Madison U14-Boys (Grades 6-9) In-Town Rec

Fall 2002


Past experience with other travel teams has prompted me to write this note to the parents. Let me apologise in advance for the tone if it sounds preachy, but we as coaches have been burned once too often if we do not lay some ground rules up front.

with scores, news and other updates.

BIG TIP!: Always strip-search your player when they come home for any handouts I may have given out! You think I'm joking! It's amazing how many times players in the past have forgotten to update their parents on important news!

In-Town or Travel Soccer?

This fall season, enough U-14 boys registered to form four teams, unlike last year where there were only three teams. Last year MYSC tried to arrange travel games to increase the number of games which did not work out very well at all owing to the comp. nature of all our out-of-town opponents! This year all of the games are in-town against Madison-only rec. teams.

Which brings up the point of home games in Madison. As you all may know there is a severe shortage of soccer fields in Madison, and especially so for the older kids. MYSC has assigned Brown Middle School as our practice field and our home game field. The field at Brown Middle School has in the past been in HORRENDOUS condition. It could even be classed as dangerous to play on. Supposedly, however, the town has been planning to make improvements to the field for two years now, so we will have to see. I have already addressed the state of Brown's field with MYSC. MYSC may be able to reschedule some, but not all, of our home games on New Road field, near I-95. We would, however, still have to practice at Brown Middle School.

At this time of writing I have not been given any further information. Unless you hear anything from me, for now, assume all of our practices and home games will be at Brown Middle School.

Player Commitment to the Team and Fair Playing Time for All

In past seasons some players have signed up for more than one sport and when there is a schedule conflict, soccer has always taken last place. It has a negative impact on our teams more so if we are already struggling for numbers and the other sports may not be.

We do, however, have 14 players signed up, which on the face of it is a lot of players. These will be 11-a-side games for 30-minute halves / 60-minute games in Madison and possibly 40-minute halves / 80-minute games in other towns on field sizes adults play on. At most we will have 3 subs for any game, which is a lot of players to ensure fair playing time for any coach.

Even if all 14 players showed up everyone will get plenty of playing time, minimally 50% of the game we hope, perhaps more than 11 to 14-year olds can handle if they are not fit enough.

When I recognise a player has true soccer potential and have a real passion for the game, I tend to put them into key positions, naturally, and these players may see considerably more playing time. Central defence, for example, is a very difficult position and only a few players have the ability and character to play there. So, if I decide a player can naturally fill the central defender’s role, that player may see more playing time than most. Also, there are some players who have a great deal more energy than most, and if these are excellent soccer players too, I tend to put them into the key central midfield positions where a lot of running is expected.

I’m hoping for an average of 12 players a game at least, which would definitely ensure a lot more than 50% playing time for all of them. So, hopefully you may appreciate the situation if we have less than this at a game, impacted even more severely if we have less than 11 players.

If we play short it reduces morale on the team. It is also not fair to your player’s teammates if they have to consistently play short. There is also a responsibility to our opponents to give them a game. If we are short or cannot field a team, it is extremely disappointing to everyone on both teams.

I would have to add that all scheduled games are important. When you sign up for a sport you are making a commitment to many people – teammates, opponents, coaches and officials who are all committing time and effort to make this work – for you and your player – and most importantly, make this fun.

I appreciate that it may not be possible to make every game and practice, but please be considerate to all concerned and let at least the coaches know when you cannot make games.

I will be taking attendance for all games and practices. At the end of the season I may reward players with the best attendance.

If your player decides to drop out from the team for whatever reason please let me know as soon as possible. It seems we always have one or two dropouts every season, unfortunately.

If your player cannot make a game, please let me know as soon as possible. It may be crucial in knowing if we have enough players to play. I must have time to call the other team if our numbers are too few (FIFA rules state 7 players are needed, minimally, but for this age group 7 v 11 would be tantamount to a disaster on the field).

Game Days

For all games please be early. I like players to be there 40 minutes before kick-off to (a) know how many players we have (b) warm the players up (c) be inspected by the referee (d) talk to them about the game.

