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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.

 

Coach Wooden: How an attitude differs from a list of rules

Sam Snow

It is wise for us as coaches to look now and then at the ideas and methods of coaches in past eras and for that matter different sports too. I recently read some good advice from an American coaching legend, John Wooden. I think you'll find his list here useful in your team coaching. With just a little tweaking this list can be adapted to your soccer players.

Coach Wooden: How an attitude differs from a list of rules

1.       Go to class
2.       Compete (no excuses)
3.       Be on time (no excuses)
4.       Listen
5.       Play through the referees' calls
6.       No more "no look" passes
7.       Huddle up as a team on free throws
8.       Run to the bench when substituted for
9.       Run to timeouts
10.     Run to the locker room
11.     No cussing on court
12.     No hanging head
13.     Never quit on a play, never!
14.     No poor body language
15.     No pointing fingers (unless for good pass)
16.     Root for your teammates while on bench
17.     Study during study hall
18.     Attitude of gratitude – say "thank you"
19.     Look people in the eye when communicating
20.     Be a role model off the floor
21.     Be humble in victory – gracious in defeat
22.     Share the juices and the basketball
23.     Keep the locker room clean
-Coach Wooden
 

International Congress

Sam Snow

Recently I attended the 21st International Coach Development Congress held on January 12-13, 2009 in Antalya, Turkey. The congress was hosted by the Turkish Football Federation at the WOW Kremlin Palace Hotel with the participation of international and local coaches of every level and anyone interested in the content of the program. The congress aimed on the improvement and vision of coaches to bring a modern expansion of the Turkish game with its rich content regarding different topics on football.

The Technical Analyses of UEFA 2008 European Championship panel with the participation of Fatih Terim who lead the Turkish National Team into the semifinals as the head coach, Luis Aragones who is the head coach of European Championship winner Spanish National Team and Fabio Capello, head coach of the English National Team, was followed with high interest.

Topics such as Performance Training Approaches, Ahletes' Psychology and U-15 Youth Development Programs were discussed during the Congress. Each presentation was one hour in length, in a large ballroom as all 1,200 people in attendance sat in on each presentation.

The attendants of this Congress could also attend the Football and Science Congress free of attendance fee, which was held in Antalya WOW Topkapa Hotel between January 9-11, 2009. For further information: http://www.futbolbilim.org.

Main Topics
  • Technical Analyses of UEFA 2008 European Championship
  • Performance Training Approaches
  • Development Programs and Physical Improvement for Youth U-15 and Younger

Invited Speakers
  • Mahmut Özgener, President of Turkish Football Federation
  • Ahmet Guvener, Director of TFF Football Development Centre
  • Fatih Terim, Head Coach Turkish National Football Teams
  •  Fabio Capello, Head Coach of English National Football Team
  •  Luis Aragones, Head Coach of Fenerbahçe Football Team
  •  Bill Beswick, Sports Psychologist – England
  •  Shad Forsythe, Soccer Development Performance Director (Athletes Performance, USA)
  •  Sam Snow, Director of Technical Department, US Youth Soccer
  •  Associate Professor Bülent Bayraktar, Director of Performance Department (Turkish National Teams)
  •  Roland Koch, Assistant Coach (F.C. Köln, Germany)
My presentation was on the American approach to youth player development from U-6 to U-15. It was titled Player Development Pathways.

Terim, Capello and Aragones gave their analysis of Euro 2008. The presentation by Terim was certainly the best and the most in-depth. He later gave a good presentation on the plans for youth development in Turkey.

Overall, it was a great experience and more international contacts were established for US Youth Soccer for the exchange of ideas and information on youth player development and coaching education.
 

Tryouts in Youth Soccer

Sam Snow

Recently I received this note from a youth coach.
 
Mr. Snow,
 
I have been working with a recreational soccer organization the past two years. We have been focused on player development and getting all of the kids out there involved. Our program is over 60 percent Under-8, with the rest spread out over the U-10, U-12, and U-14 ranks.
 
After this past season, parents of one team of U-8 boys complained that they didn't think that all three U-8 boys' teams in our organization were balanced amongst each other even though they all had nearly identical records. Long story short, the parents are demanding a tryout scheme be step up before spring soccer starts.
 
There are three USSF certified coaches in the organization and we keep telling the parents and the organization's Board members that the idea of having tryouts for U-8 in a recreational league is silly, but no one seems to be listening to us. Is there anything that the US Youth Soccer Association may have in writing we can show them that may drive this point to them home? We have been having great success by focusing on Player Development and working with all of the kids on all of the skills. The three of us coaches that have gone through training think that the idea of tryouts on such a young age will hurt the program overall because it implies a win at all cost mentality.
 
Hello Coach,
 
The 55 state Technical Directors agree with your stance and have stated so in the Position Statements.  Here are the ones pertinent to your situation.
 
