Purpose: The Recreational Program is Mississippi Soccer Association's entry playing level for boys and girls Under 4 through Under 19 boys, girls, and coed teams. It is the developmental playing division which U.S. Youth Soccer Association requires its State Associations to provide.
Objectives: Its registered teams are formed for the express purposes of teaching the necessary playing abilities and skills of The Game; maximum game and practice participation of each rostered player; physical and mental fitness; and the enjoyment of The Game. Recreational teams are not formed to play competitive level soccer. All programs in the Under 4, Under 5, Under 6 shall play 3 on 3 formats. Under 7 and Under 8 age groups shall play 4 on 4 formats. Single year age divisions shall be used whenever possible. Boys and girls programs should be separated though under special circumstances girls may be allowed to play in the boys division. For details refer to Small Sided Games.
Program: To be considered a Recreational program, it must be open to any and all players from its MSA-approved territorial boundaries and meet the following additional requirements in accordance with MSA Policies & Guidelines.
- Register Players: Conduct player registrations.
- Approved player assignment: Make player assignments to teams.
- No discrimination: Accept all eligible youths desiring to play The Game in the member organization, subject to reasonable terms of registration.
- Level teams: Adjust the composition of its teams each seasonal year to ensure a competitive balance between all teams that would routinely play against each other in the member's Recreational program. Organizations must publicize spring registration procedures to ensure that all fall registrants are advised of the new season and makes restoring team strength the responsibility of league officials.
Organization teams in an age/gender group qualify as Recreational teams if:
- Assign players correctly: All proper player assignment criteria must be met. Organizations who do not have a competitive team playing out of their organization must supply the names of the players and the Competitive teams for which they are playing to the District Director prior to the organization forming teams so the information may be verified for eligibility.
- Generated Rosters: Organizations must provide generated rosters to the MSA State Office for all teams in each age division that will participate in Recreational by October 1st of the fall season and March 1st of the spring season, using the MSA-Approved registration platform.
- Players Rights: Establish a written policy governing the players' rights to "play up" in a higher age group than their bona fide age group. This policy should include specific decision-making criteria if policy requires consideration on a case-by-case basis.
- Exemption: An organization has a Competitive team in an age/gender group or if there are two players per team in an age/gender group that reside within the organization’s territorial boundaries that are playing Competitive in another organization.
Small Sided Games:
Rostering For Small Sided Games: Organizations may roster as many players as are necessary for the overall success of the program. The obvious and recommended number to use is six (6) for teams of three (3) and eight (8) for teams of four (4). If every player shows up then every player gets to play at least half a game. Should an exceptional number of players be missing on any given day organizations may need to pool the players from both teams dividing them up equally to play the game.
Alternative Method: Register all the players in their appropriate age groups and when they show up each Saturday for games, they are ‘rostered’ to a team only for that day. This can be done in advance or on the day. MSA only requires that the entire numbers of participants are included on a single roster to MSA.
- Players may play on different teams every week. In fact by doing this, the organization actually gets away from an overly aggressive team concept in these formative years and everyone gets the idea of ‘belonging’ to the larger organization. This method of rostering also removes the instant and extreme competitiveness that ‘new’ parents sometimes display and allows them to grow into ‘real soccer’ along with their players. The players are all given the same color T-shirt, one with the local organization logo on it and their own individual number. On game day to differentiate between teams, training vests are used for one of the two teams. Organizations might also consider reversible soccer shirts or issuing two different colored T-shirts. Imagine the effect before and after games seeing all these players in one color and one organizational T-shirt or uniform. What an impression that would have on awareness for soccer in the community!
- Practices are run on the same days and time every week and the ‘designated’ coaches just split the players up into equal numbers and proceed with the instruction. Obviously these coaches would keep their own child within their own group.
- League Standing are not necessary: There are no league standings to keep and the score is of no importance, only the fun and enjoyment the players should have in playing the game.
- Single Year Aging: The difference in maturity and abilities between a player in an under eight (8) program who turns eight (8) in the fall and a player who isn’t even seven (7) until the spring or summer is such a huge one, it needs addressing. Getting players into single year aging is the answer. You will also keep more players in the program and help your eventual numbers for 11-aside. This will not totally eliminate the problem of dealing with the advanced player who dominates his or her team and those around him but fewer players on the team means more chances for the other players to touch the ball and to play. An organization may chose to move the advanced player up in age group if his physical and mental readiness allows it. There is nothing wrong with players, ‘playing up’ as long as they are ready for it. Extreme caution should be used whenever considering this option as some parents can too often push their children too far too soon.