Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

Play for a Change

Play for a Change

US Youth Soccer Pinterest!

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

Play Positive Banner

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Happy Family

Nesquik

Capri Sun

Nesquik Photo Sweepstakes!

Active Family Project

Active Family Project

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.

 

Meetings

Sam Snow

How to Encourage Participation
Too many soccer volunteers spend too much time at too many meetings. Here are some ways a leader can cut down on inefficient meetings.
Begin the meeting on time. The more you do this, the easier it becomes to get people there for the start. Have minutes and agendas available as attendees enter, do not waste time passing them out. Ask people to review them before the meeting begins.
Introduce new people, and tell why they are there.
Review and approve minutes---but do not read them aloud. Presumably, all attendees can read.
Review the agenda; revise it if necessary. Each agenda item should have a time frame allotted to it. Emphasize that you will be sticking to each time slot.
Encourage participation by recognizing each speaker. Do not allow one or two people to monopolize discussion. Do not allow the discussion to wander. Be assertive in cutting people off, and moving items along.
Be directive. Intervene to ask clarifying questions: Is this a request for answers or a call for a vote?
Handle questions. If answers are unavailable, delay action and appoint someone to gather the necessary information for the next meeting.
End the meeting by having people leave with a sense of accomplishment. Review actions taken; highlight accomplishments; review what is to be done, and by whom. Arrange the next meeting time and place, then formally close with a word of optimism. And do so on time.
Participation by more than just a few people should be encouraged at meetings.
 
 

Communication

Sam Snow

Communication between state associations and the soccer clubs around a state is of critical importance.    Continual improvement is necessary for soccer to prosper in United States. All aspects of communication are equally important. 
 
Further the communication must come not only from the state association to the clubs, but also from the clubs to the state association. The clubs that will need the most help with communication are the smaller ones who do not currently have paid administrators and/or coaches. The clubs with employees still need assistance and guidance, but not quite as much as the clubs run 100 percent by volunteers.
 
Here are ways that the state association and the local soccer clubs can improve communication with their members.
 
-News Releases – TV, radio and print
 
-Newsletter
 
-Bulletin board at the soccer fields
 
-Voice Mail telephone service
 
-Semi-annual coaches meetings at the club
 
-Annual referees meetings at the club
 
-Annual one day workshop for team managers held locally at the club
 
-Internet - website and an e-mail account.
 
-Monthly faxes with news and information on upcoming events
 
-Clubs, as well as the state association, use state newsletter
 
-Tournaments at the clubs can be better used to inform the soccer public about upcoming local, state, regional and national events
 
-League matches can serve the same function as the local tournaments to share news
 
-State tournaments can be used to inform the public about soccer events for the following soccer year
 
-Referee and coaching courses
 
-State Coaching Symposium - club coaches meeting in conjunction
 
-Annual General Meeting - club coaches meeting in conjunction
 
-State Business Meeting - club coaches meeting in conjunction
 
High school, college and professional soccer matches - information in game programs and announced over the public address system
 
Ultimately for any of these forms of communication to work the soccer family in a state must work at it. Systems of communication can be put into place, but they will not be effective if the players, administrators, referees, coaches and parents do not take advantage of it and work at improving communication within their team.
 

Shift changes

Sam Snow

Here's a question from a parent of a young player:
 
"I have a relatively minor question regarding appropriate shift time, not playing time in my daughter's Under-10 Recreation Traveling team (6v6).  My daughter will be nine shortly. With 10 players on the roster, each shift of five moving players is playing about 12 -15 minutes at a time and it seems as though the young ladies are becoming tired quickly.  The last team we played changed shifts about every five to six minutes...By the way, our coach is new and has never coached any organized sport before though she has a local high school soccer player helping out...
 
Is there a recommended time-per-shift at this age?"
 
Shift changes can actually hinder the players learning how to play the game.  Wholesale substitutions change the rhythm of the game and end up with the game being played at a helter skelter pace, often with little in the way of quality tactics.  When the pace of the game is too fast the match deteriorates into kick and run soccer.  For the beauty of the game and to put young players into an environment to learn the game it is better to substitute players one or two at a time.  Since the Under-10 age group is playing halves for the first time (see the Modified Rules for Under-10 at /coaches/RulesSmallGames/) it is a learning experience for the players, coaches and parents.  All of those folks now need to begin learning the rhythm of the game.  The players are being asked for the first time to think about how to pace themselves.  That of course may be impossible to do if the adults surrounding the field are yelling for the players to constantly run at full pace, something which professional teams do not do.
 
The children will naturally become tired, but learning when to run, jog, walk or stand is part of the tactics of the game.  Shift changes do not allow players to learn this tactical part of soccer as they are told to run hard for ten to fifteen minutes and then come off.  That approach can win matches at Under-10 but will cause you to lose them at older and higher levels of play.  It may require a bit more work during the match for the coach to keep track of 50 percent playing time for each child at the game that day, but that is a bit more in tune with the coach's job during a match than telling the players on the field what to do.
 
