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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.


Defending Corner Kicks

Sam Snow

Iowa Soccer runs a wonderful coaching symposium each year in Des Moines. I had the privilege to conduct some sessions for the coaches at the 2015 edition. One of the sessions that I coached was on defending against a corner kick. I thought that I’d share with you my ‘cheat sheet’ that I wrote for myself as a reminder of key points before I ran the session.

Defending at Corners – Key Points:


  • The goalkeeper is the primary organizer
  • Near post cover
    • Far post optional
  • Angle of hips to see the ball and the field
  • Positioning to get a path to the ball
  • Jump early
  • Talk – keeper or clear (away)
  • Come out to the ball or stay to handle the shot
  • If you come out then catch or punch the ball
  • If you caught the ball then do you distribute immediately or hold the ball for 6 seconds

Field Players

  • Mark the best scoring spots and then pick up runners
  • Have a marker at short corners


  • Proper positioning of the goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forwards
  • Deal with the type of service
    • Outswinger
    • Driven ball
    • Inswinger
    • Short corner kick
  • Move first
    • Get between the ball and the opponent
  • Jump early
  • Clearance (head or foot or fists)
    • High, wide and long
    • Make the clearance into an outlet pass if possible
  • Move out together after a clearance

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Worthwhile Coach

Sam Snow

Chris Panayiotou sent out this message not long ago to a group of coaches across the country.  I think it is one that all club coaches should read. Chris is the Developmental Director of Coaching for Virginia Rush Soccer Club and the Developmental Technical Director for Rush Soccer. Here’s the message:

See how your team does on this quiz…

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for Best Actor and Actress.

6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series Winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remembers the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They’re the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Now here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers or coaches who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

6. Name a half dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? The lesson? The people who make a difference in your life aren’t the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They’re the ones who care.


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Pet Peeves

Susan Boyd

When we have kids in youth sports, it means we have to suffer impositions. Even if we don’t have extensive travel to deal with, we still have tight schedules, odd meal times, frustrating games, elusive fields, and cranky kids. There are enough aggravations without adding those quirky behaviors and needling intrusions that prevent our days from running happily and efficiently. My own list of pet peeves may align with yours or it may be a complete deviation, but the effect is the same – they irritate us. My list has had some alterations, but the core has been consistent over the years. I wish I were a better person who could simply ignore that which aggravates me, but when I’m at my weakest, when things are topsy-turvy, when I most need some peace, they crop up to vex me.

My strongest pet peeve is children who scream. I’m not talking about the delighted squeals of children at play, chasing one another through the yard or riding piggy back on their fathers. I’m not complaining about the happy yelps when something special occurs or there’s a wonderful gift. I’m talking about those ear-splitting shrieks that come out of nowhere at the restaurant or movie theater either to get attention or because a child’s been denied something. When they’re under 2, it might be excused if parents at least made an effort to stifle the outbursts or remove the child from the gathering, but that’s rarely the case. Which is probably why kids as old as 9 or 10 are heard screeching unrestrained. They make my ears hurt, which makes my head hurt, which puts me in a foul mood. I find myself wanting to join them in their primeval expressions just to relieve myself of the pent up frustrations. Surprisingly, I can bear crying children. Crying seems somehow warranted in many circumstances. But screaming does not unless we’re all at a Wes Craven film festival.

You can find many of those squealing kids in fast food restaurants, which are also heavily frequented by us soccer families looking for a quick, inexpensive, and familiar meal. We all know the menus by heart. However, when there is a line to order, there always seems to be a mother and child who stand in line visiting and when they reach the counter suddenly look to the menu as if it morphed into an entirely foreign presentation. They hem and haw, ask the clerk questions, and take time to consider the answers. Finally they order, change their order, add to it, subtract from it, and then call to the other six members covertly lurking at a table to get their orders. At last everyone has agreed upon the size, flavors, and condiments for their meals, but naturally the mother also realizes she left her wallet in the car, which leads to a panicked toss of the keys to one of the kids while she holds her place in the line. Personally, I think if an order takes more than two minutes, the customer should get a small electric shock every three seconds. I will gladly administer it. I have learned, however, that there is no active or passive aggressive action on my part that will speed the process along because these people are oblivious. I can feel the tension of those behind me and I’m well-aware of their eye rolls, sighs, toe taps, and OMGs, which only heightens my own tension as if I’m responsible to solve this situation because I am closest to the source. These customers have to be the ones who also drive 50 mph in front of me in the left lane on every trip I take, another pet peeve. I shout out to no one in particular “It’s a passing lane,” which of course does nothing. Where’s a shrieking child when you need one?

