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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.


Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries: Quick Tips for Coaches

Sam Snow

Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries: Quick Tips for Coaches

By Dr. Steve Grosserode DPT and Dr. Jared Vagy DPT 

The ACL and Injury

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury rates are high in youth soccer and have been increasing the past 20 years. These injuries have serious effects on the lives of players, teams and coaches. The ACL connects the thigh bone to the shin bone, helping to prevent twisting and bending of the leg. However, if too much twisting or bending happens at the leg, injury can occur even if there is no contact. In fact, non-contact injuries are responsible for over 70 percent of injuries. 

Trying to figure out what causes these injuries can be confusing. ACL injuries are often blamed on factors that coaches and players cannot control. These factors can be bone structure, hormones or even gender. What is usually neglected is a key reason for injury that we can control: misaligned movement.


Misaligned Movement Can Lead to Injury

What is misaligned movement? The human body is like a machine similar to a car. When a car's alignment is off it begins to have wear and tear, perform poorly and then ultimately it will break down. Our bodies are no different. If the body's alignment is off during athletic movement, the body can experience wear and tear, perform poorly and eventually get hurt. Just like we are trained to operate a car skillfully, soccer players need to be trained to move properly. This starts with correcting misaligned movement patterns. 

It is important for coaches to know that just like each player has different skills and abilities, each player has a different way of moving. Certain players may even demonstrate misaligned movement. 

There are many types of misaligned movements. Coaches should watch out for a common misaligned movement that leads to ACL injury: the knee collapsing inward (image 1). Research shows that players who suffered an ACL tear demonstrate a greater amount of knee collapse. The knee can collapse inwards during fundamental movements in soccer. These movements include planting, decelerating and changing directions at high speeds. 

Fortunately, there are exercises that can help to correct misaligned movement. Just as a doctor may prescribe specific medications to treat different illnesses, coaches can let the player know what's going on and give specific exercises for homework to help correct the specific misaligned movement pattern. We will focus on the exercises that help players who demonstrate the misaligned movement called knee collapse (image 1). 


5 6


(Left) shows the knee collapsing inwards.                 (Right) shows proper knee alignment.


 Prevent Knee Collapse with Glute Exercises and Cueing

Glute strengthening and coach's guided instructions (cueing) to move correctly is often overlooked in injury prevention and player development. The glute muscles are the main muscles that control the knee from collapsing inwards. Weakness of these muscles can lead to misaligned movement and injury. It is essential to use the glute muscles to keep the knee in proper alignment especially during planting, decelerating and changing directions (image 2). 

Coaches can help by telling players when they demonstrate this misaligned movement of knee collapse and cue them to keep their knee out while using their glute muscles. Coaches can also assign corrective exercise homework. An excellent way to activate the glute muscles is with a resistance band wrapped above the knees. The glute muscles are used to press the knees against the band to align the knees. 

Perform the three exercises listed below as part of a pre-practice warm-up program to activate hip muscles to stop knee collapse, prevent injury and improve athletic performance. Use a low-resistance band and perform each exercise for 1 minute. The low resistance and long duration will allow hip muscles time to activate but not fatigue.

 Squats – 1 minute

Purpose: Activate specific hip muscles while decreasing stress on the knee.squat


A: Put your feet through the exercise band and wrap just above knees. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.

B: Equally bend from your waist/hip and knees. Stop when thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure to keep knees behind and aligned with the second toe. Squeeze glut muscles upon return.


Side Steps – 1 minute 

Purpose: Activate side hip muscles that prevent the knee from collapsing inward.side


A: Put your feet through the exercise band and wrap just above knees. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Equally bend from your waist/hip and knees into a quarter squat position. Make sure to keep knees behind and aligned with the second toe.

B: Use hip muscles to step out to the side with one leg. Slowly step the other leg in while keeping tension in the band.  


Monster Walks – 1 minute

Purpose: Activate specific injury prevention hip muscles while keeping proper knee alignment.Monster


A: Put your feet through the exercise band and wrap just above knees. Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Equally bend from your waist/hip and knees into a quarter squat position. Make sure to keep knees behind and aligned with the second toe.

B: Bring foot forward and to the side by squeezing the muscle on side of hip. Make sure you maintain tension on the band.

C: Step other foot further forward and to the side while keeping tension on the band.

