Why Score Lines Do Not Matter in Youth Soccer!

There is a huge misconception amongst soccer players, parents and coaches when it comes to considering score lines in youth soccer.

Often the IMG_3026perception is that “the team is winning games, therefore my child is doing well”. Parents should remember that just one game is a tiny picture of a player’s development pathway that can take, in some cases, 10 years. There are many variables that contribute to the score lines of a youth soccer match. These variable include but are not limited to; the weather, use of tactics by the both coaches, emotional state of the individuals, technique of the players, decision making of the players, physical development of the players, and errors the players may have made.

Below are 3 example scenarios that happen in youth soccer games.

  1. A goal keeper passing to one of his defenders makes a poor decision and gives away the ball to an attacker. The attacker elects to shoot and the goal keeper saves this shot. A simple pass would provide a team mate with an empty net and certain goal. Both decision making errors have no impact on the score line.
  2. A goal keeper or defender plays a high, long pass up field. The opposing defender and goal keeper both run for the ball and collide leaving the ball for the striker to score. The miscommunication by the two players is reflected on the score line.
  3. A defender stretches for the ball against a skilful attacker who dribbles past and scores. The defender’s poor technique is reflected in the score line.

These 3 scenarios may last no longer than 10 seconds of a 50 minute youth soccer game. There will be countless other interactions between the opposing players.

Errors are constantly being made during games, by all players. No one can predict which errors will lead to goals and which will not. A 7-2 game could easily be a 4-3. Of course the games include individual skills, passing combinations and quality goals. They should be applauded by both parents and coaches.

In 2013, Bryst’s under 11 team played in the SAAC League and included 3 females on the roster. In March 2016, these female players were selected for the U14 Ontario Provincial Team. There was also a boy, who in 2016, was selected to the U15 Canadian National team. One might think that this ‘all star’ team would have won many matches throughout the season. However, the results of that particular team were very much a mixture of wins, ties and losses and they certainly did not dominate their division in terms of results.

The style of play a coach uses will also have an impact on the score line. One coach may insist that a team play short passing that builds the attack through the thirds of the field whereas, another coach may play direct long passes that go from one end of the field to the other. There is less risk in the direct long passing strategy. The team playing short passes is vulnerable to losing the ball close to their own net, but in the long term, should develop more technical skills and the ability to make smarter decisions.

Development occurs when young players learn from not only their own mistakes but others as well. The players must feel at ease in their surroundings before they can start to feel comfortable making mistakes. At Bryst, we pride ourselves on our training environment.

Our job as coaches is to evaluate the errors and to decide which are the most pertinent ones to use as coaching points. They may be technical errors like a poor first touch or inaccurate pass, or they could be tactical errors such as making a poor decision. Skilled coaches are able to read the game in order to make these decisions. Bryst coaches focus on improving individual technique by breaking the game down into its simplest elements. All Bryst teams play the short passing game, even though we know there can potentially be a ‘negative’ impact on the score line of a game.

The job of parents is to encourage children despite those errors, praise quality play, get them to practise and games, and let them follow their dreams. Parents may have to “jump off the cliff’”, embracing their child’s mistakes as part of the process. They should not focus on mistakes made by other players.

In no particular order, factors to use to evaluate development instead of scores can include;

  • Individual skill and technique demonstrated
  • Players using their weaker side
  • Players opening their body up to the field
  • Players beginning to understand space and where to move off the ball
  • The decision making of the players with and without the ball
  • Individuals learning from their errors
  • Teamwork and Camaraderie
  • Sportsmanship
  • Communication and social skills
  • Risk taking