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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.

 

Priorities of Coaching No. 12

Sam Snow

From the Position Statements of the 55 state Technical Directors:
 
PRIORITIES OF COACHING  No. 12
 
We recommend the prioritization of events by coaches:
·         Objectives are identified and a season plan is developed that balances training, competition along with rest and recovery.
·         The interest of the player must be dictated by the quality of scheduling and the choice of events.
·         Entering all the possible competitions/tournaments available can have a long lasting negative impact on basic skill and fitness development.
·         A systematic approach will maximize the chances of achieving peak performance by bringing players to peak form for important competitions and minimize the chances for over-training, over-use injuries and burnout.
·         We recommend at a minimum the following training session to match ratios:
  • U6-U8                          1:1
  • U10-U12                      2:1
  • U14-U19                      3:1
·         In order for an athlete to adapt (improve technical, tactical and psychological components) there must be periods of low intensity activity or complete rest interspersed with periods of high intensity activity.
·         "More is not better."  Quantity alone does not improve quality; soccer should be a test of skill not survival.
·         Practicing or playing in matches where players are "going through the motions" due to fatigue or lack of interest reinforce bad habits and retard development.
·         Sound nutrition and ample rest allow for more rapid recovery from intense activity.
 

Position statements No. 9-11

Sam Snow

From the Position Statements of the state association Technical Directors, three Statements concerning the early play to must win environment throughout youth soccer:

Festivals for players Under-10 No. 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 U-10 teams from traveling to events that promote winning and losing and the awarding of trophies.

State, regional and national competition for U-12s No. 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-12s, state festivals replace state cups. We also strongly recommend that with regard to regional and national competition the entry age group should be U-14.

Tournament Play No. 11
                We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development, and can serve to reduce long-term motivation. Do not multiple matches being played on one day and one weekend have a negative effect on the quality experience and development of the individual player? Further far too many playing schedules include so many tournaments and matches that there is never an "off season." We believe that players under the age of twelve should not play more than 100 minutes per day, and those players older than thirteen should not play more than 120 minutes per day.

-             We also recommend to tournament managers and schedulers:
-              The players should be allowed ample rest between matches.
-              That all tournament matches be of the same length and that no full-length match be introduced during play-off rounds.
-              Kick-off times allow players a reasonable opportunity to prepare for competition. This encompasses rest and recovery, nutrition and adequate time to warm-up and stretch after traveling a long distance in addition to taking into consideration extreme environmental conditions.
 
 

Youth Soccer Month and TOPSoccer events in Connecticut

Sam Snow

Over the weekend, I traveled to Connecticut to work with state Technical Director Austin Daniels on a Youth Soccer Month event at Southern Connecticut State University and a US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer coaching course. Both events were well attended successful events.
 
For the Youth Soccer Month event we held a clinic for about 60 kids and we had the very capable assistance from a number of the of the university's women's soccer team and coach Bob Dikranian. We were able to meet with the parents as well as train the players for a fun-filled afternoon.
 
Yesterday, we conducted the US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer coaching course for 45 coaches from around the state. We also had over 25 TOPSoccer players join us for the practical session at the end of the course. Connecticut Junior Soccer Association has a healthy and widespread TOPSoccer presence and those involved are now better equipped to coach the players in their clubs. The hope is that the course will enable more clubs to refine or begin TOPSoccer programs. The TOPSoccer coaching course is now in its second year of offering and the hope is for more state associations to take a lead as Connecticut Junior Soccer Association has done to deeply impact the soccer coaching community by offering the course several times a year. For more on the TOPSoccer course, listen here to Daniels.
 

Too Young to Travel?

Sam Snow

Recently a 'soccer dad' wrote to me asking about the appropriate age at which to begin travel soccer. That age varies across the nation to a degree, but certainly by the U-12 age group many soccer clubs have teams that travel to other cities and perhaps even other states to play. Now, a trip to another state with a bunch of 11-Year-Olds may not seem like a big deal if you live in Rhode Island, but what if you live in Alaska or North Dakota where that trip is quite a long way. So one consideration is the distance and, therefore, the time and cost involved.

Also to consider is the physical and emotional stress on the kids if they are too young for soccer road trips. Factor the adults' expectations for results into the psychological environment in which the kids are now playing. Some, but not all, adults will suddenly want more wins as the 'R.O.I.' for having made the trip.

Central to the discussion, purely on the soccer side, is to consider if the players are ready technically, tactically and physically to undertake playing matches on the road, which even at the adult level of soccer is more demanding.

Finally, we must remember that soccer is a long-term development sport. Since players do not peak until their late twenties or early thirties there doesn't seem to be a need for a rush to travel soccer. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that we should unfurl the full soccer experience gradually to young players. Let's always have something new in soccer on the horizon for them. We have a tendency in youth soccer to give them everything early on, and then there's little for them to look forward to in the soccer world.

So, here's my exchange with a parent asking for some advice to be able to make an informed decision for his child's soccer experience.

Coach: travel team guidelines

Hello, was hoping to find some guidelines on kids participating in travel teams. When should kids really starting traveling out of state for soccer tournaments? Is 4 years old too young? Is 10?  What are the guidelines being provided to our clubs across the country?

There are not any mandated policies for travel. However, US Youth Soccer coaching education recommends that kids not begin to travel until the U-10 age group. That travel should be within a 100 mile radius of the home club. In this way, the kids are getting some variety of games, but without overnight stays and all of the time and expense to the family. For the U-12 age group some out of state travel is fine. Again, time and expense are justified to make that travel to a state bordering the home state of the club. Also, as long as it is not overdone, travel within your US Youth Soccer Region is fine too. For the U-14 to U-19 age groups travel nationwide is fine. However, clubs must be sure to consider the time away from school and cost to the player's family. International trips for U-14 and older is fine too. Such a trip has greater significance if it is an occasional event for the players - once per year or two at the most.

Sam, this is very helpful, thank you! I currently coach a U-9 Girls team, and my oldest daughter plays for a U-11 Girls team. Her team is looking to travel in November to Texas, but I am of the opinion and have decided that this is not best for our family or daughter. Her team has plenty of competition right here in Colorado, and can easily get travel experience with some longer distance in-state tournaments. I wish some of these clubs were not so eager to take our young players to out of state tournaments. From my perspective this only perpetuates the "win at all cost attitude" so many are discussing these days, but doing very little to change. It's more about club promotion and less about developing players.

Your note is indeed helpful. Would you mind if I shared this with my club? I'm assuming U-11 would be treated similar to U-12. In our state of Colorado all the "crazy competitiveness" starts at U-11. The more guidance US Youth Soccer can provide our state organizations and the clubs, the better the soccer community will be for all.

Thanks again for your insights. I'm going to keep your name for the future as I am the parent of a "warrior girl," trying to do right by her.

Indeed the push to play more and more begins too soon in American youth soccer. All of the adults be they parents, coaches or administrators, contribute in some way to that mentality. Please do not hesitate to let us know if the US Youth Soccer Coaching Department can be of further assistance to you.

Let me close this week with drawing your attention to a very good article for parents who have children playing soccer. The FREE content for soccer parents is available at: http://soccerparentadvice.blogspot.com.