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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.


Perspectives of Opposing teams

Sam Snow

As the Monty Python skit used to say, and now for something completely different.

A Tale of Two Benches on Play-Off Day

by Roy Patton

Beautiful pass, lovely curved ball, you beat two defenders,

sweeper and all

Kick him, harass him, get in his face, they’re making you run all

over the place

 Fantastic turn, your man was real tight. That’s the best move I’ve

seen all night

Chop him, trip him, somehow stop him. Don’t look at me, just

get on top of him

Great first touch, superb control. Keep it up, you’re on a roll.

Stand on his foot, tug on his shirt. Remember I showed you all

kinds of dirt

Wonderful dribble, great turn of speed. That’s the soccer that

U.S.A. needs

Get fired up! Be really intense. Hammer that ball out over the


Congratulations, you played a great game. Let’s come out next

year and do the same

We won! We won! I’m 11-0. There’s not much about soccer that

I don’t know

You are more than a coach. You’re also a friend and that’s why

we hate to see this season end

Coach, it’s over. Here is my gear. I’ll probably play football or

baseball next year

Comments (1)


Game Plan

Susan Boyd

Back in the day, when the boys were first starting in soccer, Smash Mouth released the song “All Star,” whose chorus announced:  “Hey now, you’re an All Star, get your game on, go play.” Even though the song was actually about rock musicians, the beat and the chorus fed right into the pre-teen boys’ sense of “go get-em.” We’d crank the car radio up with the bass on high so that the steel doors shook, and we’d sing at the top of our lungs bouncing to the beat. By the time we hit the field parking lot, the boys were ready to take on any opponent — pumped up and ready to strut their stuff. I doubt the ritual had any real effect on wins and losses, but it sure was fun to watch the cars around us as they stared at the Rockmobile and the cavorting inhabitants.

Silly traditions like that make the game so much more fun and an experience rather than just an event. Any time I hear that song, I’m transported to the Toyota Sienna (which we still own) and the joy of a great fall day stretching out in front of us that included soccer matches, raking leaves, and upsetting the neighbors as the car woofers assaulted the air around us. I know I’m always going on about the game being fun, but because these years last such a short time, it’s important to pack in as many memories and joy as we can. Too soon soccer can become a business with goals that aren’t made on the field.  Stressing out over state, regional and national championships, making the high school varsity team, getting recruited by a college, even moving on to pro quickly overrides the fun part of any youth sport. 

I want to encourage all parents to create a game plan for those Saturday outings rather than just getting to the match on time and then heading home. Use soccer as the backdrop for family memories. For example, just down the road from our club’s fields was a farm stand. Every October they would dress it up for Halloween, complete with a corn maze, pumpkin patch, fun animal rides, and caramel apple making. We’d plan on going after one weekend’s matches and just have a blast doing all the activities. When I look at the pictures from those outings I have to laugh because there will be Robbie riding a camel in his soccer uniform and Bryce triumphantly emerging from the maze, his arms in a victory pose revealing his team jersey logo. Those pictures document not only the boys’ growth, but the evolution of their uniforms.  

The 50’s-themed drive-in in the next community north of us would close for the winter, so we’d always make one last pilgrimage after a soccer game. We all got chocolate shakes — the really thick kind made with four scoops of ice cream — cheeseburgers, fries, and one order of cheese curds (it is Wisconsin, after all). That evening, mixed with all the grass and dirt stains on their uniforms, I’d have to pre-treat the splotches of chocolate shake. Occasionally the stains wouldn’t all come out, so as they ran on the field there would be a subtle reminder of last weekend’s adventure.

Getting to indoor soccer in the winter was an adventure in itself due to slippery roads, blizzards, and the long distances to the facilities. We could go by freeway, but that wasn’t as fun as taking the back roads where we could see plenty of wildlife. We’d play animal bingo with some pretty unusual choices like turkeys, donkeys, and foxes. But someone always managed to win before we got to the facilities. The route also included a “Hobbit House” that someone built long before the Peter Jackson trilogies. It was a bit of a distance off the road so everyone had to stay alert to locate it. With a shout of “Hobbit” we’d all peer out the window and “oooh” and “aaahh” over the architecture that was really detailed and charming with a thatched roof and partially constructed into a hillside. We talked about maybe going up to the door one day to ask for a closer look, but we all chickened out every time we passed.

Traveling to tournaments, we tried to find some ways to make it even more of an adventure. When going to St. Louis, we took a longer route through Illinois so we could go to Metropolis, the home of Superman. There’s a giant statue and a great little park where we had lunch and a collectibles shop that was dark, musty, chaotic, and the perfect spot for young boys to explore. I can’t remember what they bought, but they had $5 each and spent nearly an hour sorting through comic books, action figures, weapons, and toys before settling on their “find.” Locating off-beat destinations became a family obsession with each person trying to outdo the other with the bizarre and the entertaining. We have seen chickens playing tic-tac-toe, a wildlife park dedicated to small exotic animals (like a capybara) where petting and/or holding was encouraged – including the snakes and reptiles. We visited, but did not sit in, the world’s biggest rocking chair, and let odd creatures scale our arms and hair at an insect zoo. Today, with the internet so detailed, finding these little treasures is less time-consuming, but fun to research nonetheless. It’s also a great geography lesson that the kids learn as they look along a route for something fun to do.

