What are these street soccer sessions on Wednesdays with the Rec program? What is the point? It just seems like some sort of organized chaos with very little coaching?
Well… yes, that’s correct, there is not much coaching going on. But the thing you have to understand is that the street soccer sessions on Wednesdays are not for parents or coaches, they are 100% for the kids.
It is a way to get the kids to compete and play the sport in a very loose atmosphere where they are hopefully not afraid to experiment and try new things, and they are free to have fun and enjoy playing because there are no real consequence to losing. We try to keep the games somewhat competitive by rotating the teams and opponents based on who won or lost the last game, but unlike official “games”, the kids should not feel the same pressure to perform. Instead, they should just feel like they are playing and hopefully having fun. When I was growing up I played soccer in the street, down at the park, or wherever we could a lot with my brother and with my friends. Looking back, I know that that is where I truly learned to love the sport, and that’s also where I learned to play the sport by not being afraid to fail, and not being afraid to try new things.
Now our coaches do go around and encourage kids to try things such as trying to dribble instead of just kick it away, or trying to pass to a teammate instead of kicking it down the field where nobody is, and we try to applaud them when they have a good idea, but it is ultimately up to them to make those decisions. I encourage you to do the same with your kids before the street soccer sessions. Encourage them to try a move to beat a defender, see if they can try to be tricky and deceptive. That is where soccer gets fun! If they panic every time the ball comes to them and are scared to make any decision and just kick the ball away, that’s where it is not as enjoyable.
Soccer is a free-flowing game, where the players are constantly making decisions on where to be, what to do, and how to do it. There is not as much start and stop as some other sports, and as a result the coaches, although some hate to admit it, have a much lesser role in soccer than other sports, especially on game day. The coaches do not call plays from the sidelines, and substitutions are not made liberally with players going in and out of the game a lot. This is one of the reasons why it is important for the kids to just play the game of soccer more (See the article we posted on our facebook recently about kids not playing pickup sports much anymore, and why that is troublesome: http://www.stack.com/a/kids-play-fewer-pick-up-games-and-its-hurting-youth-sports).
In addition to fostering a love of the sport and good decision making, we play this way on Wednesdays to help foster creativity as well. We have a serious lack of creative soccer players in this country, and, among some other key reasons, many experts and theories point to the fact that our kids don’t just go out and play enough on their own. In other parts of the world, take South America for example, the kids are playing on the streets constantly and every day when they are 5, 6, 7, and 8 years old. Many of these players don’t even get technical “coaching” until they get to the ages of 14 and beyond. Clearly they do ok as they get older and definitely end up solid technically, but they also have a very strong love of the sport that is virtually unmatched, and many argue that South America is where the most creative players in the world come from. Some of you may have watched the US Men’s national team play against Brazil’s national team recently (spoiler alert: the US lost). In addition the speed of play and speed of decision making that the Brazilian players had, it was evident to me watching the game that the US players lacked good creative ideas on how to solve the problems quickly when we had the ball. We did not create many scoring chances as a result.
So our hope with the Street Soccer Wednesdays is that the players can learn to love the sport through playing, through making the game their own, and that for just a bit us coaches can get out of the way and let the players make mistakes, solve their own problems, and come up with their own creative decisions and solutions, and through that, hopefully grow to love the sport even more.