It Doesn’t Look Like Soccer…
Many Americans have at best a cursory knowledge of the game. If you are new to soccer you probably know the bare basics -eleven people on the field kicking the ball, can’t use your hands, goalkeeper at each end.
Then you show up for your youngster’s first practice or perhaps first game and it looks nothing like what you’ve seen on TV! There is no goalkeeper only a handful of kids on the field, and perhaps the coach is out there running around with the kids. It is OK. Here is why…your child will have more fun and learn more in a small-sided game.
A good sports program develops skills and confidence in young players. We know kids will enjoy a sport if they feel confident in their skill, have a positive coach and parent support system, and are engaged. So the small-sided games with no goalkeepers help to support those outcomes. The variables of play are simplified to a level appropriate for that age group’s cognitive and physical development. Fewer kids on a small field means each kid will interact with the ball many more times than if 11 kids were out there on a huge field with 9 or 10 of them just standing around waiting for the ball. In 3 v 3 or other small team setting, each kid will interact with the ball over and over. When “Susie” is interacting with the ball, she is in the game and having fun. Fun equals enjoyment and a positive experience in the game.
So it doesn’t look like Soccer, but this is the best way for young players to enjoy the game, learn coordination and control, and have fun. In a few years the field gets bigger, more players are out there, and if they have been trained correctly in the very early years the skills are present to play the game at that more advanced level.