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EDP Program

Early Development Program (EDP) Overview

The Merrimack Soccer Club is a participant and a strong believer in the benefits of the NHSL Early Developmental Program (EDP).  This program is for younger players (6-9) who have a serious interest in playing the game of soccer and want to develop their skills at a more advanced pace than provided in the recreational program.  Teams typically practice twice a week for 1 - 1.5 hours with weekend games.  Participants in this program should understand the focus is on individual skill development and not team victories.  In addition, participants should expect to play for multiple coaches in several team environments during their time in the Early Development Program as changes are made seasonally to ensure all players are advancing with the appropriate peer skill-group.

EDP Eligibility

The EDP Program will be the mechanism used to ensure the club is satisfying the mission of helping players reach their full potential.  The EDP program has age groups which start at U7 and continue to U10.   MSC is a "select" program and all players are required to be evaluated to be placed on a team.  Not all players receive placements.  Please see the MSC Policy page for details on these and other topics.

Click the link to view Age Groups for Fall 2016/Spring 2017

EDP Continued Participation
The aim of the EDP Program is to give players who show interest and commitment the opportunity to learn the game of soccer in a fun and safe environment based on guidelines derived from the US Youth Soccer Association's age-appropriate timeline.   On occasion parental assessments of their child's skills and abilities --  and an adult's natural tendency to focus on team victories -- runs contrary to the coaches recommendations and the Early Development Program mission.  Our coaches are NHSA certified and many have significant experience in the sport, including NCAA College and Semi-Pro levels.  There is a level of respect and commitment needed by all parties involved (player, family and coaches) for everyone to be successful.   We understand that players in the EDP Program are young and we believe Soccer should be fun and the players should enjoy their time on the field.  We expect ALL players, families and coaches to be respectful of others, maintain a safe environment, to show good sportsmanship and to positively represent the Town of Merrimack and the Merrimack Soccer Club.  Disruptive behavior by the player or family at practices, in addition to home OR away games, will not be tolerated and could be grounds for dismissal from the program.

EDP approach to Teaching the Game

According to the US Youth Soccer Association, the challenge many youth soccer programs face involves the lack of fundamental skill building at an early age.  All to often, young players are forced early into environments where winning or losing becomes the focal strategy of the team.   The EDP Program is based on a philosophy of teaching the players Age Appropriate Skills.  This will be done in a uniform fashion by all of our coaches and trainers.  We will ensure that each age group receives skills based training that will ensure total player development.  We believe TECHNICAL SKILL, not team victories, is the most important ingredient a young player must have.  We will focus on ball mastery, foot work and small sided games.

EDP as defined by the NHSL:

EDP Format and Operating Rules:
1. Game Times and Format of Play - All EDP time slots should be for ninety (90) minutes, to allow for proper warmup before the game begins.Teams play 2 25-minute halves in the 7v7 format for 2007 - 2008 teams and 3 15-minute periods in the 4v4 format for 2009 and younger teams.
2. Referees – Referee scheduling is coordinated by NHSL.  For EDP, they should allow minor infractions (lifting of a foot on a throw in) or stop the play, explain the correct procedure then resume. This should not be a reason to stop play constantly, just a few reminders. The goal is to teach but ultimately we want the players playing.

3. Substitutions – For all games, substitutions will be allowed on any throw-in, goal kick or after a goal. Players must be called on by the ref in the center line of the field.

4. Ball Size: Size 3 for U7 and U8 and Size 4 for U9 and U10.
5. Game Format: 7v7 matches will be played with 6 field players and 1 goalie for 2007 - 2008 teams
                            4v4 matches will be played with 4 field players and no goalie for 2009 and younger teams.  The game is played until one team passes the ball through the goal. Restart of the game from the center of the field/grid.
6. Suggested Field Size should be a minimum of 47'x30' for 7v7 and a minimum of 30'x20' for 4v4.
7. Goal size for 7v7 matches should be a maximum of 18.5’ x 6.5’ for 2007 - 2008 teams and 4’ x 6’ for 2009 and younger teams.
8. All EDP Coaches must contact their opposing coach the week prior to the scheduled match to confirm game time, location and format of play.