 
 

Heading

Sam Snow

Recently I had a club director ask for information on the do's and don'ts of heading in the Under-6 and Under-8 age groups. In order to help educate the members of his club he wanted to know the latest thoughts on the subject. These sorts of questions, whether they are on a technical topic such as this one or a tactical question, come up now and then. The tendency from either a coach in a club or parents of players on a team is to want to teach advanced skills or tactics to young players. The logic usually is that well it's part of the game and they will need to learn it. True…but not today.
 
By this approach the logic could be extended to say that since kids will someday be driving a car then you should have your 6-year-old practice driving back and forth in the driveway. This flies in the face of common sense. So to the question of teaching heading to Under-6 and Under-8 players - put simply … DON'T!
 
Soccer players do indeed need to learn how to head the ball. It is an important and unique skill in the game. To execute the skill correctly though requires some developed athleticism and ability to read the flight of the ball in the air. US Youth Soccer recommends that heading be introduced at the earliest in the Uner-10 age group.  Young children have great difficulty tracking moving objects, especially if they are in the air.  Most will duck or throw hands in front of the face if the ball comes toward the head.  Children younger than 10 are very reactionary in their movement behavior.  Anticipating where the ball might be played is a skill that has not yet developed.  This ability does not really develop until age nine or 10.  Prior to age nine visual tracking acuity is not fully developed.  Players have difficulty accurately tracking long kicks or the ball off of the ground.  Beginning at approximately age 10, one's visual tracking acuity achieves an adult pattern.  Even then it will take years to reach a point of being able to precisely determine the height, pace, curve and spin of a ball in the air.  How many high school players mistime headers?  There is no need to be in a rush to teach heading skill to children.  Just like geometry in school they get to it in time.
 
Heading the ball is a difficult skill to learn. When should players start? Introduce heading in the Under-10 age group. Teach heading to score and to clear in the Under-12 age group both standing and jumping. Teach heading to pass, backwards heading (flicks) and diving headers in the Under-14 age group. These age groups recommendations are the average, middle of the bell-curve so to speak. A few players may start some of these techniques earlier, especially if they have older siblings playing. Others will start latter, as their confidence grows.
 
Players who can make exact passes with the head, who can save dangerous situations at their own goal by heading the ball away and who can make use of chances at the opponent's goal by means of lightning quick headers are indispensable to their team. The ball can be headed from a standing position, on the run or by jumping up to the ball with one or both legs; the ball can be headed forwards, i.e. in the direction the player is facing, to the side and even behind.
 
Early experiences can be painful if careful progression in building up confidence is not applied. When introducing the technique of heading the ball for the first time, I suggest you start with a Nerf type soccer ball or an underinflated volleyball. Gradually work your way up to a fully inflated soccer ball. Begin with juggling with the head so that the player controls the pace, height, frequency of repetition, movement, etc.   Next go to head juggling with a partner. A good group game for heading is Toss-Head-Catch. In this activity the ball is being served from the hands, so the force is less than a crossed ball and is more accurate. The increased accuracy will allow for more repetitions of correct headers.
 
The whole body is used to head the ball. The movement begins with the legs, the movement of the stomach muscles throws the trunk and upper body forward and the head, from the neck upwards, follows through quickly. The position of the forehead to the ball determines its flight path.
 
Here are the key coaching points for the basic header:
 
Head: chin tucked in, neck stiff, never close the eyes. It is important to watch the flight of the ball until the moment of impact.
 
Upper body: brought back early into the curved position – and then snapped forward. Contact is made with the ball when the body is perpendicular to the ground.
 
Legs: bent at the knees to support the forward thrust.
 
Area of contact: middle of the forehead, sometimes the side of the forehead, never the temples or the top of the head.
 
Among young players there is a physical barrier to overcome when talking about heading and that is simply fear. The earliest and most elementary lesson about heading is never let the ball hit you. Go out and meet it, and make contact with the front part of the forehead where the skull is the thickest. You must attack the ball! You hit it, not the other way around.  The main surface of contact is of course the forehead. The ball must be struck, not cushioned. The neck and back muscles should be rigid to generate power. The part played by the eyes is important! Although it is likely that the reflex blinking action causes the eyes to be closed at the moment when the ball is struck by the forehead, players should be encouraged to watch the ball right onto the forehead; only by doing so can a player time the actual heading movement accurately. There need be no fear of danger to the eyes since they are well protected by the heavy bone structure immediately above them.
 
There is no better feeling in soccer than beating an opponent in the air to plant a header in the net. Once you have done it, there is a hunger to do it again. It is a spectacular way of scoring goals, or come to that of stopping them. Defensively it is a great thrill in consistently clearing the ball in the air, beating opposing forwards and establishing control. The young player who fails to add heading to his or her armory of skills will never go far in the game.