11v11 (U13 upwards)

Written by Ian Knapp & Kevin Corbett


When your team reaches U13, they move to "proper" 11 a side football. The first time you see your 12 year old goalkeeper standing in a full size goal, the idea of playing matches on pitches almost as big as those professional footballers play on seems totally absurd. However, everyone finds their feet fairly quickly, with the 2 years of playing 9 a side football standing the players in good stead for the move to 11 a side.

There actually aren't any major changes in terms of rules from 9 a side to 11 a side football. You still play with a size 4 ball at U13 (and U14 for that matter). Rolling subs are still allowed. The change to competitive football happened at U12, so no change on that front.

The main differences are:

  • the size of the goals (you move up from 16ft x 7ft at 9 a side to a whopping 21ft x 7ft minimum at 11 a side, with some teams using full sized adult goals of 24ft x 8ft).
  • the size of the pitch (some clubs are lucky enough to have space to have a "junior" 11 a side pitch slightly smaller than a full sized pitch, but  many teams will play on a full size adult pitch or not far off)
  • the length of matches goes from 60 minutes up to 70 minutes at U13 (2 x 35 minute halves). This increases as you move through the age groups until you play a full 90 minutes at U17 / U18.

Squad Size:

The "ideal" squad size largely depends on how committed and reliable your players are. I would say a squad of between 15 and 18 players is ideal, depending on those factors.

3 subs at a game is probably ideal. 4 is just about manageable. Anything more and you're chopping and changing so much that you majorly affect the flow of the game and your team's chances.

Remember that you can dual-register players from the club who play in other leagues. This is a great way of providing cover for situations where you're really short whilst not having an overly large squad of players who are all expecting to play every week.

Kent Youth League:

One of the big changes moving into the U13 age group is the introduction of Kent Youth League (KYL) football.

The KYL is the highest standard of grassroots football in Kent and the majority of the best players from Kent-based clubs (and in fact some non-Kent clubs) will end up playing in this league.

This tends to mean that the other local leagues (Crowborough, Tandridge) become significantly weaker at the start of the U13 season, with the best teams moving en-masse to the KYL or many of their best players moving to play for a KYL team. Not every club has KYL status and only one team per club is permitted to play KYL football per age group.

11 a Side Tactics / Formations:

11 a side formations (see some ideas, with diagrams, here) could be discussed all day and of course could depend on opposition, which players you have available, conditions etc. Not really something anyone can give you specific advice on without knowing you and your players... the main thing I would say is try to come up with a consistent way of playing and give clarity to your players around what's expected of them in different situations / phases of play. With the ball, without the ball, in transition, set pieces etc... do your players have a clear idea of what their individual and collective jobs are?


Growing / Physical Changes

The height difference (and muscular difference) between players can be huge during the years you're coaching 11 a side youth football (U13 - U18). You will turn up to face teams with players who have the physique of grown adults, whilst others still look like 10 year olds. Bear this in mind. Try not to get sucked down the "big is best" route - some very small, but skilful and tenacious players have been incredibly successful footballers. Smaller players who were on a par with everyone else size-wise a couple of years earlier may struggle, but with the right coaching can learn to adapt and will develop other skills to compete with the bigger players. And they may well have a growth spurt at some point and catch up. Players who were the biggest and used to dominating, who then find others catch them up, may struggle with confidence. These things are enormously important.

One Final Thing...

You'll need a ladder to put the nets on the goals!