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My opinion – by Rui Oliveira

Please, let the kids play! 

(part 1)


Each day, it becames more difficult to scouters to find talent in the age groups up to U-15, since these kids are increasingly getting equal in their abilities. The intrinsic motivation, the volitional aspects (i.e. related with their will) and work capacity which will help you realize those who may be more successful in the future.


For this reasons, it’s up to coaches, especially those who train U-7 to U-10, to realize that making a good job is to take the street into the club. We must let the kids play, in an organized form, allowing the longest practice time possible, and struggle for small games (3vs3; 4vs4; 5vs5) every weekend, with the following characteristics:

  • 3 or 4 different clubs
  • Kids divided in small groups
  • No substitutions
  • Mini games – short time
  • Mini fields – marked only with disc cones and cones to create the goal


The benefits are clear:

  • Give time and space to the individual growth, without paying much attention to height and weight or capacities (for that moment)
  • Learning how to play, playing
  • They should try different positions, since we don’t have a crystal ball that allows us to understand, in these ages, which is the best position for each one of them
  • Help them to understand the difficulties of each field position, as well as allowing them to observe where they feel more confortable and where they can have a better performance
  • They will touch the ball more often, trying out more technical actions, either offensive or defensive, getting it right or wrong, being all part of their growth process
  • When the game is over, they change field and start a new challenge  from scratch, with new opponents and new problems. They can win, lose or draw again, but always with a renewed motivation in search of a positive result 
  • They will play from 4 to 12 games in the same day , with different playing time
  • Less or none coach intervention, since the same coach can’t be walking in 3 or 4 fields at the same time to give constant instructions – joystick coaches. This allows the kids to create and decide by themselves, both good or bad decisions, by joining together their abilities and decision making capacity with the problems each game brings 
  • Without referees or with kids of the same age refereeing 


My message to the coaches that have the difficult task of training is that you should not be afraid of doing “less”,  because that “less” will always be a lot, as long as the different stages of children’s growth are respected.

Winning is important, but forming youngsters, individually, to be better in the future is without a doubt, the best job coaches can possible do.

Please, let the kids play!


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Rui Oliveira

Rui Oliveira

Co-founder of Player-rate ( – Consulting. Is one of the most respected teachers in Portugal. With UEFA B coaching license and a post-graduation in Youth Training, Rui Oliveira has worked as a coach from grassroots to senior team of SL Benfica, during 19 years, also as a Technical Coordinator of youth and Coordinator of the prospecting department. Is a member of the Youth and non-professional committee of the Portuguese Football Federation since 2012. Co-fundador do Player-rate ( – Consultoria. É um dos professores mais respeitados em Portugal. Tem a licença UEFA B e uma pós-graduação em Treino de jovens. Rui Oliveira trabalhou durante 19 anos como treinador em todas as camadas jovens e nos séniores do SL Benfica, bem como Coordenador técnico da formação e Coordenador do Departamento de Prospecção. Desde 2012 é membro da Comissão para o Futebol jovem e não profissional.

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