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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.

 

Talking with SoccerParenting.com

Sam Snow

I participated in several interviews with SoccerParenting.com which I will share with you over the next few blogs:

http://soccerparenting.com/2014/11/12/good-soccer-people/

and

http://soccerparenting.com/2014/11/12/a-discussion-about-parents-coaching-from-the-sidelines-sam-snow-us-youth-soccer2/.

 

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Susan Boyd

This is ridiculous. Wasn’t it just 70 degrees out a few weeks ago? And now we are faced with this polar vortex affecting pretty much all of the United States. Just 80 miles north of me there is snowfall of up to 14 inches. Denver woke up this morning to negative-3 degrees with wind chills of negative-35 degrees. Yet, we are still two weeks away from Thanksgiving and almost three weeks away from December. A local window company arrogantly advertised that new windows would be free if we have measurable snow before Thanksgiving. After all, they have a hundred years of weather history backing them up. Now they must be fretting up at night watching The Weather Channel as if it’s the doomsday report.

Other than the obvious yuck factor for those of us who hadn’t pulled winter wear out of mothballs yet, there’s the added problem of a few more weeks of fall soccer season. Sunday, we sat through a frigid game for Robbie while two other youth games were being played on adjacent fields. The sidelines and bleachers looked like the Donner Party had taken up residence. The assistant referees in their shorts standing on the sidelines looked like waifs trapped on ice floes in a silent film. It was a miserable scene, but not as bad as the games that will be played this weekend. How do we protect our tiny players against the freezing elements, not to mention ourselves as we cheer them on?

I recently wrote about how we bundle up against the rains, thinking I had two months before I even had to consider bundling up against the frigid cold. Then we got ambushed by the jet stream. Hand warmers and rain slickers aren’t going to be sufficient to battle these elements. It’s time for heavy-duty protection. Let’s start with before the game. Kids need to be warm before they even start playing or practicing. Give them some hearty comfort food that includes good carbohydrates and proteins. Lots of kids don’t like oatmeal, but it’s a nearly perfect food if you can find a variety they’ll eat. Some soup, pasta dishes like spaghetti or macaroni and cheese, and sloppy Joes all provide good energy and some tummy warming nutrition. I’m a big fan of pizza, which can have carbs, protein, dairy and vegetables all wrapped up in an easy to cook and transport food source. Kids like cocoa, which you can put in a travel mug for the trip to the field. Even some granola bars along with cocoa or hot apple cider can provide the warm comfort that will stay with them for the first 20 minutes after they hit the cold.

Getting them cocooned for the weather requires some careful planning. Most league rules require that the uniform be completely visible during a game, which is difficult when you are trying to cover every single inch of bare skin. So be sure to save the jersey and shorts for last. Layers are best for many reasons. Those layers trap air which serves as further insulation and you can strip off the layers if the player gets too hot. Start with a protective thermal layer like Under Armour, Hanes, Nike Hyperwarm or Cold Pruf. They wick away the sweat, hold in the warmth, and provide that first layer of warmth. Put on socks. Then cover up with warm up pants and a fleece or Lycra top. Often warm-ups are an optional part of a team’s kit so if you purchased them you’ll be in team colors with a team logo visible – nice, but not necessary. Then put the uniform over all of that. Add some one-size fits all gloves and hats that I keep by the bucketful in the car. They’ll look like a Thanksgiving Day parade balloon, but they’ll be warm.

On the team bench it’s difficult to keep warm when a player is just sitting and not moving. Most truly cold days are also very windy, making the polar blast worst. If anyone on the team has a portable canopy, it can be set up as a wind screen behind the bench. There are thermal reflective “space” blankets that cost less than $5 each that you can keep on hand and give to the kids to help insulate them. Make sure your player has a coat handy to wear when not playing, even before the game and between quarters or halves. A thick blanket to cover the bench provides some more protection against the elements so the kids don’t need to sit on anything cold drawing away their body heat. Although it isn’t about being warm, it’s important to stay hydrated when it is cold. So be sure there’s plenty of water and/or sports drink available. 

Spectators need to stay warm too. Besides wearing layers, gloves and a hat, you may want some other ways to fight the weather effects. There are heated seats you can set in your chair. For less than $20, you can get Lava Buns, which has two packets you heat in the microwave and insert in a cover provided in either red or blue. It advertises it will stay warm for up to five hours, but a few customers complain that they got two or less. For a more reliable source there’s battery powered stadium cushions from Venture Heat for $69 with four hours of heat and GameWarmer’s three hours for $49 that can also charge your cell phone. Those disposable hand and foot warmers are wonderful if you are spectating. I do keep these in the car as well. You can pick them up at any sports store that sells hunting and fishing gear. Several outlets sell boot liners that are like extra plush and insulated socks. These can be calf or knee length and sell for around $20 from companies like Jileon, Capelli, L.L. Bean and Nomad. They provide great warmth for rain boots and extra warmth in boots that already have linings. 

