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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.


The Goal Kick

Sam Snow

I am at the US Youth Soccer Region III National Championship Series in Raleigh, NC. I am working on a technical analysis of the trends in play of the boys and girls in the U14 to U19 age groups competing here. Quite a few more events need to be observed for consistent trends in play to be valid. But there is a notion as I watch these matches that seems to be emerging as a real style consistency in the American youth soccer match performance. It is the goal kick.
It appears that many of our elite youth teams have no real tactical play when taking a goal kick. True a goal kick is not as potentially impact of a free kick as one that is in range of the opponents' goal, but it is still a moment in the match when the team on the attack should have some plan of play. Too often in these matches the team taking the goal kick has its players massed in the central channel of the field and the goalkeeper taking the kick just launches a long ball into the mixer. Often the kick is up the central part of the field. There the field players are faced with 50/50 battles. Sometimes the opposition wins the ball and the team that just took the goal kick is under immediate pressure and scrambling to defend the goal. The attacking team just gained possession of the ball with a goal kick so why are they hitting 50 percent passes?
While a goal kick is a restart situation in the match after the ball has gone out of play just like a throw-in or a corner kick it should be considered an attacking opportunity for the team in possession.  So to make the most of the opportunity of having possession of the ball the attacking team should have their goalkeeper take the kick as this gives them a numbers even situation on the field with the field players. Goalkeepers need to not only practice the technique of striking the ball for a goal kick but also should learn the tactics of the situation. Generally goal kicks should go towards the flanks of the field where there is more space. Also if possession is lost on the flank it is less of an immediate direct threat to the keeper's goal than a ball lost in the middle of the field with a better angle for a shot on goal. The goalkeeper must read the game and decide if a short kick or a long kick is in order. If the opposition has dropped back to the area of the halfway line then a short kick to the side of the penalty area to an outside back is in order for build up play. If the opposition is pressing forward near the keeper's penalty are then a long kick up field is in order and most likely aimed towards the outside midfielders.
Now the field players have a role to play too. As I have watched the matches here in Raleigh, I am dismayed at the lack of movement by the attacking team at the goal kick. The field players of the attacking team must move to shake off markers and perhaps to create space for a teammate to receive the ball. Too many attacking players just stand, with a defender next to them, waiting for the ball from a goal kick. Remember that the goal kick is just another pass from a teammate and you need to move to get open to receive passes.
So there are a few thoughts on the goal kick. Coaches please let's teach our teams to make the most of `this opportunity to create our attack at this dead ball situation in the game.

Susan Goes to Regionals

Susan Boyd

This week Susan will be back at the US Youth Soccer Region II Championship cheering on her Under-19 son Bryce and his teammates.

If you want some inside scoop and some "don't forget to do this" and "oh by the way, you'll need to remember this"'ve come to the right place. 

Susan's Regional Blog will be posted daily here.  You can check out all of the championship bloggers, yep, we've got players giving their take, here.


Double Edge Sword

Sam Snow

Our organization in youth soccer is a double edged sword for us. On one side our organizational abilities have helped us grow the game of soccer in the USA dramatically over the last 35 years. Because of the efforts of innumerable people, most of them volunteers, we have soccer in communities where the sport never existed 40 years ago. We have millions of youngsters playing the game and we have millions of alumni from the youth soccer ranks who have now reached adulthood. Hundreds of thousands of adults participate in youth soccer as referees, coaches and administrators. Businesses support soccer like never before. Soccer on television is at an all-time high viewership. Because of our organizational abilities both private and public soccer complexes have sprouted up across the nation. The quality of many of those facilities is truly outstanding. Jobs in soccer have grown from a cottage industry to a true business and on a large scale. In many ways due to American organizational skills we have in only one generation become a soccer nation.
Look at the number of colleges now with intercollegiate teams – the number of professional teams is healthy – American players are being exported to other nations to play in the pro ranks. Our national teams regularly qualify for international events and we are always competitive. In every measure of the game our skill at organizing the game has nurtured the growth of the game.
Yet on the other side of the sword our organizational skills get in the way of player development. In the desire to be organized many adults cannot step aside now that the game is moving on its own. Too many adults interfere too much in the player's game. At the youngest ages we adults need to be less involved in telling the children how to play the game. Our role now is simply to be the taxi drivers, game-time setters, grass mowers and otherwise let them play without our adult expectations weighing upon their small shoulders. So can we adults instill a school physical education approach and mentality into our youth soccer world? We now have a professional team franchise mentality permeating all that our kids experience in the sport. Those adult results orientated perspective in fact hinders the development of our players. We could and should have even more players than we do qualified to play college soccer and beyond.
Now don't tell me that we cannot change this attitude because it is ingrained in our American culture. People say the same thing 30 years ago that soccer would never make it here since it was not part of our mainstream sports culture and clearly that has changed. We can and must change the mentality of the adults involved with youth soccer. Yes it may take 30 years, but so be it!

