Parents are having their 7-year-olds specialize in only soccer so they can make the travel team at 9 and be a star, only to burn out by age 13. Parents are asking coaches how to have their goalkeeper be more aggressive not afraid to come off his or her line and be able to communicate and talk more with his or her teammates so that he/she can have the opportunity to make the ODP (Olympic Development Program) team or get a better chance at a college scholarship. There is no way in hell a 7-year-old goalkeeper can do that simply because of the mental stage of development they are in. Coaches do not encourage kids to play the ball back to the goalkeeper because they are afraid to concede a goal and lose a game. In all fairness at 7 years old every player on the field should share the position of a goalkeeper. The 7-year-old soccer player is too young to be just a goalkeeper. He or she needs the time on the field to develop their soccer skills, footwork, awareness of the game and most of all touch the ball as many times as possible and just simply have fun. Coaches should not promise parents that if their child will train and play in their particular premier level team, that coach can increase the chance of the child getting a college scholarship And parents STOP drinking the juice, stop leaving through your children the sports dream you never attained, stop being so naïve and let the children be children. This environment is driving far too many kids to quit the most beautiful game in the world. It is causing them to hate soccer!
We all should know better!
Youth soccer has stopped focusing on children competing against other children. America is obsessed with winning at all costs. This is most evident in the pro sports levels. Pro teams do not just develop players or teams any more. Most pro teams do not have a solid farm system any longer; instead they just pay top dollars for the elite players and try to buy championships. Most players do not play for the love of the game or the love of a team any more. They play for the money. Even at the pro level we see players that become multi- millionaires by the age of 18 and then they just fizzle out because they were not slowly brought along or properly developed for the challenges of the pro game.
Well this mentality has now crippled youth sports as we try to win at all costs and the development years have been overtaken by the “ Make my kid an elite player” mentality.
Just because a goalkeeper is playing at a premier level team it does not mean that that goalkeeper will develop into a top level keeper. In fact probably the opposite as he/she will get less touches on the ball as he/she is probably playing behind a good defense and that defense has not been taught to play from the back or use the goalkeeper for back passes as much as the game dictates. Any coach who has taken a USSF E License knows that the 9- to 12-year-old age group is known as the “Golden Age of Skill Development.”
According to USSF best practices in Long Term Athletic Development, the years prior to the growth spurt for both male and female players are the time when their bodies are most sensitive to developing sport specific skill. It is a time when technical training is crucial, and games should be used as a training tool and a way to measure development.
At this age it is the time when players need ample game minutes to work on their new skills at a variety of positions. Players need to be encouraged to take risks. Goalkeepers and defenders should not be afraid of playing out of the back. Attacking players need to develop the confidence to beat opponents on the dribble, and possess the ball instead of launch it up the field. Any coach will tell you that these things usually go out the window if your sole focus is to win your games.
Winning serves the parents; it does not serve the best interests of the children!
Let’s be a nation that follows the proven formula of soccer development of European and South American federations that let the children have fun and let them develop through small sided games with not keeping scores.