Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

US Youth Soccer Twitter

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

RS Banner

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Happy Family

Nesquik

Capri Sun

Print Page Share

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.

 

Playing Up

Sam Snow

Fairly often we are asked about players moving up in age group or level of competition. So here first is a check list of questions to be asked by the coaches, parents, administrators and the player to make a decision on whether to move up or stay put. The check list is followed by several of the Position Statements pertinent to this topic from the state association Technical Directors.

If a club is considering moving a player up then several questions need to be answered.
  1. Is the player physically capable of playing with and against older kids?
  2. Is the player socially capable of playing with and against older kids?
  3. Is the player emotionally capable of playing with and against older kids?
  4. Is the player tactically aware enough to play at a higher level of competition?
  5. Does the player have the ball skills to play at a faster and more physically challenging level of play?
  6. Does the player want to make this a permanent move, leaving behind teammates and friends?
  7. Is this what the player's parents want for the child?
  8. Are the two coaches of the two teams in agreement on this move?
  9. Is the move allowed by club and/or state by-laws?
  10. What will happen to the player in the older age group who will be displaced by the younger player moving up?
STATE ASSOCIATION TECHNICAL DIRECTROS POSITION STATEMENTS

Age of competitive play        # 4
While it is acknowledged and recognized that preteen players should be allowed to pursue playing opportunities that meet both their interest and ability level, we strongly discourage environments where players below the age of twelve are forced to meet the same "competitive" demands as their older counterparts therefore we recommend the following:
  1. 50% playing time
  2. no league or match results
  3. 8 v 8 at U12
Minimum age for play     # 5
We believe that a child must be five years old by August 1 to register with a soccer club for the soccer year September 1 to August 31. Children younger than five years old should not be allowed to register with a soccer club.

Festivals for players U-10      # 9
We believe that Soccer Festivals should replace soccer tournaments for all players under the age of ten. Festivals feature a set number of minutes per event (e.g., 10 games X 10 minutes) with no elimination and no ultimate winner. We also endorse and support the movement to prohibit U10 teams from traveling to events that promote winning and losing and the awarding of trophies.

State, regional and national competition for U-12's # 10
We believe that youth soccer is too competitive at the early ages, resulting in an environment that is detrimental to both players and adults; much of the negative behavior reported about parents is associated with preteen play. The direct and indirect pressure exerted on coaches and preteen players to win is reinforced by state "championships" and tournament "winners." We therefore advocate that, in the absence of regional competition for under 12's, state festivals replace state cups. We also strongly recommend that with regard to regional and national competition the entry age group should be U14.

Playing up       # 17
The majority of clubs, leagues and district, state or regional Olympic Development Programs in the United States allow talented, younger players to compete on teams with and against older players. This occurs as a natural part of the development process and is consistent throughout the world. Currently, however, there are isolated instances where the adult leadership has imposed rules or policies restricting the exceptional, young player from "playing up." These rules vary. Some absolutely will not allow it. Others establish team or age group quotas while the most lenient review the issue on a case-by-case basis. Associations that create rules restricting an individual player's option to play at the appropriate competitive level are in effect impeding that player's opportunity for growth. For development to occur, all players must be exposed to levels of competition commensurate with their skills and must be challenged constantly in training and matches in order to aspire to higher levels of play and maintain their interest in and passion for the game.
               
When it is appropriate for soccer development, the opportunity for the exceptional player to play with older players must be available. We believe that "club passes" should be adopted as an alternative to team rosters to allow for a more realistic and fluid movement of players between teams and levels of play. If there is a concern regarding the individual situation, the decision must be carefully evaluated by coaches and administrators familiar with the particular player. When faced with making the decision whether the player ought to play up, the adult leadership must be prepared with sound rationale to support their decision. Under no circumstances should coaches exploit or hold players back in the misplaced quest for team building and winning championships, nor should parents push their child in an attempt to accelerate to the top of the soccer pyramid. In addition, playing up under the appropriate circumstances should not preclude a player playing back in his or her own age group. When the situation dictates that it is in the best interests of the player to do so, it should not be interpreted as a demotion, but as an opportunity to gain or regain confidence.
Some rationale for the above includes:

