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Club-To-Club Player Development Initiative Program Concludes Pilot Series Of Match Conditions In Suffolk County

LIJSL Club Development Days for U7 (2012) and U8 (2011) players have become a popular fixture on the LIJSL calendar over the last three years. The events have a festival atmosphere, allowing the kids to play several games without the pressure of worrying about results. The focus is on developing skills and allowing the players to have fun in a consequence-free environment.

That environment is now being carried over into the first year of the Club-To-Club Player Development Initiative Program (PDI) in Suffolk County. East Islip, Kings Park, Northport Cow Harbor, and Sachem are currently participating.

Both boys and girls players in these clubs at the U7 and U8 age groups have been getting a weekly series of match conditions since September to hone their skills. For six weeks teams played a match with another team in its geographic-friendly area. The fall series of the program came to a close on November 11.

The Club-To-Club PDIs provides an opportunity for clubs to aid in developing players using a platform that wasn’t there before. For example, Kings Park Soccer Club needed a place for their U7 girls to play and LIJSL filled that void with the pilot program.

“We didn’t have a spot for our U7 girls,” Kings Park Soccer Club President Anthony Sabatino said. “Our families love it, our trainers love it, the girls love it, and I think it’s a great experience.”

“Sachem Youth Soccer League wants to be able to provide players at every level the opportunity to continue to develop,” SYSL President Chris Chaisty said. “The PDI helps us achieve this by offering those who fall in this category the chance to take their game – literally - to the next level.”

Northport Cow Harbor Soccer Club President Matt Power added, “These young players are the future of our program, so it was important for our club to be a charter member of this program to deliver an experience for players and parents that is professional with a focus on development.”

During these match conditions results are not kept, and how many goals each team scores is not important. The focus is on developing their technique as well as the young players understanding of how to play collectively, which benefits the players moving forward.

Not having to worry about the score, players are free to make mistakes and learn from them.

“Players are more relaxed and play with a smile on their faces because they realize they have the support of the coach no matter what, so this freedom allows them to be more expressive when they play,” LIJSL Technical Director Ronan Wiseman said. “The atmosphere around these games allows the players to make mistakes without consequences, which encourages the players to express themselves, which is a good thing. 

Bart Polster, Sachem Intramural/Interleague Director of Coaching added: “What I love about these games is we’re allowing the kids to play without pressure – not having them care about the goals or the wins and losses. It’s about teaching them the foundations of the game - passing, receiving, and shooting.”

With the focus on development, the clubs have professional trainers on hand to guide the young players. Each game is played 4-v-4 without a goalie – adhering to U.S. Soccer’s mandate for the PDIs – and is broken into four quarters that are 12 minutes apiece. The periods between the match conditions provides more instructional time for trainers to educate the players.

“They very much enjoy the professional aspect of the program and the instructional focus our trainers are implementing,” Power said.

Another key aspect is that the games are 4-v-4, which gives players more opportunities on the ball, which helps them to be more comfortable with the ball at their feet.

“The players who play in these games are getting a lot of touches on the ball because they are playing 4-v-4, which is the goal of the PDIs mandated by U.S. Soccer,” Wiseman said.

The players and families in the program are also getting a chance to play against neighboring clubs, often for the first time. For the clubs, it gives its intramural players an early chance to be more informed about travel programs that players may participate in as they grow older.

Sabatino noted: “It certainly builds the enthusiasm at an early age to play soccer. It’s a great path towards travel and for the development of the girls and the boys you need it. Just playing against the home town is good, but to go to another field is a lot of excitement for the kids.”

Chaisty spoke about the importance of having players in the program at early ages as well.

“First and foremost it will help develop players at an earlier age,” he said. “This program will help create healthy habits that will hopefully transfer over to travel. Lastly by offering this we have now provided an additional pathway for families within Sachem Youth Soccer League. In doing so we hope to retain and eventually attract new families.”

Power also echoed that sentiment, stating: “Our club is always looking to grow membership and these are the ages where the impact of this program is critical. We will use it as a pathway for families to get the experience of being a travel club with best-in-class trainers and a development pathway, which ideally could be a decade of experience between the families and our club.”

The ideal growth of the program as a whole would be to have more clubs participate from both Suffolk and Nassau County moving forward.

“I would like to see it grow across all our member clubs,” Wiseman said. “As long as the experience is good for the parents and children then I expect more clubs will want to be involved, but the right environment has to be created for the players to grow and improve.”

Find out more info on the PDI program by contacting LIJSL Technical Director Ronan Wiseman (ronanw@lijsoccer.com) or LIJSL Director of Member Services Steve Padatez (stevep@lijsoccer.com). 

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