Pet Peeves

Susan Boyd

As the Euro Cup plays out in the upcoming weeks, I have once again had to live through those agonizing moments that crop up during every sportscast and put an absolute damper on my viewing pleasure.  I can guarantee whether it is the NBA Playoffs, Euro Cup, Track and Field Trials, Kentucky Derby, or Little League World Series each of these pet peeves will erupt with painful regularity.

While I consider myself a moderately intelligent woman, apparently NBC and ABC have higher expectations for me and other viewers.  Both networks have instituted what I call the ""Abstract Flag"" designation.  When athletes are ready to compete they are recognized on the screen with a flag next to their name.  Obviously I recognize the United States, Canada, and Japan.  I saw ""Cool Runnings"" and love Bob Marley, so I also recognize the Jamaican flag.  After that it gets a bit fuzzy.  The problem is that the flags aren't full flags, merely representations.  So England, New Zealand, and Australia appear interchangeable.  Central American countries are a blur of yellow, green, and red with tiny, indistinguishable emblems.  I have a 52"" TV so I can't imagine how these mini-flags come across on a 17"" TV.  Although I can probably survive without knowing if the runner on lane four is from Kenya or Ethiopia, I am nonetheless peeved that the networks taunt me with my lack of diplomatic knowledge.  At the bare minimum I wish they would provide the three letter country code like Fox Soccer Channel wisely does.  After watching the Prefontaine Classic last weekend, I awoke in a panic that night with the realization that I had less than eight weeks to study up on and learn the world's national flags before the Summer Olympics.  Then I have to further prepare in order to recognize them in miniature, abstract forms.  I've already got an appointment with my ophthalmologist.

Without exception, every network wallows in my next pet peeve.  I'm convinced that announcers either believe every viewer is a novice to the sport or commentators just don't have the expository speech skills that actually justify a six figure income.   Why educated, experienced, professional announcers, coaches, and players can't avoid these flat out obvious statements continues to amaze and frustrate me.  ""If this team expects to win, they'll have to put some points up on the scoreboard.""  ""Big Brown has to outrun his competition in order to win this race.""  ""The young Kenyan has the talent to succeed.  All he has to do is be first across the finish line.""  ""Down three games to nothing, the Boston Red Sox have to win or the series is over.""  ""It's not enough to have talent; you also need to score some goals.""  I would think even ET arriving on earth and just learning the language and customs of America would wince at these banal profundities.  ""Both teams are hoping for the best.""  Yeah, well so am I – but it never happens.

I'm a mom, so I have seen my share of bloody noses, broken bones, and split tongues.  However, I don't need to immortalize these moments.  Sports program directors disagree.  They command their cameras to linger on every disgusting player activity.  I don't need to watch players spit, blow their noses onto the grass, adjust their cups, or cough up something left over from The Exorcism.  My full sports experience will not be diminished if I miss the bazillion close-up of a leg breaking or a head wound flailed open to the bone.   I especially do not need a slow-motion replay every time some player receives a blow to the ""sweets"".  Suffice it to say, even as a woman I can imagine the pain, so watching it over and over doesn't help enhance my understanding of the agony.  I will admit that my husband, a physician, seems to derive some perverse pleasure from the injury replays, since he uses them to confirm his original diagnosis of the injury as it occurred.  But I have to believe that's a rather select segment of the population.  It's even more fun when these visuals are coupled with inane commentary.  ""That's gotta hurt"" seems redundant given the slow motion close-up image of a fibula cracking backwards across my television screen as my husband shouts, ""See, I told you!""

Luckily, when I go to watch my kids play I can avoid all of this.  I know where the teams come from, I make my own commentary, and I can limit the visuals to a single viewing.  I'll get the opportunity to continue my unsullied soccer experience this June at the Region II competition in Rockford, IL as Bryce's U-19 team competes.  It's his first visit to Regionals, so he's extremely excited to be participating.  I'm just happy to have the opportunity to immerse myself again in this great youth soccer event.  Next week I'll begin blogging about the preparations, what Regionals mean to a player, a team, and a family, and the little moments that enrich the week.  I promise not to refer to teams by cryptic, abstract designations, avoid clichés, and refrain from lingering on anything gross.  Now if I can just get that six-figure income.