Which brings me to my third pet peeve. I can’t do much about traffic, and I certainly drove in my share of it, four or five days a week in rush hour through Chicago to get Robbie to his soccer practices in Romeoville and Naperville. There was no escape. I just had to creep for scores of miles bumper to bumper. Although I really hate traffic, it can’t qualify as a pet peeve since no human has the power to resolve it. But I can talk about being assaulted during those slow drives by the number of ridiculously arrogant, occasionally profane, and profoundly rude vanity plates and bumper stickers I have had to read. The vanity plates that are clever and even self-deprecating provide a welcome breath of fresh air. A van with a teacher union sticker had a plate that read MYDG8IT. Cleverness is not the operative word for the plate that read 2BUSY. Really?  You have a monopoly on having to juggle life? I think every soccer parent, heck every parent, would qualify for that plate. In my own, albeit non-scientific, study I have concluded that doctors have the most egotistical plates. I have seen ICUREM, IFXBONS, IFXHEDS (I wasn’t sure if this was a neurologist, a psychiatrist or a yacht worker), MRSMD (come on – get your own life!), BESTMD, and TOPDOC. There are the “My child is a (insert school) honor student” stickers, which always seem to be exclusively for elementary and middle schools. And the counter opinion stickers “My kid can beat up your honor student,” as if the world can only be categorized as brain or brawn. “World’s Best…” whatever seems to be a favorite, although I did love the World’s Best Home Appraiser because it was so unique and got me wondering was the occupant the best because he or she gave tough or lax appraisals? Best for the bank would not be best for the home buyer. The strangest juxtaposition was a huge boat of a gas-guzzling, environmentally corrupt Hummer with the vanity plate OLDHIPY. The plate MNYMAKR seems more appropriate for that vehicle, but was on a Porsche, so it still fits to rub our faces in the message. The obscene stickers we’ve all seen, primarily on semis and pick-ups (not stereotyping when it’s true). I can’t repeat them here, but they involve sexism, racism, and alarmism with either language, images, or both. Most fall under the “what were they thinking” first when they bought these decals and then when they actually applied them. Most lack cleverness, nuance, and intelligence which explains why the same ones show up dozens of times during a three hour drive – mass production substituting as wit. When my boys learned to read I got plenty of questions when stopped behind one of these traveling billboards for poor taste, most of which I didn’t think I would need to answer until they were at least teenagers. On the opposite end was a plate GDBHVOR, which I am assuming was a released convict or a nun or a released convict nun. Not to be too picky, but I really hate vanity plates I can’t decode. They occupy way too much of my brain power and distract from my defensive driving. I’m thinking I should create my own plate with random letters and numbers just to confuse the people following me.

My final pet peeve is people who put down soccer. I don’t expect everyone will be a fan, although the two most popular sports in the world are soccer followed by cricket. Not being a fan doesn’t mean you have to be nasty. In July, Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, was turned into a soccer venue for a friendly match between Newcastle and Club Atlas. When the Brewers catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, was asked about soccer he replied, “I don’t much like it. I like a game where there’s some action and some scoring.” Really? Baseball is my second-favorite spectator sport, but I will readily admit that there are huge stretches of time when nothing is happening: inning breaks, pitching changes, call disputes, injury time-outs, and just plain slow play. Football stops every 3 to 10 seconds for a huddle or time out or an injury, yet no one would accuse it of not being an action sport. Do I hate baseball games that end up 1-0 or 2-1 because they lack scoring? No, because I appreciate the many facets of the sport that lead to that score:  amazing fielding, strong pitching, nail-biting bases loaded and nobody out, and cutting down the runner at second. An athlete like Lucroy should at least value the skill behind the sport and certainly not accuse soccer of lacking action, which he can’t defend. Few sports run virtually uninterrupted for 45 minutes. Soccer is drama from the close strikes, to the contention on the field, and even to the “injury” flops. People have their favorite sports and teams for their own reasons, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the reputation of other sports. When I’m at a party or the pool and I mention my sons play soccer, I hate being met with a superior sneer of, “I hate soccer. It’s boring,” as if that should be the final verdict on the subject. Sure it might be boring to some people, especially if they don’t understand the level of training and skill required to play the sport, but that doesn’t make it a bad choice for either a player or a fan. Baseball is boring to many people around the world. Cricket is pretty boring to most Americans. Yet these sports also generate lots of fan enthusiasm and interest. We live in a bubble here in the States because professional sports is big money and soccer is down low on that scale. We equate profits with likeability. Ask the NFL how well their European League did. How many Germans know who Alex Rodriguez is, or Aaron Rodgers for that matter?  I just want some respect for the sport my kids chose to play and still enjoy playing and watching. That’s a pet peeve that might actually get resolved in time.

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Civility Requested

Susan Boyd

Just preceding this year’s football season, Baraboo (WI) High School issued a directive to students, coaches and parents. First, there will be no coaching from the sidelines. Second, no one may jeer, taunt or belittle the spectators, players and coaches of the opposition or the officials. Third, no one can post negative comments on social media about a game, the handling of a game, individual players, or a team. These directives come with consequences, which range from an admonishment to being removed from a game to suspension, even as extreme as expulsion for serious infractions. Players might be benched for a game or even a season. Additionally, the reprimands for parents could be enforced on their children as well. The various degrees of punishment are clearly spelled out and will be administered by a disciplinary committee. Baraboo is serious about requiring civility at school functions. News outlets across the states picked up the story and hustled to various football practices to get people’s opinions. If the reports can be believed, everyone supports Baraboo’s policy.

