By Tim Bradbury
Director of coaching, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
It is worth stating at the onset that with so many artificial facilities now planted across New York, common sense has indeed left the building. The artificial may not freeze but young and developing bodies do. I advise all parents, coaches and club representatives to save and review the table below from U.S. Soccer.
Whatever a club or a coach is saying about creating mental toughness, durability, etc., ignore this and put the safety of your children and their ability to learn at the center of your thoughts.
So, assuming you move indoors, there are a variety of scenarios open to you. Let us consider them one at a time and give the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Gym time in local school
Typically a wooden floor and limited space. Coach must be aware which topics can be taught while all kids are active and engaged as few enjoy sitting and watching. Suitable footwear is key as constant pounding on wood floors can cause issues.
Specific sports arena with artificial turf surface
Larger spaces are very costly so check the budget of your team carefully. Larger space gives more opportunity for topic choice, but few spaces can lead to game-like topics such as switching point of attack.
Winter indoor tournaments in school gyms
Truly a crazy affair. Typically, space too small with too many players crammed onto it. Ball flies around like a pinball while all parents and coaches have their orders amplified while kids have less time to make their own decisions.
Futsal leagues and tournaments
When treated in a true futsal way, is player-centered, lots of quick decisions in a tight space, creativity explodes as does short sharp movement. Can be great fun and a good means of player development. Far too frequently, coaches seen joy-sticking players in an environment where they must be allowed to think for themselves. Decide if you want to use as a means of player development or become a futsal team. Cost can be an issue.
I have no doubt that the winter period can be fun and developmental but it is worth considering options while balancing the budget.