Warming up after a match or practice can be as important as staying warm during the activity. I love my heated car seats but many people don’t have these, and they are usually only in the front seats.  So you can buy separate seat warmers that plug into the car.  These are both seat and back warmers and some provide extra lumbar support. They run around $20 to $30 each. You can also use the heated stadium seat cushions listed above if you want to do dual functions but they don’t provide heat to the back. Swaddling in some warm covers can make our kids feel toasty. There are electric blankets which plug into the car either through 12V or AC outlets. These can be placed over, under, and around the kids to give them a nice warm core after they leave the field. There are dozens of options in the $22 to $40 range on Amazon. Finally keeping a thermos of hot beverage handy for a post-event warming will provide that river of heat to thaw them from the inside out. Some lively music that kids can bounce to will also fire up those chilled bones and make the trip home enjoyable no matter the outcome of the match.

As I watch the snow flurries outside my window and scoot closer to the fire I built, I think about the pleasant days when I only had to worry about sunscreen, rain ponchos and which sweater to bring just in case. Now I have to prepare for an Arctic adventure like a penguin mother scooching her fledglings into the center of a crèche of birds to keep them warm. I’ve been to tournaments where the snow had to be shoveled off the green or swept clear of the side, end, and goal lines so the game could proceed. I’ve parked behind the bench and built a blanket warming tent extending out my van’s sliding door with the car heaters going full blast.  But this will be the first time I have to consider all of that before November is even half-way over. It actually makes me long for the old sock and sweat stench of indoor soccer. It may be putrid but at least I can take my coat off to watch.

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Age-Appropriate Practices and Expectations

Sam Snow

For this edition of my blog I encourage you to listen to a webinar that I did last September for Cal South on Age-Appropriate Practices and Expectations:

 

 

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Never Too Early

Susan Boyd

Last night on the news, I heard it announced that Amazon is now going to hire taxi drivers in New York and Chicago to deliver their packages so they can get them to customers sooner. This is the same company that is experimenting with drone delivery, which they say will get an order to us in an hour. I’m not sure I want a mechanical gnat mistakenly dropping my Limoges vase on the roof because Google GPS hadn’t yet programmed in the porch extension I added last summer, but getting new underwear in the same time it takes a double pepperoni with extra cheese to arrive on my doorstep is pretty amazing. Not to be outdone by Amazon, many outlets are offering free shipping or $2 shipping for items, including couches and TVs. I’d like to see the drone that would deliver those. All this cheap, speedy delivery got me thinking: why do we even start holiday shopping anytime sooner than a week before? Why am I penciling in holiday fairs in October, watching my local PBS station’s holiday auction in the two weeks before Halloween, and storing gifts all over the house so early that I forget I already bought something for my youngest niece? Instead of setting our alarms so we can sit out in sub-freezing temperatures on Black Friday, we should set our alarms for Dec. 10 giving us plenty of time to order things for delivery by Hanukkah or Christmas. However, if you have to start shopping soon because that’s the tradition, I have some suggestions for the soccer players and fans in the family.

Every soccer fanatic has a team he or she loves and naturally wants their jersey to wear. But you know what those jerseys cost, averaging over $150. However there are replica jerseys that you can order for under $40 that look like a regulation jersey but lack that sewn on “official” label. For youth players who grow out of both the jersey and their love for a team, spending so much money on a clothing item seems unnecessary. Several websites cater to replicas and have amazing selections for both adult and youth fans. Brazil World Cup Shirts (http://brazilsworldcupshirts.co.uk/) has an easy-to-navigate website with a huge selection of jerseys and other football gear. Although a British site, the prices are in dollars and they ship to the U.S. You even have the option of putting any player’s name and number on the jersey, so you can personalize with a favorite player who might not be popular enough to have an official jersey. Most replica MLS jerseys cost nearly as much as authentic jerseys even from discount websites. Fanatics.com offers jerseys for around 40 percent off, so youth jerseys run in the $40 range and adult jerseys for $50. Use the tabs at the top of the home page to get to soccer then MLS. The team links are listed on the left hand margin. I’ve not used either website but both get a secure website rating and take Pay Pal, a good sign of their trustworthiness.

There are lots of soccer themed gifts available that can be great stocking-stuffers. Zazzle (http://www.zazzle.com/soccer gifts) offers gifts that can be personalized. There are key chains, pillows, watches, mugs, t-shirts, and posters to name just a few of the thousands of items. My favorite option is a variety of soccer birthday invitations available for a reasonable price. I’ve shopped on Zazzle and on Café Press (http://www.cafepress.com/ soccer-themed gifts). The latter has a pair of Flip Flops for $17 that show cows playing soccer on a pea green pitch. They are very cute and unusual. Kids Soccer World (http://www.kidssoccerworld.com/) offers just about anything you might want for the youth player, including toys, specialty items and clothing. I love the lip balm in a soccer ball case for $4.25. The balm is SPF 20 and vanilla flavored. You can also get it as a key chain for a dollar more. The website has a link to gifts under $10, which is a great option to quickly find stocking stuffers, Hanukkah gifts, or St. Nicholas swag. A final site, Find Gifts (http://www.findgift.com/categories/sports/soccer/) has some unusual ideas such as collage picture frames, lollipop bouquets and magazine subscriptions.

