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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.

 

Players First Movement

Sam Snow

My very good friend and colleague Logan Fleck had a saying about quality coaching, “It’s easier to say no than go. It’s harder to teach go than no.” A part of coaching/teaching ‘go’ is to know when as the coach to let them go. High quality soccer performance by players moves through many mistakes in order to grow to a consistently good performance. Coaches of youth players, and the parents of those players, must let the youth player work through trial and error. This is an important part of the learning process. The coach should guide the players through that process, but not micromanage them. Over-coaching precedes timid play. This is what coach Fleck was alluding to in that it’s hard for some coaches to let the players go. So if you want your team to be good, I mean really good, then you must let them make some mistakes as they learn the game. Most of those mistakes will happen in training sessions as you teach them go rather than no. But some mistakes will happen in a match and once in a while it will cost you a goal and perhaps a loss. The price is a part of growth within the dynamic game of soccer. Coaches who teach no instead of go will win some matches at the youth level, but once the game is at a higher standard the team that coached no will become a ‘no go’. Let me share with you some of coach Fleck’s thoughts on the matter.

“This message is a reminder of the face-to-face or phone conversation that I’ve had with colleagues of my frustration at watching a high level educated coach use the directive approach (telling the players what to do numerous times during the game). Instead of quite bluntly allowing the players the opportunity to figure it out on their own. This did not occur once but many times and I observed young players (13-14 year olds) being moved around as to where they should be and what to do the majority of the time. We can all argue about coaching moments, but when they become a running commentary as to where a player should be – we (coaches) have crossed the line. To me this is not only hindering player development but, in my mind, is abuse. We (coaches) interject what we want the players to do and they just follow the yelled out instructions. Bull! I was privileged to have been coached by some of the best coaches in the country. Who with great patience and understanding knew that the game is and will always be a player’s game. Those coaches taught me the most important thing about soccer, which was to possess the confidence to make my decisions on the field and to take responsibility for the game. Let me pause to thank them all again.

No, over-coaching is not a new problem – but this particular event occurred at a very high level and I hate to think that our Founding Fathers of soccer in this country would feel good about this being the end result of contributing a lifetime of effort to the education of coaches in the country. I would like there to be proclaimed a ‘Shut Up For Soccer Day’! The day would entail all coaches (and parents if they so choose) but most decidedly us coaches to not yell anything at the players or referees for one game – on the same day nationwide. The coaches will enjoy, observe, analyze and/or suffer in silence while the game is going on. This I know is like asking the entire country to quit smoking simultaneously, however I do believe we can and will make our point and more importantly show the respect for the players that our coaches showed us back when we played the game (and enjoyed it as well).

This topic is one that touches all of us and I simply want us to do our part to continue to keep soccer a player’s game. Many of you knew my father, Dr. Tom Fleck, and were present during his acceptance speech upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NSCAA. He focused his speech on two points. He stated clearly and categorically that the award should have been given to all of you who make the game what it is today. His final point was in regard to the children who play soccer, LET THEM PLAY!

This problem of over-coaching youth soccer players has reached epidemic proportion that is as detrimental as smoking and obesity are to their health. I feel this issue of over-coaching young players can kill our game.”

It seems to be appropriate that during Youth Soccer Month we should undertake the Players First Movement.

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Red Card for Concussion Management

Sam Snow

As we watch a marvelous 2014 FIFA World Cup the games have been spectacular and more than once the underdog has won. During the matches great goals have been scored and fantastic saves made. But a few times clashes have occurred and, at least once, a serious head injury that any television viewer could see was a concussion. I highly recommend that you read this blog from Dr. Dev Mishra: http://blog.sidelinesportsdoc.com/?p=1027

Now read these many resources on the topic available to you on the US Youth Soccer website.

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/hey_doc_when_can_i_return_to_play/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/heads_up_us_youth_soccer_and_cdc_team_up_to_help_keep_young_athletes_safe_from_concussion/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/concussion_resources_from_cdc/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/blogs/blog/?BlogPostAlias=head_bangers&BlogAlias=parents_blog

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/us_youth_soccer_and_axon_sports_bring_affordable_concussion_management_to_leagues_teams_and_clubs/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/blogs/blog/?BlogPostAlias=/blogs/an_ounce_of_prevention1/&BlogAlias=parents_blog

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/blogs/blog/?BlogPostAlias=its_not_russian_roulette_&BlogAlias=parents_blog

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/youth_sports_organizations_launch_sports_concussion_partnership/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/us_soccer_federation_statement_on_head_injuries_in_soccer_and_padded_headgear/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/ConcussionEducation/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/news/qa__head_injuries_with_doug_andreassen_washington_president/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/blogs/blog/?BlogPostAlias=ready_for_spring&BlogAlias=coaches_blog

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/youth_sports_organizations_launch_sports_concussion_partnership/

http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/us_youth_soccer_to_participate_in_nfl_safety_roundtable/

 

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Lopsided Match

Sam Snow

The score was 5-0 in favor of my team. So it’s time for a change in game strategy.

Many coaches struggle with how to keep a run-a-way match in check. Some coaches will play all of the “second string” players, some will put kids in positions they don’t frequently play, some will impose restrictions on how the team scores — such as only from crosses, etc. Here’s another idea for coaches in approaching this situation that occurs too often in youth soccer.

Tell your team: "You must work to get the kid on our team who has never scored in a match a goal now. If that kid scores then we go to the teammate who’s only scored once and get that player a goal. And so on with the player who has scored only two goals in a career — on and on. But what if time elapses and the team has not succeeded in helping that teammate who has never scored a goal to put one in the back of the net?

Then that’s the first team assignment in the next match. When that match is and against whom we are playing is immaterial. The match could be against a fierce rival, for the state cup final or against the last place team. The outcome of that match is less important than the lesson to be learned by the players — we accomplish a team assignment together. No matter how hard it may be or how long it may take, our team pulls together to achieve that challenge.

That mentality — and to meet that challenge — will take confidence and conviction. Most especially, the will to “stick to your guns” must come from the coach. There will be pressure in that next match from some parents, perhaps some players and maybe even from club officials to not require the team to accomplish the challenge given in a previous match. No, many folks will want the new game strategy to be only about that particular opponent.

There’s an old saying that sports build character. This challenge might build character in the players and staff — it most certainly will reveal it!

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Kid Focused, Coach Driven

Sam Snow

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. The mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.

Last November the Institute held a roundtable on Project Play:
http://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/2013/11/20/aspen-institute-project-play-kid-focused-coach-driven-what-training-needed

Both youth soccer coaches and administrators will benefit from reading the report. Here is the link to the final report from that conference.
http://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/upload/Kid_Focused_Coach_Driven_Summary_Report.pdf

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