If you want to see a person’s face do all sorts of weird things, ask a youth soccer administrator about slide tackles! They most likely have dealt with this issue and with parents or coaches wanting to allow it too early, etc. Many youth recreational leagues simply prohibit them and leave it to travel leagues/teams. Others allow it to be taught to players as young as 10. Arriving at any of those positions if often done with much debate and discussion.
A slide tackle, correctly applied, is a thing of beauty and no risk to either player. A slide tackle, when incorrectly and inappropriately applied, is not only a serious foul, but also risks injury
In most cases, rightly so, the desire to prevent injury outweighs the desire to teach a certain skill to growing players. So when is the right time and place to introduce the slide tackle?
The US Youth Soccer Association rules stipulate that slide tackles should be prohibited for U10 and below. Their U12 rules do not prohibit it, thus following FIFA, they are allowed. Many advocate teaching it to travel players who have a few years of experience under their belts (which could mean as young as U10)
Most 8 and 9 year olds are not quite ready to execute a tackle correctly and avoid injury. However, once players reach 10 or 11 and have been playing for years, their coordination is improving and many may be ready to begin learning the techniques of a proper tackle.
Our rec league currently bans all tackles, even in U12. You can’t play the ball on the ground either to avoid younger kids trying to make sliding saves and hurting themselves or others who might be nearby. But we’re starting to have second thoughts when it comes to U12. As more and more of our kids start moving up to travel teams or school teams, we want to make sure they aren’t at a disadvantage skill wise.
I’m curious what other leagues have discussed when they decided to allow or disallow the slide tackle in older age groups. Do you prohibit all tackles? Can players play from the ground or make sliding saves at the touch line? If you allow tackles at U12, is it only for travel teams or rec too?
I can’t predict what we will do. I’m leaning towards keeping things the way they are for U8 (no slides and no ground play), but allowing sliding saves and possibly ground play in U10. As for U12, I’m still on the fence about slide tackles. I think a lot of our kids in U12 that don’t play on travel teams too may still benefit from the instruction. While some aren’t at a travel team level in terms of skill, some are. They just choose not to travel and stay with their rec teams. If they have a chance to play for their school at some point, I’m not sure we want to limit what we teach them. It’ll make for some interesting Rules Committee meetings!
It’s a tough call either way and youth soccer guidelines in the US are definitely fluid and constantly evolving. We’ll see what happens this Fall and I’m interested to hear how others have handled it.