For the Fall 2017 season JASA will use a modified skills based or Academy format for the Kicker, Mini, Cub, and Junior divisions (the Seniors will use a team based format). This format was initially introduced by the United States Soccer Federation in 2007. Since that time many programs around the United States have established an academy style program.
What will this mean for you, as a parent, coach, or player? The following paragraphs will explain in some detail what will change and what will remain the same. The most important thing to know is that the players will have fun as the most important aspect of playing soccer. We have always been and always will be a community based organization. Many of the modifications for this season’s program were developed from the survey responses after the spring season.
WHAT ARE ACADEMIES?
An Academy is when a club/association keeps the players together within an age group as opposed to placing them on individual teams. Academies do not “cut” or “tryout” players and all children that want to play can fully participate. Each player will participate equally in time and position on the field.
The Academy is a concept that is based on the professional soccer club systems from around the world. There are no “A, B, and C” teams with these Academies as players stay in pools or pods and can be moved back and forth according to their progress and development throughout the seasonal year. The pods will be established at the beginning of the season with a two-day evaluation process. The coaches will observe the players and rate their skills. These ratings will be used to place the players with similarly skilled player pods. The pods will be separated into two levels of skills. The more skilled pods will play the other more skilled pods on Saturdays and the less skilled pods will play the other less skilled pods on Saturdays.
The Academy approach accommodates and accepts that younger players still have a lot of learning and growing to do within the game. This approach will allow JASA to foster development over winning, and let these young players play freely. Each player pool will then play non-result oriented matches on Saturday mornings. The parents will be cheering for the community of players rather than the “Crew” or “United”. The match format will continue with the small-sided games.
There is a saying that without technique there’s no tactics. With the Academy approach, the focus on improving the individual player’s technique will be emphasized because players will be in an environment where they will not have to worry about making poor decisions or fear failure during a match. Young players need to get a “feel” for the game; to learn to play instinctively. Young players will be allowed to show their abilities in an environment in which they will still be playing against competition without the “fear” of losing a match. At the same time young players will learn to make decisions in a match-like setting while getting more touches on the ball, thereby improving their technical development.
In a team based program, players are under pressure to make the right play to help win the game. Too often, a mistake becomes the focus of the players, the parents, and the coach. This pressure takes the fun out of the game for the unfortunate player who makes the mistake and for the other players on the team if they “lose” the match.
With young players it is the coaches’ job to develop every player without regard to the player’s ability. How many times have we seen late bloomers? The Academy will provide an environment that will allow these young players to experiment and play without the fear of losing a match. The Academy will foster an environment where players will look to be more creative, take risks, become better with the ball and have more fun.
Young players are dropping out of the sport of soccer by the time they are 13 or 14 years of age. Research has shown that 70% of all kids drop out of sports. The main reason soccer is no longer fun (according to players who drop out) is due to pressure to win or failure due to an emphasis on results over development and FUN. Just look at the number of players in the Mini division compared to that of the Junior division. We want to reduce that difference because the kids want to stay because they are having fun.
ADULT: COACH & PARENT DEVELOPMENT
Are adults involved with the youth soccer game more concerned about the outcome of the single match or season and failing to see the bigger picture?
In many soccer programs, the model used for youth soccer is measured on a result based format. With each passing season the amount of problems reported are increasing within these age groups. It is usually due to sideline behavior by the coach or parents from the pressure to win.
When observing teams that play under the pressure to win games, the quality of soccer and the player’s confidence in taking risks does not prevail. The majority of adults today played sports growing up in a non-structured environment. They could play without any pressure, without adults dictating their every move and would solve problems for themselves.
The Academy approach will allow coaches to “mentor” the players and each other without fearing a loss in a game. Take away the emphasis of “results” and our volunteer coaches will be able to teach these young players skills rather than making the right play. Our coaches will work with a practice plan designed to develop the players according to their age and will get to “coach” their child on Saturdays.
This Academy approach is “Player Centered” and not “Coach Controlled.” Soccer is a player centered game isn’t it? With the Academy approach young players will be in an environment where they are challenged at their own pace. More players need to be included as opposed to excluded in these younger age groups and this format will do just that.
What the coaches should be teaching is, encouraging risk takers and flair, placing the emphasis on the individual’s technical abilities, building out of the back, and keeping possession of the ball.
Parents will be able to forget about winning and just cheer for a good play
WHAT WILL THIS LOOK LIKE?
The Kickers (U6) will practice one evening per week and use a practice plan designed around games that teach age appropriate skills. The Mini (U7 & U8), Cub (U9 & U10), and Junior (U11 & U12) divisions will practice two evenings per week. Each division will practice on the same days and at the same time. The divisions will be broken into smaller pools or “pods”. The U7-U12 divisions’ pods will reflect player skills. Players will move between pods as their skills dictate. Practices will be led by a parent coach and assisted by the parents with players in that pod. The practice curriculum will be published prior to the season and each coach can take the time to become familiar with the activities/games.
The games on Saturday mornings will occur at the same time every weekend: Juniors at 8:30-9:25 am & Cubs at 9:45-10:40 am, Minis at 11:00-11:38 am, and Kickers at 12:00-12:32 pm. The pods will be matched by soccer skills so that the more advanced players will play against each other and the less advanced against each other. This allows the players more confidence to be aggressive in relation to the other players on the field.
Please ask any and all questions! The Academy format is different and we know that there will be many questions. Every association that has instituted the Academy format has experienced this.
We would like to thank the Gulf Coast Soccer Club, Texas, for allowing us to use their academy documents to develop our program.