Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Blowout Challenge

The goal of sports for kids should be so they can learn and have fun.

Kids learn best when they are challenged, have fun, and experience some success. Games that are blowouts are a loss for both teams. For the team that "lost" it can be disheartening and frustrating. For the team that "won" they probably were not challenged and so were not able to learn much from the game. Plus a game is no fun if it is too easy to win every time -- it becomes boring. Ideally only well matched (balanced) teams will play each other but this is not always possible for many reasons. So it is important for every youth sports team to have a blowout mitigation strategy.

In soccer, if you are up by 2 points very early in the game or it otherwise becomes very obvious that one team is much stronger than the other, it is best for a coach and team to use one or more blowout prevention techniques. A blowout in soccer is typically a score differential of 5 or more goals.

Here are some techniques you can use to prevent blowouts in soccer as well as improve the skill of the stronger team:
- Positions -- Put players in positions where they are least comfortable (most challenged), play strong scorers as defense or goal keeper, play weak scorers as forwards and mids.
- Opposition -- Reduce the number of players on the field for the stronger team (1, 2, 3 or even more players), increase for the weaker team
- Passing -- Every player must touch the ball before a shot is taken
- Passing -- Two-Touch, every player can only have two touches of the ball in sequence, no dribbling
- Passing -- Must complete 5, 10, or more passes before shooting.
- Shooting -- Only take shots from outside the opponents penalty area
- Shooting -- Each player can only score 1 goal, must pass to a player that has not yet scored for a shot
- Shooting -- Only 1 designated player can take shots until they score once, then another player becomes the designated shooter
- Shooting -- All shots must be with weaker (off) foot [added 3/30/2009 based on feedback from AYSO-L]
- Crosses -- can only score with a cross and 1 touch kick (U10 & under)
- Crosses & Heading -- can only score with a cross and header (U12 & up)
- Do two or more of the above at the same time

These techniques will force your players to play harder and learn more in the process. It is after all just a game and they are likely to have more fun too.

Some additional options which involve sharing players with the other team:
- If the weaker team is playing short to start with, loan them your best players (good players often enjoy playing against their own team)
- Swap a few players (spot balance teams)
- Swap offensive lineups so that your forwards and mids play against your defense and goalkeeper - this will usually result in very balanced teams and each group knows some of the others so can play reasonably well together. This option usually requires that both coaches have a full set of pinnies for both teams and the referees are ok with the challenge.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taking coaches to new heights

Well, I've become an AYSO Coach Instructor so am training new coaches this spring in AYSO Region 64 (in addition to coaching and being a stand in coach administrator).