JYSC K.I.N.G.S PROGRAM
KINGS stands for Kicking Is Not Good Soccer. It is a program for players U5 through U8. In Florida soccer, these are the youngest, introductory ages of the Recreational Program. The Recreational Program is essentially the players’ first experience with the game of soccer. It is this experience that can either hook the players for life, or turn them away. Players will continue playing soccer if they are having fun and are experiencing personal success. Hence, the Recreational Program’s main philosophy is to create a fun filled, active environment, in which the players can improve and succeed.
The KINGS Program’s main objective is to promote and emphasize the skill of dribbling at the U5 through U8 age groups and discourage the aimless booting of the ball that is all too prevalent at these young ages.
When young players are conditioned to just kick the ball forward as far as possible, their skill development is stunted, making it harder for them to reach their true potential. Dribbling is the foundation and preparation for all the other fundamental skills of soccer, such as controlling, passing, and shooting. Laying the proper dribbling foundation at the youngest years will enhance the players’ ability to improve all the soccer skills.
No matter what level the players will end up playing, recreational or select, they will derive increased pleasure from the game if they can control the ball better and become more adept at manipulating it. The spectators will also enjoy the game more if they can watch players who exhibit skill and creativity.
The program’s second objective is to promote decision making by the players on the field and reduce their dependence on the adults for problem solving.
By far the most important skill for beginners is the skill of dribbling. Young players need to learn to dribble within a variety of playing situations, such as dribbling forward unopposed, changing speed and direction, shielding the ball from opponents, dribbling past an opponent, and using dribbling to get away from pressure.
The ability to dribble is absolutely critical since dribbling is the foundation and preparation for the other fundamental skills of soccer, such as controlling, passing and shooting.
When players are receiving the ball and making the preparation touches prior to passing or shooting, they are essentially engaged in a mini-dribble. A limited ability to dribble leads to a limited range of passing or shooting. The ability to dribble also helps maintain possession of the ball. It’s not unusual for players to find themselves in a game situation where dribbling is the only viable option to get out of tight pressure and maintain possession.
Aside from the fact that dribbling forms the foundation for all the other skills, there are many other reasons why we need to focus on dribbling at U5 - U8. First of all, it takes years to become a comfortable and confident dribbler. Players have to learn to combine body control, agility, coordination and balance with the mechanics of dribbling and the sooner they start the better.
Secondly, the process of learning to dribble involves trial and error. At first, the players’ rudimentary attempts at dribbling will often result in failure as they discover the contrast between a soft touch and a hard touch on the ball. The players will slowly develop a ‘feel’ for the ball as they experiment at controlling and propelling it. Young players don’t get easily discouraged if they fail. Players of this age do not possess the analytical thought process to look back or think ahead. They live for the moment, in the here and now, and the fact that the last time they tried to dribble it didn’t work will not even enter their minds. But if we wait for the players to mature before we emphasize dribbling, many of them will lose their confidence if they do not succeed and will become reluctant to dribble.
Finally, in 3v3 and 4v4 play, the fields are so small that dribbling is always an option since the ball is always just a few yards away from shooting range. Once the game moves to the larger-sized fields, dribbling becomes less effective on its own and must be combined with passing to get the ball from point A to point B.
And lastly, it’s better to go through the process of trial and error when game results are not important and standings are not kept. At the U10 and older ages, game results assume more importance, making it hard for the parents and coaches to show patience and tolerance for mistakes, and putting added pressure on players to ‘get rid of the ball’ rather than risk losing it. Once games become competitive, the resultant environment is not ideal to start learning how to dribble.
Most parent coaches reading this section will probably agree that dribbling should be a priority. The challenge is to find a way to implement this priority into the real life dynamics of your typical U5 - U8 program. How can we do it?
As mentioned in the previous section, most coaches and parents of beginner players unknowingly emphasize the wrong skills. In typical U5 - U8 club play, the players are encouraged by both the parents on the sidelines and the coaches to ‘boot’ the ball up the field. Shouts of “get rid of it!” and “kick it!” are all too common. The further forward a player kicks, the cheers get louder. Players are so indoctrinated to ‘kick it forward’ that very few of them dare to get out of pressure by dribbling. The reality is that players are controlled like puppets by the adults to such an extent that they are not thinking for themselves and are afraid to do anything but kick the ball. Even throw-ins are routinely thrown straight to the other team by confused players who are conditioned to play the ball forward, no matter what. The kick-offs are no better, with players kicking the ball straight to the other team, American football style.
Players, who clearly have plenty of time on the ball with no pressure anywhere near, are still kicking it forward without any thought or skill. And this type of mindless play should be discouraged
What the coaches must do is encourage the players to dribble, dribble and dribble. Their first touch must be a soft one. There should be very little coaching done by the coaches, just the occasional reminder to “dribble.” The shout to “kick it” should never be hollered by the adults.
Dribbling out of pressure should be the emphasis for these age groups. Results don’t count and ‘booting it’ should not be an option. The players must be allowed to be creative, and to solve the problems of pressure and space by themselves, using dribbling techniques. Passing is an impossible technique to master for players who cannot dribble. The better players, once they learn to dribble out of tight areas, will be able to create space for themselves with the dribble and will then start to look up and pass the ball. But that will come by itself. Success at the U5 - U8 ages is measured by how many times a player can dribble past opponents since game results are not important.
To summarize, if we want our players to fully master the art of dribbling, the following conditions must exist:
a) They must start learning to dribble early;
b) We must provide ample opportunities for dribbling in practices and games, and
c) We must create the right game environment where players are not afraid to dribble.
It’s very hard for parents to resist shouting instructions to the players because beginner players are visibly unsure of themselves and naturally make a lot of mistakes. Children aged 4 to 8 are naturally dependent on their parents for many of their daily needs. This dependency spills over into youth sports, manifesting as parental coaching from the sidelines. The players themselves will tend to look to their parents for help since they are conditioned to be dependent on them.
Therefore, another important objective of the U5 - U8 programs should be to wean the players out of their dependency on their parents’ help during games.
This is so very crucial for the development of soccer players. We all know that soccer is a players’ game, meaning that it’s the players who must make the decisions on the field. In soccer, coaches have a lot less influence and power during games than in some of the other traditional American sports. Soccer players must learn to think for themselves, and the sooner they learn to stand on their own feet, the better. Since results are of no significance at these age groups, no one should be overly concerned if players make mistakes that lead to goals. Parents and coaches must resist the urge to tell their players what to do all of the time.
We ask that you:
1) Refrain from coaching. Leave the coaching to the coach.
2) Feel free to cheer and applaud. This is NOT Silent Weekend! But no negative comments and absolutely no coaching. And, please, applaud good plays by the other team too.
3) Don’t say ‘kick it’ during the games or the practices.
4) Avoid encroaching beyond the parent’s designated area until the game is over.
5) Exhibit good sportsmanship and make the other team feel welcome.
6) Note that all the players on our fields are wearing the same JSYC badge and as members of our club we expect you to support one another. Remember that your player and the player on the other team could be teammates one day soon.