Please pick up your player from practices and games ON TIME! The coaches cannot leave until all the kids are picked up. We have had cases where some parents haven’t picked up their player until over an hour after the game has finished! Incredible as it may seem, but we are NOT babysitters!

The Madison Youth Soccer Club will make team shirts available, but for rec teams they do not supply shorts and socks. Please have your player wear BLACK SHORTS and WHITE SOCKS for all games. We’ll play better as a team if we look like a team.

Please have your player bring water or a sports drink, i.e., Gatoradeâ , to every game and practice. They will badly need it!

For practices all players must bring their own ball if possible. This age group plays games with a size 5 ball. This is the same size the adults play with. Practicing with a size 5 ball will prepare them very well. So, please bring a size 5 ball if possible or a size 4 ball at the very least.

Player Attitude and Discipline

At this age group and beyond, particularly with boys, the players’ attitude and behaviour can sometimes be a problem (as if you didn’t know that already!). I tend to be lax about discipline because I try to encourage a fun environment. Some players take this as a hint to mess around. If a player is giving me problems on a consistent basis I will be calling you about it. In worse case scenarios I will suggest the player withdraw from the team. I’m not in favour of adhering strict discipline because first and foremost I believe we’re all out there to have some fun, but if I have to, I will be strict and I may restrict playing time if a player displays a poor attitude or causes any trouble.

Parents may not know this, but Madison Youth Soccer Club requires coaches to grade their players after the season. This knowledge helps the Club to build balanced teams for subsequent seasons. It does no good assigning all the best players to one team (even unknowingly) and all the weaker players to another team, for example. This grade is an "overall" grade, but most coaches probably treat it as a way of recognising who the stars are on a team. I always grade fairly and take into account all sorts of factors.

Coaching Philosophies

While this is a rec (recreational) and not a comp (competitive) team we will still endeavour to play to the best of our abilities and we may even have a better team than some comp teams in some cases. Some comp players prefer playing on the rec teams because there is less pressure. I have heard some negative things about some comp coaches because winning means everything and anything less is communicated negatively to the players. I find this appalling. I will coach them hard, but I will not go over the top. We will try to win, but even if we have a losing season we will have fun playing, that is a key factor.

Also, I like to play some players in several different positions – sometimes in the same game. I try to give everyone a chance to play "forward." This term is really a misnomer. I encourage all players to attack and try to score goals – yes, even goalkeepers. Goalkeepers can score from the penalty spot, and they can score directly from their own position if they have a good, long kick and perhaps some luck with a big bounce on a hard field! I do tell defenders to get forward when they can, but they must get back quickly and fulfill their primary responsibility of defending. Midfielders tend to get forward anyway, sometimes way too much!

I have often had success in getting average, or below average players to achieve some success for themselves. One season, I played an overweight player as a forward. He had always been put in defence by other coaches because of his physique. For me he was too slow in defence. He was my top goalscorer that season. Another season I had an overweight player score a goal for the first time in his life – even including practices! It is not all just about weight, neither. Another player I had was skinny and small and very timid. His previous coaches also stuck him in defence where he never performed well. I turned him into an aggressive, hungry, mean goalscoring machine. I recognised the kid was really a natural forward. These are just some examples of discovering hidden gems, and one reason why I love to coach.

For more details about my coaching philosophies please see my "Introduction to Coach Archer" Web page at:

Apologies, finally, for a long note! It got longer than I originally had intended, but I hope it conveys some additional information that is useful for all concerned. My major concern is if we start losing players and have to play games with minimal numbers or minimal strength. It’s a fully loaded 9-week season with as many as 11 games. I’d rather enjoy it than be worrying about it week after week, if you see what I mean.

If you have any problems or comments with this note or my philosophies, please let me know. You can leave messages on my home phone at 421-5816, email me at or see me in person at games or practices.

Here’s to a fun season. Cheers!

Garry Archer