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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.

 

ODP Trials in Arizona

Sam Snow

The US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/programs/OlympicDevelopmentProgram/) is flourishing under the Arizona sun. This past weekend I attended the open try-outs of Arizona Youth Soccer ODP (http://www.azyouthsoccer.org/odp/program_overview.aspx). I was pleased to accept the invitation from Austin Daniels, technical director and Karla Thompson, assistant technical director to attend the trials at the wonderful soccer facilities at Grande Sports World (http://grandesports.com/) in Casa Grande. The visit allowed me to work with the state staff coaches, to observe the players and to speak with the players’ parents.

The weekend US Youth Soccer ODP trials began with a meeting on Friday evening for the state staff coaches. Coach Thompson heads up the Program for the state association. She ran an efficient and productive meeting for a room full of coaches from across the state who work in the clubs, high schools and colleges. Age group assignments, designated fields were noted and the detailed weekend schedule was reviewed. A very good professional standard was set. The staff stayed at the complex hotel and had their meals together. That allowed time and opportunity for the staff coaches to bond, extend their professional connections, review the player evaluations and share their ideas on coaching high performance players.

Saturday morning began with me running the coaches through a session on the field. The training session focused on playing out of the defending third and into midfield. That piece of the American style of play is the foundation unearthed in the US Youth Soccer ODP Coaching Manual. All four US Youth Soccer regions and the 55 state associations use the Manual as a progressive plan to help all of the players in the program evolve to an international level of play. The Manual gives us a uniform approach to develop players in the Program across the nation for both boys and girls. The starting point is how to keep possession of the ball and play our way out of the back third into midfield with good control of the ball and a tactically sound attacking shape around the ball.  Coaches may download the US Youth Soccer ODP Coaching Manual here.

Saturday afternoon arrived and the administrators did an outstanding job of checking in hundreds of players at a time. Each day was divided into three 90 minute sessions with three age groups of boys and girls attending the trials in each session. In the end, over 1,000 players turned up for the open try-outs, which was very impressive on its own account and even more so given the 110 degree days. The coaches and the players handled the climate well with water breaks every 10 minutes, player rotations in the training activities and eating appropriately to meet the athletic demands of the game.

The training activities consisted of small and large groups working on the tactic of buildup play from the back to the half way line. Once the groups were playing 9 vs. 9 at the end of the sessions on Sunday the players were showing real improvement on the tactics for this aspect of attacking play.  Goalkeepers consistently played short distributions, attackers worked to inter-pass to keep possession while penetrating up field and quality soccer ensued.

Each age group had two full sessions, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. On Saturday once the training sessions began Coach Daniels, Coach Thompson and I met with the parents of the players. Coach Daniels gave a quick overview of the Program and then had Coach Thompson give details pertinent to the age groups for the parents in the room. I then spoke about the national scope of the Program, why there was a particular training theme and the reality of moving up the soccer pyramid which requires the adults to have a long term perspective. I told the parents that they must help their child with the proper balance of short and long term goals to stay on the pathway for high performance soccer. This is a twisting and turning pathway which demands confidence and perseverance from the players and their parents. Success is not instant nor lasting in high performance soccer. Coach Daniels and I then completed each parent meeting with time for Q and A.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill

The entire weekend went very well. Even though the challenge of the Olympic Development Program is steep, the players showed their best, learned more about the game and carried on down the path toward the possibility of playing in a World Cup or the Olympic Games. I encourage you as a player, coach, administrator or referee to participate in US Youth Soccer ODP as soon as you can.

Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes, courage is that quiet voice that says...I will try again tomorrow. – Mary Anne Radmacher

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Coaching Clinic at Presidents Cup

Sam Snow

During the finals of the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup I ran a coaching clinic. Nineteen coaches signed up and the clinic was held over the last two days of the tournament. We had class presentations on Match Analysis and Game Day Management. The coaches also gave group reports on the matches they observed. Each group was given specific aspects of the matches to analyze and then report to the class. This really helped the coaches to improve their observation skills and to see a game with a different lens than as a spectator or the coach of the team.

Among other topics here are samples of the points of emphasis given to the coaches to observe in the four matches seen during the tournament.

Communication within the team –

  • Does it exist?
  • Is it effective?
  • Are key players taking responsibility?
     

Compactness – Does the team know how to stay together and execute defending principles in groups?

  • Horizontal
  • Vertical
     

Style of defending (man-to-man or zone or combination) – Do the players understand it?

How quickly does the team make the transition to defense? Are they consistent?

Describe the interaction of the coaching staff with the players before, during and after the match.

Does the team formation help or hinder this team on offense?

Do the players know and execute the principles of attack?

What variety in attack does the team display or are they locked into one method of attack?

Does the goalkeeper stay physically and verbally connected to the team throughout the match?

Discuss the keeper’s organization at free kicks and corners in the defending third.

Discuss the keeper’s choice of defensive techniques (ball skills).

