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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.

 

Players First Movement

Sam Snow

My very good friend and colleague Logan Fleck had a saying about quality coaching, “It’s easier to say no than go. It’s harder to teach go than no.” A part of coaching/teaching ‘go’ is to know when as the coach to let them go. High quality soccer performance by players moves through many mistakes in order to grow to a consistently good performance. Coaches of youth players, and the parents of those players, must let the youth player work through trial and error. This is an important part of the learning process. The coach should guide the players through that process, but not micromanage them. Over-coaching precedes timid play. This is what coach Fleck was alluding to in that it’s hard for some coaches to let the players go. So if you want your team to be good, I mean really good, then you must let them make some mistakes as they learn the game. Most of those mistakes will happen in training sessions as you teach them go rather than no. But some mistakes will happen in a match and once in a while it will cost you a goal and perhaps a loss. The price is a part of growth within the dynamic game of soccer. Coaches who teach no instead of go will win some matches at the youth level, but once the game is at a higher standard the team that coached no will become a ‘no go’. Let me share with you some of coach Fleck’s thoughts on the matter.

“This message is a reminder of the face-to-face or phone conversation that I’ve had with colleagues of my frustration at watching a high level educated coach use the directive approach (telling the players what to do numerous times during the game). Instead of quite bluntly allowing the players the opportunity to figure it out on their own. This did not occur once but many times and I observed young players (13-14 year olds) being moved around as to where they should be and what to do the majority of the time. We can all argue about coaching moments, but when they become a running commentary as to where a player should be – we (coaches) have crossed the line. To me this is not only hindering player development but, in my mind, is abuse. We (coaches) interject what we want the players to do and they just follow the yelled out instructions. Bull! I was privileged to have been coached by some of the best coaches in the country. Who with great patience and understanding knew that the game is and will always be a player’s game. Those coaches taught me the most important thing about soccer, which was to possess the confidence to make my decisions on the field and to take responsibility for the game. Let me pause to thank them all again.

No, over-coaching is not a new problem – but this particular event occurred at a very high level and I hate to think that our Founding Fathers of soccer in this country would feel good about this being the end result of contributing a lifetime of effort to the education of coaches in the country. I would like there to be proclaimed a ‘Shut Up For Soccer Day’! The day would entail all coaches (and parents if they so choose) but most decidedly us coaches to not yell anything at the players or referees for one game – on the same day nationwide. The coaches will enjoy, observe, analyze and/or suffer in silence while the game is going on. This I know is like asking the entire country to quit smoking simultaneously, however I do believe we can and will make our point and more importantly show the respect for the players that our coaches showed us back when we played the game (and enjoyed it as well).

This topic is one that touches all of us and I simply want us to do our part to continue to keep soccer a player’s game. Many of you knew my father, Dr. Tom Fleck, and were present during his acceptance speech upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NSCAA. He focused his speech on two points. He stated clearly and categorically that the award should have been given to all of you who make the game what it is today. His final point was in regard to the children who play soccer, LET THEM PLAY!

This problem of over-coaching youth soccer players has reached epidemic proportion that is as detrimental as smoking and obesity are to their health. I feel this issue of over-coaching young players can kill our game.”

It seems to be appropriate that during Youth Soccer Month we should undertake the Players First Movement.

 

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