We are excited to have one centralized location for the U6-U9 Futures program. Hidden Creek affords us enough space for nine 20ydx30yd mini soccer fields and also three additional 7v7 fields. This will allow us to create an outstanding learning environment and to provide gear such as goals, training poles, cones, balls, and benches to all groups. Hidden Creek also provides ample parking, porta potties, a playground for younger siblings, a pavilion, and a shed for gear storage.
There were many challenges with creating fair teams for this age group, especially without knowing all of the kids. In the new format, kids are grouped by age, which gives us flexibility to do what is best for each player. Additionally, it allows us to place a lead coach in charge of each group in order to provide the best support and structure. Players will progress through the program in an age appropriate manner. Some players who excel at the game can be challenged within their group or be moved to the next group. In this format, each player will be given two jerseys, which affords flexibility on game days. On game days, we can group the players appropriately by ability and experience so they can enjoy playing without instruction from coaches.
We broke the age groups down into six month segments so the group numbers are manageable. We also did this to decrease the range of abilities and capabilities within each group. These smaller peer groups should be more equitable. Also, with the increased flexibility, we can explore the US Soccer Bio Banding initiative which allows players to be grouped based on maturity and biological age vs. chronological age. With our new format, we can move players up and down based on maturity and/or skill to provide them with the appropriate atmosphere and challenge. This format also helps to address the relative age effect in youth sports whereas there may be a bias towards older players in a given birth year.
Yes, we will still need volunteers! The program director and lead coaches will provide the session structure and activities for each group. Volunteers will be needed to assist and help with the program and each volunteer will help the lead coach within their respective age group. The lead coaches and volunteers will make up the coaching team within each age group. Our focus will be on collaboration, teaching the game, and having fun. It is a kids first, player-centric model. However, there will be multiple fields so we need volunteers and we are looking forward to creating a true community atmosphere.
In the past, program schedules and details were communicated by appointed Age Group Coordinators. Moving forward, the messaging will be centralized. This will allow for more efficient communication and information sharing. We are hopeful this approach will remove the administration responsibility from our volunteers and allow them to have more fun on the field!
There will be positive changes regarding support for our volunteer coaches. Each practice session and game day will be led by experienced coaches. Our volunteers will be encouraged to help and interact with the lead coaches. In addition, the program staff will run meetings before the season begins to communicate program details, present the session structure, activities, answer questions, etc. These trainings will incorporate our Eagle F.C. staff and trainers from the US Soccer Foundation will be in attendance. Eagle F.C. is also working with EPYSA to provide USSF grassroots training courses.
In an effort to create a thoughtful progression from 3v3 to 7v7, it is important to move from 3v3 into an intermediate 4v4 model. At this stage, It is appropriate to introduce a goalkeeper. In this transition phase, game play will be 4v4 plus a goalkeeper (5v5) and two 6’x10′ goals. Decision making, structure, and complexity increases exponentially as you add players to the field. Going directly from 3v3 to 7v7 is not ideal. During the Spring season, U8 players are merged into a single birth year structure to prepare them for the progression to 7v7 at U9. This in turn, provides the program staff with familiarity of the entire age group so players can be selected and placed appropriately on U9 teams. This approach helps to mitigate the stress associated with tryouts.
The triangle is the basic shape within the 11v11 game. A triangle has 1st, 2nd and 3rd defenders and attackers which are the building blocks of team formation and decision making. The 3v3 format simplifies the game and allows young players to identify and process decisions more effectively. In a 3v3 game, all players will be heavily involved in the game, which is great for kids and it is fun. The 4v4 format is suggested and advocated by USSF. The 4v4 diamond shape has depth and width, however, it also has more complexity and can be chaotic. As players progress in the program, they will advance from 3v3 to 5v5 to 7v7.
As shown in the “3v3 – FUNino” image, we will play FUNino with our youngest players. The game format is a bit different than the standard 4v4 with two goals. FUNino is a very effective game model for player development. The four goals and scoring zones promote decision making, head up, angles, body orientation, awareness, game intelligence, and skill. The goals will be small (3’x5′) and will help encourage players to find an advantage as opposed to just kicking at and defending one goal.