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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.

 

Lack of concern in all sports

Sam Snow

One of the hindrances to the development of American soccer players is over-coaching during a match. Far too many coaches do it and far too many club directors and team parents accept it. Players in their late teens have probably learned to tune out the vociferous coach if they have one. Younger players are less likely to have learned that skill yet. Of course, it's a sad comment to acknowledge that players must learn to tune out a loud mouth coach.

So how have I come to this discussion? Well it stems from a brief e-mail exchange with a club coach and the Technical Director in New Jersey. Take a quick read:

Club coach: Rick, any thoughts as to when the rules of the game may extend unsportsmanlike conduct to coaches? As a youth coach, I often sit in my chair on the sideline and listen to the guys next me trying to give themselves a heart attack. I usually talk to my players when I sub them. It never occurred to me that the other coach yelling would be a problem for my players until I asked one of my players why they chose to make the play they did, they said all they can hear is the other coach yelling and it confused them. I started asking my players and all the way up from U-8 to U-14 have the same issue. If the other guy is loud, then they get distracted. My favorite is when a coach 'yells let it go' for a ball to roll out of bounds and my player stops. I think it is a natural reaction for kids. I know everyone says the parents are an issue and I believe that too, but I think the other coach barking is the same thing as a player from the other team barking in someone's ear. I would love to see the debate on that one.

State coach: Unfortunately these are the remnants of the "over coaching and directing" culture of youth sports-- we have no control over what the opponent's coach does; technically the referee should put the ca bash on that -- could be interpreted as over coaching. I tell the players to only respond to my voice and the referee's whistle.

Indeed over-coaching is a cultural habit in American youth sports with soccer not being an exception. Parents and club administrators not only allow it, but in many cases expect it because they think that's what coaching is. All of us need to work constantly to educate clubs that it is in fact poor coaching if the coach is joy sticking the players around the field. It means that he or she has done a poor job of coaching during training sessions if the players have not been taught to think for themselves.

State coach: It is just unbelievable how the children that Coach D describes in his email stop like the power switch has been turned off when they hear the other coach's voice!

Now why do the parents and administrators put up with over-coaching during a match? Because so many think that's what good coaching is. We all need to make a concentrated effort to educate parents of young players and club directors that the better coaches tend to be the ones who sit and observe during most of the match. Yes, they will yell a few comments and reminders during the match. But they are not the puppet master trying to control every move from the technical area. I would begin my education campaign within a club by sharing an article in Youth Soccer Insider by Claudio Reyna, U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director. 

Claudio Reyna: 'Coaches should sit down', by Mike Woitalla - Thursday, April 21, 2011

This discussion began with the sharing of a blog on the general lack of concern about the player has seeped into all levels of sport. Enjoy and share.

An article to reflect upon your coaching ethics and values…
 

How would you market a club?

Sam Snow

Q: How would you market a club; internally and externally?

I think the marketing of a club is extensive. To speak to the full scope of the task may be beyond this medium. However, here are a few thoughts. 

Externally, the club must think of point of contact with its targeted customers. So for children, it will be schools, doctors/dentists offices, religious centers, movie theaters and other business places aimed at youngsters, Chuck E. Cheese for example. Also consider parks and recreation departments, YMCA, Boys Clubs, Scouts, Police Athletic League, etc. if they are not running soccer programs themselves. Additionally, if the funds are available then advertising on billboards, newspapers, radio and local public access TV, keeping in mind that newspapers, radio and TV all also deliver over the internet.

Externally, I would also build relationships with high school and college soccer programs. If there are semi-pro and/or pro soccer franchises in the area, then work with them too.

Once a club is up and operating, then advertising on its own web site becomes quite important. Joining forces with the state soccer association on this platform can extend the reach of the club considerably. Then there are many other means to promote the club from within. It could be a fundraiser golf tournament, a holiday dance, an appreciation BBQ for the volunteer team mangers, a club night at a professional match, the club mission statement printed on bag tags for all players and team equipment, encouraging teams to go watch each other play, etc. Bottom line though is the word of mouth from player to player, parent to parent, manager to manager, etc. To get the right messages being shared requires regular communication from the club leadership.
 

Strategy for National Development

Sam Snow

Last week I attended the U.S. Soccer + SPARQ Player Development Summit on the Nike campus in Beaverton, OR. There were 150 coaches and administrators in attendance to learn firsthand about the U.S. Soccer Curriculum. The Summit lasted for two and half days, proving to be quite productive. 

The Summit opened with a friendly match between the U-18 Men's National Team (MNT) and the Portland Timbers. It's always nice to open a soccer event with some quality soccer. From their performance, there's no doubt we'll see some of the U-18 MNT players in MLS in the near future.

Once we were settled in for the Summit we had the pleasure of listening to Dan Coyle, the author of The Talent Code. Hearing the author give us the ideas he had behind writing the book was interesting, learning more about the potential that everyone has to grow their talent was inspiring. We learned more about the role of adversity in talent growth (overcoming challenges), the hard work that must go into becoming topnotch in any endeavor, that talent is a continuous construction process, the need to put older players into the view of younger players (role models and inspiration), the 10 year rule (10,000 hours of deliberate practice and play) and more. I wonder how many youth soccer coaches put in 10,000 hours of study and practical experience into developing their craft of coaching?

