Exeter Small Sided Games Attracts Over 100 Players

The group with homework cards in hand.

Exeter Hawks Youth Soccer Association (EYSA) over the last four years has experienced a rapid expansion in the number of young athletes participating in its soccer program for 7-14 year olds.  In a matter of five years EYSA’s program grew from 12 travel soccer teams to nearly 30 for both spring and fall seasons.  The most recent surge in players is in the seven and eight year old group.  This age bracket blossomed from roughly forty players in 2013 to nearly 100 this fall.  This successful growth presented challenges for EYSA leadership:

  • League play vs. in-house training and game play – The EYSA understood from parent feedback and from the experience of other clubs like Exeter that it was better to keep keep players out of the car and on the field with a ball at their feet.
  • EYSA needed volunteer coaches, in fact, a lot of volunteer coaches to manage one hundred 7 and 8 year olds.
  • EYSA needed a training curriculum that could be applied to all players consistent with current training and development standards.
  • EYSA needed their coaches to be trained in this curriculum and further supported (mentored) thus giving new coaches the confidence to teach and to encourage them to remain with the EYSA throughout their child’s involvement.
  • EYSA had to ensure success of this new initiative right from the start.

The EYSA leadership determined early in 2014 that professional assistance was needed.  EYSA turned to Seacoast United Soccer Club (SUSC) as the natural choice.  EYSA and SUSC have a partnership history that dates back for more than a decade.  A group of EYSA Board members, experienced coaches, and parents met with SUSC COO Ian Burgess and Director of Coaching Iain Scott and the goals and objectives for the program came into focus very quickly.  EYSA Board members Marc Dettore and Randall Sckaal took the lead for EYSA and SUSC assigned Community Development Officer Lorna Young  to move the program forward.  The curriculum, the volunteer coaches, the location, and the training format came together over the summer. 

The partnership with SUSC resulted in a 7 and 8 year old program based on academy (group) style training and 4v4 small sided games to develop soccer skills and enjoyment for the game  for  over 100 boys and girls.  Players train twice a week at East Kingston Elementary School, followed by fun festivals at the weekend.

The primary objectives for players this young are for maximum activity; maximum touches on the ball; an absence of focus on winning; and a focus on individual learning, fun and success.

4v4 is a great enjoyment and learning tool and can be used with children of all ages.  It provides the minimum numbers required for all of the principles of play and is a simple game for young players to learn to make decisions and develop soccer skills.

The feedback from both parents and coaches from the initial week’s training sessions and festivals have been extremely positive and the players are thoroughly enjoying the experience.

“This is a very important step for EYSA," commented John Boisvert, President of EYSA.  "A program as large and as complicated as this, could not have been conceived without the efforts of our volunteer Board members and coaches and the commitment of our parents.  The ultimate success of the program was ensured by our partnership with SUSC who brought to bear the technical expertise and the understanding of how to mentor parent coaches and how young soccer players grow and develop.”  

Lorna Young, Seacoast United SC Community Development Officer added, “Exeter have a dedicated team of volunteers who give up so much of their time on and off the field to provide opportunities for local children to play and enjoy the game in the area. This hard work along with their drive to improve and develop the club has contributed to their success over years. It has been a pleasure to work with this friendly, well organized and dedicated club over the last few weeks and I am looking forward to developing the club further over time.”

EYSA, in addition to in-house weekend play, has invited local clubs to play in the fun 4v4 festivals at the weekend to experience playing against other teams and develop their skills further. 

Anyone interested in participating in any of Exeter Hawk activities should visit their website by clicking here