Posted Jul 17, 2015

True player development focuses on the development of the player, not the development of the team! Up to U12, this should be the only criteria used in designing and running youth soccer programs."

- Ron Quinn, US Youth Soccer Programming, Lead Contributor

 Hillside’s Academy Structure

Since US Youth Soccer encourages more emphasis on individual player development than on team play for our elementary aged youth, Hillside Soccer Club pools together each gender/age group into academies rather than individual teams. The entire gender/age group practices together, with groups of about 6-10 kids rotating to different skill stations and games with different volunteer coaches.  For games, coaches can define different types of player rotation programs, weekly or by season, giving players the chance to play with different players and coaches over time.

 Academy Benefits:

  • Positive community environment: Players practice and play games with all their friends rather than being divided by teams.

  • Sharing coach resources: All players get the benefits of the shared coaches’ strengths.  No team gets stuck with a weaker coach.

  • Flexible rosters: As the number of players needed on the field changes with age and as the number of registered players changes each season, the age group sticks together as one group that shares players to field games.  No teams are having to split apart because they don’t have enough players when several people leave the team.

  • Differentiated practices: Coaches can divide players by skill level to benefit stronger and weaker players alike by giving both a more appropriate challenge. Weaker players who often defer to strong players are put in environments where they can step up.

  • Efficient use of limited field space: Field space can be optimized during evening hours when volunteer coaches are available.

  • Family Flexibility: With rotating rosters each weekend, players get to pick a game schedule that works for their family using the attendance feature in BonziTeam to mark availability.

  • Eliminates win/loss record: Because players could be playing on different teams each weekend or each season, they won’t feel tied to a team’s record. If teams are rotating players each season, they can be balanced for skill so that no one team has a losing or winning all the time experience.

  • LYS Competitive option is more viable: Coaches can better identify, develop and pool together those players that thrive in more competitive game environments. Rather than these players leaving Hillside to play for other competitive clubs, they can continue play with their local Hillside community in this lower-cost, middle-ground, competitive option with their volunteer coaches.

Challenges of Academy:

  • Takes more organization: Planning and running practices takes more time. Having a team parent to help make team assignments and support in communications is helpful so that this does not all fall solely on the coaches.

  • Practice in large groups of 30-40 can seem chaotic: Having coaches with practice plans and routines is essential.  Coaches also need to be on the same page about how to consistently deal with players who aren’t on task.

  • Today’s parents and coaches that grew up playing in the fixed team format have different expectations: Coaches who grew up playing for smaller, fixed teams have given this academy format a try for the past 5 years at Hillside and most believe that academy is the way to go. Open minds, willingness to work together, and communication is essential.