D, E: Repeat 


Misaligned movement occurs in soccer when players perform athletic movements while the body is not aligned. While there are many different misaligned movement patterns, knee collapse is perhaps the most common and unsafe. If one of your players demonstrates knee collapse, then it is important for the coach to recognize this and tell the player how to correct. In addition, resistance band exercises such as the squat, side step and monster walk can help by activating the gluteal muscles to stop the misaligned movement of knee collapse. This improved movement can prevent injuries and maximize athletic performance. For more information on the various misaligned movements and how to correct visit: 

About the Authors

Dr. Grosserode and Dr. Vagy are Doctors of Physical Therapy and co-founders of Movement Solutions. They are co-authoring the upcoming book Prevent Soccer Injury: Lifelong Player Development. Visit for more youth sports injury prevention information.

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Summer of Soccer

Susan Boyd

Right now, you could plop yourself down in front of the television and watch a world-class soccer match most days — beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET and continuing every two-and-a-half hours until 10:30 p.m. ET — as Copa America Centenario and UEFA Euro 2016 dovetail with one another. Copa America concludes June 26, while UEFA Euro 2016 continues to July 10. While I don’t suggest foregoing most of the summer parked indoors with a remote and a big screen, I do want to encourage parents and youth players to share several of these matches. They are an excellent opportunity to see how complex and fast the best tactical soccer unfolds. Copa America can be seen on Fox networks, and ESPN broadcasts and streams Euro 2016. While waiting for an airplane on June 11, I was able to watch the U.S. play Paraguay on my computer. Technology is awesome.

Americans are used to weeks and weeks of play-off competitions in every sport, beyond the regular seasons of football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Adding to the professional sports schedules, we can also watch hours of collegiate games. On average fans spend 8.5 hours a week viewing sports, according to a 2013 study. That compares to an average overall TV habit of five hours a day. Using those numbers, sports makes up nearly 25 percent of our video consumption. Young players develop their interest and ultimately their passion for a sport by watching teams who perform at the top levels. It’s that interest, which inspires a player and supports him or her when times are rough. When players immerse themselves in watching matches, they develop a keen sense of how tactics evolve in the course of a competition. They can key in on a particular player or position to watch how he or she reacts both on and off the ball. As young players mature, so will their sophistication when it comes to understanding the game and their role in it. Unfortunately soccer players have been at a disadvantage for many years because soccer hadn’t snagged a huge portion of sports broadcasting. Therefore, players had a better chance of watching any other sport than soccer. However, over the last ten years broadcasters have put a greater emphasis on “the world’s game.”

In 2013, NBC signed a three-year deal with the English Premier League to air 196 matches each season, with 20 matches being broadcast on NBC and the rest on NBCSports, CNBC and USA. This year, they doubled down on their commitment with a new six year deal, penning a $1 billion contract with the EPL. Compare that to ESPN’s yearly fee of $1.9 billion just to air several NFL games. For NBC, this soccer contract is a bargain. With sports accounting for 37 percent of all TV ad spending, NBC is delighted to secure a large niche of soccer broadcasting. Fox, who began their off-shoot cable channel as Fox Sports World in 1997, broadcast mostly rugby and Australian rules football with a slowly growing soccer schedule until 2006, when it shifted to Fox Soccer, dropping all other sports. However, it lost the rights to the EPL to NBC, and eventually moved all soccer to Fox Sports 1 and 2 — turning Fox Soccer into FXX, a second entertainment channel to FX. Fox has the rights to several college soccer matches and all CONCACAF games, including the Copa America. Where Fox will now shine is their contract with FIFA for World Cups 2018 and 2022 and the Women’s World Cup in 2019, plus several FIFA U-20 and U-17 World Cups. ESPN has focused on UEFA and will share MLS with Fox.

This increase in soccer coverage means that events the rest of world knew and looked forward to, such as the FA Cup and the FA Community Shield in England and the various other major European leagues like the Budesliga (Germany), Ligue 1 (France), and Serie A (Italy), could be seen by American audiences. Since the United States is a country of immigrants, it makes sense that there will be a large pool of viewers for a myriad of soccer programming. The tremendous success of the Premier League contract for NBC has spurred other networks to look closely at what soccer communities exist in the US that would support a broader schedule of matches. For example UEFA covering Europe is one of the six confederations of FIFA. CONMEBOL is the South American confederation and is competing with North America’s CONCACAF teams in this year’s Copa America. CAF is the African confederation and AFC is the Asian confederation. All of these have Cups which help determine World Cup qualifiers and international country team ranking and these Cups are of interest to soccer fans from those continents and beyond. Therefore more and more of these events are coming to American television, which serves to highlight the significant influence of the sport around the world. As youth players become more and more exposed to the highest levels of the sport, they begin to understand what they need to achieve and how to reach those standards, just as young NBA fans learn from watching LeBron James pivot to avoid a defender.

