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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.

 

Pointers from Klinsmann

Sam Snow

As you are likely aware, Jürgen Klinsmann, the U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach, spoke at the US Youth Soccer Workshop in Boston last week.  It was a wonderful opportunity for those of us there listening to Coach Klinsmann.  He was open and communicative with the standing room only audience.  You will soon be able to see video of the presentation on the US Youth Soccer website and YouTube channel.  Coach Klinsmann spoke of his comparisons of the full national team and youth soccer.  I have taken one small except from his presentation to share and discuss with you here.
 
Klinsmann on Style of Play:
  • Youth Soccer
    • Think long-term player development
      • Be comfortable on, off, and with the ball
      • Speed of play
      • When and how to support on offense and defense
    • Winning is not the same as developing a style of play
    • Example of training to style of play: U.S. Soccer Coaching Cirriculum
 
Reading the key points he wants to get across to the adults involved in youth soccer, the idea of long term player development is not new but one that we must all rally around to embrace and enforce.  That work begins at the team level, then onto the club level, then the state association and finally the national board of directors.  The effort to work diligently on long-term player development must be a two-way effort – from the bottom up and the top down. 
 
Being comfortable on the ball and learning where to go when you don’t have the ball is part of that long term player development.  Players will never be comfortable on the ball as long as parents and coaches keep yelling "Kick it!" every time a child has the ball.  At the U-6 and the U-8 age groups, the comment from the touchlines needs to be "DRIBBLE!"  Let them make mistakes as they learn to play on and off the ball.  That’s an important part of learning the game – trial and error.
 
Speed of play is first and foremost mental, then physical and then technical.  Playing fast with the ball without a good thought in mind as to what and why you are playing fast is just kick ball dressed up in a soccer inform.  Coaches and parents, to help our American players improve their speed of play, understand that it is really about decision making.  So coaches, teach your players how to think for themselves.  In this way our speed of play will increase tactically as well as technically.
 
How to support on either side of the ball begins at the U-8 age group in partner play.  Then at the U-10 age group, let’s work more in groups of three and start intentionally playing in triangles.  The number of players and the group shape around the ball gradually become more complex as they age.
 
Winning is a good thing.  Striving to win is a better thing and winning with a good style of play is the best.  We do want to try to win the matches we play, but not at the expense of how we play.  That means Fair Play, it means letting players explore with new skills and tactics and it means keeping winning and losing in perspective.  On this notion, here’s a thought; a poorly played win is worse than a well-played loss.
 
You have good guidance now from both US Youth Soccer and U.S. Soccer on plans to train and develop intelligent and skillful players in every club in America.  Read and execute the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model and the U.S. Soccer Curriculum.

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U-8 Ejection

Sam Snow

The article below from the Daily Mail hit my inbox via Soccer America a few days ago. Mr. Beckham's actions aside, I agree with his sentiment. Ejecting a 7-year-old from a youth soccer game? Really people? Come on!

The story here is not Becks. The story is a crazy youth soccer environment. For starters why would there be a league for the U8 age group? That age group should be playing in-house only. Better yet that in-house play should be in an academy format of no set teams. From the U.S. Soccer Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States: U-8: 1st and 2nd Graders – GAME APPLICATION
  • Game Form: 3 v 3 is best option for these ages
  • GK Status: Optional. Players should not be limited to playing one "position"
  • Field Size: 4 v 4 (40 yards x 25 yards)—3 v 3 (30 yards x 20 yards)
  • Ball Size: 3
When ball goes out of bounds, the game is restarted with a kick-in or dribble-in. No throw-ins. U.S. Soccer recommends that there be no organized matches at this age. Consistently set up mini games at practice for your kids to compete with and against each other, according to their age. There will be no need to keep score or even be very involved, except to enjoy the players and their effort and joy.

Let's also discuss the rules under which the match was being played. Penalty kicks at 7? Does a 7-year-old child really understand penalty kicks? What's going through the head of the child who committed the foul to give the PK? Is the psychology on someone that young strong enough to handle the outcome that could be that the team lost today because of your foul. What about the PK shooter and the goalkeeper? They too have fragile personalities now facing the up close and personal situation of a penalty kick. Think of the moment. The entire match has stopped, all the players are still and the spectators and all of the bench personnel from both teams are entirely focused on those two kids. Wow! Even professional players waiver under that kind of scrutiny. No matter how the PK goes, one of the two kids is the goat. No wonder so many kids quit our sport before age 15.

This particular youth soccer organization should, as should all youth soccer clubs, play under the US Youth Soccer Modified Rules instead. Here's the link: /coaches/RulesSmallGames/

The type of game and league described in the article points to one that is entirely outcome based. This is the adult model of soccer competition, not the child-centered model of soccer competition, which is process based. The U-8 age group should not be in a soccer experience that is based on the score and league standings. What's next, promotion and relegation? Stop the insanity!

