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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.

 

Staff Development

Sam Snow

This past weekend I visited Atlanta to work with the Georgia Soccer staff. The schedule had included a training session with players in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. Unfortunately, it had rained so much on Friday and Saturday that the fields were flooded, so the training session planned for Saturday had to be cancelled. Never-the-less, the Technical Director for Georgia Soccer, Jacob Daniel, and I were able to attend a "D" license coaching course at Oglethorpe College.

We were able to join the coaches during one of their practice field sessions (In the "D" license course the candidates have two practice field sessions). This is when they are given a topic and run a portion of a training session on the field. The candidates then receive feedback from the instructor and their fellow candidates on the strengths and weaknesses of the session. In this course there were 30 candidates divided into two groups for practice. Coach Daniel and I observed each group and we then joined in with the course instructors to provide feedback on the practice session. Despite the soggy field conditions, freezing temperatures and drizzle the candidates did a fine job in their practice sessions. They made the mistakes common to coaches still learning the craft. Some examples are a warm-up not related technically to the topic of the training session, poor transition from one activity to the next, coaching at the wrong moments or making comments not relevant to the training topic. From the practice sessions the candidates all improved in these areas, hence the two practice sessions prior to testing. Going through the state coaching course is very important to all coaches. We all must strive to improve our craft of coaching. That is a never-ending process as there's always more to learn. If you have not earned a state coaching course certification or license then I urge you to attend a course this year.

Yesterday was the state staff instructors' seminar, this was the main reason I had come to Atlanta. Coach Daniel holds this seminar once a year as continuing professional development for the Georgia Soccer coaching course instructors. This is a great initiative that all state associations should copy and I know that many of them already do so. We had both classroom and field sessions with the theme being creativity. The objective was to demo to the instructors how to emphasize creativity and deception in the sessions within the context of the coaching courses' USSF driven curriculum.

12 pm                 Introductions                                                  classroom
12:15 pm            Creativity – The Missing Link                            classroom            Sam Snow
1:15 pm              Incorporating Deception into Training                field                    Jacob Daniel
2:15 pm              Developing Creative Players                            field                    Sam Snow
3:30 pm              Latest News on Coaching Courses & FAQ's        classroom            Jacob and Sam
4:30 pm              Coaching Styles and Methods                           classroom            Sam Snow
 
We had wonderful discussions and interaction with the instructors, we even had fun playing on a muddy field. If you would like to receive a copy of my sessions just drop me a note and I'll be happy to share.

I look forward to seeing you at the 2010 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop on the 26th and 27th of this month in Fort Worth, Texas.
 

Coach Rotation

Sam Snow

The question comes up now and then about how long a youth coach should stay with a team. So, here is the question from a club coach in Indiana.

Hi Sam,

What, in your opinion, is the correct amount of years a soccer coach should stay with and coach a team? Bearing in mind we at our club are all about player development. At the moment, our policy is three years with the option of a fourth year at the discretion of the club director of coaching, but after four years they have to revert back to a younger age group or change teams. Do you think this is right or wrong? Your advice is welcomed. I will not take your opinion as policy. Thanks.

My personal opinion is that a coach should stay with a team for two years and then take on another team. The players learn more about the game when exposed to a variety of good coaches over the years; emphasis there on good coaches. If they go from a coach who has experience and talent to a novice coach then that will not serve their developmental needs. However, if the club has a good progression of coaching talent then the players can move onto a new coach in the club every two years and benefit from learning new twists on the game from another coach. Ideally, the coaches in the club are all working from the same progressive curriculum and the U-12 coach has briefed the U-14 coach on the players moving up for example. Now, we're talking about a club that really has vision on player development. In the end, let's also keep in mind that as students, these kids get a new teacher each year and their academic progress is not hindered consequently.

Here are the comments from Vince Ganzberg, US Youth Soccer Coaching Committee Region II representative, National Staff Instructor and Technical Director for Indiana Youth Soccer.

I concur with Sam's opinion. For the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP), I move a coach every two years. I did it when I was a club DOC as well. I guess I view it like a kid in elementary school. For the most part they have a teacher for one year and then move on. Every now and again though, they will have that same teacher for another year which is fine, but after year two a new voice is often useful and beneficial.
 

30 Years at the NSCAA

Sam Snow

This past weekend I attended my 30th annual NSCAA Convention. My first one was in 1980 when another young coach and I drove from Orlando to Houston to attend the convention. If I recall correctly, there were about 800 people at that one. This year's was in Philadelphia and had about 5,000 attendees. Certainly the convention has grown in many different ways over the years. Still, it strikes me the same as being a great soccer love in. Those of you who do not clearly recall, or did not live through the 60s, can ask a baby boomer what a love in was.

I think of the NSCAA Convention as a soccer love in because it is an opportunity to see the many friends we have in the game who live in other parts of the country. Given the size of our country as our friends move around with their soccer jobs, it can be a real challenge to visit with one another. Or, perhaps like I did, they move into another level of the game. I moved from being a college coach to a youth coach and educator. So, the convention gives me a chance to visit with friends who are still in the college coaching ranks. Part of the convention for me is that reconnection with friends and colleagues in so many levels of the game.

