This fall we are changing the U4 to U8 age group program to fall in line with US Soccer's Player Development Initiatives (PDI). You may view a PDF of the PDI at https://www.ussoccer.com/~/media/files/coaches/player-dev-initiatives/pdi-february-2017.pdf?la=en. We have partnered with Football Factory and South Hills Soccer Association to provide these players with top-notch training to let them develop the skills they need to play soccer.

Our U4 players will join with South Hills's U4s on Mondays at 5:30 at Football Factory (903 Morris Street in Charleston). They will do 8 sessions starting on 8/21 and ending 10/16 with a week off for Labor Day.

Our U5 to U8 age groups will practice at our fields on Fridays with the U5s starting at 5:30 and the U6, U7, and U8 players starting at 6:45.

On Saturday mornings this fall, a "festival" of soccer will take place at Trace Fork where U6 to U8 Elk River and South Hills players will play in small-sided games (4 players on a side – no sitting on the bench).

These ages won't have formal teams, but we will still need parent volunteers to work with the kids.

Here's a short FAQ-type explainer:

Q: What are we doing with the U4 to U8 age groups?
A: We are partnering with Football Factory and South Hills Soccer Association to create an atmosphere where young kids can develop soccer skills without fear of failure. Parents and coaches of these age groups also need to learn how to coach the development of these skills without a "win the game" expectation.

Q: Why are we changing the U5 to U8 age groups?
A: Because developing soccer skills and abilities should be the priority at these ages. Right now, there is too much emphasis on the result of the game. Winning is not a soccer skill, for example a Cruyff turn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1k7DGqRF5g) is a skill we want all kids to master. Kids at this age don't win the World Cup. At these ages, they need to be free to try new skills and moves without worrying that a mistake could "cost" the team. Elk River Soccer Club has decided that our focus will be to make better soccer players, not just collect a fee from parents. It's a long-term approach.

Q: But I want to yell "Kick It!" when I see someone get near the ball. What am I supposed to do?
A: Chemical Valley Athletic Club (https://www.facebook.com/ChemicalValleyAC/) would be glad to have supporters at their kickball games.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. We know there will be some growing pains. We are committed to the long-term development of soccer players.
As expected there are lots of questions about the U4 to U8 program changes. Here are some answers to some of those questions.

UPDATE with more questions:

What about games?
When you show up at Trace Fork (in the fall and Elk River in the spring) on Saturday, you'll be directed to a field. Most of the time it will be 4 Elk River kids on one side and 4 South Hills kids on the other. They will play for a set period of time (5-10 minutes?) and then one side will move to the next field and play those 4 kids.There will be no sitting on a bench. Every kid will play the whole time. If a team has to have 5 players we'll do that and figure out a way to make it even. The idea is that for that one hour or so, the player gets as many touches on the ball as possible. And they're encouraged to try anything. If they feel like a Maradona, do it! "I have been working on my elastico…" Now's the time to try it! At the younger ages, when they break out a skill move everyone cheers.

How will practice work?
We will still need coaches/volunteers to help with practices. Every week the Football Factory coaches will develop a practice plan. Before practice, the coach/volunteer will get the plan and be asked if he/she understands it. If the coach/volunteer has any questions about it, they'll be answered and then the coach will take his/her group of about 8 kids to the field to go through the plan.

Will there still be coaches?
Yes we will still need coaches to put the plan into action. We would like to have 1 coach per 8 players at the practices.