CDO Soccer Club

USSF "Academy" Model - U9 and U10 Player Pools

The traditional model in youth soccer is for players to be assigned to teams and they remain there for a full season, even in age groups such as U9 and U10. Different players develop at different rates, plus there is is research showing that a different approach helps produce stronger players in the long run - CDO Soccer Club will be using this approach, to support the request of the USSF (see below).

You may not be aware that the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in 2012 commissioned a detailed report on player development with recommendations for all youth soccer clubs and age groups. This report took several years to compile, was researched by many soccer experts and looked at the best soccer practices from leading nations around the world.

At CDO Soccer Club we will be adopting some of these best practices to help improve the players within our club, as opposed to simply trying to create a "winning" team. (If you're not up for reading the whole thing, pages 27-28 are particularly relevant to this age.)

The scores of games at this age are not important - kids are always going to try their best to score more goals than the other team but it won't always happen. The way in which they learn and when they learn are both very important, so our club centered approach will look at individual player development first and foremost.

The goal (for players) is to compete to do their best rather than compete to be the best.
(Quote from USSF Player Development Model)

Arizona Youth Soccer Asociation (AYSA) proposed to adopt the USSF "academy" model all the way up to U12, but it was only approved up to U8, as some larger clubs (2000-4000 players) felt that the changes were too difficult to adopt in one season. Our plan at CDO Soccer Club is to bridge the gap and have an academy format of sorts U9 and U10 this year while working within the boundaries set by the local league (PCJSL).

  1. Ideally, we will register as one CDO player pool from which we will form 2-3 "scramble" teams are formed to play in pre season & local league games. This is something we are seeking special permission for AYSA to do. (Read page 28 of the document above for a description of what a "scramble" team is). If AYSA won't let us register that way, we'll make two or three 'teams' and do the same thing anyway.
  2. In tournament play, we will group players of like abilities into teams and seek out challenging yet realistic competition for each team.
  3. The player pool will train on the same night, learning the same aspects of play and will train with players of like abilities.

Part of the challenge for me is helping parents become familiar with this format which is does not follow the 'traditional' path. Please understand the reason we're going down this path is to best help your son or daughter become a better soccer player and enjoy his experience in the sport.

The other challenge is that only a few other clubs in the state will adopt this method, certainly not this season, but may well do in the future. You're likely to see opposing parents at some stage gripped by the score of the game as the only thing that matters. It is U10 children's soccer in Tucson, not the 2014 World Cup in Brazil! We're taking the long term view of the world here, and who knows, by focusing on player development over team development, maybe we'll see a CDO player in the World Cup in 2022!

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you have a great 2013-14 season with us at CDO Soccer Club!

FAQ's - U9 and U10 Player Pools

Player Development Program: What is a "Player Pool" as opposed to a "Team"?

In the 2013-14 season, CDO Soccer Club was the first club locally to implement the pool concept as recommended by USSF. The player pool consists of every player in an age group and sometimes two age groups. This format allows anyone who would like to play at CDO Soccer Club in the U9 to U10 age groups to do so - nobody is "cut" because they are not skilled yet as a young child...different players will develop at different rates. Players will be assigned to training groups and we will have "teams" entered into league games and some soccer festivals/tournaments, although those teams are not a fixed group of players.

Our first season in this format had challenges, but we've learned from what worked and what didn't and will always strive to adjust to make the program better. Rather than ask "which team is my son or daughter on?", just consider your son or daughter a part of CDO Soccer Club - that's the easy way to look at it. What was great to see was the level of improvement in our players - coaches and parents at other clubs in Tucson and Phoenix have been asking about our program and how we do things, which is a compliment to everyone who embraced our changes and helped make them happen!

The old model over the years has been that young kids get picked on a team for a season and each team is isolated - it becomes about 'me', 'my team' and 'can we win', rather than 'us', 'our club' and 'can we keep improving'. Teams in the past within clubs all over the state (as young as U5-U6) have frequently operated independently, not knowing the other players, families or coaches in their club, which makes no sense at all! The player pool promotes more interaction between different players to help with social development, (making new friends), fostering a greater sense of 'club' rather than just 'team', as well as a primary focus on individual development through goal setting and player challenges - see further down this page for the new way to keep score!

What is a "Training Group"?

A training group is a smaller practice session within the larger player pool. You may often see all of the players in the training groups working on the same sorts of activities, although sometimes with subtle differences based upon the abilities of the players in each group - some will need a little more time to improve certain skills, others can be challenged more. Players can move between training groups at any time, and may even be mixed on certain nights. In 2013-14 CDO added one night a week of free professionally led training sessions for the purposes of coach mentoring and player education, something we're doing again in 2014-15.

When will the Player Pool train?

Oro Valley does not typically produce field schedules until July, so specifics won't be known with certainty until then. In general terms, training groups will get together at the same field on the same nights to make logistics easier for families and coaches. For example, it could be that the U9/10B player pool trains on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. If players move between training groups, it means there is no adjustment needed by families in terms of scheduling.

So officials and parents don't keep score, but players and coaches have a new way to keep score - how does that work?!

Young players need to learn in an environment when the outcome of the game is secondary to the development and performance of key techniques and concepts and all of this done so it is FUN. When parents and coaches dictate that success is defined solely by the number of goals each team scores, the message of 'getting better' is lost. We will be working with parents so they know what to look for in games - if the training groups have been developing 1v1 techniques, ways to dribble past defenders creatively, the kids may try it many times in a game and not get it right. THAT IS OK!!

Passing up a chance to go 1v1 with an opponent for fear of losing the ball may go against what we have worked on in training, and this generally happens when parents critique every mistake, thinking it is a disaster and that it might 'stop the team winning the game' - who cares?! This is youth soccer, not the world cup!

This is why at CDO Soccer Club we use goal setting and player challenges to engage kids in a friendly competitions against each other or even against against the coach. A player may score +1 for trying to take a player on, +2 for beating them with a specific skill - the coach may score +1 every time a player doesn't take a player on when they are 1v1.

If parents and coaches are more focused on simply 'scoring more goals than the other team', players get dragged into that same mindset, rather than developing their abilities to help them be a rounded player further down the line. The teams that focus on "winning" first generally aren't very successful by the oldest age groups, as the players who've developed in an environment where they aren't afraid to make mistakes have a higher level of ability and the confidence to play soccer the right way.

What happens at the weekend if we don't have traditional "teams"?

Before you go any further, please read pages 26-29 of the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model will help everyone get what the United States Soccer Federation wants all clubs to do to help develop better players.

In our own in-house games, we will do a 'full scramble', meaning players will be mixed between teams every weekend so they get to play with different kids, aiding both on and off the field player development.

"Teams" are in essence "groups of players from CDO Soccer Club on game days". In local league play, we will assess what other clubs do before deciding how to approach it. If other clubs scramble players, so will we. If the PCJSL flighting is 'ability' based, we will form teams to suit the format, but still with the potential to swap players between teams from time to time; we can plan in advance to help parents with logistics.

In tournament play, we will have some occasions we groups players of similar ability to make sure the level of competition is appropriate, as not all clubs think the same way we do. On other occasions we'll mix up the teams, all in the spirit of player development.

  • Increased social interaction between players and parents in the club, helps kids and families meet new people and make more friends
  • Provides challenges in play by having players adjust to the different skill sets of those around them, rather than becoming familiar with how the same kids around them concepts come later, individual development is now!
  • Supports the idea that game days are a chance for kids to get together and enjoy the game of soccer, rather than the parents focusing on whether the game is won or lost as the determination of whether it was a good day or not!
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