It is the adults who are responsible for setting up the soccer environment for children 8 and younger. In this case they are the ones to blame for allowing such an atmosphere of yellow or red cards being shown to these very young players. Most to blame are the parents. The parents are the customers and they can cause a club and/or a league to change by taking their business elsewhere. The parents need to get the ball rolling in this instance to evoke these changes:
1.       Get the U-8 age group out of league play
2.       Adopt the US Youth Soccer Modified Rules for the U-8 age group
3.       Be the watchdogs that their club follows the curricula and guidelines set forth by US Youth Soccer and U.S. Soccer
4.       Remember when watching a youth match that we adults are guests at the children's game

It's too bad that David Beckham was ejected from a youth match. But maybe not, as it is helping to bring into the spotlight a need for change in the youth soccer game.

'The ref gave me a red card!' David Beckham reveals how he was 'sent off' from the sidelines at son's football game in LA

He's faced a red card in his own professional football games in the past, but David Beckham would hardly have expected to be dealt one while cheering on his sons at football match.

The 36-year-old revealed during his appearance on last night's Jonathan Ross show that he was 'sent off' during a match in LA recently after sticking up for a child who he felt had been punished too severely.

During the interview, which aired on ITV last night, the footballer recalled: 'I was watching the kids play the other day, it was the game just before they were playing.

'It was the younger kids of Romeo's club, and they're playing in the game and there was a penalty given. And the kids are seven-years-old and he sent the kid off.

'And I was like, "Come on, he's seven-years-old, referee, you can't send him off." And he looked at me and was like, "Yes, I can." And I was like, "Ok, well, you can't, he's seven-years-old."

'And he came over and gave me a red card. He told me to get out of the park. For real. The gate was only 20 yards away and I waited and went back in when my son's game was on.'
David also spoke about the fact that despite being happy in Los Angeles, the family will always be proud of their British roots.

He said: 'My children have been happy for five years there, they're stable there. They're loving life there. My eldest is 12 years old now, he needs stability, so we did it for that, but we also love living there.

'But my boys, they love coming back to London, they love pie and mash.'

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Club Joint Effort

Sam Snow

I have the good fortune to regularly exchange ideas on youth soccer with many coaches and administrators across our nation. One recent exchange was with a club director of coaching whose club is in the Central Illinois Youth Soccer League. His initial statement to me was this:
 
"Many of the directors of coaching and presidents of clubs in our league have been talking over the past few months about a way to get the best players in our clubs some higher level training and playing experience.  We have embraced the idea that Claudio Reyna (Youth Technical Director for U.S. Soccer) put forth to work together, not against each other to try to provide the best opportunities for our players (Us vs. The World!).  The CIYSL Elite is a new program we are looking to start where we will take the top U-15 to U-18 players from clubs in central Illinois and bring them together for training once a month over the winter, then take a group of players and train for a week or two and compete in a high level tournament together.  We have arranged for the players to be coached by local central Illinois college coaches so they are getting some of the best training available in the area.
 
I was wondering if you could help me out with showing the parents of our clubs the benefits of this type of program.  Do you have any sort of promotional material from US Youth Soccer? Or would you be willing to give me some quotes that we could use on our promotional material?
We are looking for support promoting the following areas:
 
1. We want to work together as a soccer community, not one club vs. another, to provide the best opportunities for our players to develop. (Us vs. The World!)
 
2.  We need to create a competitive, challenging environment for our top players to constantly test them and push them to improve.   Pooling all of the U-15 to U-18 players from central Illinois will allow us to create this type of playing environment for those top players.
 
3. This program is not to "poach" players and form one super-team in central Illinois, but simply to provide those players a chance to get additional higher level playing opportunities while still playing with their local club team.
 
I would love to hear any feedback, suggestions, improvements you have regarding our idea.  As I mentioned, we are simply trying to find a way to help develop our kids into the best soccer players possible, and hope this will assist them in doing so. 
 
Thanks in advance for all of your help!  I really appreciate you taking the time to help out!"
 
 
I was involved in US Youth Soccer Region meetings at the time so my first reply was this:
 
I'll be back with you shortly with more information, but right off I think that part of what you are accomplishing is also the objective of the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program.  So it seems logical that part of the pathway for elite players is into US Youth Soccer ODP.  Take a look to get these players in the ODP program in Illinois as soon as possible.  Here's the link for your state: http://www.illinoisyouthsoccer.org/ODP.htm.
 

The club director responded with:
 
"Thank you for getting back to me so quickly, I really appreciate the response!  The ODP system is something we encourage all of our players to get involved with, and I know our club has a number of players who are involved in this system.  This model of ODP was something we saw that worked well and we have used many ideas from this.  I know that many DOCs were looking to get some of their players additional higher level playing as well as participation in ODP.  Due to our demographics and geography, I know we have many players involved in ODP, but also some high level players who simply cannot commit to ODP.  For some players, they cannot because of finances, and some because of the long travel.  The CIYSL Elite is hopefully an additional opportunity for these players to get involved and play against some higher level competition.  We are hoping to have this at very minimal cost to families, as well as hold training in central Illinois.
 
Let me assure you it is not the goal of this program to replace ODP or to take players away from this program.  I am a strong supporter of this program and would love to see all of our top players participate in ODP.
 
