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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.

 

Soccer's Bright Future

Sam Snow

BLOG_Soccer’sBrighterFuture

There are positive changes taking place for soccer in the USA. Here are two of them worthy of special mention.

Youth Members Technical Leaders Work Group

Not long ago the technical directors of the AYSO, MLS Youth, SAY Soccer, U. S. Futsal, U. S. Club Soccer, U. S. Soccer, USSSA and US Youth Soccer began meeting to devise plans for improving the youth soccer landscape to the betterment of the American player. Never before has such a group been assembled. It is quite exciting to see the teamwork among all of the members of this auspicious group of soccer leaders.

Three meetings have taken place to date. The group plans to meet on a quarterly basis. The outcome of the meetings already held has been an inclusion statement and commitment by all of the organizations, recommendations to member clubs and leagues on implementing the change with player registration to birth year, discussions on increasing coaching education opportunities and last but most certainly not least the creation of a standard set of modified Laws of the Game for Zone 1 under the new small-sided games format. Those modified rules are now being vetted by a select group of leaders in the referee ranks. Soon the rules will be published for the soccer public to use. Beginning this summer take a look on the websites of any of the organizations noted above to find the modified Laws of the Game for soccer for children in the 5 to 12 year old age groups.

National Soccer Hall of Fame

Yesterday, May 5, I had the privilege to attend the ground breaking ceremony for the new National Soccer Hall of Fame. America has a rich soccer history dating back to the mid-1800s. The Hall of Fame will house artifacts and tell the story of soccer in our nation from many different levels of the game. The Hall is being built into the south end of Toyota Stadium the home of FC Dallas. That gives the Hall a central location in the USA and a chance for soccer fans attending the multitude of soccer events in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex a chance to visit.

During the groundbreaking ceremony the newest class of inductees into the Hall of Fame were announced. Brandi Chastain, Don Garber and Shannon MacMillan were honored yesterday with the announcement. Brandi was in attendance and participated in the groundbreaking. You can read more about the event here: http://friscoblog.dallasnews.com/2016/05/soccer-icon-brandi-chastain-helps-break-ground-for-new-hall-of-fame-museum-at-friscos-toyota-stadium.html/

FCD1

Figure 1 Front entrance off of Main Street at the South Gate of Toyota Stadium

FCD2

Figure 2 The view from the field of the expanded south end of the stadium and the National Hall of Fame

 

 

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Playing Down a Player

Sam Snow

“I’m coaching youth soccer. The league has given me a team with one less player than the rest. Subs will be impossible, what strategy in game time do you recommend? I’ve tried to get this fixed but they’re not going to give me another player. Is there a certain formation that best suits a team when they’re field a player down?”

If a team is playing down a player or two it is generally easier then to play with fewer forwards in the team formation. Visually and physically it is a little easier to go forward from the back than the opposite. Play with a full complement of defenders, try to do the same in the midfield line of the team and then play with only one or two forwards.

The team will need to drop off most of the time when defending to give good cover in its own half of the field. The team may need to concede pressure on the ball in the opponents’ half of the field when defending.

When on the attack, the team will need to move the ball quickly, so lots of one and two touch passing. If most passes are played to each other’s feet as opposed to open space then the physical demand on the players is manageable. If too many passes are made into open space, thus requiring lots of running to catch the ball, the team will be exhausted sooner rather than later.

The coach of a youth team that is playing down must be mindful of the health of the players. Be sure they get lots of water and if needed even play down further in order to take a player off now and then for a rest. The players’ safety and health is more important than the match outcome.

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Chemistry

Sam Snow

There’s an old song by The Who called “The Kids Are Alright.” The paper below titled Chemistry proves that the song tile still rings true. It was written by a high school sophomore. Her team has undergone some changes this year, and while the players have reacted positively, some of the parents have been unable to show positive encouragement and support for their children now that they are in a more holistic learning environment. One that emphasizes learning and development over winning at all costs. After a recent training session, her coach saw her carrying a schoolbook along with her backpack, and along the spine of the book was "Chemistry." He asked her if she had the time, would she write a small piece about her team’s chemistry and what, if any, problems she saw with it and how she would solve those problems by incorporating "Chemistry". When she read it to her teammates they absolutely loved it, as did her coach.

 

Chemistry

Chemistry, a branch of science that studies the composition and properties of matter and the changes it undergoes. When one juxtaposes chemistry and a soccer team, the two end up being quite similar. In chemistry, there are millions of particles that make up a cell; on a similar note, within a soccer team there are multiple players and layers that make up a team. One may believe that my soccer team may be going through a phase change, considering the team used to be something that was so solid but now has “melted”. A scientific explanation of this phenomenon may be as tensions rise within the parents, “heat/steam is given off” which has caused the team to diminish or melt. In order for a chemical reaction to work productively and efficiently, the goal of a soccer team, everybody must be on the same page. If one thing is off, the chemical reaction will not proceed because it is not at equilibrium. To make the team/reaction run smoothly again, temperatures may need to be dropped among the parents and tensions must cease to exist. I believe the team needs to return back to its solid phase in which it has a defined shape and all the particles/players are in strict order. Currently I believe the team is in a liquefied state where the particles are not compact and seem distanced. If the team can find a way to return back to its original solid state then I believe that we will be successful, yet again.

