Why do we have substitutes in children’s football? The simple answer is that they are in the adult game which we see on TV and this is sadly what children’s football has become.
The above photo was taken last Friday at a fun day organised by the Marble Hill Play Centre in Marble Hill Park, Twickenham. Milk crates for goal posts, loads of fun and laughter and the youngest player slotting the ball home past the advancing keeper.
Not a sub in site. 4v4, 3v4, 4v5, what does it matter as long as every child plays every minute. The teams can be adjusted if there is an imbalance. One team can have a rush goalkeeper, the other a stick, lets be creative and make a pledge that in the younger age groups we work towards never having another sub.
It is the most depressing think in football seeing a child standing by the side of the pitch shivering, and thinking ‘Will I get on today?’. It just doesn’t equate with childhood. Children should all be running, laughing, shooting, dribbling and ‘playing’.
Most of you are coaches of teams in leagues that have strict rules about the number of players playing, the size of the squads and the number of substitutes.
What options are there for every child to play for every minute?
Pull the younger teams out of the mini soccer leagues and have in-house games and friendlies with like minded clubs.
One club are pulling out of league until U10s. They have many kids at the club and can therefore children can play with and against different players every week.
At present at U7s the FA have rules the game can be no longer than 20 minutes. If most teams have squads of 10 and use them all, it means the players will play about 15 minutes each.
Without the pressure of leagues, in house games you can play 5-6 games of 10 minutes which is four times more play and no subs!
Also as the standard format can be 4v4 instead of the 7v7 in mini soccer, they will have many more touches and will be much more involved in the game.
Which is more fun for the kids and which is better for development?
Lobby your mini soccer leagues and look to change the structure. If you are playing home and away fixtures, make one of these a more informal, fun event. If you have 13 players and the opposition has 9 say, mark out two 4v4 pitches with cones. That leaves 6 players, 5 from one team and one from the other. Mix these six up to play 3v3 and rotate them on and off the main games.
The other fixture can be a standard league game.
The other idea is games for subs. Phone the opposition coach and encourage him to let his substitutes play in a game on the side. Point out the positives:
- The children will be physically and mentally ready to come onto the pitch for the main game.
- Players coming off the main game are not so down as they can join in with the game on the side.
- No players on the sidelines getting cold and miserable.
- The subs will get lots of touches of the ball so there development will not be impaired.
- The gap between the stronger and weaker players will not increase.
- The parents will be happier seeing their kids playing for the whole duration.
At the Stanley Park site in Chippenham, the town council are setting up pitches for substitutes and have also offered to oversee these.
These types of initiatives should be applauded and used as examples elsewhere.
If enough of us lobby the governing bodies, leagues and clubs, change will surely happen. Let us all work to that goal of EVERY CHILD, EVERY MOMENT.
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