Thirty kids played more soccer in two hours than any other Burke Athletic Club recreational game in history. Young Nicholas walked off the pitch pumping his fist with a resounding “That was Great!”. Parents commented about how nice it was to just see them play as hard as they could without concern over scores and stressing over “the other team”. It was pure fun and pure soccer and some beautiful soccer at that.
This season BAC is piloting a new but old concept in managing an age group, something US Youth Soccer in recent years. “Pool” management of the players at the younger age groups along with a focus on player development and games free from the pressures associated with league play has been part of the European system for a long time. What is pool play? For the U9 Boys at BAC, we hold practices for the whole age group at one time. The “Team” definition in this age group is only for management of the players and parents. We designate a half hour at the end of each practice for smaller focused practices with one “team” each week.
Game day for BAC’s U9 Boys is structured the same as any other US Youth soccer game. We have referees who are calling the fouls and out of bounds. We play at Patriot Park’s turf pitch which makes for a very fast game. What is different, however, is that we have a mini-game on the sidelines for the substitution players and we keep the clock running for a full hour before “half time”. The coaches work a staggered rotation of players in groups of six to eight at natural breaks (e.g. out of bounds). The “half time” serves two purposes: first to give the referee a break, and second to talk to all the players about what the coaches are seeing on the field.
Since we keep mixing the players and the teams up, there are no lopsided games. An additional bonus - each player now has 30 “teammates” versus 10 on a traditional team. With this model, everyone wins!