Making a “game plan” helps include every family member in the occasion. It can be difficult when you have two, three, even four kids spread out across your area each with his or her own match. Yet that’s what makes a plan so important and special. It’s a way to gather, share the various plays of each game, and focus on something for the family to do together rather than only the dispersal of the members across different soccer fields. You can plan a hike, go fishing, fly kites, picnic along a river, canoe, take in a movie, go to a trampoline park, and even paint some pottery. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. You don’t have to break the budget either as there are terrific fun activities that cost nothing or nearly nothing. We once spent an afternoon hitting two buckets of golf balls at a local driving range. All we had to pay for were the balls, which were $5 a bucket, clubs were provided for free. Since the boys took forever to line up their shots, the buckets lasted over two hours. Again the photos of that outing show the boys dressed in their soccer uniforms.

I’m not suggesting that every game has to be the portal to an extraordinary day. Certainly, we have lots of things we need to take care of at home that don’t allow for extended excursions every weekend. But you can still make some special memories with a favorite song or track of songs going to and from the field, playing car games, stopping on the way home for an ice cream or fruit from a roadside stand, bringing signs to the game, or spraying the kids with silly string as they exit the field. It’s really easy to add a bit of pizzazz to the routine. For a Halloween game, the players all sported orange hair thanks to a mom who brought a spray can of hair color. Few if any of us remember who won, but we all remember the hair. Washable tattoos can be fun — although some parents may object so check first. But lining up to receive your “warrior” tattoo before a match can be a lasting memory and a Kodak moment.

Soccer matches should be fun unto themselves, but spicing them up a bit gives them the added pleasure of being a singular memory occasion. I have four kids with a big gap between the first two and the second duo, so I learned from experience how fleeting the time is when they welcome magic. All too quickly they get jaded, hanging out with cool friends who couldn’t be bothered riding a llama. Seize that magical time with both hands and enjoy it while it lasts. You’ll have lots of joyful, memory-filled experiences all through their lives, but that really young age, when life is so wondrous and unfathomable doesn’t last long. Creating memories during that time might seem overwhelming with all the day-to-day demands of just getting homework done, laundry finished, carpool run, sports and hobby schedules, and sleep. So piggy-backing some adventure on the things you already have to do, like going to a game, can make those minutes blossom into a special memory and maybe even a series of photos with your kids in uniform.

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Player Development...To What End?

Sam Snow

Here’s a type of question that comes my way now and then at club meetings.

So much of Youth soccer seems to be all about improving the player. To what end? This model plays into supporting an infrastructure of paid coaches and trainers and tournaments with an increasing amount of burn-out on the part of the kids we work with. So few kids will see a slot on an Olympic team or a professional bench, yet this is the Holy Grail kids are expected to aspire towards. At the same time, just dumping the kids onto a field with a ball and some nets is just a form of kick ball. What purpose should organized youth soccer serve and where, in your opinion, should the balance be? On a less esoteric note, what should parents of a young child look for in a municipal program; i.e., Parks and Rec. or a local travel club?

Is not our objective to improve players?  Whether that objective is accomplished by volunteer coaches or paid coaches the end must be the same – player growth.  Our goal is to help each player with whom we work to develop within the game of soccer.  Some of those players will be lifelong amateur players, some will become college players, a few will make it to the pros and of those some will play internationally.  The point is to keep all of them in the game at one level of play or another.

Yes, I would agree that just ‘dumping’ kids on a field may be kickball.  But with a few older players thrown into the mix it then becomes a pick-up game.

From the National Youth License consider these two sport models:

blog 1


blog 2


I think what we want is a blend of the two models.

To the question of “… what should parents of a young child look for in a municipal program, i.e. Parks and Rec. or a local travel club?” the answer is mostly the same for both scenarios.

  1. A mission statement/philosophy that guides the organization
  2. Qualified staff
  3. A curriculum for development
  4. A sound business plan
  5. Safe infrastructure

After that it becomes a matter of price point and time that the player’s family is willing and able to invest.

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All About the Money

Susan Boyd

My granddaughter thought it would be a good idea to broadcast all youth sports games so moms and dads who can’t attend the matches can still see their children play. She’s 8, and I’m betting before she’s a parent that’s exactly what will happen. Right now, we have any number of ways to watch games virtually, such as iScore and Gametracker, which create a play by play of a game that can be sent via a link to family and friends. Likewise, there is invariably a team parent who tapes the games and posts them on sites like YouTube. It shouldn’t be too long before technicians figure out how to video and broadcast youth games live. However, when they develop the means to transmit games we begin to cross that threshold into the “professionalism” of youth sports with issues of licensing, costs of delivery, private transmission services, and the possibility of charging for things that are now free. What will technology mean for youth sports?

