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Improve the Game Experience-My pilot project for associations

This has been a pet peeve of mine for quite a while and based on some twitter posts it is a pet peeve of many. This pet peeve of mine has to do with game day experience and the flow of these games.

How many have been at a game where one coach makes changes after 4 minutes and the other after 5 or 6 minutes? How many have been involved in a game where the ball goes out of bounds a fair distance and the goalkeeper or players run after the ball and it takes some time to retrieve? How many have been involved in games that take place at a centralized venue with all teams present only to have no technical oversight at the games? There are many more that many people have complained about of the years but I will give some suggestions based on what I have witnessed over the last few years. My last article I wrote about a pilot project that has to do with adding a player when a team goes down by 4 goals to improve game experience. If we are truly interested in improving game experience I ask all associations(district, state, provincial) to implement a pilot project to improve game experience and see what the result is.

If we are truly interested in improving game experience I ask all associations(district, state, provincial), clubs and board members to implement a pilot project to improve game experience and perhaps even build some culture in the game

1. Make the beginning of the match formal just like the "Big Leagues"

Have the kids come out accompanied by the referee and line up and have the parents clap acknowledging their kids as they wish each other good luck. If the club has access to a sound system and an anthem even better. Children will get a kick out of this and shows some professionalism towards the game and did I say that the kids will love it!! ADD PROFESSIONALISM TO THE GAME

2. Make sure there are 3-4 game balls

One thing we are not short on in North America are soccer balls but why are we so fixated on the one and only game ball. When a ball goes out and its a bit of a distance use another ball that the referee has approved before the match and have somebody retrieve the ball. KEEP THE GAME FLOWING!

3. Younger Ages-1/4s instead of 1/2s

I suggest that there are 1/4s instead of 1/2s for a couple reasons. The first since the game is a good teacher, is to have more coaching time with the players during the breaks. In a standard game with a half, you have halftime and at the end only and many times the other team is on after they have gotten a drink and already lined up at halftime. My suggestion is 3-4 mins between the 1st and 3rd 1/4s and 8-10 mins for halftime and then a quick reflection after the game. If we are teaching this wonderful game and want to get the most out of it for the players, why do we rush these coaching breaks? USE THE BREAKS TO HELP TEACH THE GAME!

4. Substitutions- Can we limit them to designated times?

My suggestion for 1/4s works well with substitutions. My suggestion is that no changes are made during the 3 first 1/4s unless injury occurs. The changes should be made during the 1/4 breaks only and halftime. Then allow changes to be made in the 4th quarter freely. How many of you have been opposite a coach who makes changes every 4-5 mins? With the ball going out of play and players chasing the ball into the woods, the coach constantly making changes, the flow of the game is compromised. Let's keep the game flowing for the players, coaches and parents. We need to get the most of the game for all involved. If we can't have 1/4s then give a designated time close to the middle of each half to do these changes once the ball goes out. It is important that these players play more than 4-5 minutes at a time. KEEP THE GAME FLOWING!

5.Make the end of the match like the "Big Leagues"

After the kids shake hands with the referee and the opposing team, have your players clap towards their parents thanking them for being there. Your parents should cheer and a clap back for a job well done. A very simple gesture but goes a long way!! ADD PROFESSIONALISM TO THE GAME!

6.Technical Oversight

Many clubs now have paid Technical Directors, Director of Coaches and Staff Coaches. There is also many who still don't have Technical Directors and run solely on a board and team coaches and this may be difficult for those clubs. A few years ago my two youngest were involved in a developmental league with no scores and standings. The focus was on development first. They introduced a 3 to 1 training to game ratio, all matches were on Saturdays at a centralized venue. This meant all teams, coaches and parents were all at one site. Clubs hosted these and created a festival atmosphere. Some offered BBQs, beverages and a nice experience for all involved. It was perfect except for one thing, there was no technical oversight.

There was league representation which was mainly teenagers who set up nets etc and would clean up once it was done. This was a perfect set up for the TDs to see what was happening because it was clearly obvious many coaches were going for the "win" by playing the wrong way in a "developmental" league with no standings and scores . Benching players, playing the long ball forward to the big strong fast striker was fairly common. Coaches were even instructing their players to play around the retreat line rule. There was a retreat line in place to encourage play out of the back and no movement was allowed from the defending team until the attacking player touched the ball. So what did these coaches instruct their team?

The goalkeeper would play the ball forward on the ground to the centre back. He/she would not touch the ball until close to half and then launch it forward to the striker. It was 7v7 and the retreat line was half. So you have the defending team dancing on the halfway line waiting for them to touch the ball and the attacking team not touching the ball and pointing out to the referee if any player is moving. Of course, a very realistic game situation. I asked the opposing parents what they thought of their team doing that? They said it was "within the rules". Not much you can do in this situation but if there was some TDs watching or even the host club's TD, something could have been done. Perhaps not that day but a call to the club and they tech staff.

At the end of the day we are all in it together. It is up to all of us to grow this game and improve standards. Whether we are a parent, board member, coach or TD, we need to move our game forward. Education is required and a huge component but if we all try to do our part, as small as it may be, we'll be closer to our goal.


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