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Coaches Blog

Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.

 

Passback Tour

Sam Snow

This past Saturday I had the pleasure to work at a U.S. Soccer Foundation Passback clinic in Dallas. Here's some background on the program in case you are not familiar with it.
The U.S. Soccer Foundation's Passback Tour, brought to you by Nestle Pure Life, features a series of free soccer clinics for youth in underserved communities.

The Passback Tour provides:
-Soccer clinics that emphasize the importance of healthy lifestyles
-Interactive health-hydration booths for families of youth participating in the soccer clinics
-Connections for families with local soccer programs that will help children achieve the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily

Through the Foundation's Passback Program, new and gently used soccer gear is collected by organizations, teams, clubs and individuals, then redistributed across the globe to help underserved communities play the Beautiful Game. Soccer is a unifying force that brings together people of all ethnicities and has the power to open doors, hearts, and minds of those who play.

Since its inception, the Passback Program has collected and distributed over 750,000 pieces of soccer gear. However, there is always more that can be done. We hope that you can help us reach our ultimate goal of collecting and distributing 1 million pieces of equipment.

The dedication to the Passback Tour has allowed us to enrich lives through soccer and provide desperately needed equipment to hundreds of people who don't have the means to get equipment on their own. We truly appreciate all of our "Passback Stars" hard work and dedication to the Program. Find out how you can jump on board to this unique opportunity that allows people to reach out and connect to their community. Share the Equipment, Share the Game!

Dr. John Thomas spearheaded the event along with the help of David Edwards, Health Educator for the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute – An Affiliate of Baylor Health Care System and Brian Gonzales, Founder & President of Good Football, a Sport & Development Group, www.goodfootball.org. The clinic was held at the facilities of the Diabetes Health and Wellness Institute. Many thanks go to their staff for making the facility available for free, as well as having several of their staff members assist with registration and service to the attendees.

The boys and girls who attended the clinic ranged in age from 5 to 12 years old. Some had played the game before and some were new to soccer. We laid out 10 grids and then split up the kids by ages with appropriate age groups in each grid. The clinic was conducted in two 1 hour sessions. At the first session, while it was still below 100 degrees, we had 125 kids attend. At the second session, as the temperature rose to 100+ degrees (that it has been in Dallas all summer long), we had 80 kids out playing the game. Helping Dr. Thomas and me with the coaching was Tom, a North Texas State Staff Coach and quite a few North Texas State Soccer ODP players. 

The ODP players were paired up and each pair was given a grid to run training activities and small-sided games with the kids. It was fun watching the ODP players, who are quite accustomed to being on the other side of the ball as players, in a training session now taking on the coaching role. After they got their balance in their new role, several of them did quite well. I can tell you that there are a few future coaches among them

Dr. Thomas and I ran the ODP players through how to conduct the training activities before the kids arrived. A few of the ODP players worked both sessions and thus committed themselves to a three hour stint at coaching youngsters in 90+ degree heat. In fact, it got hot enough during the day that 10 balls popped. I can honestly say that I had not seen that happen before – soccer ball spontaneous combustion!

Outstanding training activities were provided by Vince Ganzberg from his Human Development program for Indiana Soccer which has the goal of "Raising the Bar for Indiana's Youth through Soccer." If you would like to have a copy of the booklet with the activities we conducted and more, just contact the Indiana Soccer office or me and a copy of the booklet will be E-mailed to you.

Thanks go out to Charles Dickson for the photos of the North Texas State Soccer ODP players coaching the kids during the two sessions. Impressively, another 900 pictures were taken of the kids. https://picasaweb.google.com/108080080971659636875/ODPVolunteers?authkey=Gv1sRgCIOMyq_knJXxogE The US Youth Soccer marketing department also, provided premium give-away items for both Youth Soccer Month and Soccer Across America.

If you ever have the chance to be involved in a Passback clinic or any Soccer Across America event, I urge you to do so!
 

Raising Funds

Susan Boyd

Every non-profit has been feeling the pinch in this economy. Trying to just break even gets trickier, so groups depend heavily on fundraisers to supplement fees. This past summer I have had neighborhood kids at my door selling something for their team, church, and/or school. I've bought frozen cookie dough, geraniums, smell-n-write pencils, wrapping paper, chocolates, cookies, and seeds, none of which I need. But I'll buy because my own children were once out there trying to raise money for their soccer team, and I was grateful for neighbors, friends, and family who bought what they didn't need. 
 
