I coached the first game for a group of u10s this weekend (which includes mostly u9s). My main objective with this group is to keep them smiling, learning, and coming back for more. In practice we do a lot of 1v1 drills to keep them on the ball and engaged with lots of touches.
So we played our first game this weekend, and faced a bigger, more athletic team. At this level, the defense is – to put it kindly, somewhat suspect. While our boys did some good things (taking players on, passing to feet), they went down by several goals early. There was no way to come back. At halftime we talked about adjustments, and the kids worked hard to implement the changes.
They did a great job, at times making plays in possession that would have been challenging for my more “competitive” teams. At this level, though, the mental focus simply isn’t there. Against an aggressive, athletic team, many mistakes were made and the opposition took advantage, mounting an incredible lead. All throughout, though, my kids had smiles on their faces. They were just reveling in the act of play. I did my best to keep their spirits up, encouraging them at all times.
The opposition coach, however, seemed to think that goal differential was important in a league where no scores were kept. He kept pushing his players forward, looking for the next goal. Midway through the second half I approached him quietly and I suggested that since his team was ahead by so many (at least 10), he might want to add some restrictions for his players in order to not pad the score and demoralize young kids. He looked at me like I had a hole in my head; as if it would be great if he could have his u10 rec team set a guiness book of world records for goals scored in a game.
Fortunately, at the end of the game my kids all ran off the field with big smiles on their faces. They had a wonderful time playing, and the score didn’t bother them one bit. They all loved playing the game, and had the time of their lives. They couldn’t wait for the next practice, and this is what made me happiest. They’re having a blast playing with this little ball, and I couldn’t be happier.