In soccer, as well as chemistry, bonds are broken. Bonds in soccer are broken when friendships, teams and trust in one another diminishes. In chemistry, bonds are literally broken amongst molecules. When breaking up a bond, energy needs to be put back into the compound. It seems to me as if everyone on the team, players and parents, have lost sight of what really is important (just enjoying the game), and have put in so much excess energy in the wrong direction, which in turn has caused bonds to break within the team. If there are hopes of rekindling these broken bonds, everyone needs to make a joint effort to use their energy in a positive way to help redirect the direction of the team. If we all work cohesively as a single unit, stable covalent bonds will be formed among the team and we will soon be a functioning compound.

On a non-scientific note, in order to help change the direction this team is going, we must:

  • Put our differences aside and play like a team on the field
  • Make an improved effort of getting to know each other individually
  • Forget about drama among the parents and turn the negative energy from the parents into positive energy for the game
  • We all must come ready to play at every game; we cannot pick and choose when we want to play
  • At practice, we need to stay focused because what we do at practice will translate to the game
  • Everyone must make their best effort to attend every practice because if people are continuously not coming, this will throw off team chemistry because you will not know what we have been learning at practice

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Teach Heading

Sam Snow

Recently U. S. Soccer has recommended to its youth members to eliminate the skill of heading the ball in training sessions and matches for children 10-years-old and younger. Children 11 to 13-years old may head the ball in a match, but are limited in how often the skill can be practiced in a training session. US Youth Soccer will follow that recommendation. The recommendation from U. S. Soccer is a part of a larger player safety campaign, called Recognize to Recover (http://www.ussoccer.com/about/recognize-to-recover). I urge all coaches to review all of the information available there.

Previously published by the U.S. Soccer Sports Medicine Committee:

 “At present, there are many gaps and inconsistencies within the medical literature regarding the safety of heading in soccer. The impact of purposeful heading is linear which is less severe than rotational impact. …Head injuries during soccer are more likely to be from accidental contacts such as head-ground, head-opponent, or the rare head-goalpost. …. At this point in time, it is premature to conclude that purposeful heading of a modern soccer ball is a dangerous activity.”

Heading 1Fortunately concussions in soccer are not as common as say, sprained ankles or even the more severe broken bone. Yet they do happen – usually from head-to-head contact or head-to-ground contact. Head-to-head contact could occur sometimes due to poor technique by one or both players challenging for the ball in the air.

So most head injuries in soccer are from the head impacting something other than the ball. The human skull is surprisingly tough. Head injuries from the ball occur when the technique is done incorrectly.

Here lies the real problem. Many coaches teach heading incorrectly or not at all. So many players head the ball wrong and this could cause injuries or inaccurate or poorly paced headers.

Early experiences can be painful if a careful progression in building up confidence is not applied. Let’s talk about how to teach this ball skill to young players who are 11-years-old or older. When the skill is done correctly then the chance of injury is reduced. Simply telling a youngster to head the ball or just tossing one at him or her probably does more harm than good. When the skill is executed incorrectly then there is a chance for injury. Coaches want players to perform this skill well as it is a wonderful additional means of shooting at goal and passing to a teammate or into space. It is a skill that can be used when defending or attacking in a match. A coach seeing the skill done as you see in this photo (Fig. 1) is a sign that a lot of teaching is needed. The mistakes here include eyes closed (so the player has no real idea of the flight of the ball), contact will be with the wrong part of the head, arms are down by the side of the body and the player is allowing the ball to hit him. One major rule in heading is do not let the head be a rebounding surface for the ball. The head should hit the ball, not the other way around.

Heading 2Coaches, introduce this skill with simple balancing of the ball on the correct part of the forehead as seen in this photo (Fig. 2). Then progress to juggling the ball on your own. Use underinflated soccer balls, volleyballs, Nerf balls, tennis balls or balloons to get players started on learning the skill.

Next, move to a self-serve practice where the player tosses the ball up for him or herself to head to a partner. In this manner the player controls the timing of the serve as well as the height and speed of the ball. The partner will pick up the ball and do the same action as the two players practice heading the ball back and forth to one another. The progression continues until players are becoming confident enough to head the ball in a match as seen in figure three.

Although, at its best, soccer is played mainly on the ground, the technique of heading is vital. Players who can make exact passes with the head, who can save dangerous situations at their own goal by heading the ball away and who can make use of chances at the opponent’s goal by means of lightning quick headers are indispensable to their team. There is no better feeling in soccer than beating an opponent in the air to plant a header in the net. Once you have done it, there is a hunger to do it again. It is a spectacular way of scoring goals, or come to that of stopping them. Defensively, it is a great thrill in consistently clearing the ball in the air, beating opposing forwards, and establishing control. The young player who fails to add heading to his or her armory of skills will never go far in the game.

For a full article on the technique of heading go here. Plus view this video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7u5m_48dUY.

Heading 3

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