This past weekend marked the end of our Fall Soccer season, but it was also the first soccer tournament for our family. Our older son, Aidan was asked by another team to join as a guest player for the United FA Rec Rocks Tournament.
During our time in Forsyth County’s Baseball program, Aidan played in two post season tournaments. The games were very competitive (especially among the parents) even in the five and six year old age groups.
For U8 Boys, the total age group was eight teams. The age group was divided into two four team subgroups.
In the first round of play, our team played the three other teams in our subgroup. The first two games were Saturday (one in the morning, one in the afternoon) and the third game was Sunday morning. The top team from each subgroup met in the finals.
The U8 age group played the same rules we played all season, with the exception of changing from four 12 minute quarters to two 20 minute halves.
When Aidan was asked to join, he was replacing a player that was leaving early for Thanksgiving break so the team would have six players. Sometime after that, one more player dropped out and on Saturday morning the team started their 5v5 game with 5 players and it didn’t change the rest of the weekend.
A lot of the teams we played had about seven players, although I think one had a full roster of nine or ten! From a tournament competitiveness standpoint, it would have been great for our team to have a bigger roster, but from a playing time standpoint it was great for all five of the kids on the team to get to play two full hours on the field. I’m sure that while the kids were tired after games – I think most kids at this age would rather play than sit on the sides.
Aidan performed reasonably well this weekend. Saturday morning I could tell he hadn’t picked up a ball in a week – his touch was off for the first half of the game and lacked his usual control on the ball. In the afternoon match he showed some improvement but I could tell by the end of the game he was either tired or overheated.
The weather was tricky Saturday for dressing the kids. Most of the season Aidan had worn only a long sleeve undershirt with his jersey – but Saturday saw temperatures around 50 degrees and windy at times. He wore the long sleeve undershirt and lined nylon running pants – which were probably too much when the sun came out in the afternoon. I think that helped fatigue him towards the end of Saturday’s game.
Aidan played two stints in goal – one in Saturday morning’s match and one in Sunday morning’s match. I think we have crossed the point in the age group where kids have decided whether they like to play goalkeeper or not. Aidan has moved into the “Not” group.
Our team’s coach seemed to have an in-match philosophy like my own – give the kids space to play! He would offer a bit of advice here and there to help motivate and redirect the players efforts.
Our opponents, and other teams in the age group had a variety of styles of coaching. There was a lot of very vocal, hands-on coaching – to the extent that during my time as a volunteer field marshal I had to ask several coaches to step back off of the field. In the championship match, one of the team’s coaches was standing in the opposing team’s bench area and would directly instruct his goalkeeper where to play or directly (turning the player’s body) direct a team member on throw-ins. Was this style more successful? This team lost the championship game, for what’s that worth as a measure of success.
Playing style, the default playing formation for the age group is a single defender and two to three players playing both ends of the field. More often than not, the player at the back would try to send most balls deep into the other half versus playing it to a teammate directly. The same went for held balls by a goalkeeper (most keepers attempted to punt, with about a 1/3 success rate) and goal kicks.
One team did incorporate a “1…2…3” goal kick to their play. On the two count, two of the field players would turn and start a run down field and on the three count the goalkeeper would play the ball out in their direction. I’m not sure it was terribly successful – but it was a good idea to help players get in motion and force the goalkeeper to get the ball out sooner rather than later. It could work on a throw also.
I’ve wanted to get to observe a number of U8 games this season to help understand relative playing abilities. This was a great opportunity for that.
Most teams had a couple of dominant players, and then a supporting cast of players who contributed well overall or could play a role well. There’s a number of players at this age who can send a throw-in a moderate distance (and choose spots well) as well as players with a good foot for corner kicks. Tactically, the kids at this age are probably better served with a ground corner kick – because of limited head abilities as well as the goal’s small size. Both of those change when the kids get to U10 in a year, so a good foot now will probably translate well.
I volunteered for two shifts as a field marshal for the Recreation tournament. With our club operating both a Recreation and a Select tournament county-wide (across four venues) volunteers were in deep need.
There was some great action in the U10 finals – both boys and girls. There’s a lot of talented play in U10 recreation at an individual level, and some good combination play.
The volunteer work is easy – really, it’s just a lot of time on your feet and walking around and observing games. There were a few over-the-line parent situations I stepped into, but overall it’s a great experience to watch youth sports as an uninvolved third party. It helps put a check on your own behavior in the future.