Behind the Books Blog Entries: Transitioning to Playing Positions!

 

LearnSport Books was established to explain and simplify foundational sports concepts for the benefit of children, parents, and coaches as they progress together in sport. LearnSport Books aspires to expand and develop the ways in which children think about team sports’ concepts, tactics, and terminology. Our focus is on teaching children how to think independently, while also maintaining a collective understanding of the team during competition.  Check out our titles in our flagship series iplaysoccer! by clicking here!

The US Soccer Curriculum, the USSF Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States, the Official US Youth Soccer Coaching Manual, the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model, the US Youth Soccer Skills School Manual, the USSF Position Statements & Best Practices for Player Development and the 2015 Player Development Initiatives have each addressed the transition of style of play from 4v4 to 7v7 by instructing coaches on what to look for and how to best proceed.

Teaching positions is complicated no matter how you slice it.

Respectively, they each suggest that U5-U8 children not really be bound by positions in order to promote play and enjoyment, emphasizing that soccer is a game for children and should be fun. If you’ve recently completed your USSF F License by watching all of the videos online, first of all good for you and keep going, but secondly you will note that the ball is the toy, and the placement of too many rules and restrictions on child’s play can render the game less fun. Truly, children should experience fun and learn to love playing the game at this age. Complicated rules, positional restraints, and emphasis on winning should not be emphasized. Most children have verly little understanding of spatial relationships.  Rather, accomplishment of individual skills and activities should by lauded at this age.  Developing technical capabilities such as receiving the ball, dribbling, push passing and properly striking the ball should be praised. Get as many touches on the ball as possible and celebrate them. Kids will naturally begin to focus on wanting to win the game they are learning to play.

As children physically grow and mentally mature, they can begin to comprehend the game in a bigger picture, or macro level, such that they comprehend that “hey, we are on the same team and can work as a team to put this ball into that net to score, and thus win.”  Only then can we begin to delve into tactical awareness, responsibilities and obligations to teammates.  It is at that point when the conversion begins from the child’s version of the game to the more adult version of the game.  We all know that team sports can help children learn about responsibilities and obligations, and presents invaluable teaching moments and life lessons. Those lessons are the ones that we hope transcend into the child’s adulthood to help them understand the responsibilities and obligations that are required to become contributing members of society, husbands, wives, parents, employees and bosses.

The Positions I & II books of the iplaysoccer! series, Where Do I Go?, and What Do I Do?, were inspired and drafted in short story form immediately following a very real and specific game.

Our 7 year old daughter was playing in her first game for a new club at the commencement of a new season. In fact, the transitional season where the size of the field increases and teammates playing within it expands from four players to seven.  We had parent-coached her up to this point, but thought it best for her to hear a new coaching voice.

Prior to a handful of practices leading up to this game, she had never played in a system with named positions other than being a generalized attacker or defender. However, on this opening day game her new coaches were very clear that she was to play the “Right Back” position, and not stray from that wide defensive assignment.

Like many children in this age grouping, our daughter took the instruction quite literally. She glued herself to the far right sideline and essentially watched the entire game proceed to the inside of her while she failed to engage and defend waves of attacks.   Several goals were scored in the opening minutes.  There was a simple breakdown of communication between coach and player.  A lack of basic understanding on the part of the player that directly led to inaction on the field during a game.

Before long, and before the first round of substitutes mercifully arrived, some frustration mounted amongst players, coaches and parents. Not totally oblivious to the situation, but while still sporting her typical confused deer in the headlights grin, she was becoming visibly upset that others were upset. For a moment soccer was not fun, it was clearly terrifying to her. My wife and I found the whole situation sad, though somewhat predictable as we knew our daughter to be clearly technically skilled and gifted in attacking, however, to be fair to her new coaches she was extremely non confrontational and not inclined to engage and defend under any circumstance, regardless of instructions provided.

We supported the coach in his decision that all players should play all positions at least some amount of time to gain perspective for the game in each of its phases, but it pained us to see her struggle.  It was difficult to observe her recognize and acknowledge that she was struggling, yet not know how to remedy the situation, despite her coaches best atempts to intervene with verbal instruction.

As a result, our motivation in drafting these short stories was to simply familiarize our young daughter with basic concepts at a more macro level of game understanding, and help build a foundation the coaches could expand upon on the training ground. Basic concepts, basic vocabulary. If not to help this already scarred older sister, then to certainly aid her little siblings.

We encourage our adult readers to walk through the teaching concepts and vocabulary at the end of these books with our younger readers.  This is where we acknowledge whole heartedly that there are challenges in synthesizing the necessary information of this process into two children’s books of less than 30 pages, and we certainly do not proclaim to have the answers.  In fact, when asked, “do the books solve the very difficult challenge of teaching positions at the commencement of the conversion of the child’s game to the more adult version?”, the simple answer is unequivocally “NO!”

However, we tried to create something that can at least help. Something to commence the dialogue and break the ice into the transition. Something that would provide the simplest building blocks of tactical understanding. Something that starts introducing children to the universal language of positional vocabulary – which is vast and confusing. Something that will at least provide some basis and answer the child’s questions of what is a position, what does that position do for the team, and why?

We would love to get your feedback on whether these titles prove helpful! See below for a sneak peak at the teaching concepts and vocabulary!

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