Pele played for Brazil in his first World Cup as a seventeen year old; Mia Hamm earned her first call to the U.S. Women's National Team when she was fifteen. An exceptionally talented young player playing with older players has been an integral part of the game since its inception. Certainly, a player that possesses soccer maturity beyond that of his or her peers should be encouraged to "play up" in order that his or her development as a player is stimulated.

The playing environment must provide the right balance between challenge and success. The best players must have the opportunity to compete with and against players of similar abilities. Players with less ability must be allowed to compete at their own level in order to enjoy the game and to improve performance.

In conclusion the development of players and advancement of the overall quality in the United States is the responsibility of every youth coach, administrator and policymaker in this country. It is our obligation to provide an environment where every player is given the opportunity to improve and to gain the maximum enjoyment from their soccer experience and ultimately, what is best for the player.
 

Tips for Coaching Directors

Sam Snow

The jobs of state technical directors and club directors of coaching have many similarities. Here are a few tips about the job from some former club and state directors.

Tip 1

A successful director of coaching is innovative and very visible, reaching out to all levels of the game. A successful director of coaching connects the different levels of the game diplomatically, from recreation to the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, helping each level to recognize their importance and the importance of the other levels.

Tip 2

Even though it has been said in many situations before, I believe that 'pick your battles' is a great tip for state technical directors. My advice is to think carefully and choose which issues really effect what should be your focus: coaching education and player development and selection. Let your board of directors do what they want on issues such as state budgets, player registration, office staffing, newsletters and many other such business related topics. I realize that some of these issues may impact your programs, but I suggest saving your voice for issues such as how players are being trained, coaching development, competition and player selection. When these important issues come up at board meetings, calmly remind the board why they hired you and then state your professional expertise as to what is best for the players and coaches you oversee.

Tip 3

The process for making the decision is as important as the decision itself. Involve critical parties in the decision making process.

Soccer people are everywhere. Passionate individuals and kids who care about the game deserve respect regardless of their title, position or background in the game. Reach out and involve anyone who desires a positive soccer experience for each individual player. 

Someone once said that great things could be accomplished if you don't mind who gets the credit. Be sure to give others, including board members and volunteers, credit for their courage and initiative.

Tip 4

Be patient, educate, persuade and then stand your ground on the issues that truly matter.

Tip 5

Coaching directors must attempt to forge positive relationships with state executive board.

Embrace the fact that a director of coaching must be successful on several fronts: communication, organization, technical and dedication to the task.
 

People Development

Sam Snow

US Youth Soccer is undergoing a strategic planning initiative.  One of the groups is focused on people development in our Association.  I have now begun to work with that group.  One aspect they hope to impact is the leadership training of administrators, coaches and referees.  So, I shared with them a document I put together several years ago.  It touches on some of the main characteristics of leaders. 

Can a club train a coach to become a leader?  Can a person develop leadership abilities?  The answer is a resounding YES.  Leadership is a combination of specific personal qualities.  It begins inside a person and relies as much on philosophical approach as it does on learned skills.  These are the major character traits of leaders:

·        
Courage
·         Big Thinker
·         Change Master
·         Persistent and Realistic
·         Sense of Humor
·         Risk Taker
·         Positive and Hope-filled
·         Decision Maker
·         Accepts and Uses Power Wisely
·         Committed

For all of the details and more information, click here for the full document which is now posted on the US Youth Soccer web site.
 

