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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". 

 

Everything I learned about soccer

Susan Boyd

I learned by watching. I'll admit to playing soccer while attending a German high school, but it was a coed physical education class and the main purpose of our activity was to waste as much time as possible, stay as clean as possible, and sneak out as soon as possible to a cafe. But that's also the time I began to watch soccer both on TV and at the stadium which was a short walk and streetcar ride from my apartment. In Germany impressing a boyfriend meant having a passion for or at least feigning a passion for soccer. But watching soccer had little to do with learning the rules or appreciating the tactics. Instead I simply learned the various stereotypes about the sport that my friends held: Italian players were drama queens, English players were cry babies, French players had no grit, and German players were intelligent, strong, and unfairly penalized by foreign referees.

Throughout the subsequent years I would watch a game now and again, but it was difficult to catch a game on TV when in the United States. Every four years I did watch the World Cup finals, but until I had children playing soccer I didn't make a real investment in watching or understanding the game. And youth soccer, particularly before players reach age 12, doesn't mirror the way the game is played internationally. Unfortunately, I and most of the parents I knew thought we understood the game perfectly; so well in fact that that during any game we felt obliged to teach soccer to the referees, the coaches, and our own children.

Many parents aren't students of the game. This is somewhat understandable because we are just now getting to the parental generations who have actually played soccer in large numbers. Yesterday was the Super Bowl with something like 100 million viewers, most of them Americans. There's a substantial parent contingent who regularly watches, may have played, and understands the positions and strategy of football. Same goes for baseball and basketball. But in the U.S., soccer hasn't yet arrived at that level. Nevertheless, we parents owe it to our kids to immerse ourselves in a quick study of the game and to provide an atmosphere at home where soccer is part of the regular sports viewing. Our children need to be proud of the sport they play and they need to know that their parents consider it a significant and worthy endeavor.

As my boys progressed in soccer and understood the game far better than I did, the chatter from parents became not only annoying but downright interference. When one 10-year-old girl passed by the parental hordes shouting and instructing the players, she put her finger to her lips and exclaimed, "Settle down!" That's when I realized I needed a soccer education. I bought a FIFA rule book and studied it. I also began to watch more and more games both live and on TV. We bought season tickets to the local indoor soccer team which gave me a further education and an opportunity to talk about soccer together as a family. We regularly watched EPL and La Liga games together which afforded me the opportunity to learn about individual international players and my sons' assessments of their abilities.

Knowing that a ball isn't out of bounds until every millimeter of its surface is out or the difference between a goal kick and a corner kick doesn't qualify as understanding the game. Because soccer appears to be a fairly simple game, we parents may convince ourselves there isn't much to learn. Pass the ball by kicking it down the field and then kick it into the goal. Defend by trying to steal the ball and by stopping the ball going into the net. However, there's a complex sophistication of how those actions are achieved that ultimately creates the sport that has captured most of the world's attention. Every choice made on the field has geometric outcomes leading to further options. Additionally, learning individual players and the skills they bring to the game can enhance a viewer's experience. Just as baseball managers will have the outfield shift to accommodate a batter's style and power, so too a soccer coach will adjust how a team attacks or defends based on the opposition's player roster.

I would like to challenge youth soccer clubs to offer soccer education for parents. It could build membership because if parents appreciated the intricacies of soccer they'd be more likely to encourage their sons and daughters to stay with the sport.   Since many parents stick around to observe practices, it makes sense for coaches to incorporate them into the practice. Anything from a simple explanation, "These drills help players learn how to overlap," to bringing out the chalkboard and showing how a particular formation is expected to work will make parents feel less like an intrusion and more involved. Robbie had a coach who would regularly address the parents and explain what was going on. I learned so much listening to him and certainly learned to appreciate his coaching decisions since I understood better how he arrived at them. He taught me what a flat-back-four defense was by holding up four fingers and indicating how they operated together down the field.

My boys still correct me regularly when I make comments while watching a game. And they are far more educated as to players, teams, rivalries, and rankings than I ever will be. But over the years I've become much more adept at being a knowledgeable soccer mom rather than just a means of transport to a game and a nuisance on the sidelines. It also means that soccer gives our family a basis for sharing. Bryce will often come downstairs in the morning to announce the latest trades or injuries, and I am proud to say that I know who he's talking about 60 percent of the time. That's definitely progress over the last decade when my soccer familiarity consisted of Pele, Mia Hamm, and a goal is the ball in the net.
 

