The following results were obtained from a direct pen and paper survey provided to 7-year old players at this year’s FUNdamentals Festivals. Below are the top stated answers:
- What do you like best about playing soccer? Scoring and having fun
- What do you like least about playing soccer? Defending and losing
- When I play it is important that I.. Pass to team-mates / Keep the ball
- I wish my parents would.. Play with me / Support/watch me
- I wish my coach would.. Show me more tricks and skills / Play with us
- When I play soccer I feel… Happy
Some significant player responses:
- “I wish my parents were pro players”
- “I wish my coach wouldn’t wear sunglasses”
- “Soccer makes me smell bad”
CONSIDERATIONS FOR GRASSROOTS SOCCER:
As always, when asking children a question, you’ll get interesting (and sometimes brutally honest) results.
In a previous study (2015) the most significant response was that 80% of children want their parents to play with them. This assumes they are not – a theme that again permeated this year’s responses. The other significant take home note for all grassroots parents and coaches is the player’s desire to be taught more skills.
The players within this survey were from the FUNdamentals Stage of Long Term Player Development – a stage where the player personality characteristics are still predominantly upon discovering ‘me’ and the recommended developmental focus is ball mastery. Children within this stage are eager to learn and experiment with new moves and actions. So why, despite this, do so many players feel it is important to pass the ball in a game?
Soccer is perceived as a team game, and it is, especially within the later stages of development. However, at the age of 7-8, the child mind is more focused upon the individual. Good players become good team players when they have mastered the ability to manipulate the ball against others in a game. Yet, it appears many coaches emphasize passing ahead of individual technical development. Why?
Many new soccer and grassroots coaches are placed within a team environment where the main parameter of success is to win, forsaking player development. So the coaching focus is upon passing and team play in order to win.
From an organizational perspective, this research demonstrates the need for supporting grassroots coaches and parents in ‘how’ to develop better techniques and skills for them and their players. We will attempt to address this within the coming year with ‘soccer parent’ clinics. For more info on this, please reach out to John Clubb
Coaches need to be encouraged to focus on the importance of player development over team success.
Once this is addressed, perhaps the next most pressing issue is finding a way to keep the kids from becoming “smelly!