Most fund raisers require the kids to go door to door, collect orders, return weeks later to deliver the orders, and collect the money. The items are usually overpriced with a huge amount of the money collected going to the manufacturer. But I've also found some good fundraisers meaning they fulfill three important criteria. First, whatever is being traded for money gives something of useful value or fun to the purchaser. Second, the non-profit gets 90 – 100% from what they sell. Third, the fundraising requires minimal/easy effort on the part of the non-profit. I really like the type of product that can be distributed immediately upon payment. Even better, I like the type of fundraiser that doesn't require any product. So here are my suggestions in no particular order.
 
1.      Concession Stand – Professional and college sports venues offer non-profit organizations the opportunity to man the concession stands taking home a percentage of the stand's proceeds. You have to get on their lists and usually only adults can work since many of the stands serve alcohol. But if your club does a great job and shows up consistently with responsible workers then the club can count on several regular working dates.
-        Pros – minimal investment by your organization other than gathering workers and putting in a strong effort when on duty.
-        Cons – could be difficult to get enough dates and usually only adults can work.
 
2.     Gift Wrapping – During the holidays many malls, department stores, bookstores, and boutiques offer free gift wrapping for their patrons. They contract with non-profit organizations to provide the actual gift wrapping and allow them to solicit donations for the service.
-        Pros – no investment by your organizations other than perhaps printing flyers to encourage people to shop and wrap when you're on duty.
-        Cons – seasonal work and you have to arrange your dates well in advance.
 
3.      Penny (coin) collection – Select a day for your volunteers to set up tables outside of various locations such as groceries, big box stores, and malls. Have large containers available for people to drop in pennies. Anyone making a paper bill donation could receive some inexpensive item such as a lollipop, penny candy, or sticker. Advertise that your organization will be collecting pennies ahead of time so that hopefully people who have penny stashes at home will bring them to drop off.
-        Pros – minimal cost for the organization for flyers and penny candy.
-        Cons – need some good coordination with stores so that you can have permission for multiple sites. This is a hit or miss fundraising event. If you advertise the week before and have flyers up at the participating stores you could collect hundreds of dollars.
 
4.     Discount card – This you coordinate with a service which provides the cards. They will canvas local businesses, get them to agree to discounts and freebies, and print off the cards. They will usually give a discount to your organization for upfront payment for the cards or they will accept payment later at a higher rate. Overall the cost is usually reasonable, and most aggressive organizations can sell enough cards to keep the cost in the 10% of profit range. 
-        Pros – you can give your contributors their card immediately and profits can be fairly high. A strong seller since the product is like a credit card, it fits in people's wallets, and the discounts last for a year.
-        Cons – there is a cost risk and you do have to do door-to-door sales.
 
5.      50/50 Raffle – This is an easy to sell fundraiser that you can do at tournaments, games, or along with another fundraiser such as a car wash or bake sale. All you need is a roll or rolls of raffle tickets which you can buy at most office supply stores. Sell the tickets for a set price such as one for 50 cents, three for a dollar, or an arm's length for five dollars. Your organization keeps 50% of the money and awards 50% to the raffle winner. Occasionally the winner will donate his or her winnings back to your organization.
-        Pros – a quick, easy way to make some money.
-        Cons – not a huge fundraiser, but if you do it several times during a season could be a big winner for your club.
 
6.      Windshield Wash – Here's an easy variation on the car wash. Arrange with a fast food restaurant in your area to set up a windshield wash service during a busy time at the restaurant drive-through line. Have a group of volunteers stand at the beginning of the drive-through and offer to wash the customer's windshields for free, giving them the option of making a donation. Then mark the cars that want their windshields washed with a post-a-note and have several crews working to wash them after they order their food and before they pay for their food. You can have two washers per vehicle, one on each side, working quickly to wet down, squeegee, and dry off the windshields. Crews should practice before coming on line so they can work efficiently and not slow down the drive through.  
-        Pros – less difficult and time-consuming than a full car wash, minimal expense, and you don't have to coax anyone off the street to agree to your service.
-        Cons – could end up with everyone accepting the service and not making a donation.
 
7.      Dollar Dive – Set up a table outside of businesses which have constant foot traffic. For a dollar donation, people can "dive" into a fish bowl and select a ticket or ping-pong ball whose number relates directly to prizes. Most prizes will be penny candy, but some will be money ($1, $5, $10, and grand prize $20), and perhaps things related to your club (t-shirts, scarves, etc.). Check for any local ordinances which prevent you from offering money as a prize. In a variation you could have a box filled with small prizes that you can buy at a party supply store and let kids "dive" in the box to get a prize.
-        Pros – minimal cost for the tickets and prizes. You could even ask people who can't work the tables to donate $10 to purchases the prizes. You can have dozens of tables set up at multiple locations on a single day, improving your fundraising possibility.
-        Cons – need to coordinate with the businesses to set up your tables outside of their doors and you will need to do some preparation work to create your prize number sheet. Need a number of volunteers.
 
