The Left Footed Crossing Ability of A U8 Player
The other day a friend of mine called me that I hadn’t spoken to in awhile; he was a really good player growing up and now a dedicated youth coach. We spent a few minutes getting the typical how’s everything going questions out of the way and then the conversation soon shifted to the subject of youth soccer development. He works for a big youth soccer club and was explaining how frustrated he was because so much of his time is used up filling out Zoom Reports on players. For those of you who are not familiar, Zoom Reports is a computer software program that many soccer clubs use to set-up player evaluation templates and link them to email and spread sheets etc. His evaluation forms looked really impressive with every skill under the sun inserted nicely into skill categories for him rate the players on a scale 1-5 (5 being the best and 1 the worst). The report is then sent to the player’s parents, club administration and shared with the player as well. He is mandated to rate each player on every skill listed on the form. Here is the catch though; his team is made up of 7 and 8 year old kids. After emailing out the ratings, the parents would come back to him and say things like, “I really want you to work on this skill with my son or daughter” or “I noticed you put he needs work on left footed crossing and I wanted to know how we are going to improve that skill?” I stopped my friend right there in disbelief. I feel I am a very open minded coach and willing to listen to any and all ideas. The one thing that got me about this Zoom Report thing is the fact that he is forced to rate 7 & 8 year old children in a recreational club. It’s not Ajax or Manchester United we are talking about here and even if it were a pro club I would still disagree with the philosophy. Many of the pro clubs don’t even start that with the younger age groups in certain countries. When a child is 5,6 or 7 years old and gets a poor rating on the skills form from possibly their most respected sports figure (the coach), it can be devastating. What you are really doing in effect is programming the player’s subconscious mind into thinking they are not good enough. That’s sad to me. I spent many years teaching 3-8 year olds as a PE teacher and the last thing I would ever want to do is lower my students confidence, self-worth and their ability to enjoy the activity. My own son is going to be 2 years old soon and my only hope is that he will enjoy playing, no matter what sport. I don’t care at what level he makes it to, but I do care that he is placed into an environment where he can be a kid and do what kids do, play and have fun. There have been many studies done about people who are highly skilled or experts in their particular field. One of the main factors that all these experts had in common was “praise” from a young age. When a child is praised it boosts their confidence, raises self-esteem, builds self-worth and ignites the desire to keep doing the activity. At a young age the most important thing is that the players associate soccer with a great time and want to come back to enjoy playing more. Two hour training sessions to get ready for tournaments at that age are detrimental. U8 Premier travel teams are detrimental. Zoom Reports are detrimental. These things are done by coaches who miss the point or by parents who just don’t get it.
If I had to make a rating system, it would not be an email system but a face to face meeting for only a couple of minutes with parent and player. I would tell the parent and child how much I enjoyed having them on the team and coaching them. I would give them a few specific things that I really thought they did well. I would want to know how much fun they had and if they were excited to have even more fun the next season. That’s pretty much it. If my son gets a 10-page evaluation at age 6 from his soccer club, I will simply fold it up, not look at it and ask him one question, “Did you have fun at soccer today”. That’s it. If he is having fun, that’s the only rating that matters. I wouldn’t be very concerned about a 6 year olds ability to cross the ball with his left foot.