Check out the weekly blogs

Coaches Connection - Get Connected!

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

Clubhouse Sweepstakes

US Youth Soccer Twitter

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

RS Banner

Happy Family

Print Page Share

Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

Snack time

Susan Boyd

Happy soccer gremlins will soon be clamoring for those after practice and after game snacks that parents agree to supply. Snacks once consisted of a bag of orange quarters and a jug of water.   I don't know about any of you, but I'm the mom who realizes on the way to practice that she signed up for snacks that day. I really think that's why oranges and water became so popular. I, and others like me, could leave the engine running in the grocery parking lot, grab the bag of Clementines and the gallon of water, and be back on the way to the fields before the boys had finished tying their cleats. But slowly the tide turned and oranges and water simply screamed, "This woman doesn't plan ahead."

Here's the deal. Snacks need to be nutritional, cost effective, delicious, and avoid common childhood allergies like nuts. Oranges and water fit those criteria, but they didn't fit the final and possibly most important criterion – snacks need to have a "wow" factor. Somewhere along the line responsible, thoughtful, prepared moms and dads started baking muffins, packing Gogurts in coolers, distributing full granola bars, providing individual boxes of natural cereal, and otherwise making snack time into a Top Chef competition. My bag of oranges opened on the hood of my car being sliced with a 1" pocket knife attached to my nail clippers didn't fit into the epicurean banquet other parents provided.

Navigating this snack track can be tricky for those of us who don't visit the gourmet snack aisle and who have to use the circuit breaker to turn our ovens on and off. I would bake. I really would.  But every time I turn the oven on the timer beeper screeches continually. So obviously I can't leave the oven on for the length of time it takes to heat up and then to bake. Our dogs can't take the high-pitched agony. So I moved from oranges to fruit snacks and from water to juice boxes. They aren't fancy, but at least they have their own packaging, which seems to be a part of the current snack requirements.

The only advice I can give any new soccer parent is let your own kids guide you. I'm amazed at how acutely even four and five year old kids have their fingers on the pulse of coolness. While I thought animal cracker boxes would be an ideal snack, my boys nixed that misconception. "What? Do you think we're three?" I have learned that the more bizarre the snack, the better, especially for boys. In other words regular fruit roll ups won't cut it, but fluorescent green alien roll ups pass the test. Square juice boxes send out nerd vibes, but wax bottles or foil packs get the thumbs up. Grapes seem to muster approval, as do bananas on occasion. I do get confused as to when bananas are an appropriate offering. I've been known to bring home bunches of bananas only to be told, "You can't bring those to practice!" When I ask why not I merely get the eye roll that says, "You'll never understand."   It appears to be a generational thing. 

I once brought a box of popcorn balls to an indoor tournament which got lots of positive feedback except from the mother who was a dentist. Undeterred I have gone the popcorn ball route a few other times. I don't make the popcorn balls. That would require far too much planning and creating. But I was fortunate enough to get in on a "20 popcorn balls for $5" special at my grocery store right after Halloween. I have learned that popcorn balls never expire. In the future we are guaranteed that cockroaches, Twinkies, and popcorn balls will survive, although only one can be considered an appropriate soccer snack.
 

Transition

Sam Snow

For your reading this week is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released Player Development Model from US Youth Soccer.
 
Transition is the most important moment in soccer; the moment in the match when individual players switch their player role in the game from defense to attack or attack to defense. Transition is acquired first by an individual player, then a group of players and then the team.
 
This moment of transition occurs first as mental recognition of the situation and then a decision that initiates physical action. The faster the recognition-decision-action connection is made the more impactful will be a player's performance. Only once individual players are quickly making the transition from one phase of play to the next, will it be possible for a team to execute quick and skillful transition from defense to attack or vice versa.
 
If transition does not happen fast enough for a player or team then they are always a step or two behind the action. The speed of a player's transition is based on their tactical awareness. Tactical awareness is being mindful of where you are on the field, as well as the location of the ball, your teammates and opponents. It's the ability to read the game – to anticipate what will happen next and not merely reacting to what just happened. In some soccer circles this tactical awareness is called insight. In American soccer, we refer to this level of mental focus and tactical awareness as being soccer savvy.
 
Your players have no chance of becoming soccer savvy players if they are simply cogs in the team wheel. Players who are over-coached in matches become robotic in their performance and cannot make tactical decisions fast enough. Slow decision making leads to reaction players instead of anticipation players. The over-coaching comes from not only coaches, but spectators too. They constantly yell out to the players what to do and when to do it. This further hinders a player's decision making, as spectators are typically a step behind the action – the pace of the game is quicker than their words conveyed. This environment of coaches and parents making soccer decisions for the players during a match has lead to an American soccer weakness in transition. Too many of our players are not tactically aware, thereby being slow in transition. To become an anticipation player who is quick in transition requires a healthy soccer environment in which to grow. That environment requires less coaching during matches and better coaching during training sessions. That training environment should lead to self-reliant players who think and communicate for themselves during a match.
 
The foundation to a good soccer environment in your club is a well planned and consistently executed player development curriculum. From this foundation, you can build a club with a positive soccer culture.
 
