Whistler soccer adjusting to national development model 

New emphasis on skills development as rankings removed for U12 and younger

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANDREW MITCHELL - GAME ON The lack of scorekeeping, or the fact it was an exhibition game, didn't stop Whistler's U12 rep team from playing hard against Marpole on Sept. 8.
  • Photo by Andrew Mitchell
  • GAME ON The lack of scorekeeping, or the fact it was an exhibition game, didn't stop Whistler's U12 rep team from playing hard against Marpole on Sept. 8.

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"Now everybody in Europe is following that trend, and probably working on skills 90 per cent of the time, and just 10 per cent on stamina and strategy. In Canada we were only working on skills about half the time."

Melun said the new system will focus more on touches — the number of opportunities players get to touch and handle the ball. Under the old model a player would touch the ball 500 times in a practice, but with the new system each player can make thousands of touches in the same amount of time.

As well, without keeping score or standings, Melun says players are more likely to be creative on the field and try new things, without worrying about consequences or letting the team down if it doesn't work. For example, a player is more likely to try to dodge a player one-on-one to create a scoring opportunity, versus passing the ball out of fear of making a mistake. Those skills make a huge difference when players get older.

While developing skilled players is one of the main goals of the program, Melun also said another important goal was to keep more players in the sport. Players who don't get a lot of attention or field time are more likely to quit.

"The big problem is that in Canada 85 per cent of kids drop soccer by age 16," he said. "If you have 50 or 60 players in an age group and you're only developing 12 of them (through select teams) and the other 50 don't progress or quit, then it becomes hard to field teams. What Canada Soccer wants to do is develop all 50 or 60 players and keep them in the sport as long as possible. The more people you have playing at all levels, the better you do internationally."

Melun said that Whistler parents have been very supportive of the changes. The kids themselves love it, he said, and have played just as hard over the past few weekends even though the games didn't count in any league standings.

"It didn't matter who won or lost, and I'm not sure the coaches even counted the goals — it was just kids having fun and trying to score goals," he said. "I'm sure a few players counted the goals, but it was just for fun."

Players were more relaxed, he noticed, and rotated on an off the field more often.

The coaches were a harder sell with the LTPD model, although Melun said about 95 per cent are on board now.

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