Some parents might be wondering why we’re playing on small sized fields. Playing on small fields is the reason for the success of the world’s most successful youth programs such as FC Barcelona in Spain and the Ajax Football Club in the Netherlands. Young players who grow accustomed to playing in small spaces acquire superior ball control skills and are less prone to play “hockey-style” soccer which is physical and highly unsuccessful against skilled teams.
“I think we really need to get better in small spaces,” said Claudio Reyna, U.S. Soccer’s
Youth Technical Director, in the wake of the U.S. men’s failure to qualify for the Olympics.
In an interview, Reyna spoke of American youth teams relying on “running and overpowering teams and being physical” when where “we have to really improve as a soccer-playing nation is playing in the small, tight spaces throughout the field.”
Teale Matteson a Northern California coach who recently visited FC Barcelona noted about the highly successful Spanish program,
“The youth programs play all games 7v7 until age 12, age 14 for the girls. The field is
44 yards wide (the width of a penalty box), 54 yards long with 10-yard box, a 12-yard
offside line in lieu of the halfway line and one referee.”
At Atlantic Stars Academy, for the younger ages, we further divide the field into zones creating a series of 1v1 or 1v2 scenarios for two reasons. So the game can be played in bite-sized manageable pieces for the players to put their ball skills to use effectively and methodically. And secondly to learn to play a possession-style passing game rather than a “run and kick” style in which only the strongest and fastest players ever touch the ball. We have found that this coaching technique has been highly effective in the success of our players.