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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.

 

From a US Youth Soccer ODP parent

Sam Snow

More often than not in this blog you hear my thoughts on various soccer matters and occasionally I am able to share with you the perspective of other coaches or players and today the thoughts of a soccer dad whose oldest child is now venturing into the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program.

Hey Sam – as a former ODP State level player, current youth club coach and competitive adult player I've now entered the world of being an ODP parent. I had my daughter recently tryout for the North Texas State ODP team and the wave of emotions as a dad is crazy. From the initial technical skills evaluation, to the 1 vs. 1 battles to Small-Sided Games and then 11 vs. 11 games, each step of the way it's all about one's own ability in each activity. I found myself evaluating my daughter to hopefully give a little bit of advice between training sessions, but what I realized through the 2-3 month evaluation process is that a kid either has it right now or they don't. I learned to focus on the experience more so than 'making the team' and quite honestly I think my care free demeanor helped my kid relax through the process. Before each session I would tell her "good luck and just play the way you play"…she'd smile and head to her group. She was asked to participate in the sub-Regional which gave her an opportunity to play 11 vs. 11 against the other girls that have already 'made' the travel team. Everyone on her team was under further evaluation for invite to the Regional Camp. This created a big opportunity for stress, but I kept telling myself that the more stressed I act, the more she'll feel it…the first 2 games we had the whole family out to watch and she didn't have her best games, but again she's competing against the best of the best and we headed home and didn't really talk about the games. The next morning we left the family home, showed up to the fields, I gave the same 'good luck and just play the way you play' comment and off she went. Late in the game with the score tied 0-0 she had a nice follow up, tap in goal to give her team the lead and minutes later as time was expiring she was played a nice through ball of which she hit with her off foot, far post for her 2nd goal and the 2-0 win. She was smiling ear to ear and after that final game and the coaches gave the 'we'll let your parents know' speech, she gave me a big hug and off to the swimming pool we went. That's when I concluded, either the kids have it right now or they don't. Making the Regional Camp would be great, but it's not worth the stress or anxiety for the kids if they're not ready yet. This is a long journey and keeping my daughter excited and passionate is more important than anything else right now. I told her she did her best and I'm very proud of her efforts…if it's good enough, she'll travel to the camp and if not we'll just have to work hard and give it another shot next year with kids closer to her age (she's December '98, trying out for '97 birth year).

She got the e-mail invitation to the Regional Camp and she's happy as can be to be included. I'm hoping she can learn from the older girls at the Camp and again, if she's ready, then who knows…maybe she'll make the 'Regional' team.

Just thought I'd share my experience, as others may be going through the same emotional wave and to keep it all in perspective that they're still kids and enjoy the experience as this is not the be all end all and they have many years to grow into themselves as players.
 

Player Development Manual excerpt

Sam Snow

The US Youth Soccer state Technical Directors, the Coaching Committee and the Technical Department are writing a Player Development Model to supplement the U.S. Soccer Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States. The Player Development Model will give clubs a sound curriculum for the development of players from the U-6 to the U-20 age groups. The Player Development Model will be distributed to the US Youth Soccer membership in the near future. Here now for you is an excerpt from the document.

WHAT IS SOCCER?
The beauty of the game is in its simplicity. Within a given set of rules there are two teams who compete to score goals against each other. Each team consists of eleven (or fewer) individuals who must use their abilities to combine cohesively while trying to win the game. It's hard to play simple.

Simplicity is GENIUS!

"Soccer is an art not a science and the game should be played attractively as well as effectively. Soccer is a game of skill, imagination, creativity and decision making.  Coaching should not stifle, but enhance those elements."
Bobby Howe

There are over 5,400 US Youth Soccer clubs across the nation. Each of those clubs has the obligation to provide its members the opportunity to play the game while learning and growing as individuals. The opportunity to participate follows both of the major player development pathways of recreational or select soccer. The recreational pathway includes the US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup and TOPSoccer. The select pathway includes US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues and the National League; the National Championship Series and the Olympic Development Program.

A club must have a model for the development of all players. True player development occurs when each player's daily training and playing environment is of the highest quality. If this environment is consistent, with a clear vision of what lies ahead for the players, development is maximized. To this end a club must have a business plan for staff growth, facilities management and implementation of programming within the club. A club must build, maintain and expand its facilities as one element of the formula to meet this obligation. The club must also provide for the ongoing education of the administrators, coaches, parents and referees, who are the four pillars supporting youth soccer. The core for planned development is a sound curriculum.

"You must love the game and want to share with the players a certain way of life, a way of seeing football."
Arsène Wenger
 

A word from a player

Sam Snow

Now and then we adult leaders in the game need to hear from and listen to the players. Here is a portion of a letter written by a 15-year-old player to parents in her State Association. So let's listen up…
 
During my nine years of experience, I have noticed numerous parents on the sidelines who do not always act as role models for their children when it comes to sportsmanship. I believe it is a parent's responsibility to instill in their child the importance of good sportsmanship and offset the "win at all costs" philosophy. To encourage parents to act responsibly, I would like to see the state leadership team consider having parents sign a contract before each season begins.
 
