Soccer’s golden age coming out of hiding

Manuel Borba did some homework on soccer players aged eight to 12 and made a discovery.

Manuel Borba did some homework on soccer players aged eight to 12 and made a discovery.

Kids in that age group are missing out on key development years as some communities in North America only have high-level programs for kids aged 11 and 12.

“All the research that is coming out of Europe and B.C. Soccer put out last year is that the golden age to learn skill development is 9 to 12-years-old for boys and eight to 11 for girls,” he said during a recent interview. “I started a program for nine-year-olds and train them properly.”

Under Borba, the players do repetitions of passing, ball control, trapping and shooting, known as deliver training.

While at a tournament in Wenatchee, Wash., Borba spoke with soccer people there and learned that they don’t have programs for that age group either. The South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association is guilty of it as well as their gold program doesn’t begin until kids are 11, and it’s age 12 for district teams.

“It’s a standard thing across Canada,” he said. “When the golden age is 9 to 12, and we’re starting gold programs at 11, you have actually lost the first two years of that window.”

Lester Patrick, whose son Matthew plays on the team, said it’s an outstanding program for the kids.

“It gives them the chance to learn, develop and put into practice fundamental soccer skills at a young age,” said Patrick. “In addition, the program allows them to play in tournaments against children older and more experienced than them. This is terrific for their self-confidence and it motivates them to work harder and improve their game.”

During the Peach Classic soccer tournament Aug. 12 to 14, the Pinnacles lost by large scores, but they had two close games against Surrey. Borba talked about an intimidation factor his players felt, but once they began playing it vanished. Prior to kickoff against Surrey, Borba gathered his troops and had to make sure his players were clear they were playing a strong opponent, one which possessed a height and strength advantage. Borba’s group, wearing grey jerseys with Winners sponsor on the front, were convinced they could win. They were ready to attack.

While the Pinnacles spent most of the opening half in their zone, they managed to hold their own and earned a 2-2 draw.

Joe Afonso, whose son Austin is on the team, feels Borba has done wonders with the players.

“One of the most important things is the kids do respect him,” said Afonso. “That’s hard as a coach so I think he has done a wonderful job that way. He’s got a lot of experience throughout the years as well. He can pass it on to all those kids.”

Every once in a while Borba has to tell his players to stay focused. Being kids, the attention can be drawn away by the smallest thing. What Borba does well is explain things to his players without losing composure. When Borba sees fit, he gives his direction in regards to what his players should do with the ball.

The main thing with Borba that is impressive is that he doesn’t get down about results. In speaking to him, I never heard him say that it was important to win one of their matches during the Peach Classic. His focus is strictly on his players learning how to play the game smart and having fun.

“I thought technically some of our players were even better than some of these older players and I’m only working with them for four months,” said Borba. “At this age those four months, they just improve by leaps and bounds. It’s unbelievable.”

Emanuel Sequeira is the sports editor of the Penticton Western News.