The U11 Age Group will also be removed from the State Cup.
Portland, Ore. – The Oregon Premier Council voted unanimously to move to a small-sided format for the Oregon Premier League U11 age group beginning Fall 2014. Additionally, the U11 Age Group will be eliminated from the OPL State Cup in 2015. The OPC, which operates the Oregon Premier League, discussed the potential change with OPL member clubs at the recent AGM; every club in attendance spoke positively of the move to small-sided, as well as supporting the elimination of the U11 age group from the State Cup.
“This is something clubs are now prepared to take on,” said OPC Vice President Rob Baarts. “When this came up several years ago, clubs were either launching or just starting to build their Juniors programs; many clubs didn’t have fields and goals in place to support the change. Now, with a few years’ experience in their pockets, clubs are ready to make this move. The positive impact we’ve seen in our U9s and 10s from playing small-sided is something we need to continue to build on in a more effective and lasting way at U11, and this accomplishes that.”
The OPL will adopt the 8v8 format for the U11 league. It is widely accepted as the optimum format for small-sided at this age, and is recommended by US Soccer as well as several top federations worldwide, including Spain, Holland, and Germany. This format keeps players in a smaller space to increase confidence, develop individual creativity, initiative, and the ability to make decisions; it also helps players build relationships with other people, developing their understanding of attacking and defensive principles in a more manageable setting.
Further, eliminating State Cup competition for this age group frees clubs, coaches, and players from the pressure of winning at an age where technical and basic tactical development are the most important factors of player development, not rankings and winning tournaments. Building competitive desire can still be achieved through league games and trainings, as there is less pressure to perform and more importance placed on daily achievements and enjoyment of the game.
An additional, important benefit of small-sided at U11 for our clubs is their ability to retain and develop more players from a younger age due to smaller squad sizes. Instead of cutting players to achieve an optimum roster size for 11v11, clubs can keep players who might otherwise be cut to continue to develop their ability and continue to nurture a love for the game, because more than anything else, children play the game for fun.