Soccer is a team sport and parents need to understand that and encourage their child to be a team player. There have been too many times when a parent only wants his or her child to succeed or be the best, which does not support a team environment. As an example, I have seen where a parent will pay their child for every goal they score. This encourages the child to try and only score goals, as opposed to passing to another player that may have a better shot at making a goal. While scoring goals is certainly important, playing defensively to ensure the other team does not is just as important. No position on the soccer field is more important than another. If parents are reminded of this in the contract, they can help their child actively participate in a cooperative and coordinated effort on the part of the team working together towards their common goal.
 
The sport of soccer is naturally competitive so parents can tend to get a bit high strung and say or yell things on the sidelines that are not appropriate. For example, there are times when a parent may not agree with the call a referee has made, and will berate and yell at that referee to the point he or she is asked to leave the sidelines. Parents must remember to demonstrate respect for coaches, players and referees and never openly berate, criticize, tease or demean anyone involved in the game. As a player, I can assure you that if a parent says something on the sidelines, we do hear it on the field. Children do learn from their behavior, so it is important they set a positive example.
 
In addition, parents need to be humble, trust the coach and admit that the way they think a child should play or a coach should teach is not the only way a child can learn. Each year I have played, there are always parents who seem to not support the team because they spend the entire game instructing the players from the sidelines. This confuses the players and really undermines the efforts of the coaches. Parents need to be reminded that they should avoid confusion when cheering on the sidelines. Including some examples of what parents should and should not say in a contract will encourage positive behavior. Hearing positive encouragement is always more motivating to me than being told to "shoot" or "pass it" when I am playing.
 
These are just a few of the areas that could be addressed in a sportsmanship contract. I do not think parents intentionally demonstrate behavior that is not sportsman like. If they are required to review what their role is for the soccer season, and then sign an agreement, it will serve as a friendly reminder what their responsibility is as a parent of a player. In addition, if you receive complaints regarding a particular parent's behavior, you have documentation that the parent agreed to behave according to the sportsmanship guidelines and take action if he or she continues behaving inappropriately.
 
I truly believe this will encourage positive support on the sidelines from parents both during games and at practices. If players receive positive encouragement and are taught sportsmanship at a young age, they will be able to model that behavior as a player or observer today and in the future.
 

Video Anaylsis

Sam Snow

There are an increasing number of products on the market for video analysis. More soccer coaches are using this software and many coaches have been using video analysis for a number of years. So here are some facts on how to use video analysis in a productive manner.
 
Please keep in mind that the use of video to help players improve is best done with players who can conceptualize what they are viewing. That is they can watch themselves and self-analyze and they can mentally see themselves doing the skill or a tactical action in a match. This capacity of conceptualization begins to emerge once the player is capable of abstract thought. Generally that growth in the cognitive process occurs around age twelve. Prior to that age if kids want to watch themselves on video let them just watch the film without comment and to come and go from it as they please.
 
Video analysis of team and individual performance should be consistently used with this age group. The analysis should be developed around problem solving discussions. An exchange of questions and answers between you and the players and between the players themselves will be productive. In general video analysis should be used immediately following the activity when the player has a kinesthetic feeling for the action. Video feedback can have its best impact during training sessions where review followed by immediate repetition of the action can take place in a coach-controlled situation. The player should be encouraged to give an active response, be it verbal or physical, thus becoming involved in the learning process. Players should be allowed to work at their own pace. Do not force or rush their use of the media.
 
Initially, each viewing session should isolate small units, such as a specific skill or game play. Short viewing periods plus your analysis should be followed by an attempt to correct as well as improve upon performance. Correction should be positive, not negative. The player must receive rapid feedback regarding the correct action and technique. The correct movements must be over learned by repeated practice. Avoid getting in the way of the players' learning process and interaction with the material. Stop talking and listen. Do not fill the players' minds with details; let them think and analyze for themselves and guide them in reaching a conclusion only when they reach an impasse.
 
Beware the excessive use of slow motion or stop action. It has been found that speed of movement is also quite specific to individual performance, and too much viewing of complex movements performed at excessively slow speeds may upset the player's sense of timing and coordination- his or her internal 'model' of what he or she is doing.
 
A final word of advice: video analysis demands that you understand the mechanics of soccer. No longer will guesswork be allowed – the instant replay of video leaves each analysis open to question. Knowledge of key movement cues that contribute positively to the players' performance is now essential. Watch the US Youth Soccer DVD Skills School | Developing Essential Soccer Techniques for assistance in this area. Also use as a reference the Skills School Manual from US Youth Soccer.
 
Encourage your players to watch high level soccer regularly. As they watch these matches they should focus on the group play around their position. The US Youth Soccer Show on Fox Soccer Channel is a good opportunity to see players like themselves. Players should be able to mentally insert themselves into the position and think how they may benefit from what they are observing.