PLAYING NUMBERS – SMALL SIDED GAMES No. 1
The intent is to use small-sided games as the vehicle for match play for players under the age of 12.  Further we wish to promote age/ability appropriate training activities for players' nationwide.  Clubs should use small-sided games as the primary vehicle for the development of skill and the understanding of simple tactics.  Our rationale is that the creation of skill and a passion for the game occurs between the ages of six to 12. 
 
With the correct environment throughout this age period players will both excel and become top players or they will continue to enjoy playing at their own levels and enjoy observing the game at higher levels.  A small-sided game in match play for our younger players create more involvement, more touches of the ball, exposure to simple, realistic decisions and ultimately, more enjoyment.  Players must be challenged at their own age/ability levels to improve performance.  The numbers of players on the field of play will affect levels of competition.
 
Children come to soccer practice to have fun.  They want to run, touch the ball, have the feel of the ball, master it and score.  The environment within which we place players during training sessions and matches should promote all of these desires, not frustrate them.
 
•     We believe that players under the age of six should play games of 3 v 3.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment.  No attempt whatsoever should be made at this age to teach a team formation!  These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2009.
 
•     We believe that players under the age of eight should play games of 4 v 4.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment.  Players in this age group can be exposed to a team formation at the start of the game, but do not be dismayed when it disappears once the ball is rolling.  The intent at this age is to merely plant a seed toward understanding spatial awareness.  These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2009.
 
•     We believe that players under the age of ten should play games of 6 v 6.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate playing environment.  The coaching of positions to children under the age of ten is considered intellectually challenging and often situates parent-coaches in a knowledge vacuum.  Additionally, premature structure of U-10 players into positions is often detrimental to the growth of individual skills and tactical awareness.  This problem is particularly acute with players of limited technical ability.  We also believe that the quality of coaching has an impact on the playing numbers.  We recommend that parent-coaches would best serve their U-10 players by holding a Youth Module certificate.  These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2009.
 
•     We believe that players under the age of twelve should play games of 8 v 8.  This will provide a less cluttered and more developmentally appropriate environment.  The U-12 age group is the dawning of tactical awareness and we feel it is best to teach the players individual and group tactics at this age rather than team tactics.  These playing numbers for the U-11 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2011.  These playing numbers for the U-12 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2012.
 
REALIZING PLAYER POTENTIAL    No. 3
To maximize player potential, we believe that State Associations and progressive clubs should work to expose their better coaches, who should hold the ""Y"" License, to their youngest players.  It is also seen as important that mentoring programs be established for community soccer coaches to improve the quality of youth soccer training.
 
The developmental approach emphasizes the growth of individual skills and group tactical awareness.  We feel too much emphasis is placed on ""team"" play and competition in the preteen years.  We believe in an inclusion model for preteen players.  From this perspective, the goal of youth soccer programs at all levels is to include players in matches at an age when experience is more important than outcome.
 
Further options for players in their teen years that are not interested in competing at the highest level, but still have a love for the game should be created.  Perhaps older teen coed teams or high school based teams on a recreational basis.
 
AGE OF COMPETITIVE PLAY No. 4
While it is acknowledged and recognized that preteen players should be allowed to pursue playing opportunities that meet both their interest and ability level, we strongly discourage environments where players below the age of twelve are forced to meet the same ""competitive"" demands as their older counterparts therefore we recommend the following:
1.    50% playing time
2.    no league or match results
3.    8 v 8 at U-12
 
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.
 
I also recommend that you cite the information from the U.S. Soccer document Best Practices to educate your club membership.  http://www.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_280734.html  I suggest you also contact your state Technical Director who will be able to provide you with further guidance.
 
 
 

Number of Matches Per Day

Sam Snow

NUMBER OF MATCHES PER DAY
A parent of a youth soccer player recently had this inquiry: ""What are US Youth Soccer's guidelines or rules for member associations to follow when considering limits of games per day for players?  Is there any sanction for coaches that try to ask their players to play four games in one day?""
 
Here's my reply,
Both US Youth Soccer and U.S. Soccer concur in our recommendations for no more than one match per day.  Here is the Position Statement from the state Technical Directors on the matter:

LEAGUE PLAY AND MATCHES PER YEAR  No.13
We believe that the optimal playing and learning environment includes participating in no more than two matches per week.  We also believe that players should not compete in more than one full match per day and no more than two full matches per weekend.  There must be a day of rest between full-length matches.  We strongly oppose the practice of scheduling regular season and/or make-up matches in a manner that results in four full matches in the same week.  Modified FIFA rules apply: no reentry per half for the U-14 and younger age groups and no reentry after substitution for the U-15 and older age groups.  In addition, we believe that players should not compete in more than 40 playing dates in a calendar year.  Players must have one full month off from all soccer activity.
 
Related to this topic is this Position Statement:
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 12 should not play more than 100 minutes per day, and those players older than 13 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.
 
I also recommend that you and your coach read the Best Practices document from U.S. Soccer.  http://www.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_280734.html