Real Street Soccer
Youth Soccer: The Benefits of Street Soccer
The simplicity defies imagination. Just a ball and kids who love the game of soccer. That is all it takes. Not a lot of rules, no coaches, no uniforms, no costs and grass is optional.
Sam Snow, the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer and a strong proponent of small-sided soccer games, sent SoccerNation News this information on Street Soccer, and it is so fabulous that we just wanted to share it. Credit goes to Sam and US Youth Soccer.
Street soccer, pick-up game, sandlot soccer or a kick-about – whatever title you give to the format, the idea is to give the game of soccer back to the players. Past generations learned to play the game on their own with other kids in the neighborhood or at school in these kid-organized games. Today youth sports are overly adult controlled and influenced. It’s difficult today for youngsters to have a pick-up game since the streets have too many cars, the sandlot now has a mini-mall on it and parents are reluctant, with good cause, to let their child go blocks away from home on Saturday to play in a game on his or her own.
Soccer is the undisputed Number 1 game in the world, and the primary way kids around the world developed their ball skills was through “street soccer.” World-class players came out of this environment. Most pro players did not see a coach or join a club until the age of 12.
Traditionally, kids played in open spaces, schoolyards, on the street, or anywhere they could put together a field. The kids directed this free play. The kids, with little input from adults, carried out the creation and management of the game. The game was theirs.
They played every day, sometimes for hours; no subs, no lines, no boring drills, no laps or lectures, no parents or coaches pacing up and down the sidelines yelling instructions. The played without pressure to win or perform for anyone. They saw “The Big Game” through their own eyes and played their version of it and they enjoyed it!
They allowed the game to be their teacher, and thus learned to experiment, solve problems, make decisions, learn from trial and error, observe other players, become self-reliant and self-directed, and express their imagination and creativity. In the beginning “discovery learning” is more time-consuming than the traditional approaches of drills and coaching, but in the end this process actually speeds up development.
All over the world that game is disappearing. The risks of modern life and the rise of organized youth programs have all but eliminated the unstructured, child-centered games of the past. The consequences of these changes are being felt deeply in soccer countries around the world. Even in North America there is the realization that too much structure at young ages is not conducive to the development of players.
There is little free time in modern life; playing in one’s own free time has been replaced with the obligatory overly coached and overly structured soccer time.
The players don’t gather themselves to play for fun, and when they do play they are outnumbered 2 to 1, parent to player. The fields are marked and lined, goals are in place. The fields rest idle until it is soccer time, and soccer time is organized time. The soccer ball sits in the closet and the child plays video games until they are told to play.
Our game, which was free and spontaneous, is now organized and obligatory…so where do we go from here?
Street soccer is a way for soccer clubs to give the game back to the players in the community. Once a week, or whatever frequency fits the circumstances the best, a club can have organized spontaneity. The club will provide the fields and supervision. Adults will be on site for safety and general supervision, but otherwise it is all up to the players to organize the games.
The adults should NOT coach, cheer, criticize, referee or in any other way involve themselves in the game. The best bet for parents is to drop off their child, go run some errands, and then come back to pick up their child an hour or two later.
The coaches are on site NOT to coach, but to supervise and be on hand for any serious injuries or any severe discipline problems. Additionally the coaches are there to provide the game equipment and to let the players know when each game segment starts and stops.
Street soccer provides the possibility of mixing playing levels, genders and age groups. It can be used to assist with player development, player identification and player selection. Mostly it is a chance for players to play the game for the FUN of the game. Street soccer brings together children, parents, coaches and volunteers to a soccer celebration, regardless of ethnic or cultural backgrounds. Soccer is the common language and the soccer ground is an arena for social inclusion.
Referees are not needed, since these rules are meant to teach self-responsibility and fair play, with the implied agenda of improving the player’s competences in non-violent communication and conflict resolution.
|Ghana-born Freddy Adu, seen here playing for the U.S. Men's National Team, gained his early skills playing street soccer.
Here is a possible set up for street soccer:
- 4-8 minute match depending upon total number of players
- 4 matches in an hour … give sufficient time between matches for water and to get to the next field for the next match
- 4 vs. 4 without goalkeepers or 5 vs. 5 with goalkeepers
- Use cones for the corners of the field and corner flags for the goals, have training bibs at each field
- Each player is given a number
- Reset the teams after each match
- The players make the subs
- The players solve disputes
- The coach keeps time
- The coach records the points for all of the players
- Win = 3
- Draw = 1
- Loss = 0
- Goal = 1
- Shutout = 1
- Assist = 1
- Shutout = 1
- MVP = 1
Players must report their points at the end of the match.
Street soccer is played on a small field with a small number of players; this means the action will be constant and quick. Nowhere else do such at once elementary and highly differentiated processes take place in so small an area and with such simple means.
“Play has become spectacle, with few protagonists and many spectators, soccer for watching. And that spectacle has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world, organized not for play but rather to impede it. The technocracy of professional sport has managed to impose soccer of lightning speed and brute strength, a soccer that negates joy, kills fantasy and outlaws daring. Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the crowds in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the forbidden adventure of freedom.”
Freddy Adu, who plays for Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Philadelphia Union, was a beneficiary of street soccer. He learned the game as soon as he learned to walk, in his native Ghana, in West Africa. He didn't just play soccer; he lived it. Soccer legend Pele himself once said of Adu, "I told him, 'Listen. God give you, you know, the gift to play football.'"
"I did not go one day without playing," Adu recalls, and it was just kicking and learning.
"It was awesome," he explains, "because, you know, like, there was no coaches, no one to tell you what to do. It was just, you play and learn stuff on your own." It was during those early days in Ghana that Freddy's mother, Emelia, first encouraged her soccer prodigy.
Freddy recalls: "My mom was always the supplier of soccer balls, and so people were always knocking on my door, and trying to get me out so we could play." Freddy's street soccer days ended in 1998, after his parents entered a visa lottery at the U.S. embassy in Ghana. They won the lottery and got visas to come to the United States. Freddy was 8 years old.