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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.

 

George Kuntz - Hawaii Youth Soccer

Sam Snow

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to visit the Hawaii Youth Soccer Association.  While I was there I conducted a U6/U8 Youth Module, met with club directors of coaching, assisted with state trials for the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program and I met with the state association board of directors.  During my visit I was able to interview George Kuntz the Technical Director for Hawaii Youth Soccer.  I hope you enjoy our chat:
 

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Ready for Spring

Sam Snow

 Across the USA youth teams are getting into their spring season.  So this is a good time for coaches to refresh themselves on the major points of the prevention and care of injuries.  A coach first and foremost must do what he or she can to reduce the likelihood of injury.  The factors over which a coach has some control include:
 
  • Condition of the field
    • Uneven surface
    • Holes in the ground
    • Rocks, glass, sticks or anything else other than grass and dirt
    • Hazards next to the field
      • Team benches
      • Sidewalks
      • Fences
      • Parking lot
      • Street
      • Lake, stream, etc.
  • Anchor the goals
  • Be aware of weather conditions
    • Shelter nearby in case of dangerous weather
    • Adjust or cancel the training session in extreme heat or cold
  • Access to water
    • Pre and post training and match hydration
  • Player equipment
    • Shoes fit properly
    • Shin guards are in good condition
    • Clothing appropriate for the climate
  • Player fitness
    • Proper physical fitness for the age group and the time in the season
  • Design of training activities
    • Length of training session appropriate to the age group
    • Not too many vigorous activities in a row
      • Proper water/rest breaks
  • Time of day of training sessions and matches commensurate with the age group
  • Proper teaching of techniques
 
Keep in mind please that soccer is a contact sport, so some injures will occur.  Fortunately, most soccer injuries are relatively minor; sprains, scrapes, contusions and strains.  However, some sever injuries do occur such as lacerations, tears to soft issue (ligaments, muscles or tendons), bone fractures and concussions.  Coaches need to have an action plan for the occurrence of a severe injury.  Who will apply immediate first aid?  Who will call and guide emergency services?  Who will supervise the other players?  Who will manage the reactions of the spectators?
 
Coaches and team mangers need to discuss and rehearse their action plan now at the beginning of the season.  I also suggest that one or more of the adults who are regularly with the team take a sports first aid safety course.  All of the staff should take the free on-line concussion course: http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/story.asp?story_id=5962.
 
The soccer season is a fun time for all involved.  Let’s also keep everyone safe and sound!

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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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