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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.


Lessons from the National Youth License course

Sam Snow

So after a full season of implementing the philosophies and methodologies from the National Youth License here is one coach's report on his team.
I just wanted to finalize my thoughts on what I think I accomplished this season as a coach and how I tried to incorporate the philosophy of the National Youth License into my coaching. 
This fall we took the team to one weekend tournament in Michigan (in August before our 'season' started) and had an eight game 6v6 league season (other communities in the Lansing area).  Ours was technically a select team but in reality we are able to have two teams in each age/gender group and had 23 players try out for 22 slots.  One of my players had never played soccer and one had taken a year off after playing with me K-2.  The other nine were returning from my team last year (two decided to shift to other teams).  I set up the season with four principles:
  1. Within the eight games each player will play goalie at least one half of a game (I had two players returning who wanted to play goalie and rotated them in with the other nine)
  2. In each game every player there will play approximately 50% of the game (the league mandates 30%- only one player missed one game; otherwise perfect attendance).
  3. A player will start at least one half.
  4. If a player played offense in one half they play defense in the other.
  5. Develop psychologically as well as technically (and somewhat tactically and physically).
My sense is that these principles keep the notion of ""development"" ahead of the notion of 'success' as defined by winning.  I actually ended up sticking to these very intensively – at the 8th game the 11th player (my daughter) played goalie.  Don't get me wrong- I am highly competitive and have to hold onto my inner demons around winning; but was able to keep the testosterone in check.  Anyway, I am very pleased with the results on a number of fronts:
1.      The 11 players over eight games played goalie.  I tried to put them in situations where they could be successful both in terms of defensive support (whom I put on D for the half they were in goal depending on who it was, etc.).  The result was that every one of them made some nice saves (some were brilliant), got the ball back in play nicely and had a good experience.  Overall they allowed 7 goals, had some collisions and dealt with their fears.  At the end of the season I said they would only have to play goal in the spring if they wanted to – and have six girls who want to continue developing at the position.  For training this season we identified the goalies for the next weekend at the beginning of each week and gave them 20 minutes per training session (2 times per week) and then prior to the game to get some basic skill development.  Interesting comments and participation by many of the parents – most told me how petrified their kids were all week knowing they were going to play goal and how they went out in the back yard and kicked balls at them to help them get ready.  Nice instance of parents playing some soccer with them.
2.      (and 3) Everybody played about half of each game.  If they started they played more that half as we tried to not sub at all for about the first 12 minutes to give them time to get into a good flow. 
3.      Of course some want to only play offense and score.  We had continuing discussions about how they have to learn all positions at this age to really develop an understanding of soccer.  They started buying into the idea that to be good at offense they needed to learn something about how a defender thinks, and vice-versa.  The other side is that (I think) eight kids on the team scored a goal and so they got that thrill.
4.      I started this fall naming the team captains for the games at the beginning of the week so that they also had responsibilities during training sessions of a) leading stretching and warm-down and b) captain 5v6 games at the end of sessions.  I also did some work on sportsmanship – all kids went up and thanked the ref after they finished thanking the other team each game.
Anyway, it was a really fun season and the final reward for the kids was that they went 5-0-3 and won their division (in the spring we will move to the slightly tougher division in our league).  As you can imagine, there is a wide range of athletic ability, body type, experience, and development level in this group – but they all improved both their individual skills and started thinking about triangles, communication and some other aspects of team play (it was really great to have one girl on the sideline say ""look Coach, they got a triangle set up for passing"" as she watched her teammates on the field).