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Managing Blowouts

Dear Coaches, Referees, and Parents,

AYSO is for your kids to learn soccer, not to win games at any cost. The biggest win for AYSO is when our kids have fun learning the beautiful game of soccer.

Blowouts (unbalanced games) hurt all of us. Players get discouraged, parents get upset, coaches complain, players & parents leave AYSO and we have fewer teams. Let's all work to prevent blowouts and maximize balanced games.

If a team wins over another team by 5 or more goals, that's a blowout.

Winning games is fun, but the biggest win is when all of our kids learn to be better soccer players. That's why many of us are in AYSO and not some other league. It's for our kids, not for maximizing game wins. If we wanted to maximize wins for a team, we would stack teams. But where is the sport (and learning) in that?

Kids learn best when they are challenged, have fun, and experience success as well as failure. That is the primary goal of AYSO's Balanced Teams philosophy. Games that are blowouts are a loss for both teams. For the team that "lost" it can be disheartening and frustrating. For the team that "won", the players were not challenged and so did not learn as much from the game as they could have. Plus a game is no fun if it is too easy to win every time -- it becomes boring. Ideally only well matched (balanced) teams will play each other. Since this is not always possible it is important for every youth sports team to have a blowout  strategy.

In AYSO we work hard to Balance Teams so that every game should be a challenge with a good chance of winning some and losing some. However, successful balancing, despite the heroic efforts of our division coordinators, is sometimes impossible to achieve because:
- players develop at different rates and in unexpected ways,
- some teams click and some don't,
- player ratings from prior seasons are sometimes inaccurate or missing,
- players are constrained by when and where they can practice,
- sometimes parents pressure coordinators to put friends on the same team,
- we don't have time or resources to assess all the players at the beginning of each season to figure out how to balance teams better.

We rely on our coaches at game time to be our last defense to ensure that AYSO achieves Balanced Teams (as well as Everyone Plays, Good Sportsmanship, Positive Coaching, and  Player Development).

A blowout situation is when good coaches really shine -- demonstrating Good Sportsmanship and great AYSO values by being exemplary role models with mature attitudes. Players and parents will do as their coach does.

It is the coaches' responsibility to recognize the signs of an impending blowout and work together to make sure blowouts are minimized -- although it is most incumbent on the "winning" coach/team.

In soccer, if you are up by 2 points very early in the game or it otherwise becomes obvious that one team is much stronger than the other, it is best for the coach with the stronger team to use one or more blowout prevention techniques. It is critical to practice these techniques with your team in advance and have a memorable code word or innocuous signal to tell your team to do a particular technique (so you don't embarrass the other team).
 
Here are some techniques the stronger team can use to prevent blowouts as well as better improve their skills:
- Positions -- Put players in positions where they are least comfortable (most challenged), play strong scorers as defense or goal keeper, play weak scorers as forwards and mids.
- Opposition -- Reduce the number of players on the field for the stronger team (while sill  ensuring Everyone Plays at least 50% of the time)
- Passing -- Every player must touch the ball before a shot is taken
- Passing -- Two-Touch, every player can only have two touches of the ball in sequence, no dribbling (this is an incredible opportunity to improving your team's passing game!)
- Passing -- Must complete 5, 10, or more passes before shooting.
- Passing -- All passes must be done with the players' weaker (off) foot- Shooting -- Only take shots from outside the opponents penalty area
- Shooting -- Each player can only score 1 goal, must pass to a player that has not yet scored for a shot
- Shooting -- Only 1 designated player can take shots until they score once, then another player becomes the designated shooter
- Shooting -- All shots must be with the players' weaker (off) foot
- Crosses -- Can only score with a cross and 1 touch kick (U10 & under)
- Crosses & Heading -- Can only score with a cross and header (U12 & up)
- Ball control -- Players must only use their weak (left) foot for dribbling, passing, and shooting
- Do two or more of the above at the same time

These techniques will force your players to play harder and learn more in the process. It is after all just a game and they are likely to have more fun too. 

Some additional options which involve sharing players with the other team:
- If the weaker team is playing short to start with, loan them your best players (good players often enjoy playing against their own team)
- Swap a few players (spot balance teams)
- Swap offensive lineups so that your forwards and mids play against your defense and goalkeeper - this will usually result in very balanced teams and each group knows some of the others so can play reasonably well together. This option usually requires that both coaches have a full set of pinnies for both teams and the referees are ok with the challenge.

Every game is an excellent learning opportunity. Please help your team by making the most of each one.

A special note for the coach of the "losing" team: your approach and attitude can turn a loss into a win for the kids. If they are able to shrug it off and have fun anyway, you are a great coach!

Thanks!

Sincerely,
Tim Oey
Area 2J Coach Admin
Advanced Coach Instructor
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