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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.

 

Parent education issues

Sam Snow

From the state Technical Directors' Position Statements here is information on the part of parents in youth soccer.
 
Parent Education Issues No. 8

We believe that parents should be required to sign and comply with a Code of Conduct. We also believe that proactive and ongoing parent education should be the responsibility of every club and league. We urge clubs to put the US Youth Soccer Principles of Conduct into the hands of the parents associated with their club.
 
Please also take a look at the information for soccer moms and dads in the parents section of the US Youth Soccer web site.
 

Transition

Sam Snow

For your reading this week is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released Player Development Model from US Youth Soccer.
 
Transition is the most important moment in soccer; the moment in the match when individual players switch their player role in the game from defense to attack or attack to defense. Transition is acquired first by an individual player, then a group of players and then the team.
 
This moment of transition occurs first as mental recognition of the situation and then a decision that initiates physical action. The faster the recognition-decision-action connection is made the more impactful will be a player's performance. Only once individual players are quickly making the transition from one phase of play to the next, will it be possible for a team to execute quick and skillful transition from defense to attack or vice versa.
 
If transition does not happen fast enough for a player or team then they are always a step or two behind the action. The speed of a player's transition is based on their tactical awareness. Tactical awareness is being mindful of where you are on the field, as well as the location of the ball, your teammates and opponents. It's the ability to read the game – to anticipate what will happen next and not merely reacting to what just happened. In some soccer circles this tactical awareness is called insight. In American soccer, we refer to this level of mental focus and tactical awareness as being soccer savvy.
 
Your players have no chance of becoming soccer savvy players if they are simply cogs in the team wheel. Players who are over-coached in matches become robotic in their performance and cannot make tactical decisions fast enough. Slow decision making leads to reaction players instead of anticipation players. The over-coaching comes from not only coaches, but spectators too. They constantly yell out to the players what to do and when to do it. This further hinders a player's decision making, as spectators are typically a step behind the action – the pace of the game is quicker than their words conveyed. This environment of coaches and parents making soccer decisions for the players during a match has lead to an American soccer weakness in transition. Too many of our players are not tactically aware, thereby being slow in transition. To become an anticipation player who is quick in transition requires a healthy soccer environment in which to grow. That environment requires less coaching during matches and better coaching during training sessions. That training environment should lead to self-reliant players who think and communicate for themselves during a match.
 
The foundation to a good soccer environment in your club is a well planned and consistently executed player development curriculum. From this foundation, you can build a club with a positive soccer culture.
 
 

Risk Management

Sam Snow

A stance from the State Associations Technical Directors on background checks for coaches:
 
Risk management No. 7
We believe all coaches involved in youth soccer should be subject to background checks and that coaching licenses be required as part of the risk management process.  We also believe that each coach should be issued a registration card, certifying that they have completed the risk management process and have attained the required coaching certification.
 

Facilities for Development

Sam Snow

Here is another excerpt from the soon to be released Player Development Model from US Youth Soccer.
 
If You Build It They Will Come         
Throughout the United States a great deal of effort and time is being put into the education and development of coaches like you. You are diligently improving so that you can better develop players. The goal of any good coach is to develop players to their full potential and to help them rise in the game as far as their talents will allow. Raising the professional standards of your coaching is laudable. Yet it can be frustrating for you. You acquire knowledge and learn of proper training techniques, but are then frustrated by the lack of facilities to use these new abilities. Too many teams must train on the outfield of a baseball diamond or on one half of a soccer field or on any open patch of ground they can find. Sometimes there are no goals, corner flags or any proper training equipment. Usually if there are goals they are fixed permanently in the ground, so the turf in front of the goal is worn away. Consequently the players reach a certain level of play and then stagnate there. The best coaches in the world cannot fully develop players without the right training environment.
 
Across the nation outstanding soccer complexes are being built for matches; in most cases though the fields are used only on match day. So where do the players train? A simple observation of most club teams will show that the coaches and players spend one to three days per week training and one day per week in a match on the average. If the time spent training is triple that of playing, why isn't more emphasis put on the development of training grounds?
 
You have gained knowledge on how to train players at coaching courses, clinics, workshops, symposia, etc. You must then be given the tools to apply that knowledge. In your club the administrators and coaches can all work together to help develop the best facilities. The role of soccer administrators here is to raise the funds to provide the tools. Through this teamwork administrators and coaches jointly can produce quality players. When a new soccer complex is built consideration must be given to providing grounds for the players to develop into those skillful, intelligent players who are entertaining to watch on match day. Building fields for only matches doesn't meet the needs of the soccer community – land at the complex must be set aside on which to construct a training ground. Devote and develop field space just for training sessions; the space allocated depends upon the number of teams in the club. Certainly the larger the better, but any space set aside specifically for training is a step in the right direction.
 
Consider too the need for covered or indoor facilities during inclement weather. If you live in an area with ice and snow or high heat {90°+} for long periods then the training phase in your seasonal plan is interrupted. As a club construct a facility or make lease or rent arrangements with a suitable facility to be productive during these periods of the year. With access to an appropriate facility games and training can continue with Futsal, indoor soccer or with a field house you could play 3-a-side on up to 11-a-side soccer.
 
The construction of a soccer complex is typically done in phases over many years. The training ground must be a part of these phases of construction, particularly during its initial phase. While a fair amount of land will be needed to construct a high quality training ground the benefits will be long lasting. Those who are sincere about making decisions in soccer while placing the players first will start immediate construction of training grounds. Quality coaching and facilities will contribute positively to player development. Since player development is the backbone of the game the construction of training grounds is mandatory! National, regional and state associations along with local clubs must work together toward this goal. This aspect of soccer's growth can no longer be neglected!
US Youth Soccer Recommended Field Dimensions
Age Group
Length x Width
U6
25 x 20
U8
35 x 25
U10
55 x 40
U12
80 x 50
U14
100 x 65
U16
110 x 70
U18
115 x 70
U20
120 x 75
Table 5 Field Dimensions
 
The dimensions of the playing field have a real impact on the players' ability to perform in a skillful and intelligent way. Playing on an age appropriate size field allows for soccer to be played as opposed to kick ball which occurs on inappropriate sized fields. If clubs build full sized plots – 130 x 100 – then any size field or fields from the table above can be marked off.
 
Here are some of the "tools" needed at a first rate soccer training ground.
  • Sand field and/or pit
  • Kicking board or rebound goal and portable free kick wall
  • Flat faced goals and portable goals of various sizes {be sure they are properly anchored}
  • Cones and training bibs of various sizes, colors and shapes for the cones
  • Corner flags, coaching poles, yellow rope, pendulum pole and hurdles
  • Balls of various sizes and colors and medicine balls
  • Tennis and volleyball nets and standards
  • Video camera scaffolding
  • Grids (10 x 15) marked off on part of the training ground
  • Storage