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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.

 

Vision

Sam Snow

I recently sent a coach a copy of the Vision document which gives facts on youth soccer player development and how we can measure improvement.  He had this to say after he had read it.

"Thanks for the article. I believe very strongly that coaches are incredibly influential in the lives of each and every player. We are not there to merely teach them how to pass and dribble, but more importantly, [know that] soccer can be a vehicle in which to teach life skills and characteristics that will enrich their lives and their future. Most players do not have the opportunity to play professional sports. It is therefore imperative that personality traits have been developed that will set them apart, and aid their growth as a teenager and then as an adult."

Here are a few samples from the Vision document.

Indeed how do we measure player development? Too often in America a professional sport model is used in measuring youth sports success. Youth soccer is not immune to this misapplied standard. For soccer the situation is made worse by a desire of many adults to use measuring tools from other sports. In fact, it is maddening to many adults that soccer is not as black and white as with some sports in judging successful play. Many team sports played in our nation are statistically driven and coach centered. Soccer is neither of those! Indeed, just like the Laws of the Game, our sport has many shades of grey within it.

The analogy can be made to a youngster's academic development in preparation for work in the adult business world. While the child is in primary and secondary school the corporate world measurements of success are not applied. Those business assessments are not yet appropriate because the school-aged student does not yet have the tools to compete in the adult business environment. The knowledge and skills to be a competitor in business are still being taught and learned. This holds true in soccer as well!

If you would like to receive a copy of the Vision document then just drop me a line and I'll be glad to send a copy to you.

Well now, it's off to the 2010 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop.  This is an annual exchange of information for coaches, administrators and referees.  And then of course, the stories we can all tell about our life in youth soccer.  I hope to see you in Ft. Worth, Texas this week.
 

Workshop in Fort Worth

Sam Snow

Next week the 2010 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop will take place in Fort Worth, Texas. This annual convention for coaches, administrators and referees offers a wonderful opportunity for the 900,000 administrators, coaches and referees (most of whom are volunteers) to come together in one location to exchange information and ideas on youth soccer in the U.S.

Most folks who attend likely don't realize the work that goes into pulling off such an event. Planning begins several years ahead with the selection of the city and venue for the event. Many factors go into the selection process including the spaces for demo sessions and classes.

The nitty gritty for each Workshop begins a year out and, of course, picks up pace as we get closer to the opening day. The host State Association where a Workshop is held is a key player within the team that makes each Workshop a success. The State Association promotes the event with its members, gets volunteers to assist with a multitude of tasks, and through its clubs, gets the players for each of the demonstration sessions. The quality of each Workshop is credited to the host State Association and the US Youth Soccer staff. The national office staff puts in hundreds of hours to drive an event that is a service to our referees, coaches, administrators and members.

I'd like to give you some insights to many of the first-rate presenters who will be available to you at the 2010 Workshop & Coaches Convention in Fort Worth. For our coaches, referees and administrators, there'll be sessions that will educate and inspire. We'll have sessions for the technical development of mainstream players, select players and special needs players. The presenters include the US Youth Soccer Technical Department. Alongside us in the coaching tracks are Jeff Tipping, the NSCAA director of coaching; Dr. Don Kirkendall from the University of North Carolina and FIFA's Medical Assessment and Research Centre; Gary Williamson, technical director for North Texas Soccer; Dan Gaspar, head coach for men at the University of Hartford and goalkeeper coach for the Portugal Men's National Team; Oscar Pareja, FC Dallas director of player development, plus many more outstanding American coaches.

For our colleagues in officiating and administration, some of the top class clinicians are Larry Monaco, president of US Youth Soccer; Rodney Kenney; Alfred Kleinaitis; John Kukitz, chairman of the Soccer Start Committee; Todd Roby, US Youth Soccer director of communications; Dr. Dan Freigang; Charlie Kadupski among many others.

With help from many of the North Texas soccer clubs, we'll have on hand some wonderful young players to assist the coaches in showing you the best in the craft of coaching. Plus the very popular Kick Zone for local players to come and try out their skills. FC Dallas players will join you there!

Did I mention the Awards Gala with the presentations of the Dr. Thomas Fleck Award, Coach of the Year honors and more? There will be exhibits, meetings, sharing of information and experiences along with new and old friendships. Join us for a fabulous time with those who support and guide youth soccer in our country.
 
At the Workshop there's something for everyone!  The sessions are first rate and aimed at the needs of youth soccer. Check out the sessions and clinicians here.
 

Coaching Points

Sam Snow

Last week I wrote of my work with the Georgia Soccer state staff instructors. They hold an annual seminar for their own continuing education with the goal of making themselves better instructors for the state coaching courses. A young coach from New York, 18-years-old, read the blog post and asked for the files I mentioned sharing and other advice on the craft of coaching.

One bit of advice I give is to play the game yourself for as long as you can. When the day comes, join the Over-30 league and then the Over-40s and then the Over-50s. Staying connected to the game as a player reminds us as coaches what the players are going through. It reminds us of the game's emotions while on the field and the reality of executing game plans. Now, with your coaching hat firmly in place, here are some do's and don'ts for coaches:

1.      
Prepare with attention to detail. Prepare your lesson plan thoroughly, bearing in mind the players' abilities, the facilities and the equipment at your disposal.

2.      
The key motivator in soccer is the ball; use it as much as possible in your training sessions. If you are using equipment, try to make sure that your layout has visual impact. It is very important that warm-up activities are well handled, as this is the time when the coach takes command and sets the tone. "Well begun is a job half done."

3.      
Action as soon as possible. Have the team working at the outset without an involved and complicated explanation.

4.      
Select a suitable demonstration position. This is important and certain basics should be followed:
a.       Coach must see every player. Do not begin to speak until all are in front and standing still, the players nearest you should crouch down.
b.      Immobilize all soccer balls. Have all balls out of the players' reach as you speak, if coaching in the activity, get the ball yourself.
c.       Do not speak into a strong wind.
d.      Players should not be asked to look into the sun at the coach. It is better that the sun is in the eyes of the coach.
5.       Do not demonstrate a difficult skill if you know that someone in your team could do it more efficiently.

6.      
If demonstrating yourself, do not, if possible, speak while you are moving. A short explanation before and/or after the demonstration is desirable.

7.      
Involve as many of the players as possible and try to ensure that each one has a specific job.

8.      
Proceed from the simple to the complex.

9.      
Observe from outside the activity.

10.  
Remember you are coaching players, not skills.

11.  
When coaching, make sure you are wearing a neutral color from the players.

12.  
Try to make all technical exercises as realistic as possible.

13.  
The set up and collecting of equipment should be done efficiently.

14.  
Always have an adequate supply of balls available in order to avoid wasting time during a technical exercise.
 
 

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.