What has evolved over the past 10-15 years is a perspective that small-sided games for children are more appropriate for player development and the establishment of a soccer culture in the United States. In the mid to late 1980s and into the 1990s, a number of small-sided game formats were proposed and put in place across North America for young children. As these small-sided games evolved, a number of coaching educators began to take a critical look at the existing youth soccer culture in the United States.
Often, the only vision of soccer these coaches had was of the adult version of the game they saw on television. In 1995, I was asked to join a select group of soccer educators who were responding to a challenge posed by Timo Liekoski, then a U.S. As the philosophy and content for the National Youth License evolved, it became apparent that many current standards and beliefs would be challenged.
According to Piaget, a noted Swiss psychologist who studied the growth and development of children, 5- and 6-year-olds are in a preoperational stage of development that approximately spans ages 2 to 7.
Children at this age are able to process only small amounts of information at a time, and long complex instructions tend not to be successfully processed. Children as young as 5 are beginning to develop a self-concept of who they are and how they fit into the world. Children at this age develop high levels of anxiety and arousal primarily due to the uncertainty of what is expected of them. Even if scorekeeping and the emphasis on winning are minimized, fingers are pointed and blame is clearly placed on the goalkeeper. The analysis of most soccer experts is that small-sided games for young children are most beneficial for learning basic motor skills, learning basic rules and fundamental concepts of the game (most commonly going in the right direction). It is my belief (one that is supported by my colleagues) that it is important to wait until children are better able to physically, mentally and emotionally handle the demands of being a soccer goalkeeper.
My question to you is : Given the fact that I will dedicate 2 years of my life, training like crazy, tirelessly, reading motivational books, watching training footage, watching live matches, running daily, eating right,…will I achieve my best ???
Alan played four years of high school soccer on Guam at the position of goalie before leaving to attend college at the University of Texas at Arlington. Those of us, who are involved in working for the improvement of youth sports, and soccer in particular, have agreed that the small-sided game structure presents the best opportunity to learn skills, develop positive peer relationships and have fun in a relatively stress-free environment. Nearly everywhere one traveled, a different interpretation of what youth soccer should be was observed.


The challenge was to create a program to promote a philosophy that allowed for developmentally appropriate practice in a safe environment. Through our analysis of how children best learn sport skills, it became very apparent that changes in the structure of youth soccer were needed. Evidence suggests that the earlier children begin playing organized youth sports, the sooner they drop out. There are a number of growth and development issues (psychomotor domain) that one must look at carefully before making such a claim. This preoperational stage involves the initial stages of logical thinking but the patterns are immature. This factor, as much as anything else, may cause a child to discontinue playing soccer before he or she has really started. Alan has been coaching for four years in the PSA soccer leagues at the recreational and academy levels consistently progressing the team to the next competitive level. He is an excellent educator and clinician and I certainly respect his opinion but must challenge the notion that the earlier we start children as goalkeepers the better off they will be.
Where Coach Waiters and I disagree is in how these small-sided games are structured and the role goalkeepers play in this structure. Much has been written about readiness and maturity factors related to a child’s initial development in youth sports. This is especially true if the program in which the children are engaged does not focus on psychomotor, cognitive and psychosocial development. Many youth soccer programs have children organized by age with many beginning at age 5 or at a time when they begin school. Some 5-year-olds are eager and ready to engage in an adult organized sport program but most are not.
Anticipating in advance where the ball might be played is a skill that has not yet developed.
It is difficult for children to orient what they have learned into sequences or complex patterns of thought. The task of goalkeeping does not relate to the other aspects of playing soccer for young children.
Movement experiences to date are minimal and involvement with other children in grouped activities is new to most.


Having players stand in goal for a couple of minutes at ages 5 and 6 will not allow them to develop goalkeeping skills and will likely lead to increased levels of stress.
He didn’t want to push me to do it either, but now, I wish to spend the next 2 years, solely focusing on becoming the best goalkeeper I can become. He is a former youth, high school, college and professional coach and is currently conducting research on developmentally appropriate practices for children in soccer and other youth sports.
4 formats and Waiters’ development of Micro Soccer, for which he holds the trademark. A critical look revealed the following: nearly 80 percent of all youth soccer coaches were novice adult volunteers with little or no soccer coaching knowledge. The challenge was to develop a coaching education program to serve coaches of children age 12 and under. Children at age 5 and 6 are growing from head to toe and from the core of the body outward.
If goalkeepers are utilized in small-sided games, self-image can take a hit when a goal is scored. However, each enthusiastically agreed to coach children, who were, for the most part, involved in their first exposure to sport participation. As the participation numbers exploded throughout the 1990s, the need to educate these coaches became critical.
This program became the National Youth Coaching License and was included in the coaching education offerings by U.S.
This still allows plenty of time for children to grow up and be the best goalkeepers they can be and most likely keep them engaged in playing soccer for many years to come. Young children have great difficulty tracking moving objects, especially if they are in the air.
If the action is at the other end of the field, a young goalkeeper will find some other activity to hold his or her attention.



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