Every Saturday after spending the morning and much of the afternoon on Skyline fields, watching young aspiring players compete and fight for their team, I go back to my apartment and walk past the small turf futsal field in my apartment complex. All day Saturday and Sunday this small field is filled with players of all nationalities and all levels of skill playing pick up soccer, the sport they fell in love with. This makes me wonder if the young players who are immersed in the club culture at young ages miss a vital part of their soccer development. While quality coaching, regularly scheduled practices and games, and the consistency of learning your teammates and opponents are necessary pieces in developing a complete player, the idea of street soccer is a concept that is many times lost in our culture. Players go straight from school to one of their many activities and rarely do these players have the time or energy to start a pickup game with players in the neighborhood, I question if we are holding back player development in the club culture.
“My position is: street soccer aka as pick up soccer is the most natural educational system that can be found. By analyzing street soccer yourself, you will conclude that its strength is that it is played daily in a competitive form, with a preference for the match on all sorts of ‘street playing fields’, usually in small groups. Rarely in street soccer do you see youth players (children) busy practicing isolated technical or tactical drills. No, it is always the competitive form, where youth players learn from their mistakes, unconscious of the technical, tactical, and physical qualities they are developing through the scrimmages (games) being played.”
Rinus Michels, ex-Barcelona, Ajax and Holland manager and FIFA Coach of the Century.
Some of the benefits that can be found by playing street soccer include:
- The game is the teacher rather than a coach – players will learn from their own mistakes and will not be afraid to make them as they sometimes are when a coach highlights their mistake.
- Small sided games will help players with their control and ability on the ball – tricks, showmanship and ball skills are encouraged and highlighted in the small sided games that street soccer creates. Players confidence and ability on the ball will grow.
- Communication will flow easier when a coach isn’t providing most of the communication from a sideline – in a game without adult supervision, players will be forced to communicate instead of relying on a coach to communicate and share information.
- The basics of tactical play are easily taught in small sided games – depth, height and width are all learned from small sided situations. Players will begin to learn how to support, transition from attack to defense and creating attacking movement are all seen the more players play in small sided games.
Pick up soccer or street soccer is a great way to encourage player growth. We encourage all of our players to find times to get together and play outside of normal practice and game times. Players will develop skills that they may not learn in their practices and perfect those abilities they have worked on tirelessly in practices. My encouragement is to try and find time to let your player play in a less structured environment, especially in off seasons and slow times, to help encourage your players love for the game and growth in the sport of soccer.