Why an Early Development Program?
1.  There are no tactics without technique.
You need skill to play (well) and we will use Coerver (fast footwork) and small side games to accomplish this. At the young ages, we need to focus on skill development so each player has the tools to go forward. Dribbling, passing, receiving, shooting and a high comfort level with the ball are a prerequisite to tactical play. It makes no sense to work on a corner play (tactic) with runs, screens, and precision timing to get a player open who can't dribble or shoot the ball (skill). Good soccer coaching focuses on sound fundamental skills and then onto more advanced play and tactics. The fact of the matter is you can always play the game of soccer; you just can't play it well without skill, especially at a more competitive level.
2.  The ball has no lungs - let the ball do the work - play feet to feet.
If you can pass and receive the ball comfortably, confidently and quickly, moving it around the field from player to player then the ball is doing the work (rather than the legs) moving quickly 5 to 50 yards at a time from teammate to teammate. This means that the players are doing less of the work in exchange for providing skill and thinking. Successfully passing and receiving under pressure is a great skill and we will expect to see this from our teams. In basketball or baseball we teach our kids to pass/throw and receive/catch as the basics of moving the ball quickly and efficiently. Soccer players must play smart, not just hard. Playing smart and hard makes the game easy and more enjoyable.

3. The ball is gold (or it's always our ball).
Don't give the ball away. We will work toward each playing having a high comfort level with the ball so they can shield, dribble, or pass to escape away from pressure and keep the ball for their team. Just "booting" the ball as far as you can in the general direction of the goal is rewarded far too much. Most of the time the player is just giving the ball away or kicking it because they are not confident in their ability to keep it under pressure. If your son or daughter was a basketball player, and every time they got the ball they "heaved" it as far as they could toward the basket the were trying to score at, it highly likely that this action would not be well received although it is typically cheered in youth soccer. Parents shouting “boot it!” or “kick it!” are missing the point of possession.
4.  The game is the greatest teacher - have a feel for the game.
Small-sided games and many touches on the ball will be promoted. Long lines waiting your turn or drills and non-game like activities that involve a lot of cones or no ball are not great teachers. Some kids develop good skills and athleticism but they have no feel for the game. If you play enough, you can sense where the next run or pass will go. Players need to play enough so they know "how" but importantly "when" and have a real feel for the game. We refer to this as “Game Sense”. Many coaches fail to teach this and the players are left to sort things out themselves. EDP coaches practice a technique of stopping play, showing the correct position or play, demonstrating what should have happened and asking the player to identify the breakdown and then replay from this spot; also known as Stop – Show – Demo – Go. 
Many parents feel that travel soccer should be focused around driving town to town when in reality; this does nothing for the player’s development. Additionally, spending more time in the car to get to far off games versus time on the field playing does not make for a better player. We don't need to take a 7 year old for a two-hour round-trip ride and a one-hour game (of which they might just play half). There are plenty of good games to be played much closer than that. EDP games are 90 minutes long with minimal stoppages for substitutions. In the past, leagues were set up to play four 12-minute periods of which far too much time was expended for substitution and stoppage of play. Kids should be able to play for longer periods of time without a sub unless there is an injury. By playing longer, kids will sort the game out and learn to pace themselves, learning when to run and when to rest.
5. Play to the talent level rather than age level.
We will try to pair up players and teams by talent to challenge each other. In the past, leagues have forced teams and players into age groups. One advanced set of players has been allowed to pummel another set of players because they were in the same age group. This program is flexible and can adjust to create parity and competition. Scores will be monitored and evaluated to guarantee parity by the coaches.
6. Enjoy the competition and the game within the game.
Parents and players will learn to enjoy the game. We all understand the score but many times that does not reflect the game (how it was played) within the game (the end result). At times the best team playing with great style, skill and pace goes unrewarded when it comes to the final result. At the youngest ages, it is easy to take a few of the biggest fastest kids and pound the ball down the middle for wins. While this works at a younger age, these teams and players struggle later as they have not developed good possession skills and cannot compete with teams that have focused training on possession. Good possession play means good passing, ball handling and strong teamwork. We need to enjoy the competition and see the game within the game that promotes style of play and skill so that when the players get older, they will be skilled enough to get the desired result.