Some of the most common complaints in recreational youth team sports are those involving "blow-out" or "lop-sided" games. Ask any seasoned coach and he or she will have plenty of personal experience with the winning side and the losing side of those games. Nearly all of them will tell you that being on either side of the score is not fun - players on both teams are not developing, frustrations mount on the losing team, winning teams may be more prone to gloating or other unsportsmanlike behaviour, parents and players may lose interest in the sport, etc.
There are many sources available on the web that help with score management techniques in youth sports. A good one focused on youth soccer is available at: http://www.playsportstv.com/soccer/articles/991/coaching-youth-soccer_how-to-manage-a-one-sided-game
The key to any score/game managment strategy is to have a plan in place before the kickoff. In many cases, its readily apparent who the stronger team will be during pre-game warmups. Regardless of which side of the predicted score line your team is on, this is the perfect time to have a friendly chat with the opposing team's coach and the referee to discuss game manegment strategies before emotions get too involved during the run of play. While the coach of the stronger team has a larger set of tools to use, the opposing coach has a few tools as well.
A few ideas if you're on the stronger side:
- play down a player
- force the use of the weaker foot or emphasize using new/unfamiliar skills
- limit playing time of more competitive players in favor of less skilled players while still giving all players at least 1/2 a game to play
- put more competitive players in unfamiliar positions
- require a minimum number of passes prior to shooting on goal
A few ideas if you're on the weaker side:
- play up a player or two
- change team strategy (e.g. focused on defending)
- have players focus on basic fundamentals (e.g. number of consecutive passes) rather than the score
Two last things to note:
1) Use discretion when employing game/score management tactics as emotions may run high with coaches, players and spectators. Consider using the referee as a mediator for game management tactics.
2) Be aware that as a coach, players AND parents look to you to set the tone on and off the field. If you get frustrated when things aren't going your teams way or you boisterously cheer the umpteenth goal, parents and players will likely follow your lead. In these cases, consider focusing on the smaller improvements of the game such as displaying what the player learned in practice last week or a new footskill.
If you have particular concerns regarding score management, mismatched teams, or related isses, please contact your teams Coach or your BAC Age Group Coordinator.