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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.

 

The Game Within the Child

Sam Snow

The cornerstone of the player development model and the coaching methods advocated by US Youth Soccer and its members is the philosophy of The Game within the Child.  The phrase was coined by Dr. Ron Quinn.
 
The idea that The Game within the Child is not so much about finding the right sport for a youngster as it is saying that the game, whatever game it may be, is already inside of each kid.  So in time they find the sport that best suits them.  Then the craft of coaching is to help the game come to the surface, so to speak.  Let’s say a child is 7-years-old and plays soccer, baseball and basketball.  Each of those games is already inside of the child, but to different degrees.  The right sport environment and the right coach help the game come to the surface in the child and that game becomes part of the person.  How much of each of the three sports is in that 7-year-old will vary from child to child.  The sport that is best suited to the child and the sport to which the child is best suited usually comes out between the ages of 10 to 15 years old.  So the kid plays all three sports when young, but narrows it down to one or two in the teenage years.  The odds are that one of those sports the player excels at and the others not quite so much – well unless you were Deion Sanders.
 
Let’s say though in this case that soccer ends up being the number one sport for our youngster in question.  The art of coaching would be for the coach to help a lot of soccer that is already in the person, to rise up and be honed.  Fundamentally, the concept is that rather than force a sport into a child, let’s bring out the game that is already in there.  How much of a particular game is in each child will vary individually.  Even once the person chooses their number one sport the amount of the game in them, and thus the level in the game to which they will rise, varies with each person.  They are not all destined to be professional players.  Our final goal with all young players is to help the soccer within them come to the surface to the degree that they want to be involved with our sport for a lifetime.

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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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