Oh how everyone talks as if they know what “development” is, and how to do it. Sigh …
Let’s talk a little bit about “playing up” and whether it helps or not.
This weekend our U11’s are going to play in a U12 tournament. This isn’t the first time competing up either. The last was during the summer (we were U10’s then). We won that competition and I attended the final match against one of the best U11 teams around. That game ended in a 1-0 victory, but it just felt wrong from a development perspective. You see giving up one year of physical maturity makes a huge difference at this age. The result is simple, the boys can’t execute what they’re being taught.
Now before you start trying to apply all kinds of logic as to how this is a good thing, do you really know? Have you done this with youth soccer and seen it through all the way to the professional level? Have you done studies? Do you have a set of metrics you’ve tracked?
I sure don’t.
My current line of thinking is that playing up is fine for an individual, but not necessarily a team.
The idea pretty much goes that playing up helps kids with speed-of-play. It forces them out of their comfort zones, thereby pushing them to exceed their current limits. Their decision-making must be quicker, their defending sharper, and their technique tighter.
Yes. All true. So I green light top-shelf individuals playing up on age appropriate teams. If you’re a U10, go ahead and play with a U11 team.
But when an entire team plays up, we’re not talking about the same thing anymore. Here you are not just taxing the individual, you are taxing the entire organism that is the team. The challenge gets compounded!
You are taxing the tactical – the style of play. The very things your kids are in the beginning stages of learning (at the collective team level) are being compromised. At this point, I’m thinking it’s far more useful/developmental for teams to be competing age appropriate. That is a better environment for them to learn the tactical. Because they actually have a chance to execute it, hence understand it and begin to master it. Once there’s mastery, then it’s time to raise the bar.
U11? I don’t know man, that’s pretty early. These kids have a looooooooong way to go. It’s fine to test your metal, and I think in some way you at least get to see where you stand. But from a tactical learning perspective, I’m not convinced. I think entire teams playing up is an experiment.
Just another spectator says
Love your article.. Was your team able to execute correctly or did they have problems doing it?
Gary Kleiban says
They did much better than I thought. There were sustained periods of good soccer where 5, 10, 15 touch-sequences were displayed on the attack.
But I say this with a caveat. We were not playing against the best U12s around – it was really middle of the road competition.
So the jury is still out. I want to see more.
My nephew plays on a very competitive BU12 team, He is a mid fielder attacker, He has an awesome coach that is very passionate about soccer and has teach the Team to play possession of the ball style, Team can very easily connect 5, 10, 15 passes every game they play, Usually on the first practice after the Team wins a Tournament which by the way they do very often, The coach talks to the boys and congratulate them on their accomplishments, giving almost all the credit of the win(s) on the player that scores the most goals on the tournament as He, the coach, keeps record of who scores on every single game. Questions that I have, If the Team plays possession of the ball style, Do you think this is correct? if 1 point is giving for each goal a player scores, How many points should be giving to the one who assist the goal? Or to the one who created the play? Or the one who defended an avoided a goal? Do you think that recognizing (keeping tabs) only on the player who kicks the ball in the net is good for player/team development/motivation? Do you think Coach way to recognize the one who kicks the ball on the net conflicts with the possession of the ball style ?
Gary Kleiban says
All the components of the team are important. Having the praise be “overly” biased to the goal-scorer is a problem.
Thanks, I heard that in some professional soccer leagues, they are starting to keep records of the players, similar to basketball, baseball or football leagues, such as complete passes, assists, recovers, etc. on pre-teen teams, if you can have the luxury to keep tabs, beside the one who scores the goals, which ones do you think will make sense to track the true potential and development of the player. and how much weigth will you give to each one?
Any experience with combined practices with different age groups? My sons teams are U11 and U14 and have been training indoors and outdoors for the futsal season together since November. Both teams have been playing really well. The younger boys are challenged by the size and athleticism of bigger kids, and the older boys are playing more patient and using their skills rather than overpowering the smaller opponents.They do split up during each practice and train age pure, but also train with and against each other. I haven’t seen this before, but it seems to have some advantages, besides the convenience for me of taking both boys to one practice.
Gary Kleiban says
Thumbs up from me Bart!
And pretty much for the reasons you cite.
Obviously contingent on the respective team levels … the youngers get exposed to not only the physical but far more important, the higher speed of play. The olders get to work on getting better at the tactical. Well … of course assuming the coach knows anything.
We’ve done, and continue, to do this.
robert hettinga says
Our situation is that we’ve a transitional team that the league is trying to get more accustomed to the speed/skill of comp. A U10 team that they want to play U12,13,14 rec teams. My contention is that U10 playing U11 teams would be better. Thoughts?