The convention has moved from hotel ballrooms to convention center halls. The sessions have grown to full field demo areas and therefore what can be demonstrated has expanded. The range of topics in sessions on the floor and in the classroom has grown and is now quite varied. Perhaps though, it is time to coordinate that a bit more so there can be a connection between the sessions that reflect the needs of the game in the USA. Just a thought.

Is it time to reduce the number of meetings that take place so that more attention can be paid to the education sessions? For me, I just go from one meeting to the next now-a-days and do not actually get to watch many of the sessions. I would like to be able to attend more though. The convention is a business and networking scene so maybe the meetings need to take place, but are they detracting from the main purpose of coaching education?

One of the events at the convention I always enjoy is the Walt Chyzowych Memorial Fund ceremony. Talk about a Who's Who of soccer in the United States – well this is where they gather. The ceremony honors someone who has given a lifetime of service to the game as Walt did. This year the recipient was Walter Bahr, who played on the 1950 World Cup team that beat England 1-0 sending shockwaves across the football world. Walt got the assist on that goal. Many NCSAA members do not know of this ceremony but they have heard of the 4v4 tournament which bears Walt Chyzowych's name, another piece of the convention that has grown dramatically from humble beginnings.

For years the coaches had pickup games at the convention in the ballrooms or the hallways. When Dr. Tom Fleck was the president of the NSCAA he decided to formalize these games. So, in 1981 the convention was in Orlando and there was a large empty field behind the hotel (yes we needed only one hotel). Ron Quinn and I took a paint machine and made lines on the vacant lot for two 5-a-side soccer fields. I went to a guy named Andy Caruso with this new company called KwikGoal and we set up some of their goals on the field. Badda boom badda bing, we had a tournament. I signed up coaches, easy to do when there were less than a 1,000 coaches attending, and we had an afternoon of games. Boy has that tournament grown into an outstanding evening of fun games.

So, there are a few asides from a long time coaches' convention attendee. I hope to attend many more of the annual gathering of those committed to the game!

The US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop is coming up February 25-27 and I hope to see many more friends and colleagues in Fort Worth!
 

Move Up or Stay?

Sam Snow

As you may know, the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) also takes place in Europe. The participants are American kids whose families are in Europe. Some of them are there with a parent working for an international company, some have a parent working in a U.S. Embassy, but most are military families. So that these young players can stay connected to our elite player identification and development opportunities, a group of adults (mostly military) run US Youth Soccer ODP Europe. They form "state teams" for the boys and girls and participate in the US Youth Soccer ODP Region I trials each summer.

Because most U.S. military bases in Europe are in Germany that is where most of the kids and coaches reside. So, while the "state" try-outs and much of the training takes place in Germany, there are American players scattered across Europe and they participate in US Youth Soccer ODP.

Many of the challenges of appropriate player development occur in Europe just as they do in the U.S. One of the challenges is when to move a talented player up in age groups. That decision involves the parents as well as the player and coaches. So, the question came to me this weekend from the technical director for US Youth Soccer ODP Europe about one of his players. The question was posed to him by the young man's father. Here then is the exchange:

Hey Guys / Gals

Just a quick update that "S" has been ask to start training with FC Vestsjaelland (Slagelse B&I) U-17 Division 2 next week.  I am not sure if playing four years up is normal here in Denmark ... just have to see if he has the physical strength I guess to stay with the team.  So, time will tell.  Perhaps "M" has some insight on this and comparison to German players.

Sam,

Please share your opinion with me on this issue.  This player made the US Youth Soccer ODP Region I Team and the U-14 U.S. National Pool last summer.

Sven

Hi Sven,

Moving up four years, up from puberty or early adolescence to middle or late adolescence, is a really big jump. Not only will there likely be a big physical factor of height, weight, strength, speed and power, there will also be a cognitive gap (which will impact conceptualization of tactics). I think there will also be a social disconnect of the younger player with the older players. In no other aspect of their lives will they interact, and with teenagers this is a big deal affecting acceptance in the group (team).

There's no doubt that the level of play will be a good challenge for him and one that should have a positive impact on his game. However, in moving up four years in age groups will he start, be a regular first substitute or ride the pine? If he's not playing regularly then the move up to a more competitive environment will not have done him any good; to fully develop, he needs to play as well as train. He needs also to have opportunities to be a starter, to learn how to impact the game at its beginning and also come on as a sub into the flow of the match.

So, before a final decision is made I think the player, his parents and all of the pertinent coaches should consider his readiness for this jump up four years in his psychomotor, cognitive and psychosocial current stage and future development. Regarding his soccer talents assess his technique, tactics, fitness and psychology for this new level of play.

Is it possible for him to train with the older players (perhaps once a week) and remain with his appropriate age group the rest of the time? How will he learn to be a leader and impact player if he's always the youngest player?

Sam