Does Recreation Soccer Allow For Guided Discovery?

11 Sep

One of the basic tenets of coaching youth soccer is the concept of “Guided Discovery.”  Simply put, the game is intended to be the teacher, and the coach should help the players learn to play the game through situational play, small sided games, and stepping in to help players move past the bigger hurdles.  This is on top of technical and skill-based activities intended to build each player’s foot skills.

In our club, recreation teams through U8 have one, one-hour practice that is split between technical skills training (30 minutes) with a central trainer (handling about four teams together) and a team practice to work on game mechanics and team play.

In U5 and U6, it works really well.  You have young players that arrive fresh and are ready to be molded.  The game format also is a great rollover from practice – games are played three versus three one a thirty yard field.  The rule set is reduced – no throw-ins, no corner kicks, no penalty kicks, and no goalkeepers.  The kids can focus on the most important skill – dribbling – and not worry as much about the other aspects of the game.  A lot of goals are scored, and kids have fun.  Some of the kids show deeper commitment already at this age and faster skills development.

Move onto U7 and U8 – and practice time remains the same but the rules and complexity of the game increase greatly.  The field almost doubles in length and width, goals get bigger, and goalkeepers come in.  Add in corner kicks, goal kicks, and throw ins, and requirements for a kick-off that follows the FIFA Laws of the Game, and kids that have become aware of the score and winning and losing (even if explicitly there is no score kept and no league tables kept.)

So in this framework – and with kids coming into the sport for the first time – can a coach afford to take a guided discovery approach with a team?

I’m beginning to question whether this tenet – which no doubt works with more committed players and works with players at the earliest point in the development cycle – works on a team with vastly different skill levels and a highly limited time window.

I still believe in the idea of “Let them Play” – which has been a big part of discussions on line about coaching youth Soccer (and in England, Football) at the youngest levels. Kids, given enough time to play, will develop well.  But is that really the objective of our recreation programs?  Or is it the filling of two hours a week of our kids lives?

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2 Responses to “Does Recreation Soccer Allow For Guided Discovery?”

  1. jblanchard30 (@jblanchard30) September 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    I am coaching my daughter’s U10 team where we have 2 hour long practices. At our club there is no central trainer to take up 30 minutes of one of those training sessions. Of course 30 minutes out of 2 hours doesn’t hurt as much as 30 out of 1 hour. Last year when we did play with your club I could see how it could be helpful in that time frame.

    This year, I am going with as much guided discovery as possible. The girls are playing a game during the last 20 – 30 minutes of each session. This way they are learning from the game and I can stop the action to make a point. The first half of each is focusing on technical skills but I am trying hard to avoid drills that involve lines. I have seen kids get bored when standing in line and when 9 year old girls get bored, they get chatty and out come the cart wheels!

    • Dennis Murray September 12, 2011 at 1:04 am #

      I definitely agree on lines – I’ve seen way too many kids in all sports standing in lines or waiting for their turn during practice and it’s counter productive. In my opinion, playing a scrimmage with minimal instruction offers more education than any drill with a line.

      I’m starting a second optional practice a week – hoping to be able to get more in depth with about half of the team on that night, and that they can carry the skills into the match day with transfer to the rest of the boys.

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