U.S. Women's National Team - "Quality vs. Quantity"


Ten to fifteen years ago, an obstacle in youth player development was
the lack of events or tournaments in which to compete.  It was an issue
of quantity.  Today, there are numerous events and tournaments.  Youth
players now have the opportunity to play and train on several teams
throughout the year, including Club teams, High school teams, Indoor
teams, state teams, regional teams and national teams.  Often times,
these teams compete simultaneously.  Now, the issue is one of quality,
rather than quantity.

"Leaders begin with the end in mind."  Administrators, coaches,
players, and parents should plan ahead and prioritize the events and
opportunities that are presented to them.  Consider the overall
schedule of all the players and help ensure more quality and possibly
less quantity during peak times.  Before the year or before season
begins, set team and individual goals for "winning," "player
development," and "team development."  Know before you begin where you
want to be at the end of the year.  Map out your plan for how you will
get there.

Coaches must consider their team's "training to game" ratio and use it
as a guide when making decisions on practices and tournaments.  A tilt
too far in either direction - too many games or too much training - can
deter development.  Players below the age of ten want to, "play"
soccer.  They're not ready yet for "learning."  Let them fall in love
with the game.  Between the ages of 10-16, players need repetitive
touches on the ball.  In order to get this, structured training
sessions are required.  Players that do not learn "how to train" or, do
not "spend quality time alone with the ball," will not develop into
their own best self.  Half of the training session should be spent on
developing the "technical" skills required in our sport (remember
economical training from your coaching course.)  An age specific
"training to game" ratio helps keep players excited to train and
prepare for games, and likewise, players are excited to translate what
they've done in training into games.  Games should be highlight moments
and should never get old.

Recommended Training to Game ratios over a calendar year are as
U-10        1:1
U-14        2:1
U-14+      3:1

Using above ratios, as a guideline be selective in which and how many
tournaments the team attends.  Balance tournaments to focus on
"winning" and tournaments to approach with a "learning" mentality. 
Tournament attendance should be, "coach-driven" rather than parents
pushing coaches and clubs to attend tournaments so that their daughters
can be "seen."  Coaches (and by virtue parents) must ask themselves if
attending a particular tournament will provide growth for their players
and their team or will it be counterproductive.  Is "less" actually

Tournament organizing committees should schedule in a way that allows
the best opportunity for each team and each game in the tournament to
be of the highest quality.  This might mean fewer games, shorter games,
accepting fewer teams in the tournament, and / or alternative
bracketing philosophies so that the theme is one of quality rather than
quantity.  We recommend attending more "showcases" rather than winner
take all "tournaments"

Finally, league organizers must recognize the importance of team
training time throughout the season.  Restructuring the bracketing of
the teams and factoring in unforeseen postponed games and alternative
plans will help prevent the scheduling of frequent multiple game weeks
and thus, allow for adequate training time.

Today' challenge is to balance the quantity of playing and training
opportunities to ensure the player has both a healthy and workable
schedule and quality, competitive experiences.  A dangerous trend is
showing itself in youth soccer.  Player's schedules become overloaded
when multiplied by the number of teams on which he or she plays.  There
becomes a tug-of-war between various coaches, and the player gets
caught in the middle of a battle over loyalty.  An overloaded schedule
can easily lead to frustration, stress, burnout, over training, and

On our player's calendars today, are too many tournaments, most of
which are scheduled with "winning" as the sole objective.  The length,
and number of games in each tournament can be detrimental to the
quality of the experience.  Simply, the demands are too high and the
quality suffers.  Due to the number of tournaments and events involving
multiple teams for several players, the training to game ratio is
completely out of balance with the amount of training time diminishing
greatly.  Frequently, when teams have an opportunity to train, the time
spent on non-taxing activities in order to minimize fatigue for the
upcoming tournament, thus hindering quality time spent with the ball.

In summary, more is not always better!  Activities must be purposefully
scheduled and balanced to provide appropriate training time,
challenging competition in a non-fatigued state, individual and team
development opportunities, as well as sufficient recovery periods. 
Attaining and maintaining a balance between quantity and quality must
be a cooperative effort between coaches, administrators, parents, and