The second day of the Summit began with Claudio Reyna giving us the reasons behind the U.S. Soccer Curriculum. It points us toward a national style of play. It gives clubs a curriculum for development to supplement the Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States document. The Curriculum can be found in sections and in whole via this link: http://www.ussoccer.com/Coaches/Coaching-Education/Coaching-Home.aspx.

Following Coach Reyna's presentation of the Curriculum, a presentation was made by Paco de Miguel on the fitness component in high level training sessions for older adolescent players. That afternoon Mr. de Miguel demonstrated exercises done in a manner challenge both fitness and technique using the U-18 MNT players. His session was followed by Brian McBride conducting a session on technical functional training for strikers. The majority of these three sessions was aimed at the Developmental Academy coaches in attendance so the practical sessions were all right on the money for U-18 and older players.

The afternoon concluded with an opportunity for questions and answers with the day's presenters. Many good questions were asked with mostly quality answers. However little was discussed about Zone 1 and the aspects of the Curriculum aimed at our youngest players.

A member breakout meeting was held that evening for coaching education. The meeting was chaired by Dave Chesler, U.S. Soccer Director of Coaching Education and Scott Flood, U.S. Soccer Manager of Coaching Programs. Other representatives of U.S. Soccer included Dan Flynn, General Secretary and Claudio Reyna, Youth Technical Director. The US Youth Soccer Coaching Committee attended the meeting as well as representatives of other youth organizations. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time that U.S. Soccer had held a meeting with its members directly on coaching education. The meeting was well received and productive. The meeting covered the current initiatives in coaching education, specifically:

a)     
A.I.M. current course sequence ( Assess + Integrate Curriculum + Modify)
b)      Evaluate, expand and develop instructional staff
c)       Connect with members
d)      Identify key technical and education leaders (member organizations)
e)      Focal points in education of coaches (member organizations)

There is a desire by the organizations represented to better coordinate the coaching education offerings for soccer in America. In the near future, you will see an expansion of offerings from U.S. Soccer, US Youth Soccer and their state associations. Another example of improved cooperation on coaching education, Paul Payne, President for the NSCAA, and I are speaking to have the two organizations conventions complement one another on the themes for coaching development that are offered.

On the final day of the Summit we were given an in-depth presentation by SPARQ. That theory session was followed by a very useful field session on fitness training in a practical way for soccer. For coaches of teenaged players the information delivered should be used consistently in their seasonal training plan.

The U.S. Soccer Curriculum will be laced into the "E" to "A" License courses. The National Youth License curriculum for Zone 1 remains largely unchanged. I think at this time, aspects of the Curriculum specific to the Zone 1 age groups of U-6 to U-12 need some revision. I think the aspects of the Curriculum pertaining to Zones II and III are very good and I encourage clubs to utilize that information immediately.

I am quite pleased to have our national governing body, U.S. Soccer, step up and take a leadership role with a game plan for player development. This Curriculum along with Best Practices and the materials produced for coaches by US Youth Soccer should supply both paid and volunteer youth soccer coaches with guidance on the appropriate environments for players aged 5 to 19. In time, I think that foundation will help American soccer clubs create a healthy soccer culture.

There is more communication taking place between the coaching departments of U.S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer (representing the 55 state associations) and this is bearing fruit already. Naturally there will be challenges to face along the way. The attitude today is to work together on those challenges; in other words teamwork. No one organization can shift the American soccer landscape alone. We are moving forward!

Representing US Youth Soccer at the summit were myself and:

- Dr. David Carr, co-author of the National Youth License
- Dr. Lew Atkinson, Delaware Youth Soccer Technical Director and US Youth Soccer Region I representative
- Ian Mulliner, Illinois Youth Soccer Technical Director and US Youth Soccer Region II representative
- Mike Stickler, Florida Youth Soccer Technical Director and US Youth Soccer Region III representative
- Mike Smith, Oregon Youth Soccer Technical Director and US Youth Soccer Region IV representative
- Gary White, Washington Youth Soccer Technical Director
- Steve Hoffman, California Youth Soccer – South Technical Director and U.S. Soccer Women's Task Force member
- Jay Hoffman, Region I US Youth Soccer ODP Boys head coach
 

Connecting Divisions of Play

Sam Snow

Not long ago, a club director asked this question of me: How would you tie in the youth and the competitive division?

Is there a difference? I know that there is, but more people involved in youth soccer need to understand that it is all competitive. It's just different levels of competition. Toss a ball out in front of two 5-year-olds and they will compete in their own way for the ball. Toss out a ball in front of two 15-year-olds and it will look different than when the 5-year-olds competed for the ball, but it is still competition. Now do the same exercise with two 25-year-olds and you'll have an even more refined picture of 1v1 competition. Still, for each of those ages, over 10 year increments, they are competing at their current level of play.

So tying in divisions of players within the club? Well, I think it has a lot to do with the planned movement of coaches between age groups and levels of play over the years. Even if it is only for a few training sessions, having the coaches work with different levels of play and/or age groups helps the players and the coaches to grow. Furthermore, we should have more mixed ages, genders and levels of play in some of the training sessions. If you take two U-14 teams which play in different levels of play and have them mix together and training together within the club once every four to six weeks then they will all learn and improve in some way from the experience. There will be a better transition then for 2nd division players moving up to 1st division. This approach also builds club unity and identity.

Additionally, our U-16 and older teams should play with adult teams occasionally. The speed of play, tactical level and mental toughness will all be up several notches. That's provided, of course, that the adult team is not beginners themselves. To further the development of the American player we need older teenagers playing with and against adults from time-to-time.