Coaching Points

Sam Snow

Last week I wrote of my work with the Georgia Soccer state staff instructors. They hold an annual seminar for their own continuing education with the goal of making themselves better instructors for the state coaching courses. A young coach from New York, 18-years-old, read the blog post and asked for the files I mentioned sharing and other advice on the craft of coaching.

One bit of advice I give is to play the game yourself for as long as you can. When the day comes, join the Over-30 league and then the Over-40s and then the Over-50s. Staying connected to the game as a player reminds us as coaches what the players are going through. It reminds us of the game's emotions while on the field and the reality of executing game plans. Now, with your coaching hat firmly in place, here are some do's and don'ts for coaches:

1.      
Prepare with attention to detail. Prepare your lesson plan thoroughly, bearing in mind the players' abilities, the facilities and the equipment at your disposal.

2.      
The key motivator in soccer is the ball; use it as much as possible in your training sessions. If you are using equipment, try to make sure that your layout has visual impact. It is very important that warm-up activities are well handled, as this is the time when the coach takes command and sets the tone. "Well begun is a job half done."

3.      
Action as soon as possible. Have the team working at the outset without an involved and complicated explanation.

4.      
Select a suitable demonstration position. This is important and certain basics should be followed:
a.       Coach must see every player. Do not begin to speak until all are in front and standing still, the players nearest you should crouch down.
b.      Immobilize all soccer balls. Have all balls out of the players' reach as you speak, if coaching in the activity, get the ball yourself.
c.       Do not speak into a strong wind.
d.      Players should not be asked to look into the sun at the coach. It is better that the sun is in the eyes of the coach.
5.       Do not demonstrate a difficult skill if you know that someone in your team could do it more efficiently.

6.      
If demonstrating yourself, do not, if possible, speak while you are moving. A short explanation before and/or after the demonstration is desirable.

7.      
Involve as many of the players as possible and try to ensure that each one has a specific job.

8.      
Proceed from the simple to the complex.

9.      
Observe from outside the activity.

10.  
Remember you are coaching players, not skills.

11.  
When coaching, make sure you are wearing a neutral color from the players.

12.  
Try to make all technical exercises as realistic as possible.

13.  
The set up and collecting of equipment should be done efficiently.

14.  
Always have an adequate supply of balls available in order to avoid wasting time during a technical exercise.
 
 

Staff Development

Sam Snow

This past weekend I visited Atlanta to work with the Georgia Soccer staff. The schedule had included a training session with players in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. Unfortunately, it had rained so much on Friday and Saturday that the fields were flooded, so the training session planned for Saturday had to be cancelled. Never-the-less, the Technical Director for Georgia Soccer, Jacob Daniel, and I were able to attend a "D" license coaching course at Oglethorpe College.

We were able to join the coaches during one of their practice field sessions (In the "D" license course the candidates have two practice field sessions). This is when they are given a topic and run a portion of a training session on the field. The candidates then receive feedback from the instructor and their fellow candidates on the strengths and weaknesses of the session. In this course there were 30 candidates divided into two groups for practice. Coach Daniel and I observed each group and we then joined in with the course instructors to provide feedback on the practice session. Despite the soggy field conditions, freezing temperatures and drizzle the candidates did a fine job in their practice sessions. They made the mistakes common to coaches still learning the craft. Some examples are a warm-up not related technically to the topic of the training session, poor transition from one activity to the next, coaching at the wrong moments or making comments not relevant to the training topic. From the practice sessions the candidates all improved in these areas, hence the two practice sessions prior to testing. Going through the state coaching course is very important to all coaches. We all must strive to improve our craft of coaching. That is a never-ending process as there's always more to learn. If you have not earned a state coaching course certification or license then I urge you to attend a course this year.

Yesterday was the state staff instructors' seminar, this was the main reason I had come to Atlanta. Coach Daniel holds this seminar once a year as continuing professional development for the Georgia Soccer coaching course instructors. This is a great initiative that all state associations should copy and I know that many of them already do so. We had both classroom and field sessions with the theme being creativity. The objective was to demo to the instructors how to emphasize creativity and deception in the sessions within the context of the coaching courses' USSF driven curriculum.

12 pm                 Introductions                                                  classroom
12:15 pm            Creativity – The Missing Link                            classroom            Sam Snow
1:15 pm              Incorporating Deception into Training                field                    Jacob Daniel
2:15 pm              Developing Creative Players                            field                    Sam Snow
3:30 pm              Latest News on Coaching Courses & FAQ's        classroom            Jacob and Sam
4:30 pm              Coaching Styles and Methods                           classroom            Sam Snow
 
We had wonderful discussions and interaction with the instructors, we even had fun playing on a muddy field. If you would like to receive a copy of my sessions just drop me a note and I'll be happy to share.