What else this summer do we parents and our children have to look forward to?  How about the Olympics?  That schedule runs from Aug. 3-20. Young players can watch the best of both men’s and women’s soccer, although the U.S. Under-23 MNT failed to qualify for this Olympics. Nevertheless, there will be plenty of great soccer to relish. The U.S. Women’s National Team will be defending their Olympic title from London 2012 while introducing new players to American fans. Naturally, all the other sports of the Olympic competition will be worthy of our attention, but this will be a great time for young female soccer players to embrace old and new soccer icons while plunging for a month into the sport.

For fans of English soccer, the Premier League will begin Aug. 13 following the FA Community Shield game on Aug. 7, which pits the winner of the FA Cup (Manchester United) against the winner of the EPL (Leicester City). Leicester City is a Cinderella story, a team who was given 5,000-to-1 odds of winning the League (worse odds than Kim Kardasian becoming President). The club had never won the Premier League title in their 132 years and barely escaped relegation last season. However, they succeeded utilizing an incredible defense, who committed just 10 defensive errors all season, only one of which resulted in a goal. The offense came through when needed, racking up nine 1-0 games (11 is the record) to keep Leicester at the top of the bracket from April forward.

While our kids should be outside in summer practicing the game they love, taking a few hours to enjoy some of the top level soccer being played by the professionals enhances both their investment in and understanding of the game. Our children will appreciate sharing these events with us which helps acknowledge the activity they enjoy. We can all benefit as we watch and learn more about soccer - its history, its impact, its stars and its execution. The level of athleticism and commitment during these contest is intense and impressive. Our young players will find so much they can ascend towards and so many reasons to try. It’s important that they experience the power and universal standing of soccer in order to appreciate the special place they occupy in this phenomenon while finding a player they like or a country they support and watching those matches. It can be a special summer joining the world-wide soccer fellowship.

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Project Play Summit

Sam Snow

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the second annual Project Play Summit in Washington, D.C. More than 450 leaders at the intersection of sport, youth, and health attended the summit which is beginning to guide a revolution if you will in the way Americans participate in sports. The 2016 Project Play Summit, details are worthy of the time to be read and videos viewed by all youth soccer leaders. If you have not already done so then please read the seminal Project Play report, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game. Project Play's latest report, "State of Play: 2016”, will soon be released and I will be sure to share it with you.

Here are a few of my bullet point notes from several presentations –

  • Inclusion increases the pipeline of participants
  • Only five states in the USA require physical education
  • 0 to 60 is a new program with the goal of 60 minutes of activity per day for all children
    • A mental and physical health crisis is upon us due to a lack of movement/play involvement
  • Clubs must ask kids what they want
    • Coaches need to ask players what they want on a quarterly basis
  • NCAA research shows that 2/3 of soccer players have specialized in just soccer by age 12. This trend is proving to be detrimental to college level performance by those players.
  • Coaches – use video games to help participation and performance
  • Some communities have become play deserts
  • Get kids into sport to learn social skills as well as sports skills
  • Many of the speakers’ messages reminded me of the ancient Greek saying of – A Sound Mind in a Sound Body
  • Physical literacy is mental, social and physical
    • In soccer physical literacy activities must be required through age 12 (Zone 1)
    • An extra effort must be made with the girls
    • Parents and coaches should be examples of an active lifestyle. Those adults should get out and play soccer with the kids once a month

No matter what the sports related event is that I attend, I am always impressed with the number of soccer folks in attendance and the Project Play Summit was no exception. At this Summit I spoke with Skye Eddy Bruce, Wylie Chen, Scott Dane, Paco Espinosa, Ed Foster-Simeon, Stephanie Gabbert, Tom Gross, Dave Guthrie, Bethany Henderson, Mike Hoyer, Sheri Huckleberry, Ted Kroeten, Lori Lindsey, Marc Maxey, John O’Sullivan, Richard Pavlick, Tab Ramos and Tom Turner. I think that you’ll be interested in comments on the Summit from a few of them.


Skye Eddy Bruce (Soccer - I wrote a post with my thoughts from the Summit – which you will find in the link below.

Stephanie Gabbert (Director of Development - Colorado Storm) - I think a key component in this movement is the willingness of the stakeholders involved to make these ideas and strategies happen. There were many 'preaching to the choir' moments with a large room full of people nodding their heads in unison. But many of these strategies and changes require economic investment from varying sources, including government, corporations, and individuals. Finding ways to help fund these amazing strategies is just as important as the concepts themselves.