We constantly hear about behaviors getting out of hand at youth sporting events due to the dangerous combination of heightened emotions, parental expectations, and pride. Most youth programs have addressed the issue of civility asking its fans, players, coaches and officials to practice respect for one another. My grandson’s soccer team had parents sign a form affirming that they would not be negative on the sidelines. Of course grandparents, neighbors, and friends aren’t a part of those pacts. When we came to Archer’s game, my daughter gently let me know of what was expected, but I’m sure not every parent spoke to the outsiders they brought to the matches. Robbie’s team had several hot-headed parents who got in verbal and nearly physical battles with parents of the opposing team several times a season. Many college fans will regularly sit behind the goal nets and taunt the keeper. Fan chants and cheers often center on brow-beating the opponents, so it’s no wonder people feel the freedom to be snarky. Since we watch much of our sports televised in the quiet and anonymity of our homes, we get used to yelling at teams, players, coaches, and officials freely and even obscenely. It’s not surprising we carry that behavior onto the field. The obvious question is will a policy with clear consequences help curb the negative and occasionally violent fan behavior.

Naturally, it’s discouraging to even ask the question. We shouldn’t need penalties to ensure decency. Yet it has become an unfortunate reality that behaviors have grown more and more boorish. As parents and players measure success as moving to the next level with a winning record, it becomes more likely that the stakes will be cloaked in deep emotion. Parents take it upon themselves to bear the slings and arrows kids experience during play and may react with anger, disbelief and physical confrontation. Parents’ vicarious feelings of failure can lead to language and actions which don’t promote politeness. It’s regrettable that decorum has deteriorated to the point that a school has to implement a disciplinary policy to address the issue of civility. We should all be able to control our behaviors without the threat of punishment hanging over us to keep us in line. Nevertheless, we’ve seen courtesy diminish in all areas of our lives. We experience insolent salespersons and managers. People cut ahead in lines. Road rage incidents have increased 7 percent per year since 1990, escalating beyond verbal battles to more and more physical confrontations. The incidents are prompted by people not using courtesy when driving and other drivers not being able to let go of being disrespected. AAA suggests that to avoid being a victim of road rage drivers should practice considerate techniques. Though this may seem a bit like putting the burden on a victim for someone else’s bad behaviors, AAA recognizes that there are drivers out there who ignore the polite rules of the road for their own selfish reasons, which comes across as an act of defiance and being discourteous. All these behaviors rarely have consequences and occur nearly daily. The reasons are anxiety, narcissism, lack of morals, and just thoughtlessness.

Perhaps policies established by clubs and schools can help control one part of this downturn in good manners and in so doing help us adjust our attitudes in other areas of our lives. It’s a monumental task. Putting the responsibility for this change on our institutions ignores the fact that it really should begin in our homes. Parents should be modeling good behaviors for our kids, but we often fall short. I discovered early on that I could control my outbursts at games better if I was sitting than if I was up and pacing. I also had to be diligent. It required teaching myself some catch phrases so I could avoid shouting out something negative: Unlucky, too bad, oops, tough play. I also had to force myself to be more positive locating a good moment to highlight rather than anxiously awaiting disaster. In no way was I perfect or even close to perfect. As late as Robbie’s last year in college soccer I ended up shouting out about the opposing goal keeper crossing the goal line before executing a punt. I clearly remember Robbie’s sharp look up in my direction – a rebuke I absolutely deserved. We do get caught up in the moment and we do want to somehow be able to manipulate the outcome by rattling the opposition, questioning the officials, or coaching our own kids. When we feel slighted or abused, we naturally lash out, and we often take our kids’ perceived injustices personally so we tend to act out at games. However, we need to work on two factors:  Not taking what happens to our kids as happening personally to us and practicing self-control in our reactions. Our children watch what we do, so when they see us being rude at games it gives them permission to do likewise.

I’ve seen teams rattling a coffee can filled with coins dropped in by parents every time the team scores a goal. We also know of “swear” jars where family members have to drop in a quarter for every curse word uttered. I wonder if teams shouldn’t have a “civility” can where parents who shout out negative comments, question officials, demean opposing players, or have a physical confrontation must pay fines on a scale measured by the infraction. This system has a double benefit:  It makes money for a team project or event and it puts parents on notice that discourteousness won’t be tolerated. We shouldn’t need punitive punishments to insure that we all behave, but unfortunately we don’t seem able to control ourselves. If we can develop better manners at youth sports hopefully it will spill over into other areas of our lives. They say kindness is contagious which is wonderful, but I also think rudeness is equally contagious. No one wants to be on the receiving end of criticism, especially discourteous criticism, so we tend to fight back which only keeps the tit for tat going and intensifying. We have to be willing to say “enough.”  Finding ways to stay positive, remind those around us to refrain from negative comments, and not responding to the taunts of others will go a long way to diffusing situations and in so doing increasing civility. Our kids won’t win every match, likewise we don’t need to be right in every circumstance. Learning to pick our battles, being okay with some rudeness, and not answering in kind should have a ripple effect not only in our lives, but the lives of our children and those with whom we come in contact.

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