Viewing entries tagged
small sided games


Is Your League Following A Good Development Model?


As a parent or a coach you have seen the the practice sessions where coaches run out of ideas after about 30 minutes, so they instinctively turn to playing a one ball scrimmage. In many recreational leagues parents let it slide and think to themselves, "well they have to play a game at some point, so getting some experience in that type of setting is probably a good thing." But, there are real reasons why coaches shouldn't resort to playing a one ball scrimmage at practices. Are your league directors and coaches following a proven development model? If not Second Nature Sports can help. Our training plans give coaches 8-weeks of full practice plans that will guide them through each and every practice in a developmentally focused manner.

In this week's blog our friends at PCA give us a brief overview of why children under the age of 12 shouldn't be playing your traditional 11v11 one ball games, especially in practice.

Chris Arndt
Second Nature Sports

PCA National Advisory Board Member Jay Coakley (@SiSCoakley) is Professor Emeritus of sociology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He has done 40 years of research on connections between sports, culture and society, much of that focused on the play, games and sport participation of young people. His Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies(11th edition) is the world's most widely used sports sociology text.

In this video, Coakley describes why youth sports needs to be simplified for children under 12 years of age. He states that, “prior to the age of 12, kids are not socially and cognitively ready to play complex team games.” Research shows that children under the age of 8 can only take on one role at a time. So for sports like soccer, where there are 10 teammates, a soccer ball, and coaches, it is difficult for children to understand all of these roles simultaneously.

Since we cannot expect children under the age of 12 to truly understand these complex concepts, Coakley recommends that instead of putting children in a complex game they do not understand, we should:

  • Simplify game models
  • Change the dimensions of the fields to fit the size of the children playing
  • Cut the size of teams so that all children can get more touches, opportunities to pass, and opportunities to score

A link to the original post can be found here.



TedxColumbus - Steve Locker - Youth Sports: The Fast Lane To Retirement

In today's youth sports culture, parents seem to be in a race to competition. Steve Locker helps reassure parents that a patient approach to sports can work by examining the stages of child development and how they relate to athletic development. Find out how I can help your organization today!

Now that my TEDX Talk is available for viewing, I hope that you find it helpful and insightful. I draw from many years of working with both young children and advanced players at every level, and share my experiences of a better way to progress children through their athletic endeavors.

Pointing out that a “real” game of soccer for 4 & 5 year olds, with one ball, quickly becomes boring because too many children are not touching the ball. A more sensible approach where every child has his or her own ball makes perfect sense.

Building on the notion that we must be patient and allow children to participate at age appropriate stages, a case is made that this type of approach actually works quite well. The concept of intrinsic motivation far surpasses our current method where parents are providing the motivation.

Enjoy the storytelling and “real life” examples that illustrate how we parents can find a more enjoyable way to enjoy sports with our children. Don’t forget to share this with your friends, neighbors, and relatives who may benefit from this message.

- Steve Locker



John O'Sullivan - Seconds Small Sided Games and Weighs-in on Age Groups


Fellow blogger John O'Sullivan and founder of Changing the Game Project weighs-in on U.S. Soccer's small sided game mandate and changes to birth-year age groups, as opposed to the August 1 through July 31 age groups we currently use. He reiterates my post from last week - Coaching is Over-Rated (Why 3 versus 3 is so valuable). He also looks at stats regarding playing small sided games and the evidence is overwhelming. Small sided games yield more experience -- and generally more fun.

In the Man United study, playing 4v4 instead of 8v8 yielded:

  • 135% more passes
  • 260% more Scoring Attempts
  • 500% more Goals Scored
  • 225% more 1v1 Encounters
  • 280% more Dribbling Skills (tricks)

Read John's blog post on here.

- Steve Locker



Coaching Is Over-Rated (Why 3 versus 3 is so Valuable)


Off season training needn’t be all that formal. Give the kids a ball and let them figure it out on their own. Pick up soccer doesn’t seem to get the credit that it deserves. All top level players around the world have benefited tremendously from the opportunities they had as a child to simply play without adult influences.

One of our challenges in today’s culture is finding the right environment that allows kids to play in a “pick-up” fashion. Years ago, we created our 3v3 program to help replicate the type of pick-up soccer that we got to enjoy as kids.

In our version of pick-up soccer (3v3), there is no pressure from adult presence to perform in a certain manner. Kids take ownership of the games and they have the wonderful opportunity to figure out all aspects of the activity. They pick teams, they make the rules and set the expectations, and they police themselves. If things don’t work out, they learn to resolve the issues on their own.

By allowing this kind of environment to unfold, we are permitting our children to develop a love (passion) for playing that is unrivaled in any other format.

A few years ago we took nearly 200 children to the University of Notre Dame for a weekend visit and clinic. At dinner the night before the clinic, head coach Bobby Clark told me that he likes to start each clinic by setting up a bunch of 3v3 games and just getting the kids to play. He lamented, that in most cases, kids today didn’t really know what to do when presented with this option of playing pick-up soccer. He said that usually the kids will stand around until someone actually shows them what to do. I told him that I didn’t think our kids would have an issue with playing 3v3 right out of the gates.

The next day at the clinic, Coach Bobby and his players set up about 24 fields for 3v3 play. Each field had two goals. The fields were not marked off with lines or cones, and there were no bibs to separate teams. It was an exercise to see how the children would react.

As our players began to arrive for the clinic, they were instructed to find a field and start playing 3v3. The kids just jumped on any field that was open, and began playing with anyone who was free. We had little boys playing against older girls, older boys playing younger boys, it was like a free-for-all. The beautiful thing was, all of our kids just started playing as if this was something that they did everyday. In a matter of a few minutes, Coach Bobby came up to me and exclaimed how impressed he was with our kids and their unabashed love to just play. He said he had never seen a group of young kids who were capable of figuring out this out on their own before.

It was a perfect compliment!

- Steve Locker