I look forward to seeing you at the 2010 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop on the 26th and 27th of this month in Fort Worth, Texas.
 

All soccer, all the time

Susan Boyd

With Fox Soccer Channel officially going HD this past Thursday, three of our household members talk breathlessly about being able to watch the waver of grass blades and the glistening trail of sweat. I just finished reading the message board on Fox Soccer Channel 's website about its launch of the HD channel and judging from the number of entries posted in just a few hours, I would say the percentage of people who are hooked on the sport has to be significant. All of them were clamoring for the HD feed to be added to their service provider's channel line-up. For them HD on FSC is akin to the advent of fire or the dawn of the Renaissance. No longer is it enough to have soccer available 24/7, now it has to be consistently in brilliant, crystal HD. 

I, on the other hand, have a more cautionary view. I worry that we will run out of recording capacity on our DVR. HD uses up to four times the memory than regular TV. Right now we have six English Premier League games stacked up on the DVR which translate to twelve hours. We can record up to 133 hours of SD (standard digital) TV, but only 37 hours of HD. Those six EPL games would translate to one third of our recording capacity if they were in HD. Come World Cup in just five months we'll be in real trouble since ESPN's tier of channels already broadcast in HD. I'm being both practical and protective. I have my own set of shows I want to record, but I'm afraid I'll lose out to the phalanx of HD soccer competitions. If the boys tape all the permutations of the World Cup games available we'll run out of both recording capacity and time to sleep. I also worry that they'll be so busy watching "life-like" soccer that they'll forget about playing "real-life" soccer.

The advent of multiple TV carrier options means soccer broadcasts aren't limited any longer. Twenty years ago all most soccer fans could hope for was the World Cup finals. Ten years later we had ESPN to deliver soccer games and championships but these were often taped and broadcast days after we had already learned of the outcome. In 2006 Fox Sports World went all soccer being reborn as Fox Soccer Channel and opening up the U.S. market to international soccer with live and taped games throughout the week plus Fox Soccer Report to deliver news from the world of soccer. With a geometric proliferation satellite, cable, and ATT services provide additional soccer channels including GOLTV and Setanta. Americans can see games from England, Italy, France, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Germany, Spain, Canada, and Australia as regularly as citizens of those countries do. Major soccer competitions such as the Gold Cup, MLS, Women's Professional Soccer, NCAA games (men's and women's), international friendlies, United Soccer League games, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, FA Cup, UEFA championship and games, and of course FIFA World Cup qualifiers and games air across ESPN's tier, Fox's tier, Setanta, GOLTV, Telemundo, Telefutura, Univision, and that ratings giant Channel 1 Russia. Occasionally CBS, NBC, and especially ABC will broadcast major soccer games. In addition, some US Youth Soccer National Championships games are shown on both national and local TV feeds. Soccer has now become the sports equivalent of the Law and Order franchise – turn on your TV any day, any time and you'll find a game.

I applaud the burgeoning landscape of soccer transmissions. It celebrates the growth of soccer in America. It provides youth players the opportunity to see soccer outside of their own soccer games and to appreciate the traditions and skillfulness of the sport. It definitely promotes the sport by broadening the fan base and bringing diverse soccer fans together to enjoy a game in a sports bar or restaurant. It introduces soccer to the uninitiated especially to sports fanatics who end up lingering on a channel and having soccer appear unexpectantly. But we also need to get out of the house and watch soccer in the ultimate HD experience – live. Use soccer on TV to bring kids into the game, to better educate them about the sport, and to foster their love for soccer. But don't watch TV soccer at the expense of playing the sport or supporting local soccer teams by going to their games. While the sophistication of play on televised professional and college soccer games are an important part of loving the sport, the immediate camaraderie and intensity of a live game can't be duplicated.

But don't underestimate the broadcasters from doing whatever they can to duplicate the live experience and keep us indoors to watch the games and the attendant commercials. Just today I read that the Arsenal/Man U game telecast on Sunday, Jan. 31 was presented in 3D in pubs throughout Ireland and Great Britain. I only have two questions: How soon will this technology hit US programmers and how much of my precious DVR memory will it demand.   Because I know the soccer fans in my house will not only want this option, but will watch as many games as possible in 3D. And I'll be reduced to watching Judge Judy on my iPhone.