Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

US Youth Soccer Intagram!

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

RS Banner

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Happy Family

Nesquik

Capri Sun

Print Page Share

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.

 

The Coachable Moment

Sam Snow

The questions that I receive from coaches across our nation provide good thoughts for us on the game.  Here are the comments and questions from a volunteer coach and my thoughts in reply.

I am a volunteer coach in a league coaching kids from U7 to U11. I have taken several coaching classes run by my state youth soccer coaching association. These classes have been very useful, but I continue to struggle with identifying the right coaching moments. I want the kids to be able to play as much as possible, but I also recognize that just choosing the right drills is not enough. I have a few questions.

How do I work on choosing the right coaching moments to interrupt? I don't want to interrupt the flow too often, but I often feel like I have spent too much time talking. How do I work on seeing the bigger picture? I often find myself focusing on the ball and fixing the issues around the ball while missing the problems further away that may have caused them.

My reply:

Finding the right coaching moment is an art. A coach will perfect that art when one reflects on each training session and thinks about those coachable moments and how did you interject with the players. With practice and personal evaluation, your skills at using the coachable moment will improve. I also suggest that you follow the steps outlined in the Coach’s Toolkit from U.S. Soccer.  The excerpt below comes from the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model.

When using a games-based approach during training much can be accomplished, through the use of guided discovery and the coach’s toolkit. The toolkit is a vehicle that allows coaches to teach, correct and influence the learning process of a player without taking away their creativity and killing the flow of the game or activity. The following are tools that can be used to progress from individual to group to team interaction:

  • Coaching in the flow – Coach from the sidelines as the training session goes on, without stopping the activity.
  • Individual coaching – One-on-one, pull a player to the side while the activity goes on.
  • Make corrections at a natural stoppage – Free kicks, ball going out of bounds, injury, etc.
  • Manipulation of the activity – For example, a four goal game to teach the players how to look both ways, switch the point of attack or shift defensively.
  • Freeze – The least desired way to teach; stopping the session to paint a picture kills the flow of the activity.
     

Determining which of these tools is best suited at a certain time of the training session is the key to making the session enjoyable while still being able to teach and learn.

Your issue on focusing most of your coaching to what is happening on or near the ball is not uncommon. You simply need to force yourself to watch the off-the-ball players during a training session. I often tell coaches that if you want to know what a player knows tactically about the game then watch them when they do not have the ball. Where are they positioned on the field? What’s their posture? Does their head move (indicates them scanning the field or ball watching)? You’ll need to also look away from the ball during matches in order to see if the team is staying compact and if the players are reading the game. You need to understand that you cannot watch the game or even a training session as a spectator would. You’ll simply miss too much of what is going on.  You will have a big impact on the players’ performance on and near the ball when you start to coach them off-the-ball.

Comments (3)

 

Two-A-Days

Sam Snow

The following comments came from our US Youth Soccer Facebook page:
 
"Do you have information regarding the clash between Club Soccer and High School Soccer? What do the experts say about practicing twice a day; once at high school and then at club practice? The situation has occurred for players on a team heading to National League in 3 weeks, so the high school coach was asked to let those particular players sustain from high school practice (contact drills) until they return from the National League weekend.

If experts do say that too much practice is harmful to young athletes, I think it would be a good idea for US Youth Soccer do a story and email that story to every high school soccer coach and Athletic Director across the entire Nation."
 
Two-a-day training for teenaged and older players has been going on for decades. Typically it’s done in the pre-season period of team preparation. I have seen it done by club teams late in the season in preparation for State Cup. That usually backfires and the team goes into cup competition with low energy reserves. Two-a-day workouts are best left to the preseason phase of team preparation.
 
Two-a-day training can work when it’s organized and conducted by one coach for players on one team. In this way the coach can properly manage the workload on the players. Only then can a proper periodization plan be prepared by the coach with varying workloads and scheduled time off for rest and recovery.
 
When players are going through two-a-day training sessions with two different teams and coaches then problems begin. The odds are that the two head coaches have not tailored their training plan for the players in this situation. The onus is on the coaches to communicate and cooperate regarding their training and periodization plans in the best interest of the players. The responsibility of the players here is to put the two coaches into contact with one another.
 
