WARREN BARLOW INSIGHT INTO JUNIOR FOOTBALL: Smaller pitches and squads add to our numbers

The Bolton News: Warren Barlow Warren Barlow

THIS week I would like to spend some time concentrating on our under 11s age group who are looked after by our u11s secretary Janet Cormican.

There are 59 teams in the u11s age groups which are split into six divisions so that youngsters of all abilities can enjoy the game at a level to suit them.

Under-sevens and eights play five-a-side football in the BBDFL, u9s and 10s seven-aside and u11s and 12s nine-a-side.

So this is the last stepping stone prior to youngsters playing the full 11-a-side game.

Some people ask, why can’t youngsters just play the 11-a-side game?

Many studies have shown the smaller the pitch and squad sizes the more time on the ball a player has, the more touches a player has and, ultimately the greater improvement.

All these factors pale into insignificance compared with the most important one and the reason we are all involved – and that is increased participation.

The BBDFL previously only had two forms of the game, with seven-a-side for u7s through to under 10s and 11- a-side for all other age groups.

This had a huge detrimental affect on the numbers who play the game. For example: The league used to have around 24 teams playing seven-a-side football at u7s and this gradually grew up the age groups until we had around 40 teams at u10s.

These 40 teams still played seven-a-side football and on average had three rotating substitutes with a squad of 10 per team, meaning 400 youngsters played the game at this age group.

When they moved to the 11-a-side game, teams tended to merge two teams which resulted in us having 20, 11-a-side teams at u11.

The 11-a-side teams tended to have a squad of 15 and as such we ended up with only 300 players.

Every year we lost 100 players from the league. This had to stop and so we brought in nine-a-side football at u11s and 12s, and within four years we had doubled the numbers playing.

The reason being that teams didn’t merge, they just brought in a couple of extra players, so we ended up with 40 teams at u11s, 40 at u12s and when they went to 11-a-side at under 13s we had 40 teams again.

Those 40 teams had an average squad of 15, which gave us 600 playing the game instead of 300.

More coaches needed to be trained, which improved the quality and diversity of coaching.

More courses were offered, some of the coaches wanted to set up their own teams and so the number of teams increased again.

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