Navigating the New Rules

By Britain Thomas, Technical Director
Republished from

This year we hit the reset button on youth soccer in terms of rules: small-sided games; no headers before U12; and birth-year team groupings have all taken some getting used to.

One of the difficulties with the birth-year mandates was determining where teams would fall in to alignment. Even more difficult was to assess where new teams should be placed as we no longer had an existing reference point. No one could really predict how teams would do relative to the competition.

Here are some questions and answers to help parents reframe the new rules when it comes to their kid’s growth in the sport:  

What if my team is beating other teams by a ton of goals?

 Take advantage of the freedom and build skill.

√  Challenge players to work on other components of the game, such as challenging a player to use their weaker foot or working on one-touch finishes in trainings and games.

√ Kids will benefit from learning different positions, making them a more complete player.

We should enjoy the winning, but be humble and prepare for the next step. There’s always another team waiting in line to take on your team and score a bunch of goals – which is an equally important part of learning the game.

What if our team is getting crushed?

This situation can test us as coaches and parents more than anything. Don’t worry - be patient!

√ First, ask yourself how are the players responding? Are they still having fun? Are they still learning? If so, that’s great! Exactly what we want.

√ What can we do to achieve our learning objectives and improve the players experience? Shifting reference points from winning the game to beating their opponent with a dribble or pass can help players stay motivated.

√ No self pity. If players are frustrated let’s encourage them to take action by finishing the game strong and working on techniques and skill at home.

√ Player development is defined by changes with the player, not the referee, their teammates or the other team. 

Players should try to win the game but when the feasibility of winning the game is low, it’s important for coaches and parents to shift our framework to something that is within the player’s control and within reach of the player. 

No matter the situation for your team, there are a few things we can take advantage of given the circumstance. And remember … These circumstances are temporary. After the fall season, some teams will move up a level creating more of a challenge and some teams will move down a level to better their chances of learning and playing good soccer.  

The individual player’s enjoyment and rate of learning are our top priority.