Each of these fundraising ideas can be combined with one another or with a tournament you are holding to add extra money. Other than the gift-wrapping, these fundraising opportunities can be done any time of the year in just about any circumstance. With some creativity, you can probably tweak these ideas to make them work even better for your group. Most of these fundraisers will produce in the hundreds of dollars, and since they don't rely on Uncle Charlie needing more magazines, you can do them multiple times with the same clientele. In fact, some of these might actually get people excited about donating and looking forward to being separated from their money, since these possibilities are fun and painless.
 

Those Who Can't Do Teach

Susan Boyd

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to watch a soccer game through the eyes of a novice viewer. Over the years, most of us have had this experience as we indoctrinate grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, friends and any other person willing to share a weekend game or two with us. Soccer takes on a whole new meaning when explaining "off side" or "penalty kick" to the uninitiated. The boys have played long enough that we've managed to introduce nearly everyone we know and love to the game. Most of our family and friends knew that eventually they would have to participate in a sideline visit no matter how much their preconceived notions about soccer warned them away. Eventually, as the boys traveled more, the soccer came to their town so that they could no longer politely refuse to come to watch. I admit I behaved something like an itinerant preacher for soccer, praising the sport with a zeal they couldn't refuse. I managed a few converts over the years, but I didn't win them all. Nevertheless, I loved the thrill of giving someone the informational tools to begin to enjoy the sport.
 
So imagine my delight a few weeks ago when the bus driver who brought our team to Huntsville, Ala. for a tournament sat down next to me and said, "This is my first soccer game." Now I had double the reason to enjoy the game: I could watch my sons play while opening the door to the world of soccer for my new student. I quickly established our starting point. She had children, but they had never played. She truly had never seen a soccer game, not even snippets of the World Cup. She had heard of Pele, but no one else. She knew players couldn't use their hands except for the goal keeper, and she knew they tried to score in the opponent's net. She didn't know how many players were on the field, nothing about their positions or responsibilities (except for the goal keeper), and she didn't know how long a game ran. This was going to be fun!
           
I need to stop for a moment in my story to point out two very significant benefits of teaching someone about the game. First, you need to really understand the rules and the nuances of soccer in order to explain them to someone else. I thank youth soccer for providing me with a strong base upon which to build my knowledge. Although I had lived in Europe and had been initially introduced to soccer in my teens, I didn't really care much about rules until my own children started playing. I was blind to the intricacies of soccer until I had the chance to slowly develop an understanding by watching youth games. Just as my kids grew up learning soccer, so did I. Second, you get the opportunity to invest yourself in the game beyond hassling the referees or pushing your child. Taking the time to see the game through the eyes of a neophyte affords you the chance to step back from deep involvement in the game and re-experience your own first introduction to soccer.
 
With an apprentice sitting next to me anxious to absorb all my nuggets of wisdom, the ball skittered over the goal line and the keeper set up for a goal kick. "Why's he doing that?" So I got to explain the two actions that can happen depending on which team sends it over the end line. She caught on pretty quick to the difference between a goal kick and a corner kick. Throw-ins were a cinch. Fouls were trickier because, well because they are occasionally subjective and therefore obviously wrong, so explaining them required some restraint not to editorialize. I left that to my fellow fans. I did get to explain about cards when she couldn't understand why some fouls were just fouls and some were carded. Again, I did my best to explain why one offense was treated more egregiously than others. Some were easier, especially when they were called against our opponents. When a player received a red card, she wondered why his foul was worse than any other foul. Since the card was given to one of our players, I actually had the same question. But I had to find the reason and make it plausible. "Our player took down the opposing player from behind without going for the ball. That was considered dangerous play and in the eyes of the referee warranted a red card. It was also an attempt to prevent the player from scoring a goal which is considered a tactical foul. Thank goodness it happened outside the box." I had to explain then about fouls in the box and PKs which was actually a good teachable moment and took my mind off of being upset about the red card.
 
