Garden City vs. Smithtown in boys soccer and Rockville Centre vs. West Islip in girls play.
By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
May 2, 2013-It’s important in youth soccer, especially at the youngest ages, that the players have fun while learning the fundamentals of the sport. That’s the purpose of the Nassau Development Program (NDP) and Suffolk Development Program (SDP) that play under the umbrella of the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) and Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA).
Last weekend, April 27 and 28, 17 LIJSL member clubs playing in either NDP or SDP met for the first time in a series of Under-9 friendly games. Hosted by the Garden City Centennials Soccer Club, Plainedge Soccer Club, Plainview/Old Bethpage Soccer Club, West Babylon Soccer Club and West Islip Soccer Club, this inaugural event helped reinforce the ideals of these two player development programs.
The NDP program, led by longtime volunteer Steve Padaetz, began in the fall of 2010 as a platform for Under-9 intramural players, both boys and girls, and expanded in autumn 2011 to include Under-8 intramural players. The SDP program, headed by West Islip’s Gary Kofsky, began play last fall.
The aim of the programs is to provide an intermediate phase of play between intramural and travel soccer, introducing eight- and nine-year olds to the concepts they will be practicing in Under-10 travel team soccer. But while the program provides a more competitive environment for young players, the focus is clearly on skill development and in-game decision making for players rather than results. There are no scores or standings kept for these games, and following matches last weekend, teams exchanged patches and received an individual T-shirt and other materials in the Welcome Packet supplied by the LIJSL.
"To me, it really puts the fun back into soccer," said Plainview/Old Bethpage Vice President Joel Sklar during his club’s event on Saturday afternoon. "Kids get to play with their friends and be kids, but still get to develop their skills and play the game competitively without being concerned about the result or a lot of yelling and screaming from either sideline. It’s really almost a ‘pick-up’ soccer sort of environment, which creates a positive feeling around the game for these kids."
The programs are flexible and cost-effective, with some clubs using the development program in lieu of intramural play, and some using it as a supplement. Under-9 teams play a six-match season and Under-8’s play four games and both feature recommended small sided games of 6v6 (Under-8) and 8v8 (Under-9), although even that is flexible depending of roster and field sizes.
But the program isn’t just about the development of the players. Young teenage refs get their start officiating these games and appropriate behavior by players, coaches and spectators is another area of focus.
"A goal is to create the right environment for the players, coaches and refs," NDP’s Padaetz stated. "Allow these kids to take ownership of the game without constant instruction from the touchline. And the smiles on the kids’ faces was the best part of last weekend."
"We consider this a breeding ground for players, coaches, officials and parents," Sklar said. "The people who are part of this program, from the administrators, to the coaches, to the youth officials are here because they love the game and enjoy the game, and they are all learning to focus on the fundamentals of the game and not the results."
The formula seems to be working. Sklar said that his Plainview/Old Bethpage club has seen a marked increase in participation in travel programs.
"We brought out eight travel teams last fall," he explained. "That’s a lot of kids playing competitive soccer, and that’s good for the game."
With 123,843 youth soccer players––68,587 boys and 55,256 girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 12 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. Eastern New York exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Special Children. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. Eastern New York is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.