My post last year on small sided soccer gets a LOT of hits from Google searches and is one of the more popular posts here so I figured I’d post an update on how our transition to the small sided game is going…
As I noted in the original post, we moved to 6v6 in U8 and 8v8 in U10 and U12. The results were very impressive and the players and parents enjoyed the faster paced matches. The kids got a lot more action per match and there was a lot less ‘standing around’ Even in lopsided matches the ball got to the other side of the field more often. With less kids on the field there is definitely more space for passing and ball handling. We wanted to give them some breathing room and space to run. Besides, some of our U8 keepers can punt the ball 40+yds as it is. So, our U8 fields are 50yds long and our U10 fields are 60yds long. On our new fields, the turf is very fast so the younger kids are getting their passes farther and a sizable field helps them learn to go for long crossing passes.
I’d have to say our transition to small sided soccer was a huge success.
However, those of you with a watchful eye will see we are not 100% compliant with the USSF recommendations. Our coaches balked at 4v4 no keeper for U8 and I was one of them. Given how our U8 players have played in the past, it seemed to be TOO small. I know there is still a raging debate as to how U8 should be handled – should it be simple introductory soccer like in U6 or should you be able to introduce some more game play related training to prepare them for U10. For us right now, 6v6 felt better. Yes, having U8 kids play keeper may not be the best thing in the world, but the coaches rotate kids through keeper a lot – nobody expects a kids to make the ‘keeper choice’ at U8. Besides, on most teams EVERY kid wants a chance to play keeper and they usually get it. We aren’t taking the least skilled ballplayers and shunting them to keeper, something we all wanted to avoid.
As for U10, we played 8v8 this past year as part of a gradual small side transition. We’ll be moving to 6v6 in the fall to get USSF compliant and most coaches think it will work well for them. To maximize field utilization, we will probably go with the max 60yd field so both U8 and U10 can use them. Our U8 kids can easily handle the extra 10 yards and our U10 kids are already used to the 60 yd field.
Our U6 division is getting very big (28 teams this season) and the disparity between the 4/5 year olds and the 5/6 year olds gets bigger each year. Our coaches are firm believers that having younger kids play with older kids helps the younger kids learn and improve. Our 2 year wide age divisions reflect this. But in U6 it is becoming a safety issue and the little kids are intimidated. So this fall we expect we will split U6 into a U5 and U6 division. In U5 we probably will play 3v3. What we do in U6 is still up in the air. We may stick with 4v4 or go down to 3v3. The biggest problem with 4v4 for us has been the inclination of coaches to plant a ‘defender’ outside the goal box to act as a pseudo keeper. It makes it much harder for the kids to score. We’ve tried to get the coaches to at least get that ‘defender’ moving around the back field, but more often than not they just stand there at the box until the ball comes to them. If I was a betting man, I’d say we’ll probably go 3v3 since that makes it much harder to leave a player planted at the box.
So for us, the small side transition was a success. We’ve learned a lot and will likely continue to make adjustments along the way. I don’t know if our U8 division will ever drop to 4v4 or not. Since we have keepers, the field is 5v5 anyway so its not that far off and for us so far, the kids, coaches, and parents seem to really enjoy it and play well. We’ll see what happens this fall!