Suddenly an opposing player went down while we were making a run to the goal. He crumpled, rolling on the field in agony, yet play continued. My student rose to her feet in deep concern and wondered aloud why no one was doing anything. I had to explain the tactic of injury. I assured her that the player was just fine, and collapsed in the hopes of slowing down or stopping our team's rush to the goal. Sure enough, when this fallen comrade was completely ignored, he leapt to his feet and rejoined his team's defense. Welcome to soccer! "How does the referee know when an injury is real or fake?" I felt like Master Po with my "Grasshopper" or Yoda with Luke Skywalker ("much to learn you still have. . . .") "Years of experience,"" I responded. The words were barely out of my lips when Robbie went down, and I jumped up. "What happened?" I had forgotten to add that mothers also know when it's real or fake. Robbie's injury let me explain the substitution rule because he went out and no one came in for him. "If they sub for him then he is out for the rest of the game. So they are going to see if he can come back in." She looked confused, "But if he's injured, then wouldn't an uninjured player be better?" That did sound reasonable. How to explain without sounding vain about my child? I opted for the "it's early in the game and the coach doesn't want to start subbing too soon." I don't think she bought it since again having nine players on the field while waiting for a possibly injured player to step back in didn't seem logical. She was learning, as we all have, that soccer often defies logical explanation.
 
My pupil also noticed in the waning minutes of the game that our team seemed to have more players up top. So I got to explain about 4-4-2, 3-4-3, and other formations that coaches choose. We had been using a 4-5-1 formation, so when we went to 3-4-3 the bus driver noticed the difference. And for once my reasoning seemed logical. We were behind and needed to score, so we put in three forwards and four midfielders to push for some goals. We lost the game, but the driver announced that she'd had a good time. So had I.
 
Parents should take every opportunity to educate themselves about soccer, which includes helping one another out. If your child stays with the game, you'll need to be able to keep up with the complexity that grows at each level. Roughness of play increases, so we have to temper our upset when our little ones get knocked down. Defenses improve, so we have to accept that we won't be seeing those long runs down the field by our darling player. Speed of play increases, so we have to adjust how we watch play unfold. The field gets larger, the goals do too, the substitutions get tighter, the travel increases, things are always in flux, and so we have to get smarter and adjust. Youth soccer gives us the opportunity to all be neophytes and to all become experts. While I would never discount the joy of watching our children play, I also would encourage parents to talk to one another in order to learn the game. The more I understand the more I love the sport. I partially exercise that enthusiasm by sharing what I know with others and engaging in conversation about the game whenever I can. I'm certain my sons would cringe hearing some of what comes out of my mouth, but I'm also certain they'd be pleasantly impressed with how much their mom knows. I can't coach the game, I certainly can't play the game, but I can engage a fellow traveler so we can educate one another about our journeys.  How else do you get those insights that make the trip special?
 

Goalkeeping begins at U-10

Sam Snow

I had the following interaction with a coach in Florida not long ago:
 
Sam, can you send me some good articles or a comment on why we should play without goalies at U-8? I am trying to influence a club to change to this format.
 
The U-8 age group is still in an egocentric phase of psychological development, which tells us that we should allow these children to run and chase the ball, to be in the game – not waiting at the end of the field for the game to come to them. It is more important at this age that they chase the game. Children this age want to play with the toy (the ball) and they need to go to where the toy is to be fully engaged.
 
Consider also this passage from the Ajax youth development plan: "It is typical for the 8 to 10 age group that each child plays for himself rather than combining with the others. In addition, children move towards the ball and not away from it, and are inclined to play the ball forward and not to the side or backwards."
 
Emotionally, a 7 year old cannot make the distinction between himself the goalkeeper and himself the child. So when a goal is scored, and all of the adults groan out loud, he blames himself for the goal being scored. It's no wonder then that they begin to shy away from playing in goal.
 
Please remember that visual tracking acuity is not fully developed until around age 10. This visual ability impacts a person's capacity to track a moving object over a long distance or when in the air. This is one of the physiological reasons we wait until the U-10 age group to introduce the position of goalkeeper.
 
In conclusion, here is a pertinent section from the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model:
 
Why no keeper until U-10?
 
Here is the Position Statement of the 55 State Association technical directors on the position of goalkeeper:
 
"We believe goalkeepers should not be a feature of play at the U-6 and U-8 age groups. All players in these age groups should be allowed to run around the field and chase the toy – the ball. For teams in the U-10 and older age groups, goalkeepers should become a regular feature of play. However, young players in the U-10, U-12 and U-14 age groups should not begin to specialize in any position at this time in their development."
 