Observe the keeper’s distributions.

  • Choice of technique?
  • Makes tactical sense?
     

Here are a few comments made by the coaches attending the clinic:

“That was a very informative and fun weekend.”

“Thanks again for a very enlightening and productive coaching clinic this weekend. This is the first coaching event I've been to and was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the program and process. I learned a lot and can put it to use immediately to be a better coach.”

“Thanks again for putting on the class, I enjoyed.”

“Thanks so much for the well organized and efficiently detailed coaching course! You do a great job of communicating!”

US Youth Soccer plans to hold similar clinics at our events in the future.  Sign up to receive the Coaching Advisor newsletter and be the first to find out when and where new clinics like this will be held.

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Receation Programming

Sam Snow

My friend and colleague Julio Paiz is the Director of Coaching for the Louisiana Fire in Kenner.  The club is in the process of hiring an administrator for the club’s large recreational program. He and I exchange some ideas on points to help standardize a recreational program in today’s soccer club. Here are the points that I made:

If I were undertaking such a project I would consider these points:

1.    All players, coaches and team managers must register centrally with the club

2.    All teams must use the club colors and name

3.    All team equipment must be ordered through the club

4.    At least 50% of a team roster will be scrambled annually to keep coaches from building up “dynasties”

5.    All adult personnel with the recreational teams must undergo a background check

6.    All adult team personnel must pass the CDC concussion course

a.    Heads Up: Concussion in Sports Intro Course - To learn more about concussions take the CDC’s FREE "Heads Up! Online Training for Youth Sports Coaches." This training will help you with a basic understanding of concussion.  Simply go online and take the self-guided training. Once you complete the training and quiz, you can print out a certificate, making it easy to show your league or school that you have completed this intro course offered by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and US Youth Soccer.

7.    All coaches must hold the “F” license at a minimum and they must do so within 48 hours of being named a team coach (the course is 2 hours long and entirely online) - http://www.ussoccer.com/coaching-education/licenses/national-f

8.    All Zone 1 age groups must play in accordance with the small-sided games mandate from U.S. Soccer

9.    All players of every age group must be recorded by the U.S. Soccer mandate of birth year registration

10. All parents of the players will be required to take a brief on-line clinic and supply the certificate to their team manager or coach

a.    Parents’ Guide and Introduction to Youth Soccer - The guide is designed to assist parents new to the game of soccer in growing the spirit without limiting the child. Chapters cover information from the basics of youth soccer and making a positive impact on children to roles of coaches and referees to lending support to your child.

11. Team managers and coaches will be encouraged to show the Positive Parenting DVD at their initial team meeting: http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/parents/positiveparenting/

12. So that they can appropriate guide their child’s sport nutrition habits the parents will be encouraged to take the free on-line clinic:

a.    Coaching Healthy Habits - Did you know that there are three simple things you can do to help your players stay healthy and perform their best? Learn how you can encourage players to Drink Right, Move More and Snack Smart in the Coaching Healthy Habits course, developed by US Youth Soccer and Healthy Kids Out of School. In two brief chapters, you’ll learn about basic nutrition and physical activity for young athletes and find practical tips to implement these healthy principles at your trainings and matches.

13. Coaches will be asked to sign up for the free e-newsletter: Coaching Advisor

14. Players and coaches will be asked to watch the skills videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M02QUjWnUHc&list=PL805D77038B88D895

15. All parents and any novice coaches will be guided to use the Pocket Guide: http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/parents/Soccer_Pocket_Guide_Intro/
 

Here’s the job description and duties from Coach Paiz:

Louisiana Fire Soccer Club

Title: Louisiana Fire Recreational Coordinator

The position of Recreational Program Director serves as an important role within the Louisiana Fire Soccer Club to support, stabilize and strengthen our recreational soccer program consisting of 800 players and 100 volunteer coaches as well as promote the program in our community in accordance with our club mission.

Key Responsibilities:

Admin:

