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Children's Needs
Meeting the Needs of Children: Mini-Soccer .

"The Children are more important than the activities in which they are engaged."

The game is not the thing, the child is. Physical Education for ages 5-16 (Department of Education and Science, August 1991).” The main theme throughout Mini-Soccer is to meet the needs of children. Eleven-a-side Association Football does not meet those needs. We need a modified game that fits the needs of children: too often children are modified to meet the requirements of a game. Mini-Soccer modifies Association Football without losing the essence of the game. Mini-Soccer is the appropriate introduction to football. 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.

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

Mini-Soccer sets out to meet those needs. It is a game which has been modified from 11-a-side Association Football which keeps all the major features of the game, while allowing children to succeed and take part in something that is still recognisably football. Mini-Soccer recognises the fact that younger children perform better in smaller teams with simple Laws. It also sets out to give children fun.

Mini-Soccer, however, is more than another version of 5-or 6-a-side football for the following reasons:

1. It recognises that children do not perform as adults and therefore its Laws, researched and piloted by The Football Association, meet the needs of children.
2. It has all the features of ‘real’ football to children.
3. It doesn’t set unrealistic expectations. Many adults do not know what can be expected of children and so emphasise the result at the expense of performance. Mini-Soccer helps by defining the targets for children at different ages.
4. It sets a standard and a framework for behaviour on and off the pitch which has already been established by other Football Association schemes such as Fun weeks, Coaching Centres and the Soccer Star Challenge.
5. Mini-Soccer is for all youngsters regardless of their ability. It is intended for girls and boys, and young footballers with disabilities and learning difficulties.

In an age when so much of children’s leisure time is as organised as their study, Mini-Soccer offers something special: a game that children can organise themselves! With relatively little instruction children can play and enjoy a game which is suitable for a wide ability range and gives everyone a chance to take part. If you find this hard to believe, just set up a game with some children and WATCH!

Guidance for the Laws of Mini-Soccer

The Laws have been piloted and aim to be simple and as near to ‘real’ football as possible. The games require only a ‘game leader’ who is urged to be as flexible as possible with the youngest children.

The children will need the Laws explained to them as the game proceeds (e.g. handball, in/out of play.)

It will also be necessary to demonstrate in certain instances how to re-start the game (e.g. throw-ins, corner kicks.)

What can children expect from Adults?

Remember that children are often easily led, anxious to please and prone to over enthusiasm, and so plenty of praise and positive reinforcement is needed – especially with beginners.

Children find it hard to understand negative instructions and easier to understand positive reinforcement and this can frequently mean playing down the result and playing up the performance. This reduces the child’s anxiety and decreases their worry about failing. Remember that children do not mean to make mistakes; we should accept mistakes as a necessary part of learning.

Make sure the players play by the Laws. The majority of children at these ages will not knowingly infringe the Laws of the Game. Finally, work with other adults, not against them, and by so doing reinforce positive attitudes among the children.

Interference from the Touch Line

Whilst the fun and friendly atmosphere created by Mini-Soccer should keep such instances to a minimum, there may be situations which arise where comments and abuse from adults, parents and Managers is made from the touch line.

This could be directed at the Referee, but also at the players. What can be done? Stay calm; don’t get into disagreement; report the matter to relevant club or league officials;

Set a positive responsible example.

Referees – Mini-Soccer Game Leaders

The Referee will have an important role to play in Mini-Soccer. Carrying out their duties without favour they should look to create a playing environment which is fun for all taking part. The Referee should encourage fair play, fun, respect for others, development of skills and team work, understanding of the Laws of the Game.

The Laws of the Game should be a guide for the Referee in Mini-Soccer with the spirit of the laws being more important than the letters of the law. Appreciation of the needs of the child is essential.