The second proposal coming up at the next NCYSA Challenge Council meeting is to eliminate offside for U10 match play. This will be the second time this issue is considered, after it was rejected 27-24 last year. This is an issue I have written about before and feel very strongly about. I strongly encourage reading my first post on the subject which contains a lot of information, both pro and con. I’ll touch on a few things, but not all of it, so give it a read.

First, lets do away with the faux reasons to eliminate offside:

  1. North Carolina is the only state in the US to call offside in U10. So what? Seriously. As a parent I tell my kids on a weekly basis "well just because the other kids do it doesn’t mean you should" Besides, just because state associations don’t include offside in their U10 rules doesn’t mean all the local associations omit it. Lots of associations nationwide still call offside in U10. Note this statement from last year’s meeting when this proposal was voted down:

    NCYSA is highly recognized within the USYS but feels that we are moving backward instead of forward if we don’t follow the other states with no offside rule and one referee.

    We’re only ‘moving backward’ because we don’t agree with the national recommendation.

  2. The field is too short. The U10 rules call for fields between 45 yards and 60 yards. 45 yards is pretty short and if most fields were this long, maybe they would have a point. But most fields I’ve seen are 50+ yards long which is plenty to call offside. Unless fields in our part of the state are a huge exception (which I doubt), the field isn’t too short.
  3. There aren’t enough referees. U10 matches are a prime training ground for new referees. If we don’t have enough referees, don’t we want to have plenty of opportunities at younger age levels to teach new ones?
  4. Offside results in too many stoppages. Again, maybe my experience has been an exception, but I’ve only seen offside called in most U10 matches maybe 2 or 3 times on average. That is not a lot. The kids get it. Heck, my U10s played a team in a recent tournament that didn’t play offside in their regular season. They did just fine in this tournament which did call it. Heck, I think we got called more often for it than they did.

So what’s left? Primarily that U10 is too young to teach offside and coaches waste valuable practice time teaching a tactic instead of technique. I’ve always scratched my head on this one. All the U10 players I’ve coached can understand "Don’t go past the last defender without the ball". Nobody is saying you need to teach U10 kids the offside trap or the more subtle points of Law 11. Yet the kids will start to pick up even some of the finer points like chasing feed passes as soon as they are kicked vs. waiting for the pass to reach the last defender. Plus, how many coaches really are ‘teaching’ offside during practice as a standalone topic? Most coaches I know and have spoken with teach it during scrimmages and other activities, thus taking no time away from technical instruction. The only time I’ve seen a U10 player execute an offside trap was in Rec of all places and the kids wasn’t taught it. He figured it out on his own. Guess what? My kids learned about the trap too during that match. Is that a bad thing?

Why do we want to take players in the prime of their early soccer development and teach them bad habits? Players will cherry pick in a match without offside, even if they aren’t instructed to. We try to teach our players in a gradual manner as they get older, introducing more complex moves and concepts the older they get. Yet they also discover a lot on their own. In U10, by calling offside, it forces them to be more aware of the field and match and the location of opponents. Why have them spend a year where they ignore this?

Finally, not calling offside in a small-side match actually goes against the goal of more ball touches that small side is supposed to provide players. When offside is being called, the defensive line often pushes up to midfield on the attack, keeping them involved in the play (more touches). When offside is not called, defenders have to ‘hang back’ with the cherry picker while their team attacks. If their team is better at maintaining possession, the defenders will spend a lot of time standing around doing nothing. This isn’t what small side was supposed to be about.

U10 is a pivotal year for most players as it is often the first year they play by ‘real’ rules with a keeper, throw-ins, and more. Offside should be a part of that.

We need to do what we feel is right for North Carolina soccer, not what the other states think we should do. If your league calls offside at U10 and want to see that maintained – please be sure to attend the Challenge Council meeting and cast your vote. If you can’t attend and wish to submit a proxy against the elimination of offside at U10, I’ll be happy to cast your proxy for you. Email me at [email protected].

UPDATE: The NCYSA recently sent out information regarding proxies and some parliamentary procedures that I thought was worth noting here. The NCYSA Proxy form is available here. Make sure your league’s voice is heard, regardless of which side of the issue you are on.