If the two coaches communicate a plan between them to have the players involved in this situation on a periodization scheme different from other players who are engaged with only one team at the time then it is possible to not exhaust the players. The coaches would need to check in with each other every week to be sure they are both still on the original plan. The fear for both coaches should be that they exhaust the players both physically and mentally. If that happens then neither team gets the best out of those players.
 
The best scenario here is for a player to play on just one team in a season. No one can go through two different training and match schedules in the same season and perform at optimum level. The higher the level of play the more demanding each match is and the more recovery time players need. In fact, it takes 72 hours to fully recover physically from highly vigorous exercise. When simultaneously playing for two teams the odds are low that proper balance in the training and match play periodization will occur.
 
For more information on periodization in soccer please attend an "E" and then the "D" license coaching course in your state soccer association.

Comments (1)

 

U8 Tournaments

Sam Snow

Please note that the Under-8 age group is not playing in tournaments nor do they all have flights or divisions of play across the USA. Indeed, most U8 teams play strictly intramural soccer (in-house; a.k.a., inside their own club). However, in some locals there is a rush to results oriented youth soccer and the questions and issues such as the one below come to being.
 
"Our U8 team attended a B, C level tournament with our C team. The host team played some of their designated B team players in all of the B games and also two for each of their C games along with their C players. Do you feel it is a skill building method to move the kids designated as B level to play against C players? And is this fair to the other teams who only brought C players?"
 
The intent of matches for the U8 age group should be to first and foremost deepen the love of the game within the children. The development of ball skills and game understanding is of secondary importance. Having players from two different levels play with and against each other can indeed be good for their development. That mixing of capabilities is what will happen when the kids have pick-up games in the neighborhood, at school or at the soccer club.
 
When the adults involved are less concerned with the score of the game and more attentive to how the kids play the game, then there’s a chance for real growth to occur; this where the question of fairness comes into discussion. Whether using a few "B" players in a "C" level match is fair stems from an outcome mindset. The mindset of the adults associated with the U8 age group should be on the process of play not the outcome of the match. While the players are aware of the score it is not the driving factor for their participation in soccer. They play, one hopes, because they enjoy the game. At this time in their soccer lives the emphasis must be on learning the game.
 
Please take a look at the U8 chapter in the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model. The information there will help to guide coaches, players’ parents and club administrators on meaningful developmental guidelines.
 
My final thought is really a question. Why are U8 players involved in a tournament in the first place? A tournament by definition is, "a championship series of games or athletic contests." So by definition, a tournament does not allow the opportunity for realistic development of such young players. They instead should participate in a soccer festival which is set up with round robin play, allows for players to play in several flights of competition and could even allow for players from different clubs to play in mixed matches. Oh, did I mention co-ed play? Give these children a fun soccer experience with a variety of levels of play and in time you’ll see their growth within the game. Now get out and play!

Comments (0)

 

Youth Tournament Soccer

Sam Snow

I received this question from the US Youth Soccer Facebook page from a parent in Manassas, Virginia.
 
"Hi, my family is new to youth tournament soccer so I wanted to check something out. The kids played 4 half games yesterday. Today, depending on seeding, they will play one to 3 full length games. Is this standard? These kids play really hard and I question the safety of this. Is this just standard in soccer...3 hours of hard play in one day? I saw kids playing on sore feet after 2 hours yesterday. These kids are playing in Herndon today and I'm just concerned we will have a lot of unnecessary injuries, but maybe I don't know the sport."
 
While the tournament situation described is not standard it does not surprise me given the number of bad decisions by adults in youth soccer. At the most teams should play one full match per day at a tournament. Even that is too much stress on the body if games take place for consecutive days. The human body needs 48 to 72 hours to fully recover from strenuous exercise. This is why you see at least three days between matches in the Olympics and the World Cup. The State Association Technical Directors of US Youth Soccer have released this Position Statement on tournaments.
 
TOURNAMENT PLAY
 
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.
Here are two related Statements from the national State Association Technical Directors.
 
FESTIVALS FOR PLAYERS UNDER 10
 
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 U10 teams from traveling to events that promote winning and losing and the awarding of trophies.

STATE, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL COMPETITION FOR U12’S
 
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 12’s, state festivals replace state cups. We also strongly recommend that with regard to regional and national competition the entry age group should be U14.
 
 

Comments (0)