Parent Programming

Sam Snow

Recently, I was in Tennessee to teach a National Youth License coaching course along with Tom Condone, Tennessee State Soccer director of coaching, and Mike Strickler, Florida Youth Soccer director of coaching. Last Tuesday, I was able to visit with parents of Under-11 players with the Collierville Soccer Association, which is just outside of Memphis. Tom Condone and Dale Burke, Tennessee State Soccer executive director, made the trip too. The three of us, at the request of the club executive director Paul Furlong, were able to speak with the parents, the club director of coaching and a couple of the club administrators. The club has recently initiated an academy approach with the Under-11 and younger age groups. The parents had some concerns on this approach providing for sufficient competition for the kids to further develop their soccer talents. We spoke with them on the stair step approach to proper player development and age appropriate competition. The folks asked good questions during the meeting and we had a positive dialog. Here are some of the comments from the club members which they shared after our meeting.

Tom,

I would personally like to thank you and Sam Snow for coming to Collierville and presenting the youth module to our Under-9 through Under-11 parents.  I believe it was very educational and that it hit home with many of them that were in attendance.  Also, I would like to have you come here once a year and present this information to our new, up and coming parents.
Once again, thank you for your time and efforts with parent education.  I have added a few emails below from some of our managers who attended and are in the process of passing on the information they learned.

Regards, Shawn Loth
Junior Lobos Director/Director of Club Training
 


Shawn,

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the seminar Tuesday night.  I appreciate the efforts made by all involved at CSA to coordinate a visit from the directors of US Youth Soccer and Tenn. State Soccer.

I was able to understand the importance of learning proper technique, striving to play well, and most of all to have fun playing the game for 9, 10, and 11-year-olds.   We have to be responsible, as parents and coaches, to teach these kids that winning is not the only thing that matters.  We tend to ask the question "Did you win?" or ""Did you score?" instead of asking "Did you have fun?"" or "Did you play your best?" and "Did you have a positive impact on the game and your team?" 

They suggested that players not be cut at this age as they are still in the "developmental" stage.  This can result in more than one team, i.e. A, B, and C teams.  With this said, every child should get equal playing time.  Each team should be equally matched.   

One thing that struck me was tournament play.  They recommend playing "in state" such as friendlies.  Set something up that will allow you to get there and back in one day.  Little Rock would be okay as they are only a couple of hours away.  It's not necessary to travel long distances for tournaments at this age.

I used to think that if a coach sat on the bench and didn't interact with the players on the field that he/she didn't care.  The coach is a teacher.  He/She has given them the tools through practices, training, etc. to make decisions on the field for themselves and for their team.  Games are learning experiences.  Everything the players have been taught, experiences they have had from an early age, it all comes together and clicks at the age of 26, 27 or 28!!!!  I wouldn't have guessed that this would be the age they will peak. 

Encourage your child to play!!!!  Not just soccer.  Grab a basketball and shoot some hoops, ride a bike, climb a tree (although that one scares me to death).

They have documents, guides, etc. from both websites that can be very helpful to the parents and players.  "Best Practices", and "The Vision" document were a couple that were mentioned in the meeting.

US Youth Soccer -
www.usyouthsoccer.org
Tennessee State Soccer - www.tnsoccer.org
Proud Parent, Theresa


 
Shawn,

I wanted to thank you for setting up the parent education seminar on March 9th for our Lobos parents.  My husband and I attended the meeting and found it informative and insightful.  I gathered a lot of helpful information during the meeting and have researched several of the websites that were mentioned.  I will be passing on the information to our team parents that were unable to attend the meeting.  I feel that it is very important that all parents hear the proper perspective regarding youth player development.  One key point that I gathered from the meeting was the Under-6 through Under-12 player should focus on the process of playing instead of the outcome.  Another point is that building technical skills at a young age is key to having a successful player at an older age. 

I will pass on what I've learned to other parents in the program and I hope that we are able to have additional seminars of this nature.

Thanks, Sonja
Lady Lobos Manager
 
So the director of coaching and executive director of a State Association, along with the national director of coaching, made a six hour round trip for a one hour meeting to make a difference for a club and the players therein. Join in with us on this team effort to improve the youth soccer experience!