Ames Soccer Club Programs
Recreational Programs: U5-U10 Soccer
We offer Spring and Fall leagues for players aged 4-9 (before the season...hence "Under 5" or "Under 8", etc.). These leagues are entirely recreational, which means there are no tryouts of any sort. Players are placed on teams based on age, gender, and school affiliation. Practices are Tuesday and/or Thursday evenings and games are Saturday mornings. No official scores or standings are kept. Games are against other teams within the club and teams from other regional clubs, such as from Nevada and Gilbert. We administer the Central Iowa Soccer League (CISL, "sizzle"), which schedules the games and referees
Practice structure for these age groups is based on an age-appropriate, centrally administered plan that is distributed to all coaches. The U7-U10 teams all practice at the same time at the HYSC, while the U5-U6 are split to Tuesday or Thursday. Each team has at least one parent coach, and the club assigns a staff Skills Coach that works with 2-3 teams, depending on the age group. All coaches are trained, supported, and supervised by our Director of Coaching (Gary Eyles).
U5-U6 teams play 3 vs 3 on a small field with no goalkeepers. Games have two 16 minute halves and are refereed by a parent. Neither offsides nor penalty kicks are called. All free kicks are direct.
Practice is for an hour, once per week. Emphasis is placed on introducing players to the game of soccer through fun games and activities that are easy to explain and simple to follow. The individual player is the focus and so the vast majority of sessions involve dribbling type exercises that help the players become more comfortable with the ball. The U6 player does not understand the team concept and so is still very much into the “me” mentality. Sharing the ball with other players is not an option and so the majority of games involve each player having their own ball. Players are just beginning to develop psychomotor skills such as running, jumping, skipping, hopping, and maintaining balance. When the ball is introduced these movements, including changing direction, become even more challenging.
Players will be introduced to basic tactics such as which way do they score (attack) and which goal do they try to stop the other team scoring (defend). Basic restarts such as throw-ins, goal kicks and corner kicks are also taught during scrimmages and league play.
U7-U8 teams play 4 vs 4 on a small field with no goalkeepers. Games have two 20-minute halves and usually have a certified referee. Neither offsides nor penalty kicks are called. All free kicks are direct.
Practice is twice per week for one hour. Players will practice with their team, or join up with another, to form a larger training group of 14-16 players. The emphasis is on teaching the soccer fundamentals within a fun learning environment. Fun games and activities are utilized in continuing player development. Players are beginning to understand the idea of the team concept by working with a teammate. Nonetheless, a primary focus is players learning individual moves, fakes, and turns that they can use in 1 v. 1 situations. The majority of practice sessions will also involve players working together as partners or within small groups. Games that involve passing are introduced.
Players will continue to learn the basic tactics such as which way do they score and which goal do they defend. Basic restarts such as throw-ins, goal kicks and corner kicks are also taught during scrimmages and league play.
U9-U10 teams play with full soccer rules, except the offside rule is not used and only 6 players per team are on the field.
Practice is twice per week for 75 minutes. The focus is on technical development. Individually, this means developing fast footwork skills including moves and fakes that can be used to beat defenders or simply to maintain possession when pressured by the opposition. Training sessions will develop the first touch with all surfaces of the body, particularly the feet. A good first touch allows the receiver more time and space and opportunity to play with his or her head up making the game so much easier.
Tactically players will receive instruction on individual tactics within 1 vs. 1 situations both attacking and defending and basic team tactics such as defending and attacking shape and switching the play. Possession type exercises will develop the player’s decision making in when and where to pass and how to move both with and without the ball.
This is the first age group that plays with goalkeepers. The club will offer specialized training sessions that focus on the keeper position. Typically players will continue to play both as keepers and field players and so it’s encouraged that teams rotate 2-3 players in this position.
Competitive Soccer: U11 and older
With the U11 and older groups, we move into "competitive" soccer, which means that tryouts are held. Ames Soccer Club does NOT use tryouts to exclude players; we make every effort to place every player on a developmentally appropriate team. We typically have 2-3 teams for each gender in each of the U11 and U12 years, and they may be set up as "even" teams, or as a higher level and developmental level team, depending on on the cohort of players moving through the system. Most commonly we have one team for each gender at U13-U14, though for Spring 2013, we fielded three boys teams over this two year age span. High-school aged teams are formed based on the number of players interested and their skill level and may have a mix of age-groups on a given team. In recent years, we have had 3 high school aged teams per gender. High school aged teams only play in the Fall, so the players may play for their school in the spring. All teams enter tournaments at appropriate levels of play.
All competitive teams are assigned a professional coach, and most have parent assistant coaches who "rose" through the U5-U10 ranks.
Practices are 2-3 times per week, depending on age group and time of year. Typically, U11-U12 teams practice at the "early shift" (e.g., 4:30 - 6:00 pm) and the older teams practice at the "late shift" (e.g., .6:00-7:30). In the Fall, we typically move practices to Ames High School's lighted field as the sunset arrives earlier and earlier. Specialized goalkeeping training is provided.
U11-U12 teams play with full rules, a reduced field size, and 8 players per team. U13 and older teams play on a full sized field with full 11 vs 11 teams.
U11-U14 focuses mainly on technical development, including fast footwork, moves and fakes, first touch, and different forms of passing and striking. Even if teams are separated, the goal is to develop an entire cohort and teams are treated equally, regardless of league placement.
High school aged teams largely practice as individual teams under their pro coach, though sometimes teams will have certain merged practices for practical reasons. Tactical work is a greater part of the U15-U19 curriculum.
What does "Recreational" or "Level 3" mean?
Iowa Soccer Association distinguishes between teams that are formed without tryouts and those that are formed on a selective basis. The former used to be officially called "Recreational" teams, and we still use that term. ISA now uses the term "Level 3" to designate these teams. Some of the very largest clubs in Iowa offer Recreational teams at U11-U19, but Ames chooses to focus on player development at the higher age groups, regardless of the incoming ability of the players, and focuses on the "competitive" level.
"Competitive" teams are chosen on the basis of some sort of tryout. ISA has also changed the designation for these teams, calling them "Level 1" or Level 2". Most of our teams are designated "Level 1". Although the rules do not specify this, traditionally Level 1 and 2 teams have paid coaches, while level 3 teams typically have parent volunteers.
Just as field sizes vary, so do ball sizes.
The Size 3 ball is used for U5-U8. The Size 4 ball is used for U9-U12. The adult size 5 ball is used at U13 and older.