The analysis of most soccer experts is that small-sided games for young children are most beneficial for learning basic motor skills, basic rules and the fundamental concepts of the game. They also learn how to interact with their peers within a game involving a ball. What is not supported is the use of goalkeepers in this format. Children want to run, kick the ball and score goals. Every child should experience the triumph and success of scoring a goal. They don't do well when told to stand in one place. If the action is at the other end of the field, a young goalkeeper will find some other activity to hold his or her attention.
 
Young children have great difficulty visually tracking moving objects, especially if they are in the air. Most children younger than 10 are very reactionary in their movement behavior and will duck or throw hands in front of the face if the ball comes toward the head. Anticipating where the ball might be played is a skill that has not yet developed and that does not really develop until age 9 or 10. Prior to age 9, visual tracking acuity is not fully developed. Players have difficulty accurately tracking long kicks or the ball above the ground. Beginning at approximately age 10, one's visual tracking acuity achieves an adult pattern.
 
Striking the ball at a small target accurately is a challenge for all children. Goalkeepers restrict the opportunities to score goals to a select few players. Young children stuck in goal will not develop goalkeeping skills and are more likely to get hit with the ball than actually save it.
 
It is important to wait until children are better able--physically, mentally and emotionally--to handle the demands of being a goalkeeper. There are no goalkeepers in the 3v3 and 4v4 format through age 8; goalkeeping is then introduced in the 6v6 format beginning at age 9. This still allows plenty of time for children to grow up and be the best goalkeepers they can be. Thus most likely keeping them engaged in playing soccer for many years to come. Once players take on the goalkeeper role, they tend to grow in the position through three general stages. Those stages are shot blocker, shot stopper and finally goalkeeper.
 
The shot blocker stage is one where the goalkeeper simply reacts to shots after they have been taken. He or she tries to get into position to make saves and this is sometimes merely blocking a shot and not making a clean catch. The attacking role of the shot blocker is usually just a punt of the ball downfield.
 
At the shot stopper stage, a player has progressed to not only making saves after a shot is taken but also being able to anticipate shots. With this improved ability to read the game, the shot stopper gets intobetter positions to make saves and begins to stop shots from being taken in the first place. The shot stopper now comes out on through balls and collects them before a shot is taken. The shot stopper also cuts out crosses before opponents can get to the ball. The shot stopper comes out in one-on-one situations and takes the ball off the attacker's feet. The shot stopper can deal with the ball both before and after a shot is made. Distribution with some tactical thought on the attack is also developing for the shot stopper.
 
The goalkeeper stage is the complete package. The goalkeeper is highly athletic and physically fit. The goalkeeper is mentally tough, composed and confident. The goalkeeper has the full set of skills for the role to both win the ball (defending techniques) and to distribute the ball (attacking techniques). A full-fledged goalkeeper is indeed the last line of defense and the first line of attack. A goalkeeper not only makes saves but contributes to the attack with tactical and skillful distribution of the ball. The goalkeeper is physically and verbally connected to the rest of the team no matter where the ball is on the field. A first-rate goalkeeper is mentally involved in the entire match and is therefore physically ready when the time comes to perform.
 
Thank you, I believe we have success. This one is for the kids. I am here to tell you all the tact and education in the world, won't keep some from wanting to hang me high. I informed them of the rule. I suggested they should change. I thought a compromise could help lead them in the right direction, at least.I included our rules committee chair into the matter. I forwarded her response, because the board wantedto know if it was mandatory. While I was awaiting her response I sent Sam's response along. I also included my District Commissioner in the matter. I had her full support. Ultimately this was the board's decision. Tonight the registrar told me she's making two more teams and moving to this format. The one argument I heard was this was a progressive club and they wanted to be able to train goalies in prep for U-10 competition. They may hate me but, the kids win. All is good.
 
 
The logic that one needs to have the U-8 age group play goalkeeper in order to be prepared for the introduction of the position at U-10 is flawed. By the same unfounded logic, we should have 14-year-olds drive cars in preparation for when they are actually allowed to do so at age 16. If we allow this encroachment mentality to take hold, rather than showing adult patience and long-term development perspective, then the club would soon have keepers at U-6 in preparation for U-8 which they mean to actually be in preparation for when the position is introduced at U-10. Furthermore it tells me that the adults involved underestimate the children's ability to learn the new skills and concepts of play when they move into the U10 age group. Why does the club lack faith in its own players?
 
This is a classic slippery slope. The approach is also indicative of a mindset of children's soccer being a spectator sport for the adults; which it is not! Youth soccer is for the players, not the spectators. If the spectators want the thrill of a sporting spectacle then go watch a MLS, WPS or college match.