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Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.

 

Youth Tournament Soccer

Sam Snow

I received this question from the US Youth Soccer Facebook page from a parent in Manassas, Virginia.
 
"Hi, my family is new to youth tournament soccer so I wanted to check something out. The kids played 4 half games yesterday. Today, depending on seeding, they will play one to 3 full length games. Is this standard? These kids play really hard and I question the safety of this. Is this just standard in soccer...3 hours of hard play in one day? I saw kids playing on sore feet after 2 hours yesterday. These kids are playing in Herndon today and I'm just concerned we will have a lot of unnecessary injuries, but maybe I don't know the sport."
 
While the tournament situation described is not standard it does not surprise me given the number of bad decisions by adults in youth soccer. At the most teams should play one full match per day at a tournament. Even that is too much stress on the body if games take place for consecutive days. The human body needs 48 to 72 hours to fully recover from strenuous exercise. This is why you see at least three days between matches in the Olympics and the World Cup. The State Association Technical Directors of US Youth Soccer have released this Position Statement on tournaments.
 
TOURNAMENT PLAY
 
We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development, and can serve to reduce long-term motivation. Do not multiple matches being played on one day and one weekend have a negative effect on the quality experience and development of the individual player? Further, far too many playing schedules include so many tournaments and matches that there is never an "off season." We believe that players under the age of twelve should not play more than 100 minutes per day, and those players older than thirteen should not play more than 120 minutes per day.
 
We also recommend to tournament managers and schedulers:
  • The players should be allowed ample rest between matches.
  • That all tournament matches be of the same length and that no full-length match be introduced during play-off rounds.
  • Kick-off times allow players a reasonable opportunity to prepare for competition. This encompasses rest and recovery, nutrition and adequate time to warm-up and stretch after traveling a long distance in addition to taking into consideration extreme environmental conditions.
Here are two related Statements from the national State Association Technical Directors.
 
FESTIVALS FOR PLAYERS UNDER 10
 
We believe that Soccer Festivals should replace soccer tournaments for all players under the age of ten. Festivals feature a set number of minutes per event (e.g., 10 games X 10 minutes) with no elimination and no ultimate winner. We also endorse and support the movement to prohibit U10 teams from traveling to events that promote winning and losing and the awarding of trophies.

STATE, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL COMPETITION FOR U12’S
 
We believe that youth soccer is too competitive at the early ages, resulting in an environment that is detrimental to both players and adults; much of the negative behavior reported about parents is associated with preteen play. The direct and indirect pressure exerted on coaches and preteen players to win is reinforced by state "championships" and tournament "winners." We therefore advocate that, in the absence of regional competition for under 12’s, state festivals replace state cups. We also strongly recommend that with regard to regional and national competition the entry age group should be U14.