I appreciate you taking the time to help out and any information you can send me would be great!"
 
 
My follow up comments were:
 
I'm glad to read that the players and coaches do participate in US Youth Soccer ODP.  I also understand the challenges of travel and costs.  I applaud the effort you and the other coaches are making to provide a challenging training environment for the players.  In a number of places across the country some clubs and coaches are making similar efforts.  This is especially true outside of large metropolitan areas where the pooling of talent (players, coaches and administrators) is necessary in order to compete at the top levels of play.  It is nothing more than the law of averages as small to medium size soccer communities are more likely to improve and compete with large soccer communities when they cooperate.  The idea that we can compete with one another on the field of play during a match, but join our efforts at all other times is actually the essence of true competition.  There are three key components in setting up the right environment for teenaged elite players to develop.  In an order of priority they are:
 
1.      Quality teammates
2.      Quality opponents
3.      Quality coaches
 
By the clubs in your area pooling your talents you are now able to act on these three components.  Understanding the definition of competition helps to guide the effort to band your resources together.
 
·         Competition: the process of competing; a contest between competitors
·         Competitor: one that competes
·         Competitive: characterized by competition
 
One cannot compete without a fellow competitor.  It is then through quality competition that the players and coaches will learn clearly their strengths and weaknesses.  Without fellow competitors that learning environment is not possible.  That you are coming together to create a healthy environment to raise your level of competition makes good sense.  It then is not an us versus them situation for the players in the pool.  They all need each other to play with and against in order to improve.
 
I've attached one file for you that gives the coaches some guidelines for the right philosophy for the training sessions you are planning.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if the US Youth Soccer Coaching Department can be of further assistance to you.

Training Sessions for Teenaged Soccer Teams [pdf]

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Tom Fleck

Sam Snow

On Christmas Eve Tom Fleck died. Dr. Fleck was my mentor since we met in 1980. More importantly he was a fast and true friend.

Doc, as he was known to many, had battled dementia for several years. His recent passing is actually a blessing and something for which I'd been praying. Doc was 74 years old when he passed away.

If you would like to know more about Dr. Fleck's influence on soccer in America then follow any of the links listed below.

I want to tell you about the man and the influence he had on me and the opportunities he gave me to grow as a young coach. In 1980 I attended my first NSCAA convention in Houston. In addition to coaching at the college level I was coaching in the camp business during the summers. My boss in the camp business had set up meetings during that convention with two heavy hitters in soccer and asked me to escort them to the meetings. One coach was Charles Hughes, the director of coaching for The Football Association then. I of course knew of him having read his books and watched the films he had produced. The other coach was Tom Fleck, whom I didn't know previously – boy were things about to change for me.

The gist of the meeting with Tom was to hire him away from the Philadelphia Fury to be the head coach for the camp business. Fortunately that came to pass. I then began a long collaboration and friendship with Tom.

Right away I learned in the camp business with Tom not only how to run the training sessions and the adjustments I needed to make with different age groups, but also how to interact with the camp administrators and the parents of the campers. Soon I was put into the leader role of some camp sessions. Tom always knew when to push you a bit further in your own development. He had a real talent there as he often put people into growth situations that even they didn't yet know they were ready. He was always teaching and guiding.

That continued when I had the chance to be his assistant coach with the U14 boys in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program for Florida Youth Soccer. Soon after Tom's appointment as the head coach of that State Select Team he was hired as the Director of Coaching for Florida Youth Soccer, a job that perhaps only five or six state associations had at the time. Once again the growth opportunities expanded as I worked closely with Tom in coaching education (state and national coaching schools), ODP, hosting Army clinics and U.S. Soccer functions, conducting sessions at the state AGM along with Walt Chyzowych, Bob Gansler and many other coaching luminaries. We even hosted the NSCAA convention in Orlando in 1983. Tom was the president of the NSCAA at the time and one of his ideas was to formalize the pick-up games that coaches had been playing in the hallways for years. Behind the hotel was an open grass lot. Tom had me organize the games and register teams. Ron Quinn and I painted lines for two fields. But we had no goals. Tom suggested that I go talk to this new company called Kwik Goal and that's when I made a new friend out of Andy Caruso. The tournament was a hit and has been a part of the NSCAA convention since. It's now known as the Walt Chyzowych Memorial 4-A-Side Tournament.

Tom work publically and behind the scenes to grow soccer in the USA. From his role as the first Youth Director of U.S. Soccer, to assisting with the founding of US Youth Soccer, to national meetings at Cocoa Expo to plan stages of development of the game and ending with the design of the National Youth License the Doctor was in!

Beyond the professional growth I experienced with Tom he made me a part of his family. I am forever grateful for the friendship and love that he and his family gave to me over the years. The sharing of some holidays with the Fleck family are fond memories for me. As I said Tom was not only a mentor, but also a close friend. I am indeed lucky to have known him.

Thank you for indulging me this personal moment in this web blog forum. Perhaps now you know a little more about one of the fathers of youth soccer in our country. For more please visit the web site of the Dr. Thomas Fleck, Jr. Foundation: http://www.drfleckfoundation.com/.

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