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.


Football Coaches Association of Africa Nations (FCAAN)

Sam Snow

So what do a couple of soccer junkies do with a few days off?  They go to Africa and conduct a coaching course. On February 16 and 17, Terry Eguaoje and Sam Snow, along with Sam Okpodu, taught an "E" diploma course for the Football Coaches Association of Africa Nations (FCAAN) -

Dr. Eguaoje is the Technical Director for Mississippi Youth Soccer and Mr. Okpodu is the former executive director for South Carolina Youth Soccer, the former head coach for the Women’s National Team for Nigeria, a former player on their Men’s National Team and a NSCAA Instructor.

FCAAN looks to serve coaches across Africa with up-to-date coaching philosophies and methods. This was the inaugural course for the association. The course was conducted at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Lagos, Nigeria and there were 34 coaches in attendance from across Nigeria and Ghana. For most of the coaches this was their first formal coaching education. They proved to be quite receptive to the information delivered and are anxious for more.

The course covered:

  •  Introduction & Orientation
  • What is Football
  • Components of the Game
  • Principles of Play
  • Systems of Play
  • First Aid
  • Team Administration
  • Risk Management
  • Player Characteristics
  • Methods of Coaching
  • Field Session 1 & 2
Terry and I both conducted model training sessions as a part of the course. Terry covered the Principles of Defense and I ran a session on the Principles of Attack. A coach in the course provided players from his club in the U17 age group. We had 24 players at each of the model sessions.

For photos from the course click here:

The coaches in the course work with mainly players in their teens and early adulthood. As is the case across most of Africa, children do not play on organized football teams. until around the age of twelve the kids play in the neighborhood, at school or at local spots where regular kick-abouts take place. One such place, at least for older players, was in the parking lots surrounding the former national stadium, just outside the NIS. Improvise – adapt – roll the ball and let’s play!

Photo 1

Figure 1 - One of many pick-up games going on next to the former national stadium near the NIS

Organized chaos, which is the essence of a football match, takes place at schoolyard games across Nigeria. Students play – all in the same school uniform, but they know who is on each team. That environment demands a high level of mental concentration from the players. This is an aspect of most sandlot games. It is a quality that American clubs should allow when they have ‘street soccer’ days at the club. This will be a positive factor in the growth of the American player. Let us Americans always be open-minded to what we can learn from other footballing nations. Let’s not genuflect at the altar of foreign football, but let’s certainly use what is practical for soccer in the USA.


photo 2

Figure 2 - primary scholars playing football

After the course was concluded Terry and I took part in one live TV sports show, three taped TV shows and one live sports talk radio show. The newspapers also picked up on the event:

I quite enjoyed my trip and I believe it was an educational experience for all involved. I look forward to the next FCAAN course in which I can take part.

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Assistant Coach

Sam Snow

I recently started a position with a soccer travel club. I have run different clinics, assisted teams in the past and have been certified as a soccer coach for 4-years but this is my first time as head coach. I am having a hard time finding an assistant coach and I really do not want to have a parent assist me. I am worried that they will overrun me since I am new to the position and am fairly young (I am only six years older than some of the players on the team). I worry that these players will not respect me and will be more willing to listen to a parent over me. Should I ask if a parent wants to step up and help me or should I just do this on my own? If I do this on my own, how should I get started?
- An aspiring soccer coach
If you can get an assistant coach then by all means do so. You don’t want to carry the load all season alone and having someone with whom you can kick around ideas is useful.
Choosing an assistant coach is an important step for a coach. Ideally none of the coaches should be related to the players. Nevertheless, the reality in youth soccer is that many coaches are related to one or more of the players on the team.
The head coach being potentially younger than an assistant coach should not be a concern. A quality head coach will be respected by the majority of the parents of the players. When you are looking to tab someone as your assistant coach, look for personal qualities over soccer knowledge in the person regardless of their age.
Your assistant coach plays many vital roles. He or she can assess the quality of your team, help you to decide player development issues, attend parents-coach meetings for you (I wouldn't recommend this though, always try to handle these yourself) and help you to choose game day team formation and tactics.
Begin the process of choosing an assistant by considering your own strengths and weaknesses and then look for someone who can balance them out. First and foremost look at the character of the person. The knowledge of soccer and how to coach the game can be learned; the right personality for coaching children cannot. Your assistant coach should enjoy interacting with soccer players. So, look for someone who can be motivating with the players. An adult they will see as a role model, as well as a coach. You don't want an assistant who just lets the players get on with training or in a match, you want your assistant to help inspire or motivate them.
Secondly, can the person judge player potential. Your assistant needs to be able to aid you in determining a player’s strengths and weaknesses so that the two of you can make a plan for each player’s improvement. 
Next, we come to tactical knowledge. He or she has to know their stuff and should be good at arranging set pieces, formations etc. 
Lastly, we come to Judging Player Potential. Here are the types of assistant coaches that do the best job:
  •  Open minded, did not have a set idea on systems of play or formations
  • Do not care what their role is
  • Ask a lot of questions, they wanted to improve as a soccer coach
  • Detail oriented
  • Are out to improve the lives of the kids, not build themselves up as a coach
  • Are great listeners and observers
  • Take whatever task they were given and excelled at that task
  • Volunteer to help at nearly every turn
  •  Ask underlying ‘whys’ without being abrasive
  • Once a decision is made do not question anything and implement the decision
  • Are calm non rah-rah types that had the game in perspective (watch them coach other sports or as a fan)
  • Are not complainers or excuse makers, they are doers
  • Admit their lack of knowledge and admit mistakes freely
  • Want to get all the kids into games
  • People that have had success in other parts of their lives
  • Coach (or have coached) other sports or have worked with youth

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Interview with Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports and the Positive Coaching Alliance

Sam Snow

Dear Reader,
For this installment of my blog, I hope you’ll enjoy this Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports interview with the Positive Coaching Alliance.

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U10 Tournaments

Sam Snow

"I am a coach struggling with recreational U9/10 soccer parents and kids wanting to go to tournaments. According to the US Youth Soccer Development Manual [ed. note: Player Development Model], tournament play for U10 is discouraged (and I get that). Then why does almost every tournament out there offers U10 (some even U9 and U8) brackets?"
There are indeed many clubs and leagues around the nation that run tournaments for the U10 age group. For those folks it provides an additional revenue stream. Tournament organizers will go as young as they think they can get paying customers. That revenue stream is there because the parents of the U10 players either think that the tournament environment and the focus on outcome of performance develops the players and/or they want it as a sport spectator event for themselves. In fact, much of the challenge in providing a balanced environment of development and age appropriate competition for the U10 age group is impacted by the desire of the adults associated with the teams for a spectacle, as if they were watching a MLS match.
So what’s the solution? On the short term look for festival formats for your team rather than outcome based tournaments. Then work with the parents of your team to collectively address the matter as one of age appropriate player development with your club leaders. On a slightly longer term look to set up a U10 academy as is done in Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Montana, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina.

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