 

Risk Management

Sam Snow

A stance from the State Associations Technical Directors on background checks for coaches:
 
Risk management No. 7
We believe all coaches involved in youth soccer should be subject to background checks and that coaching licenses be required as part of the risk management process.  We also believe that each coach should be issued a registration card, certifying that they have completed the risk management process and have attained the required coaching certification.
 

The Soccer Train

Susan Boyd

Today I decided to clean my stove. I'm expecting several groups of visitors over the next few weeks, so I felt the pressure to give the top a good cleaning. I've had this stove for 19 years, and I will probably have it another 19 despite the fact that on HGTV people are enthusiastically remodeling kitchens that I would consider an upgrade just as they are. So I got out my scrubbing pad, cleanser, and lint-free cloth for what I thought would be a 15 minute job. 90 minutes later I was done, unless you count the fact that the self-cleaning oven still had two hours to go. 

The cleaning turned into a terrible virus infecting my behavior. As I scrubbed the burners I noticed that the entire unit lifted out. Underneath lurked an accumulation of scraps, grease, and dust not to mention baked on globs along the sides. As I dug into that pit, my feverish swirls of cleanser spilled over to the vent between the burners and the grill (yes, I have a grill, so you can imagine where this will lead). I lifted up the vent cover and discovered a filter that was surprisingly not too bad – I must have cleaned it within the year – but it hid a canyon smudged with more grease and crumbs. That carried me over to the grill, a tangle of charcoal plates, heating elements, drain pan, and grill covers. I also decided what the heck and started the self-cleaning oven. As I washed the charcoal plates in my white porcelain sink I left black streaks that I had to scrub up later, and then when I carried the filthy cloth over to the washer I noticed that the machine could do with a wipe down of its own.

I tell this story because while I was cleaning I had lots of time to ruminate on the world, my life, dreams of winning the lottery, and soccer. I came to a realization: Cleaning my stove parallels youth soccer involvement. You begin with your son or daughter in a group of four and five year olds who can barely kick the ball and are directionally challenged when it comes to which goal they should be charging. And you end up with your children on a traveling team so it comes down to a new stove or a trip to North Carolina.   With insidious cunning soccer draws us from burners to burner wells to filters to grills to sinks to washing machines while we still await the completion of the self-cleaning oven. 

I didn't need to so wholeheartedly clean my stove. But I wanted to see if I could get it looking nearly new again, and I did. So I had a goal that was driving me to continue. The same is true for those who move ever more steadily to the higher levels of soccer with its increased demands and costs. If it's something your child wants to do and shows the commitment to do it, then hop on board and enjoy the ride. If you like the way things are going and don't want more, then by all means don't get sucked into higher levels of soccer just for the prestige element of being on a select team.

While I don't mean to suggest that only the very best and most dedicated soccer players should play select, I do want to leave the door open for the possibility that not every player should get on the select train. Even very athletic and gifted children opt for recreational soccer because their real love is baseball or swimming. They want the experience of playing, love to play, but have another course in mind when it comes to pursuing advanced levels of sport. I succumbed to the pressure to polish up my stove, but I could have just as easily said I'd do it another day. Lord knows I've been good at that over the last 19 years. My visitors might have whispered a few comments about the dirty stove, or they might never have noticed. Either way, I would still be the same person.

Many of the fans of the game never seriously played the game. That's true of every sport. As parents we need to figure out why we have our kids on a team. If our sons and daughters have a real passion and talent for the game, then it makes sense to give in to that select journey. If they want to continue playing with their friends and can make the team, then by all means they should do it. When Bryce's team dissolved between U14 and U-15 the coach of the recreational team in our club offered Bryce a spot. We considered it for awhile. Robbie was still playing in the same club, it would let Bryce stay with some of his friends, and it would hardly cost anything. As we talked it over the next few days it became clear that Bryce was hesitant to join this team. He had his eye on college soccer and he felt that this would create a stumbling block to his goal. So we turned the coach down and spent the next four months searching for a select team. The decision was driven by Bryce and in the end it was the right decision.            

My analogy does break down in one aspect. Unless you are Martha Stewart or Mr. Clean the job I did this morning can be satisfying but hardly joyful and devoid of anything you would want to remember, unlike soccer which brings our family great joy and lots of good memories. However, like my cleaning, we started out thinking that soccer would be simple - something the boys could do with the neighborhood kids that would fill a few hours with exercise and activity. Then progressively it became one of the predominant pursuits in our family. We were lucky because we embraced the increased level of commitment. Not everyone does. Not everyone should because happily other options exist in youth soccer to satisfy varying levels of participation.

Youth Soccer Month is coming up in September. As we approach the activities of the month we need to consider that despite the heavy emphasis on select soccer, youth soccer embraces all levels of competition and involvement. Every child who wants to play the game should be able to play. Every community should strive to provide soccer for everyone's interests and skills. I've been pleased to see that tournaments have been created just for recreational teams, giving them the experience of travel and regional competition without the same stresses and demands. Ultimately it comes down to making the best choices for our children and our families. We can hop on the soccer train but we need to figure out how far we'll go.