Website Manager

Boss of the Ball for the 4U, 5U, and 6U Age Divisions

Zia Youth Soccer League's Boss of the Ball Process for the 4U, 5U, and 6U Age Divisions:

Three- to six-year-olds tend to see the world through their own eyes. They are generally very concrete thinkers, seeing the world and the way it works in black and white instead of shades of gray. Because they are in this stage of cognitive and emotional development, most of them have a hard time seeing the big picture, putting themselves in other people's shoes, and thinking situationally.

You may be thinking, "Yeah, so? Why is this relevant to soccer?"

At Zia Youth Soccer League, we take our policies, rules, and structures very seriously, and think through each decision, attempting to know not only what we teach, but why we teach it. We want to have procedures for each age group that meet every player at the appropriate developmental stage, and to teach techniques, rules, and nuances of the game as the players age and develop. Like a pyramid, we start at the bottom, creating a solid foundation, and build upon that foundation as we go.

Players in the 4U, 5U, and 6U age divisions, as a whole, find the rules of throw-ins, goal kicks, corner kicks, and even goalkeeping, not to mention offsides, very confusing, as these are very situationally-based rules. Even passing is a concept that is largely foreign to them, since they mainly think of themselves in relation to the ball and the action, not really being able to see where they fit in the larger picture of a team. Additionally, much valuable game time is often wasted explaining these rules to young children, and because they are often not yet developed enough to make or receive a long pass or kick, the ball will usually end up coming right back at whoever took it, creating a situation where we may repeat the same inbounds play for five minutes or more.

Our goals in these age groups are 1) getting every child as many touches on the ball as possible, focusing on developing dribbling, shooting, and ball control skills, and 2) teaching the players directional play, where all players on the team are defending one goal and attacking the other, while the other team does the opposite. As contrary as it may seem to many adults, the rest, like passing, rules of inbounds play, and goalkeeping, will come as they grow and mature.

The more comfortable the kids are on the ball, the more they will love the game, and will want to stay with it throughout childhood and into adulthood. Often times, observing the more complex rules of soccer like throw-ins and corner kicks at this age results in the most advanced two kids on each team controlling the ball for 95% of the game, leaving all the other kids with just a few touches on the ball each game, at best. Some of the less aggressive players may not even touch the ball at all during a game, which is not helping them grow or develop as players.

These are the reasons behind Zia Youth Soccer League's "Boss of the Ball" approach to inbounds play during games. When the ball goes out of bounds, instead of having the kids take a throw-in, corner kick, or goal kick, we will have a boss of the ball (in 5U, it will be whoever the coaches designate - may be the coaches on the field, assistant coaches, or a parent volunteer....in 6U it will be a league-designated official) inbound the ball. When the ball goes out of bounds, the boss of the ball will then distribute the ball to the member of the opposite team that last touched it.

This method is a concrete way of teaching that if you want to keep the ball, it's best to keep it in bounds, and that the other team will receive the ball if you cause the ball to go out. It eliminates the situational rules of throw-ins, corner kicks, and goal kicks. The boss of the ball approach puts the ball back on the field quickly, allowing much more of the game to be spent on action and with players developing dribbling, shooting, ball control, and defending skills. Another advantage of this method is that the coach can better control the flow of the game and distribute the ball to the less aggressive players who might otherwise not touch the ball much. These players still may get the ball taken away from them by the more aggressive players, but they will get experience in game situations touching and controlling the ball, which is really the only way they will improve, develop, and grow as players. Far from punishing the stronger players, this system challenges them more, as they must learn to adapt, and will improve at defending and tackling, then going to goal themselves. We are very excited to coach our youngest players, and believe simplifying the game for them using the boss of the ball approach for inbounds play is the best way to encourage player development.