How Old Do You Have To Be To Play Football Playing Up To Improve Your Youth Football Team

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Playing Up To Improve Your Youth Football Team

Play “Up” to improve your youth soccer team:

Do you have a “bully” team in your youth soccer league or an end-of-year playoff?

Playing “Up” an age level or ranking in a controlled scrimmage may be just what your youth soccer team needs to gain an advantage in these games. the first time. We had the youngest and smallest team in our division, but little by little we became a very dominant team. Amazingly, by mid-season, we were calling the score in almost every game. Our children felt quite safe as did our parents and coaches. Unfortunately our youth soccer league schedule had us playing the two weakest teams in our last 2 games. Going into the last game to wrap up a league title and unbeaten season, we had a 5 TD lead at the half.

During the 2 weeks leading up to our last games, our soccer team made little progress. It was clear that, based on the comparative scores, it was going to be a miracle that we didn’t win the league title. In soccer practices leading up to this game our players were not executing their soccer plays well, our fake plays were not going 20 yards downfield, our wedge plays were not as tight as usual, even our warm ups and breaks They weren’t as crunchy as usual. The only things the kids seemed to be excited about were the trophies, the pizza party right after our last game, and the new soccer plays we implemented.

At the end of the season, we were able to locate another team of similar skills to play in an extra “Bowl” game. This other team had played some of the same teams we had played in the regular season and our comparative scores were about the same. Our kids came into the game very confident and were a bit surprised when our first drive was stopped at the opponent’s 6-yard line, as we had scored on every opening drive that season. Long story short, we lost 46-6. Our kids never gave up, they played hard, but not neatly or well. In defending our teams, as coaches, we still had to come up with the various settings we use, which are detailed in chapter 13 of the book. But what our youth soccer team suffered had little to do with adjustments to some youth soccer plays.

Our team needed a challenge, a goal, a close game and adversity. Coaching youth soccer well means you have to provide some of these on your own, if your schedule and the opposition don’t easily provide these things for you.

In 2003 I coached a different team, a “Select” team that had a lot of talent. Very different from the 2002 team, this group of 9-10 year olds (90% 10s) saw us with 5 players over 180lbs and all but one could move very well. I had to choose from about 150 kids to put together this team. We had it all, size, speed and a good pass/receive combination. This was the most difficult coaching job of my life, as many of the kids could get by with their natural ability instead of using proper technique. It was a real chore to hold them accountable for perfecting the technique when their own way often produced positive results. As the season went on, we would name the score in each game and just dominate the games. We could have won every game in the league by 50 points and our first team defense only scored 1 TD all season. I was not going to let what happened in 2002 happen to this team.

To make sure the 2002 problem didn’t show up on this team, I scheduled several controlled games against 11-12 year old youth soccer teams in the middle of the season to keep our kids focused. Our soccer team learned that they had to be perfect with their technique and with our schemes in order to compete with these older teams. We even went as far as to schedule additional games against 11-12 year old teams that had byes in an Iowa league across the river. At the end of our regular season, we played the champion of this league under the lights in a big college stadium, big time. We were ahead early on, but we struggled and ended up dominating the game, but we won by only 2 touchdowns.

The net result is that we continued to improve throughout the season because we knew we had very tough games and extra games scheduled down the road. We knew we had a really tough game at the end of the season to look forward to. Instead of just eliminating every similar age team in our league, the challenge of playing older teams made this team that much better. Our children had the mission of doing what no one but them and we coaches believed they could do. It made them better players and gave them a great sense of accomplishment. As for our regular league rivals, the games against them were a piece of cake compared to the games and skirmishes against the 11-12 year old teams we played. We won our league championship game 46-12 after leading 46-0 in the third quarter. We all agreed that it was better to play a tough old team and lose than to have an undefeated season with few challenges. We truly believe in, even with my rural team, playing anyone, anytime, anywhere (within reasonable travel distance).

I suggest you tone it down a bit depending on your team composition. If you decide to play with bigger teams, there may be smaller, weaker kids on your team who could work alone during the fight, getting some much-needed recovery training. If you are a “B” team or rookie, move up the ranks. Another way to accomplish some of this is to simply borrow one or two dominant players from an older team for part of your practice. If you have an older “brother” team, borrow a stud player or two and put them on a defensive line from the scout team. This will give your offensive linemen a test that, even if they have modest success, will show them that they can compete against much better competition than they will ever face. Be reasonable and sensible in determining the level of play your children can handle and push children to their limits. If you do this and play on that “Beast” team, you will have prepared your children for the challenge and that is being a good youth soccer coach.

In 2005, my rural 8-10 year olds (24 kids, no cuts or picks) played an extra game the second week of the season against a huge, fast-paced inner-city Omaha “Select” team that picked from over of 120 children and had won. 3 consecutive league titles in their “Select” league. They had 5 children over 150 pounds while we only had 1 and from then on we may have had another child over 100 pounds.

We surprised everyone by winning big, leading by 4 touchdowns at the half. The rest of the season was very easy after playing like this. Our kids had incredible confidence after that game, beating the “Monsters of the Midway.” Even if we had lost that game and played well, I would have expected the same end result. I thought because of our system and tactics we had a chance to win, but racing would have served the same ultimate purpose.

That stunning victory really launched our rural program and earned us much-needed respect and trust. Now we have a new problem, we can’t get anyone to play us in non-league games. Getting soundly beaten by a bunch of scrawny farmers with a pushback offense I guess is too much for some guys to handle, go figure.

In 2006, my rural 8-10 teams suffered the same fate as my 2002 Omaha team. My 2006 team won big in our league games, scoring 3 touchdowns in the first quarter of 9 games. Unfortunately we had the two worst teams in the division as our last 2 opponents and they didn’t give our team much play. I put together a fight against a very big and fast “Select” team from Lincoln in August in which we did very well. I guess we played too well, in fact (4 TDs to none) they ended up not following through on the promised actual game we were supposed to have later in the year.

I guess those are problems that most youth soccer teams would like to have, but it still makes it difficult. We lost in overtime in the 2006 playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champions in a well-played youth soccer game with great opposing coaches. Playing and playing on better teams may have helped us avoid that loss and in the future we will have to find creative ways to create situations where our children have to compete. Congratulations to our opponent, they played very well and deserved the win, but we will try not to make the same mistakes again.

That’s what coaching youth soccer is all about.

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