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The Biggest Win

Dear Coaches,

AYSO is for your kids to learn soccer, not to win games at any cost. The biggest win for AYSO is when our kids have fun learning the beautiful game of soccer.

Blowouts (unbalanced games) hurt all of us. Players get discouraged, parents get upset, coaches complain. Let's all work to prevent blowouts and maximize balanced games.

If your team wins over another team by a score differential greater than 5 goals, then you've had a blowout. It is important for coaches on both teams to recognize the signs of an impending blowout and work together to make sure it doesn't happen -- although it is most incumbent on the "winning" coach/team. Blowouts hurt both teams in ways that the winning team often doesn't realize. 

Winning games is fun, but the biggest win is when all of our kids learn to be better soccer players. That's why many of us are in AYSO and not some other league. It's for our kids, not for maximizing game wins. If we wanted to maximize wins for a team, we could stack teams. But where is the sport (and learning) in that?

In AYSO we work hard to Balance Teams so that every game should be a challenge with a good chance of winning some and losing some. But successful balancing, despite the heroic efforts of our division coordinators, is sometimes impossible to achieve because:
- players develop at different rates and in unexpected ways
- some teams just click and some don't
- coach ratings from prior seasons are sometimes not accurate or are missing
- players are often constrained by when and where they can practice
- we don't have time or resources to assess all the players at the beginning of each season to figure out how to balance teams better.

We rely on our coaches at game time to be our last defense to ensure that AYSO achieves Balanced Teams as well as Everyone Plays, Good Sportsmanship, Positive Coaching, and better Player Development.

Kids learn best when they are challenged, have fun, and experience some success. Games that are blowouts are a loss for both teams. For the team that "lost" it can be disheartening and frustrating. For the team that "won" they probably were not challenged and so were not able to learn much from the game. Plus a game is no fun if it is too easy to win every time -- it becomes boring. Ideally only well matched (balanced) teams will play each other. Since this is not always possible it is important for every youth sports team to have a blowout mitigation strategy.

In soccer, if you are up by 2 points very early in the game or it otherwise becomes obvious that one team is much stronger than the other, it is best for the coach with the stronger team to use one or more blowout prevention techniques. It is critical to practice these techniques with your team in advance and have a memorable code word or innocuous signal to tell your team to do a particular technique.
 
Here are some techniques you can use to prevent blowouts as well as improve the skill of the stronger team:
- Positions -- Put players in positions where they are least comfortable (most challenged), play strong scorers as defense or goal keeper, play weak scorers as forwards and mids.
- Opposition -- Reduce the number of players on the field for the stronger team (1, 2, 3 or even more players), increase for the weaker team (but not beyond the maximum for that division and not so your own players don't get at least 50% playing time)
- Passing -- Every player must touch the ball before a shot is taken
- Passing -- Two-Touch, every player can only have two touches of the ball in sequence, no dribbling
- Passing -- Must complete 5, 10, or more passes before shooting.
- Passing -- All passes must be done only with the players' weaker (off) foot
- Shooting -- Only take shots from outside the opponents penalty area
- Shooting -- Each player can only score 1 goal, must pass to a player that has not yet scored for a shot
- Shooting -- Only 1 designated player can take shots until they score once, then another player becomes the designated shooter
- Shooting -- All shots must be with the players' weaker (off) foot
- Crosses -- Can only score with a cross and 1 touch kick (U10 & under)
- Crosses & Heading -- Can only score with a cross and header (U12 & up)
- Do two or more of the above at the same time

These techniques will force your players to play harder and learn more in the process. It is after all just a game and they are likely to have more fun too. 

Some additional options which involve sharing players with the other team:
- If the weaker team is playing short to start with, loan them your best players (good players often enjoy playing against their own team)
- Swap a few players (spot balance teams)
- Swap offensive lineups so that your forwards and mids play against your defense and goalkeeper - this will usually result in very balanced teams and each group knows some of the others so can play reasonably well together. This option usually requires that both coaches have a full set of pinnies for both teams and the referees are ok with the challenge.

Every game is an excellent learning opportunity. Please help your team by making the most of each one.

Thanks!

Cheers,
Tim Oey
Area 2J Coach Admin
Advanced Coach Instructor
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