Don t) Use Your Head: Is U.S. Soccer s Youth Restriction The Right

Japan Youth Football Training Equipment

Young Japanese soccer player

Japanese Youth Soccer – How they differ from US

Why does Brazil always play soccer like Brazil? Why are the Brazilians always good at dribbling the ball? Why is Barcelona so good with ball possession? Why do national soccer teams tend to have their own “style” of soccer? The environment in which kids grow up playing soccer and the culture of coaching are two keys to determining the playing style of every nation. The Japanese youth soccer system is a great example of how environment & coaching influence playing style.

When compared to the US, Japan has a very unique environment for children playing soccer, and also a very different approach to coaching. These differences in environments and coaching method make the playing style of Japan unique and distinct from that of the US.

Background of youth soccer in Japan

Japanese players raking a soccer fieldYouth soccer in Japan has been steadily increasing in popularity since the beginning of J-league (the professional soccer league in Japan), which was started 20 years ago. Academics in Japan are given very high priority over everything else, so after elementary school, kids who love to play soccer face a dilemma between pursuing a higher level of soccer or focusing more on school. In Japan, your academic history is the most important factor when acquiring a job, so parents tend to be stricter on their kids with their education. A lot of kids stop playing soccer after middle school, simply because they can’t fit it in to their regular school and night school schedules.

For those few children who make soccer a priority, they often make the same commitment to their development as they do to academics. That isn’t to say that they disregard academics at all. That’s far from the contrary. Education is still VERY important in Japanese culture. It just means that parents and players will make room in their schedules. It is normal for Japanese youth soccer players to practice early in the morning every day as a team before school starts, and then practice after school.

Japanese Playing & Coaching

Although it has started to change recently, Japanese kids generally grow up playing soccer on dirt fields, rather than grass fields. This is because of a lack of investment in facilities and the difficulty to maintain grass fields due to the weather.

Playing soccer on dirt fields has two very different influences on the Japanese kids. First, playing soccer on the dirt makes it difficult to control the ball, because the ball never stops rolling and makes unpredictable bounces. This has both a positive and negative effect. For example: As a result of this irregular surface, players tend to become more skilled at controlling the ball. Conversely however, players choose to dribble less often, because when they dribble, it is harder to keep the ball under control.