This is an opportunity to return players to the pickup game (free play) environment where players learn how to play the game from each other. This is the opportunity to mix age groups; Indeed this Small Sided Games environment is a chance to also mix genders as the boys and girls have different positive playing traits. Past generations learned to play the game on their own with other kids in the neighborhood or at school in these kid-organized games. Today youth sports are unnecessarily adult controlled and influenced. It’s difficult today for youngsters to have a pickup game since the streets have too many cars, the sandlot now has a mini-mall on it and parents are reluctant, with good cause, to let their child go blocks away from home on Saturday to play in a game on his or her own. Pickup soccer is a way for soccer clubs to give the game back to the players in the community. TYSL aspires to provide the opportunity of organized spontaneity for the youth in our community. TYSL will provide the fields, equipment and supervision. Adults will be on site for safety and general supervision, but otherwise it is all up to the players to organize the games. The adults should NOT coach, cheer, criticize, referee or in any other way involve themselves in the game. The best bet for parents is to drop off their child, go run some errands, and then come back to pick up your child an hour or two later.
The coaches are on site NOT to coach, but to supervise, be on hand for any serious injuries and any severe discipline problems. Additionally, the coaches are there to provide the game equipment and to let the players know when each game segment starts and stops. Street soccer can be used to assist with player development, player identification and player selection. Mostly it is a chance for players to play the game for the FUN of the game. Street soccer brings together children, parents, coaches and volunteers to a soccer celebration, regardless of ethnic or cultural backgrounds. Soccer is the common language and the soccer ground is an arena for social inclusion.
Referees are not needed, since these rules are meant to teach self-responsibility and fair play, with the implied agenda of improving the player’s competences in nonviolent communication and conflict resolution.
Whether you call it street soccer, a sandlot game, a kick-about or a pickup game -- this is the way that millions upon millions over many decades have learned to play soccer.
While the pickup game has not disappeared in the USA, it is not used in soccer as it could be. There are millions of kids playing soccer in our country, so why do we not see pickup games at every turn?
There can be many reasons why so few pickup games happen in youth soccer. They include a sedentary lifestyle, the vacant lot doesn't exist any longer, even the design of neighborhoods nowadays means there is little or no yard on which to play, parents are reluctant to let their kids play away from home without adult supervision, soccer facilities are closed except for scheduled events, or the kids simply don't know how to organize a game.
There can be more reasons and some of the ones I've noted are beyond the direct control of most soccer coaches. But the one that is the most disturbing to me is that kids don't know how to organize their own games. How has it come to pass that kids can't throw down something to mark goals, pick teams and play?
Well part of the answer is that we coaches have taken the game away from the youngsters. We over-coach and we over-organize. Coaches, parents and administrators need to take a step back and give the game back to the players.
In the 1970s and the 1980s, coaches had to be a focal point of most soccer experiences since so many of the kids were just then being introduced to the game. Unlike today, there were very few televised soccer matches, and in many communities none at all.
Professional and college team were not nearly as prevalent as today, so a chance for a kid to go watch adults play the game was few and far between.
Even to watch a World Cup match you had to go to a theater for closed-circuit TV to see a game. Consequently the coach had to demonstrate all of the ball skills, show players how to position themselves on the field and teach the rules.
While that's still true to an extent today, the models of how to play the game for a child to see are many. The coach no longer needs to be at the center of a novice's soccer experience. Now keep in mind that coaches are not alone in the need to give the game back to the players.
Our organization has been a double-edged sword for American soccer. The ability to organize has created teams, clubs and leagues. It has created from nothing soccer complexes that dot the land and in some cases are of quite high quality.
The organization has provided for coaching and referee education that is very good. The game has grown tremendously over the last 35 years on the backs of volunteers for the most part.
But the organization has a down side too. We adults meddle too much in the kids' soccer world. We plan everything! From uniforms for U6 players to select teams at U10, the adults are too involved. The kids don't know how to organize a pickup game because we have never let them.
OK, so good organization is an American trait. But what might be driving the compulsion to infiltrate adult organization into child's play?
As a sports nation we suffer from the "too much too soon" syndrome. Many adults involved in youth soccer want so badly to achieve success (superficially measured by the won/loss record and number of trophies collected) that they are bound to treat children as miniature adults. Unfortunately it is the adults who lack the patience to let the game grow within the child at its own pace.
In the National Youth License coaching course of the National Coaching Schools the idea of street soccer is presented. This is a way for the club to begin to give the game back to its rightful owners, the players.
The club provides the fields and supervision for safety (but no coaching) to let the kids show up and play pick up games. Granted it's not as spontaneous as a neighborhood game, but it does provide a chance to play without referees, without coaches and without spectators.
This means the kids are free to learn how to organize themselves, solve disputes, become leaders, rule their own game, experiment with new skills, make new friends and play without the burden of results.
If the club wants to provide an even better fun-filled learning environment, then put out different types of balls to use in some of the games, encourage the kids to set up fields of different sizes, allow mixed age groups to play together and even co-ed games.
The kids have a lot they can learn from each other. After all, players learning from players has produced Michele Akers, Pele, Johan Cruyff and many other world-class players. That same unencumbered environment has produced the multitudes who support the game.
When we adults give the game back to the players, in some small measure we are most likely to keep more players in the game for all of their lives and then the odds improve for the USA to produce its share of world class players.
Youth soccer now lives in the culture it created over the last 30 years. Will we evolve?
✴ Games are 3v3 (extra players assigned to a side are substitutes)
✴ There will be (5) separate matches
✴ Matches are (10) minutes long,
✴ Matches will be played using small sided goals (4x6 goals)
✴ Players are assigned randomly prior to each match. In this way, players play with and against different combinations of players throughout the event
✴ Teams may be 4-a-side up to 5-a-side depending on the number of participants
✴ Players make their own substitutions if there are extra players at a field
✴ All players must rotate equally, players are to control their own substitution rotation
✴ All games are played simultaneously
✴ No Goal Keepers
✴ Kickoff from the kickoff spot
✴ After a goal has been scored the player may dribble or pass the ball from the back line
✴ Free-kicks are always indirect
✴ The distance from the opponent to the ball must be at least (3) yards
✴ Instead of throw-ins the ball is kicked in from the side line and is indirect
✴ No offside
✴ Penalty Kicks; from the kickoff spot without a goalkeeper
✴ A player can score from any position on the field
✴ Players have to decide their positions among themselves
✴ Players keep track of the score themselves
✴ There are no referees
✴ Players control the rules themselves
✴ Six small sided fields may be placed on an official field
✴ 4’ x 6’ goals, (30) yard x (40) yard fields
✴ The number of participants may vary between a minimum of (16) and a maximum of (60); if more than (60) participants then a second full size soccer field will be required to set up small sided games
✴ At each field there should be the appropriate number of pinnies and a ball