Considering that last item, magazines are the gift that keeps on giving. They are a way for soccer players to read up on the latest contests, key players’ feats, and standings. My boys love FourFourTwo, which focuses on the English Premier League. Titled for the favorite team formation (four in the back, four in the middle, and two up front), it is big, glossy, and packed with great information.  A six-month subscription is $34.50 and a year is $69 (https://fourfourtwo-magazine.com/america-and-canada-offers/). If the MLS is your player’s or fan’s motivation, there’s an app called Overlap that features stories and stats on MLS teams and players for the amazing price of free. FourFourTwo also has a free app which gives you the essence but not the full power of the magazine. Soccer America (http://www.socceramerica.com/) covers North American and international soccer. It’s published quarterly and costs $39 a year on the website. There’s also Soccer 360 that publishes six times a year for $55 (http://www.soccer360magazine.com/tablet/usa-resident-subscription.html) and also offers a free app.

Going along with magazines are books. For youth players, there are lots of great fiction and non-fiction options. All of the following choices are available from Amazon (www.amazon.com) and can be located by typing in the title in the search box. For non-fiction, I really like “The Everything Kid’s Soccer Book” by Deborah Crisfield for $8.99. This is a pictorial guide to rules, team tactics and techniques. This book is definitely for the beginning player so although the base age is listed as 7, I would say that reading with parents at age 5 or as soon as a kid starts playing soccer would be appropriate. Older players won’t find it challenging. For those players I recommend “44 Secrets for Playing Great Soccer” by Mirsad Hasic for $7.49. Many Under-12 and older players found the “secrets” helpful, but even younger players can learn from these ideas. Biographies of players can be inspirational for any soccer enthusiast. DK Publishing, well-known for its dazzling photography-supported texts has a biography of Pele by James Buckley for around $6 paperback. Although intended for younger readers, the photos are so engaging that older readers may find this worthy of their time. From The Amazing Athlete series, there’s “Abby Wambach” by Jon Fishman that retails for $7. Published this past January, it’s an up-to-date look at the top female American (possibly even international) player. Older readers will be challenged and entertained by “Outcasts United: The Story of a Refuge Team that Changed a Town” by Warren St. John ($8), which details the efforts of refuge children from Africa, the Middle East and Central Europe who escaped war, death and torture to find relief in the joy of soccer. This is a young adult adaptation of the book “Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refuge Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference,” which some readers might prefer. For fiction, there’s the “Wild Bunch Soccer” series, which is up to five books now for 3rd/4th graders and up. The series by Joachim Masannek runs around $11 for hardback and $7 for paperback. Matt Christopher has several soccer volumes such as “Soccer Hero” and “Soccer Duel,” which run around $5 for paperback and are appropriate for pre-teens. Mal Peet’s book “Keeper” is a fictional interview with the goalie “El Gato” that reveals the dark history and triumphant victory of a South American urchin. Combining mysticism and ghost story with the provocative realism of soccer, it’s a haunting tale. 

No soccer match is complete without snacks after the game or snacks during a televised game. Giving soccer “food” for the holidays can brighten any event. Olive Garden (one of US Youth Soccer’s sponsors) has a full catering menu to help carbo load before a game. Every year before the boys’ first high school game, we had pasta and salad from Olive Garden, which provided all the necessary items such as plates, napkins and utensils, as well as the food. There was always more than the boys could eat for a very reasonable price.  You could stuff a few restaurant gift cards in a stocking for a meal later. Protein bars make a healthy gift with several brands out there to choose from. Bryce really likes Think Thin bars, which have no sugar, are gluten free, and have 20 grams of protein per bar. They come in a large variety of flavors and cost around $1.75 a bar. Fruit baskets are always welcome, especially in the dead of winter when fruits aren’t as plentiful. Hale Groves (www.HaleGroves.com) has an extensive selection of primarily citrus fruits starting at around $26 for a small variety box and around $36 for a basket. Harry and David (www.harryanddavid.com) concentrates on apples, pears and cherries and has dozens of gift boxes for under $30. This may seem a bit strange, but smoked salmon sits well with many soccer players. It’s full of protein, keeps well without refrigeration until opened, and goes with all kinds of menus – salmon eggs benedict, bagels, salmon salad, salmon pasta, and salmon loaded baked potato. I know the holidays leap upon us suddenly despite the early warnings with store decorations, tons of catalogs and people who insist on sending cards before Thanksgiving. We plan, procrastinate, rush and worry all at the same time and still manage to find ourselves panicking at the last minute. Hopefully a few of these suggestions will help ease the pressures and result in some holiday hugs and thank yous. When it comes to the holidays, it’s never too early to make your list and check it twice.

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