Dave Guthrie (Executive Director - Indiana Soccer) - The information and data presented at the summit confirmed that the US is experiencing a “sedentary crisis” that is having a significantly, unfavorable impact on people, families, and communities; and is straining the very fabric that supports our society. The research shared quantified the ANNUAL cost of the “sedentary crisis” as over $35 billion in direct medical costs; $57 billion in productivity losses and 33 million years of life lost.  The crisis, as daunting as it is, becomes even more disturbing when one considers that the health condition of youth in the US continues to deteriorate; 30.3% of 6-12 year olds in 2008 were considered to be healthy to an active level as compared to only 26.6% in 2015.  The good news is that US Youth Soccer and the thousands of community-based, member organizations possess a viable, affordable solution to the “sedentary crisis”.  The next steps are to identify, educate, and secure a commitment from stakeholders to provide access for ALL youth; in order to affirm and secure that “The game IS for all kids”. The question remains; will US Youth Soccer lead?

Dr. Sheri Huckleberry (Assistant Professor of Coaching Education at Ohio University)  - We need to tell our story and cultivate the future of coaching educators. We can make the difference!  We can set an example! If we work together I know youth sports, physical activity and play will thrive. 

Ted Koreten (Artistic Director of Joy of the People) - The first rule of free play don't talk about free play; the second rule of free play don't talk about free play. I liked that the studies showed that kids with the best physical literacy came, not from multi-sport athletes, but the kids in the poorest demographic--these kids also showed the fewest rates of overuse injuries. The great paradox we have to solve is that in order for free play to work it can only be for fun. If we try to do it to improve it will not work.

John O'Sullivan (Founder, Changing the Game Project) - I was struck by the statistics on health outcomes simply by getting kids moving 30-60 minutes a day. Soccer is the perfect sport for this, as it can be played anywhere, anytime, with any number of kids. All you need is a space and a ball. Yet we seem to be creating so many barriers to entry through costs, travel and commitment so very young. Our sport should be the perfect gateway sport to a life of activity.


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Finding Memories

Susan Boyd

Last week, in a fit of spring cleaning fever, I decided to tackle our kitchen pantry. My dream is to one day convert it into a laundry room, so I figured if I could pare down the contents, I’d be that much closer to realizing my vision. For years, it had become a collection point for those bulky odds and ends that didn’t seem to make sense storing in linen, clothes or utility closets. I pulled out two dozen flower vases, large kitchen gadgets like a tomato grinder and a countertop apple/potato peeler of which I had two both unopened in their boxes, and scores of plastic storage containers. Mixed in with the canned goods and the cereals were picnic baskets, cheese boards, flashlights, and maintenance guides to every electrical product we’ve ever owned. Then, delightfully, I came across a collection of soccer trophies and patches tucked in a corner. Most of the boys’ trophies had found their way to cabinet shelves in their rooms displayed along with scarves, certificates and medallions. However, these had probably been set out on the kitchen table after tournaments from which I’d banished them to the pantry in a quick clean up, intending to retrieve them later to display upstairs. That obviously never happened.

Finding those soccer mementos reminded me of the good times surrounding the events the trophies and patches commemorated. I’ve been reminded a lot lately. We had a severe sewage backup in the basement, so everything had to be removed while the contractor repaired the damage. It gave me a good excuse to sort through all the photos, school art projects, soccer items and papers, and general memorabilia we’ve collected through the years. I’d always meant to organize the photos, separate things out for each of my four children, and label boxes, but life and inertia regularly intervened. Now that I was finally digging into it, I found myself cheerfully reliving some of our best family experiences. I found stacks of those tournament photos, regular photos, trophies, medals, certificates, news clippings, even World Cup items including bracket posters and sticker books. The boxes yielded a soccer bonanza.

Sometimes I wonder why we put so much effort in to holding on those scraps of our soccer past. Kids move on to other activities or just grow up and out of soccer. Yet those trophies, patches, and medals seem just too substantial and permanent to toss out. I’m not sure if my children will keep them long enough to share with their own children, but I really can’t bring myself to be the one to decide that by chucking them. They exist less as a symbol of achievement and more as a spark to memories. When I saw the faceplates and embossing I instantly remembered the event and all the contingent experiences:  where we stayed, the various games, the players and their parents, and the adventures we had. One badge reminded me of the great Starbucks search a group of us parents held before there was an app for that. A handful of us began pulling up the regional Google map on our phones and attempting to navigate in an unfamiliar location to reach our caffeine connection only to look up from our screens to see three other parents crossing the pitch holding the familiar green-logoed cups. Not all memories have to be for the kids. Another trophy reminded me of the final game between Robbie’s old club team and the club team he would join the next year. He scored the one and only goal in that game, defeating a Chicago team who had never lost to his club. When he joined that Chicago team, that’s all the parents could talk about. While the trophy represented an accomplishment, it also represented the atmosphere he entered.

