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The Branford Soccer Club has several rules meant to facilitate fair play, and simultaneously improve each player’s skills and enjoyment of the game. Coaches need to understand them, and observe them, in order to make every game a success, no matter what the score.


Q: In my day, we played to win. But nowadays why do we have all this “Ooo we’re all equal, let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings” handholding?
A: When you put it that way, it does seem like we’re trying to be Mr. Rogers Soccer Club. But here’s the thing: the winning-is-everything attitude is more a reflection of the parents than young kids. After losing a game, more often the adults are the ones who grumble. The kids are already goofing off with their friends. And actually that’s fine because we don’t want them to focus on winning. We want them to focus on developing strong skills that will enable them, as they get older, to have a better chance of winning in the long run. And of course we want them to have fun doing it.
Q: You want the kids to have fun? Winning is fun.
A: Beats losing. But we’re trying to develop strong, confident players first. Yes, we’re well aware that not every player is going to be strong, no matter what you do or how hard they try. But that shouldn’t mean they get left out in the cold. Youth soccer, or any youth sport, shouldn’t be about winning and losing. It’s about teaching kids teamwork, sportsmanship, skills, confidence, and pushing them to do their best, no matter how good or bad that “best” may be. By doing this we help develop not only the best players we can, but the best people we can. It’s kind of a side benefit.
Q: What about teaching the importance of competition?
A: As they advance through soccer they will become more and more exposed to competition. On our comp travel teams (U-12 and U-14), the play is quite physical and demanding. Wins and losses count, and the players know it. But at these early stages we want the kids to focus on skills. Encouraging 5-year-olds to toe the ball from midfield into the goal because, “Hey, they can hit it hard that way, and they’ll score,” is actually bad for that kid’s development. Encouraging 9-year-olds to always pass it to the team’s “really good kid” hurts everyone’s development: the good kid doesn’t learn to pass, or to see and read the field; the other kids fall behind because they aren’t learning to dribble and shield the ball. You may win that Saturday, but down the road those kids lose.
Q: Alright, but you can’t ignore the innate human impulse to want to kick butt.
A: We’re not trying to ignore it. In fact, by focusing on skills and development now, you’ll help develop kids who, when they get older and play in genuinely competitive leagues, will be able to kick butt. But to get those kids to that point, they first have to learn to kick ball.
These rules apply specifically to the BSC in-house program (Li’l Kicks, Micros, and Juniors, generally ages 4-9).
  • THE 5-GOAL RULE: Any team that gets ahead of another team by 5 goals needs to take immediate, definitive action to equalize the game.
We realize some teams are inherently stronger, and it may not seem a simple task, but this rule is not to be ignored. Some suggestions to level an unequal game:
1        Give your stronger players a rest.
2        Tell your team they must pass the ball a certain number of times before shooting.
3        Tell your players to shoot only with their weaker foot.
4        If necessary pull a player or players from the field until the goal difference decreases.
Taking these steps does not diminish the game for teams in the lead; in fact these steps make the players and teams stronger. They should be working on their passing and dribbling, and having them focus on passing or using their off-foot improves their play. The team on the short end, meanwhile, is not humiliated, and its players will be able to leave the field wanting to come back the next day.
  • THE 5-GOAL EXPLANATION: Any coach whose team defeats another by more than five goals MUST explain to their league coordinator why the score was lopsided, and what they did to try to prevent it.
Like all programs in the state, Branford’s is governed by the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association. The CJSA has a 5-goal rule, and even at the recreational travel level (U-12 and U-14), the coach of any town team that defeats another town’s team by more than five goals must write a letter to the district office explaining how and why they ran up the score. We're not going to make you write a letter, but for everyone's sake it would be best to head off trouble by explaining what happened to the coordinator. 
  • EQUAL PLAY RULE: All players must play at least 50% of each game.
Most coaches mean to abide by this, they really do. But sometimes, in the heat of the moment, they lose sight of the overall goal. And sometimes, frankly, it is hard to keep track of who has played how many minutes. It is up to you, as coach, to abide by this rule to the best of your ability. Time your substitutions if you have to, or have a parent help you keep track of substitutions, but players at this age are to be regarded equally, regardless of ability.
  • PHANTOM GOALKEEPER RULE: In Li’l Kicks and Micros, there are no goalkeepers, nor should there be any player or players who even appear to park themselves in front of the goal for a prolonged period of time.
Allowing a child to stand in front of a goal is considered both unsportsmanlike and a detriment to the player’s development. Many times players do this on their own, not at the coach’s direction. Please pay attention to make sure this doesn’t happen. The point of playing 4v4 games is not to defeat another team by any means possible. The point is to have all the players on the field, dribbling, passing, moving, and learning the game.
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Finally, like any youth soccer program, the Branford Soccer Club exists to help children learn, improve at, and enjoy the game of soccer. Ideally, they will carry this love of soccer with them into their adult years, and pass it on to their children. By observing these rules coaches have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to help them achieve this goal.
The Branford Soccer Club