  • To manage the administrative aspects of the Recreational Program.
  • Ensure that all policies of Louisiana Fire Soccer Club are adhered to and enforced.
  • Responds on a timely basis to calls and inquiries related to the Recreational Program.
  • Work with DOCs in updating and maintaining the “Rules and Regulations” for recreational program.
  • To educate parents on program goals, objectives, strategies and related details through appropriate channels to ensure the highest quality soccer experience possible for recreational program participants and their family members.
  • Player Retention: Responsible for tracking player retention and success including identifying talented players and ensure that players are provided with the best possible instruction and support to encourage respect for the sport of soccer. 
  • Plan, organize and direct the set-up of player seasonal registration.
  • Work with DOCs in creating a strategic marketing plan to target the growth of the Sparks, U6 & U8 programs.
  • Create a calendar year timeline for all recreational activities.
  • Prepares and posts content and other relevant information on the club website in a timely manner.
  • Create an online resource library, including age appropriate training activities and plans, to assist volunteer coaches and encourage meaningful instruction at team events throughout the season.
  • Maintains a database of coaches actively engaged in the club as well as prospective coaches eager to participate in the recreational program.
  • Create and maintain all club manuals relating to recreational teams.
  • Work with DOC in managing age group directors in order to ensure the highest quality of training services available to the target audience in the Recreational program.
  • Work with DOC in organizing and chair quarterly Recreational Meetings with age group directors.
  • Work with DOC and age group directors to identify, recruit, train, schedule and monitor the performance of all volunteer coaches and assistants.
  • Work with DOC and age group coordinators in scheduling, organizing and developing pre-season coaching clinics for recreational volunteer coaches.  
  • Work with age group directors to ensure that all volunteer coaches complete a background check.
  • Work with DOC in organizing end of the year Festival and other identified events.
  • Work with age group directors in providing an end of season evaluation for volunteer recreational coaches.
  • Work with age group directors in collecting a grade for each individual player at the end of the season (e.g., 1-very good, 2- good, 3- need improvement).
  • Assist in the ongoing evolution, implementation and evaluation of youth referee program by providing support to the referee assignor in planning and conducting programs for youth referee training and development.
  • Plan, organize and direct a school clinics program (Should include 20 school visits a year).
  • Create a quarterly newsletter for the club.  It should include recreational, YDP and competitive content.
  • Build working relationships with key constituents within the club and state and national soccer coaching communities. 
  • Participate in local and regional soccer educator seminars, workshops and professional development opportunities.

 

My questions to the reader are:

  1. What points do you think should be considered as a club works to standardize its recreational programming?
     
  2. What should be the duties of the administrator in the club charged with overseeing the recreational program?

Comments (1)

 

What Makes A Great Coach - Part Two

Sam Snow

In my last blog you read bullet points from several coaches on the qualities of a good coach.  Here’s a more in-depth piece from Coach Steve Davis, Technical Director for the New York Rush.

A great coach never stops searching for more pieces to add to the jigsaw that makes them who they are. The picture on the box should be constantly changing to allow for growth. Players have been very influential in my development as a coach. Listening to them is without a doubt one of the best educational tools a coach will ever have access to. Their honesty is unparalleled.

In 2010, a friend handed me something he had received during a volleyball convention he attended, and it was written by Anson Dorrance. The piece he handed me was Anson's thoughts on what coaching is. I remember taking it from him and walking into my office thinking about what coaching meant to me. It's one thing to read what it means to one of the most influential figures in women's soccer, but let's be honest, we don't all work with the players he does, we don't get to recruit from the very best the country has to offer, and we definitely don't all have the facilities and resources that are available at UNC. And, I don't think I'll be winning a World Cup anytime soon. However, should that really make a difference? Surely coaching is coaching no matter the sport, no matter the age or level of athlete right? If coaching is about character and integrity, then it doesn't matter if you're working with a fifth grade team or UNC. What matters is how well you understand your athletes, the complexities of the sport, and the steps that need to be taken to challenge and improve each individual in order to build the team.

I decided to write my thoughts on what coaching is, and below is what I wrote:

"Coaching is... breathing life into what you do. Taking the time to develop and assemble a way in which you can be authentic but still challenge yourself and your players. There will be days that can be emotionally draining and often take you to the edge, but it's then that you choose to keep going as only a coach can. Coaching is for those who make a difference in the lives of others, someone who knows that a smile can be just as productive as a hundred meaningless words, it's about the kind and caring individual whose words of encouragement will be heard years after they've been whispered. Coaching is taking players on a journey to a place they have never been before, to treat each day like it's your first, and your last on the job. It's a journey that will last a lifetime and bring forth many emotions, some great, some not so good, but more often than not they will all become treasured teachable moments that will last forever. Coaching is caring, it's keeping players engaged, enthusiastic, and building confidence. It's about sharing your passion, and having a willingness to be a guide who loves the game and wants nothing more than to share their knowledge with those they coach, to challenge them so they too can share their passion and understanding. A coach is someone who sets standards, who relates to others and their needs, who handles pressure knowing that optimism will get them through. A coach must know that to enjoy success, they have to know how to deal with failure. A coach understands that it's trust and integrity that builds and maintains team chemistry. A coach should love what they do, and do what they love, and make each experience fun, meaningful and educational. I am a coach, I am a teacher, I am a trainer, a manager, a guide, a mentor, someone who allows his players to take ownership of their individual and team development, and through a process of encouragement, accountability, and team ownership, players start to become teachers and facilitators for themselves and their teammates. Teaching and instilling these qualities will help the young children I work with enhance their life skills along with their soccer abilities, and there is no better reward for a coach than that."

I'm sure you're all wondering what Anson wrote.  I'm embarrassed to say I can’t tell you, because I never read it.

What makes a great coach? All of you by responding to this and sharing. I'm a little bit better today than I was yesterday - Thank You.

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