Fun Football

Mini Football (U9-U12)

In light of the directive from Waibop Football, based on recommendations from New Zealand Football, to move away from formal trials for Mini Football (U9-U12), we have taken the opportunity to review how we approach team selection for Mini Football teams for the 2023 season.

After registering a child at U9-U12, you will be given the opportunity to indicate which challenge point the child would benefit most from. Specifically, you will be asked to indicate if the child would prefer to be considered for a more development-focused team, a more social-focused team or a team that is somewhere in between.

The time and commitment required will generally increase as children move from social-focused teams to more development-focused teams, with development-focused teams likely having additional trainings as well as more opportunities to participate in tournaments (in addition to the regular Saturday games).

At U11-U12 (children born in 2011/2012), committing to a more development-focused team also includes committing to the Waibop Leagues, with games played across the wider region on Saturday mornings. All teams at U9/U10 (children born in 2013/2014) will play in a local league

Children registering for Mini Football can indicate names for possible team-mate preferences (noting that these preferences will not be part of the consideration when forming teams that are more development-focused).

Those who want the opportunity to be part of a more development-focused team will be invited to participate in an assessment process as part of the club’s junior pre-season programme.

More information about the assessment process and how we propose to implement it is set out below.

Team and squad formation for development-focused teams in Mini Football (U9-U12)

For each grade in Mini Football (U9-U12), the club’s Director of Football and Junior and Youth Development Officers will put together a group of RH3 coaches (independent of the grade) who will help organise the children into an appropriate training and playing environment for development-focused teams. These coaches will attend sessions during a defined pre-season period to observe the children train and play and this will inform the environment they are placed in for the season ahead.

The final make-up of development-focused teams in Mini Football will be based on how the child performs during the pre-season period, their playing history and their willingness to commit to a more development-focused environment. Selections for the remaining teams in Mini Football, teams in Fun Football and teams in First Kicks will be made by the grade manager (and will take stated preferences into account).

The group of coaches for each grade will develop a report for each player who has indicated an interest in being part of a development-focused team. This short report which will include a summary of their performance in pre-season, a recommendation for team placement for the 2023 season, and areas to focus on for development.

While the number of teams at each challenge point will depend on the level of interest and ability in any grade, the club generally expects to field two development-focused teams within each Mini Football grade. At each grade, these development-focused teams will be encouraged to work closely within a squad environment with scope for children to move between the teams within the squad over time.

Children who are on the fringes of those development-focused teams (or who can’t commit fully to a development-focused team) will be offered the opportunity to be part of a team that is ‘somewhere in between’ development-focused and social-focused. These teams will play in Waibop Region 

Regardless of whether a child is placed in a more development-focused team, a more social-focused team or a team that is somewhere in between, our expectation as a club is that all RH3 junior coaches look to strike a balance between developing player’s skills and creating a positive, inclusive team environment.

Implementing the new assessment model in 2023

While we are committed to implementing the recommendations which New Zealand Football have made (and Waibop has endorsed), we also need to ensure that the transition from the previous way of grading to the new assessment model is managed in a way that ensures it is successful in year one and beyond. The most significant challenge from the new assessment model will be the significant additional amount of time required of the coaches involved.

As a result, we plan to introduce a ‘sunset period’ whereby the incoming U11/U12s will continue to grade under a model more akin to what has been used in previous seasons. The rationale is that these players have already been through the existing grading process 2-3 times and so are well used to the approach. This familiarity with the grading process will also ensure these players are well placed when it comes to the transition to U13/the Talent Development Programme when they reach that point.

Players entering U9-U10 grade in 2023 will be subject to the new assessment approach from 2023 and this new model will be ‘rolled-up’ with those grades as they progress into the 2024 season.

The key benefit from the club’s perspective is that this ‘mixed-model’ approach will help to manage the time and effort required from the coaches involved, and provide us with the best chance to implement the new assessment process effectively, learn from this pre-season and set ourselves up well for future pre-seasons.

2023 preseason programme

The club will host junior preseason training sessions for our Mini Football players (U9-U12) from early March.

These sessions, which will be developed and designed by the club’s Director of Football and Junior and Youth Development Officers, will be held at Maidstone Turf and will include a mixture of skills sessions, small-sided games and larger-field games.

The sessions are open to all of those from U9-U12 who are registered/registering for the upcoming season – regardless of whether they wish to play in a more development-focused team or a more social-focused team.

More details on the specific dates and times will be published on the club website in mid-February and shared by grade managers with those who are registered or who have played in that grade previously.

The club will run also shorter pre-season window for children in Fun Football (U7-U8) and First Kicks to support a positive transition back into winter football. 


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