achieve these objectives.

Our take:  Love this one, no problems here.  For player development it’s great, and should have been done long ago!

Bonus part of this initiative:  The Build Out line.  This one hasn’t been talked about as much as the others, but we love it.  Basically, the build out line forces teams to play out of the back. The keeper is not allowed to punt the ball, and defenders must give a little space and time for the defense to start the play.  This will be in effect through the U10 age group (7 v 7).

url

Second initiative – Birth Year Registration

2015 Player Development Initiatives 21

This is the one that’s caused the most ruckus. Here’s why, according to US Soccer:

Not only will this change align our players with the international standard, but it will allow us to be better informed to combat relative age effect when making teams for youth players.

According to wikipedia, the relative age effect is:

“The term relative age effect (RAE) is used to describe a bias, evident in the upper echelons of youth sport
[1] and academia,[2][3] where participation is higher amongst those born early in the relevant selection period (and correspondingly lower amongst those born late in the selection period) than would be expected from the normalised distribution of live births. The selection period is usually the calendar year, the academic year or the sporting season.

Our take: This is pretty ill-conceived, and the cons outweigh the stated benefits. The relative age effect doesn’t magically go away by making this change. It just shifts to a new birthday.  In the best-seller Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes the relative age effect in hockey where a majority of high level older players are born in January, February and March.  Is this change really going to help the US produce the next Lionel Messi or win a World Cup?  It seems highly doubtful.  This mandate flies in the face of the stated objectives. The real objective behind this is to prepare players to become national team caliber players, meaning a fraction of a percent of players will see any benefit from it.

The negatives – There are several, but here are the top three as we see them:
1) Teams that have been together for years will be dismantled –
2) Teams will not be primarily based on school grade level – for recreational teams especially,  this mandate doesn’t make sense. A big part of the fun of playing soccer is playing with your friends and classmates, and this basically takes that part of youth soccer and makes it more difficult.
3) Rising 8th graders and high school seniors may have limited options for a team or worse, left without a team.

Our overall take:  So there are some clear cut plusses and minuses with the new changes.  And some major uncertainty.  But don’t fear, our take is this – The next 6 months or so will be rough and chaotic, but after that we will forget it ever happened. Sports is like life, in that change is the only constant.  We want our young athletes to learn, grow, become resilient, be problem-solvers, and be able to handle adversity.  That’s how to build confidence.  So if you look at it that way, it’s not that big a deal in the long run.  It’s up to the adults to keep that in mind as we head toward this unknown territory in youth soccer.

By | 2017-08-21T14:18:01+00:00 April 13th, 2016|Coaching, Preparation, Sports Parenting, Sports Psychology|2 Comments

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2 Comments

  1. Michael Resnick April 16, 2016 at 2:32 PM - Reply

    Well written….biggest issue will be starting play by goalkeeper by throw outs…under 9 and 10 goal keepers have the ability to throw overhand at least to the corners of mid field.goalies at this age also have the ability with dead ball kicks from the 6 yrd box to consistently place them into the opposing team defensive third. This then defeats the purpose of no punts.what are your thoughts

    • Brian Baxter April 16, 2016 at 2:57 PM - Reply

      Thanks Michael. I see your point and yes, there are usually ways around any rule. I am hoping that with the Build Out line, there will be more space in the defensive third to work with, as the opposing team has to drop off and clog that space.

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