We don’t have to look far to see the impact of monetary and legal factors on amateur sports. For example, we have a baseball team in my town that plays in one of the summer college leagues. These leagues provide an opportunity for college players to keep up their skills while playing with and against top players in the sport. This particular team is owned by a former Brewer, Robin Yount, and is run like a professional team. There is a mascot, a wide-ranging concessions stand, promotions, corporate sponsors, season ticket holders, team wear, souvenirs, and VIP seating for food and beverage. The money from sales and sponsorships goes into the pockets of the investors. None goes to the players because NCAA eligibility rules state that players can’t profit in any way from their sport. In fact the team must actively recruit host families for team members and these families are responsible for housing and feeding the players. Soccer has the same summer leagues for college players with the USL Premier Development League and the National Premier Soccer League (which pays players willing to forgo their amateur status) allowing NCAA soccer players to keep up their competitive edge during the summer. The United States Adult Soccer Association sponsors some regional and state amateur teams, which participating soccer clubs usually call their Majors team. These can be a mix of college and former pro players, but are completely unpaid. The level of investors in team franchise in these soccer leagues hasn’t reached that of Yount, but I’m positive we’re not far from seeing that happen.

Developing the ability for individual youth teams and clubs to stream their games opens a Pandora’s Box of concerns. While it seems as naively wonderful as my granddaughter’s point of view that loving parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends could see every child’s game, the tough truth is someone will see the opportunity for a profit. Once that happens, companies will attempt to get government regulations, broadcast licenses, software dominance and blocking programs in their portfolio to enforce us all to pay them a fee just to watch our 6-year-old cavort on a soccer pitch. Just consider the professionalizing of high school and college games that has grown in the last two decades into multi-million dollar businesses. My graduate school was University of Oregon, home of the Ducks. I get daily emails from the bookstore touting all the new products that have been released for Duck fans. Every item is licensed by the NCAA, which gets a cut of the sale price. On the flip side, consider EA Sports NCAA Football, which will not have a 2015 edition after a class action suit by Ed O’Bannon and others against EA and the NCAA over the use of their uncompensated likenesses. The NCAA declined to renew their licensing agreement with EA when it expired in June this year in attempt to diminish the effects of the lawsuit. In the meantime, EA Sports settled for $40 million with NCAA football, basketball and baseball players, whose likenesses appeared in video games from 2003 to the present. The lawsuit against the NCAA will add millions to that number should the plaintiffs win that as well. Just Friday, the NCAA board of governors cleared the way for colleges to pay their players by allowing the top five conferences to submit possible rule changes that would include a pay option. I haven’t even touched on the threatened lawsuits over TV licensing profits. How would these affect the convoluted profit formulas for the type of broadcast my granddaughter suggests? Would there be residuals for any replay of a game? Will players all have to sign contracts before they join any youth team, school band, drama club, or any number of opportunities for streaming an event? Will a network control youth sport broadcasts requiring fees for every game we watch? Before you scoff at the ridiculousness of this situation, think about how unbelievable it seemed just a decade ago that any college player would be compensated for their college “career.” Would Rudy have refused to enter the field for that last game at Notre Dame without a media contract? Not then, but maybe now.

While we have this ongoing debate as to whether or not the NCAA should unionize their sports teams and pay them, we are ignoring other aspects of youth sports that provide an uncontested and substantial return to corporations who depend on youth sports for a significant portion of their revenue. Uniform manufacturers purposely retire designs after two or three years on the market in planned obsolescence. Players must purchase new uniform packages frequently, having nothing to do with growth spurts or wear and tear. Even socks get redesigns! Puma, adidas, Nike, Reebok, and Athletico are insuring a steady market. Manufacturers spend millions to develop and market “trends” to youth players that bring in exponential profits. In baseball, it’s the “power” neck chains. In soccer, it’s wristbands for the boys and hair bands for the girls. Don’t get me started on cleats that sprout a new look every six months. Add in the World Cup with flashy footwear rushing around the field, and you have the equation for tens of thousands of new shoe purchases. Youth sports is big business.

We saw the evolution of the term “amateur” in the Olympics over the last two decades. The 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team pulled all its players from the top college hockey squads. Now, 34 years later you’ll find only NHL players. Basketball’s “Dream Team” is culled from the NBA. Even sports that don’t have professional leagues produce athletes with huge endorsement contracts, a major taboo just a few Olympics ago. Therefore, it’s not such a stretch to see professionalism trickle down through the amateur ranks. With all the talk of paying NCAA athletes, the money that can be made off of many sports events even at the youth level, and the possibility for expanding the markets where profits can be made, I don’t think it will be too long before “amateur” will have to require an entirely different definition or not be attached to sports at all. I’d love to be able to see all my kids’, grand kids’, nieces’ and nephews’ games. My niece just won gold at the U.S. Rowing Association Club National Races in Knoxville, Tenn., for a pair boat (two-person). My brother sent me a link with her winning race. The camera didn’t focus on her and her partner until near the end of the race, but it was still a thrill to watch her compete and win. I didn’t need a professional production to share in the celebration. I’m hoping the next time I get sent a link, I won’t have to use my credit card before I can open it.

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