The winds of change are blowing through youth football in England, with the introduction of the 9v9 game, as per our European counterparts.
Holtspur FC has embraced this and has moved to 9v9 for their U11’s from season starting 2012/13, and has already prepared a suitably sized pitch and goal set-up.
For over a year the Holtspur committee has been meeting to discuss the pros and cons of running the new system, and the benefits for the development and technique of the players were too numerous to not switch to this format.
“We are here to ensure that all our players receive the best possible coaching, and as a Charter Standard Club, we needed to ensure that moving to the 9v9 format gave them even more benefits to their overall development as football players”, said Chairman Keith Bowyer.
The proposed changes aim to give children more touches of the ball in small-sided games, with age-appropriate pitch and goal sizes. The aim is for children to fall in love with the game whilst helping develop their technique before they make the step up to the 'adult' 11-a-side game.
One of the biggest changes in the FA's proposals is the introduction of 9-a-side football for U11s and U12s. The new format is designed to help bridge the gap between mini-soccer at U10s and 11-a-side football at U11s - a jump so big that this age group currently suffers from one of the biggest drop-rates in youth football in England.
It seems absurd to many in the game that children as young as 11 are expected to play on a full-size pitch and in full-size goals. And kids, being kids, are able to highlight this absurdity in brilliantly simple fashion. The bare statistics back these views up, with the fastest-growing kid growing 2.5cm in the 3-4 months between leaving mini-soccer at U10s and starting 11v11. In that time, the size of the goals increase by 265% and the size of the pitch by 435%.
The smaller pitch, they hope, will encourage teams to play through the thirds, thus giving kids more touches of the ball and more chance to develop their skills while still moving towards an understanding of the full-size game.