Going through the World Cup collectables I was reminded not only of the competitions dating back to 1998, but of the boys’ reaction to witnessing the matches. Early on they had country allegiances based on favorite players and their own heritage. However as they progressed in the sport they developed more sophisticated interests. Unrolling bracket posters revealed the evolving understanding of soccer the boys had. Rather than picking teams because they were familiar, the boys researched the various teams and chose based more on data than devotion (though England and the USA were always there). I found World Cup booklets filled with notes on things like player and team statistics, outcomes of friendly matches, and bracket analyses. In 2005, Thierry Henry began the Stand Up Speak Up campaign against racism. Nike created wristbands to support the movement, and I found one among the World Cup materials. It was a strong reminder of how important the issue of race was just 10 years ago, and more importantly how much it impacted youth players who witnessed fans taunting some of the best players in world because of their race. That’s not just soccer; it’s a history lesson triggered by a simple band.

Looking through the tournament books I discovered how much we all focused on the outcomes. The books held notes on all the teams in our bracket, their wins, losses and goal differential. The notes visibly demonstrated how we were working out the scenarios that would allow our teams to advance. In some cases the books didn’t print the rules of the tournament, so there were cryptic lines like “FIFA rules” or “unlimited subs” reminding me of those games where Robbie or Bryce played different positions or didn’t play at all because of the rules. The booklets also were a reminder of the level of competition. Both boys competed against players who now are professional and on the Men’s National Team. Seeing the ads posted by proud parents congratulating their child and their child’s team or looking at team photos showed how many great players the boys came across. On occasion they could brag that they defeated those players. At one tournament where the final game came to PKs, Bryce in goal faced a player who just a few weeks before had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the top high school prospect and stopped his shot. That moment wasn’t commemorated by a photo or even a news story, but it was remembered through a college coach’s card stuck between the pages. He’d seen the stop and had expressed interest in recruiting Bryce. A proud moment for sure.

The best reminders are always photos because they steal an instant of an event, which somehow tells a bigger story. There are the tournament photos captured by roving photographers. When I see pictures of Bryce frozen in mid-air going for a save, I am reminded of how intense and athletic he was. When Robbie had dreadlocks, his photos invariably showed them flying behind him which even in a static shot told of his impressive speed. I especially loved coming across the team photos with players holding their medals or trophies or just those wonderful photos taken every year so we could buy copies to send to relatives. The players are always either smiling or acting goofy (occasionally both) bookended by tall, sometimes stern coaches. Looking at them season upon season, I could watch the boys and their friends growing up and slowing turning into men. They were a special reminder of great times, significant friendships and grand adventures. I also love the individual photos kneeling next to a soccer ball or standing with a foot on the ball. Again they create a picture of an entire history of playing. Nothing that shows their abilities or triumphs; just a simple reminder that they grew up playing a sport they loved.

Sometimes when I looked at the piles of soccer keepsakes I had amassed, I would wonder why I so diligently preserved them. I even had stacks of news articles, one sheets of team rosters for high school games, and team schedules. It seemed anything remotely related to the boys’ playing soccer was ferreted away for another day. When I pulled it all out, I got very nostalgic and I was surprised that the boys, seeing some of the stuff, added details I hadn’t been privy to originally. Who knows if they will maintain the giant box of things I saved. They are moving on in their lives and will soon both be finished with playing except the odd pick-up game or recreational adult league. Yet soccer was a significant part of their growing up, so I hope they keep some of the bits and pieces as a way of remembering the best of what transpired. What I am most happy for is that I don’t have any regrets about missing some of the soccer reminders. We all need to bear in mind how easily we can throw things out, but how impossible it is to reconstruct them. So I urge parents to be hoarders. I’m glad I was because it is all here now, even if some of the things found their way to odd hiding places like the kitchen pantry or the garage storage chest. I’m sure that someday we’ll move, and in the winnowing out process I’ll come across other hidden treasures. When that happens they will once again prick my mind and bring me some memories of a wonderful life with my kids.

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