I have changed topics, from my original idea. I am now comparing football between Australia and England.
For my article assessment I have chosen to compare the grassroots set-up of English and Australian football. I will look at the similarities and differences of the English version of youth football, mini-soccer, and the Australian version, small-sided games. Both systems are in place to make the transition from the youth version of football into the full version of the game enjoyable for the children but also to teach and develop the children so that they can perform to their potential.
Situation in Australia
Small-sided football is a modified version of 11-a-side football and it is designed to encourage the participation of children from an early age. It has been designed for kids to get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of playing whilst meeting the needs of young players as they develop. Small-sided games are implemented for children under the age of 13. Demonstrated benefits over 11-a-side football based on observational study are as follows; • Far more touches of the ball by all players • Repeated decision making experiences • The ball is in play far more often • More passes and skills attempted • More experience in all aspects of the game; attacking and defending
The format of small-sided games has been created to put more of an emphasis on participation from all the players on the pitch as opposed to winning the game. With a smaller pitch and less players on the field the children have more touches of the ball and are more involved in the game. Bowrey, Lilli Pilli’s SSF Coordinator,(April 1 2009) states that “ Kids are no longer able to hide on the field. They are forced to become involved, to participate and have a chance to show what they can do. With plenty of touches on the ball, kids are able to build confidence and this in turn builds a better platform for kids to grow and develop in football”. The laws of the game also gradually change throughout this progression to reflect the changes in understanding, awareness as well as the physical development of players. This system emphasises more on developing the player’s skills and maximising their enjoyment whilst making the transition to 11-a-side as easy as possible.
Situation in England
Mini- soccer is thought to be the appropriate introduction to football. If children are to enjoy and take part in soccer they need to: • Feel success • Take an active part in the game • Learn to play as a team • Understand the laws • Develop soccer skills • Be able to take part whatever their ability • Develop fitness
All available research and observation shows that children will have more fun and learn more playing a game with smaller teams and modified rules. Mini- Soccer is, therefore, a game children can actually play rather than struggling to understand a game created for adults. The game has been modified from 11-a-side association football which keeps all the major features of the game, while allowing the children to succeed and take part in something that is still recognizable as football. This is thought to be more advantageous for the young players rather than making a game with only minor similarities which leads to confusion from the players. This system is in place to assist the gradual transition to association football.
The small- sided games structure was born from extensive research into other countries grassroots football set-up. Roxburgh , UEFA Technical Director, (2008) states that “ for many reasons few countries in Europe can replicate the Brazilian’s natural football environment. But lessons can’t be learned nevertheless. Football associations that are serious about the game’s health and growth are duty-bound to promote mass participation and interest. Grassroots football (small-sided football) which acts as a vehicle for social integration, health and happiness is the aim and as a by-product talents will emerge. In Brazil, a love of the ball, expression through small-sided football and the sheer joy of playing, have been cultivated to such an extent that football passion and creativity have become part of the nation’s DNA”. It was found that the leading countries in world football all have similar aims and systems in developing young players. Australia’s small-sided games structure is heavily influenced by the English mini-soccer set-up and therefore many similarities exist. The first similarity between the two that has been focused on is the fact that they both incorporate a system where the field size and number of players is gradually increased. This is incorporated as the player gets older. When the players start off at six or seven years of age, they are given a rather small space to work with. Both systems administer this to try and improve and as the children get older, the size of the pitch is increased and the number of players on each team is also increased. This enables further increases in player development. Even though the actual field sizes for the two countries are slightly different, the system for both still integrates the same objective. Perhaps the most significant similarity between the two countries is that because Australian small-sided games system mainly derives from English mini-soccer system, they both have the same aim for young players. That aim is to simplify the rules of the game to concentrate more on the overall enjoyment experienced through playing the game as opposed to incorporating competiveness and emphasising winning. Through this theory both systems concentrate primarily on the development of game skills so that the transition to 11 a side is made smoothly. Whilst there are many similarities between both grassroots systems, there are differences as well. This is because Australia’s small-sided games structure is also influenced by other leading football countries systems. In Australian small-sided games, you are not allowed to field a goalkeeper until the under 9 age group. This rule isn’t applied in English mini-soccer. The difference possibly affects the mentality and skill components of the under 6 to under 8 age groups. Both grassroots systems have 4v4 or 5v5 in these age brackets and having a goalkeeper affects area and space on the field. Having a goalkeeper also emphasis scoring and winning games as an important factor. Having no goalkeeper on the field places emphasis purely on ball skills and teamwork. Australia’s small-sided games system emphasises on participation and enjoyment and with this an associated removal on the current emphasis importance of winning. Having a goalkeeper in mini-soccer also affects the goal size and penalty area between the two systems. Mini-soccer has a constant goal size from when the children first participate in mini-soccer through to when they move onto association football. Australian small-sided games incorporate a sliding scale of goal sizes relevant to the age group. This relates to the fact that goalkeepers are not used in small-sided games until the under 9’s age group.
Another important difference between the two grassroots systems is that English mini-soccer game sonly incorporated up to the under 10’s age group whereas the Australian small-sided games are used up until the under 12’s. This shows that Australian football is focusing on a longer preparation of youth football players in the belief that it will not only properly prepare the young players for 11v11, but also to prevent young players leaving the game.
England is one of the leading football countries in the world. Through using a similar grassroots system to Australia has taken an initiative in the youth development of football. The aim is to encourage more players to participate in football and to maximise the enjoyment out of playing. Both mini-soccer and small-sided games have been developed to proved the best vehicle for enjoyment and activity. Along with a great environment where the players are given the opportunity to progress and develop to become the best players they have the potential to be.