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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.

 

Playing Numbers - Small-Sided Games

Sam Snow

Hello Coaches,
 
Several years ago the state Directors of Coaching of all 55 state associations wrote a paper on Position Statements.  These are statements on factors concerning youth soccer that they feel must be addressed to improve the quality of the youth soccer experience.  Over the last few years each state coaching detector has been working to implement these Position Statements into the fabric of soccer in each state.  I will share with you over the coming weeks these Statements so that as we all begin a new soccer year we can perhaps team up to grow our game in our country.

Playing Numbers - Small-Sided Games #1

The intent is to use small-sided games as the vehicle for match play for players under the age of twelve.  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 twelve.  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, 2003.
 
·         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, 2003.
 
·         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 U10 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 U10 players by holding a Youth Module certificate.  These playing numbers should be implemented by September 1, 2003.
 
·         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 U12 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 U11 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2004.  These playing numbers for the U12 age group should be implemented by September 1, 2005.
 

Small-sided games for Under-12

Sam Snow

Surveys of young players over the last few years have shown that the primary reason for players under 12 dropping out of soccer is that they were not having fun. The secondary reason is that they do not like their coaches.
 
Both reasons would indicate that those players were not exposed to an appropriate playing environment for their age and/or ability levels. Too much at too young of an age would cause players to become disenchanted with the sport. Too little activity in practice sessions (drills) and games (too many players on the field) would cause players to become bored.
 
Physiologically and psychologically, the ages of 9-11 are ideal for development. At that age, children have grown out of infant instability but are not yet encumbered by the awkwardness of their early teens. This is ideal for challenging skills practice.
 
This age group also observes the important crossover from "selfishness" to the ability to socialize. In soccer terms, through this age period, children learn to understand the importance of cooperation in team play. Most soccer educators generally accept the age of 13 as the age to begin "11-a-side play". Players must be given time to experience and develop within the "adult game" before exposure to the pressures of tournament play.
 
I am very optimistic that the influence of the National Youth License, which was implemented at state level in 1998, will also help to create a better understanding of the requirements of play between the ages of 6-12.
 
With the cooperation of the states we can dramatically reduce the numbers of players dropping out of our sport before the age of 12 and increase their enjoyment of the game.
 

Four Steps to Success

Sam Snow

The following four-step formula evolved from interviews and discussions with top performing soccer players conducted over a period of ten years.  Presented here as a first look, it will take on greater meaning for you as your participation in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program progresses.
 
Step 1: Self-discipline.  Everything worthwhile begins at this level.  It simply means doing whatever you have to do and making whatever sacrifices are necessary to get the job done the best you know how.  It's hard work; it's giving up things you like in order to achieve a higher goal.

Step 2: Self-control.  Self-discipline leads directly to self-control.  As you discipline yourself, you experience steady increases in self-control---control of what you do, what you think, and how you react.  Without self-control, being the best you can be as a player is nothing more than a fantasy.
 
Step 3: Self-confidence.  Self-control leads directly to self-confidence.  What tracks are to a train, self-confidence is to the player---without it, he or she can go nowhere.  Self-confidence, that unshatterable belief in yourself, comes from knowing that you are in control.

Step 4: Self-realization.  Self-realization is simply becoming the best you can be, the manifestation of your talent and skill as a player.  It is the fulfillment and the ecstasy of sport.  Self-realization follows directly from self-confidence.  Once you believe in yourself and feel good about yourself, you are opening doors to your fullest potential.
Spend some time thinking about this simple formula.  Think about how it relates to you within the realm of soccer as well as outside it.
 

Philosophy of Coaching

Sam Snow

""Once they cross that line, it's their game. It's not about us as coaches; it's about them being able to make decisions.""
Jay Hoffman
 
As a coach, you have much to prepare for each season. Of course, you are excited and eager about meeting the players and getting into the matches. You most likely have planned what you are going to do and believe that you are ready. But are you truly ready? Have you thought about the why's and how's of everything you will do as a coach? It is important as you get started in coaching to develop a philosophy. For that matter, even experienced coaches may want to re-evaluate their philosophy.
 
Some coaches do not believe in the value of developing a coaching philosophy. They do not realize how a philosophy can have an impact on their daily coaching procedures and strategies. However, a coach's philosophy is actually a very practical matter. Most of our basic philosophy comes from our former coaches. This is a natural start because it is the approach with which we are most familiar and comfortable. It is also reasonable to assume that the philosophy of a person's everyday life, thinking and actions would be applied when it comes to coaching. How many coaches would stick to principles of fair play rather than win the game? There may be a gap between what a coach thinks is the right thing to do in daily life and the action he or she takes on the field.
 
In your effort to form or analyze your own philosophy of coaching, first know what a coach is. A coach can be many things to many different people. A coach is a mentor, a teacher, a role model and sometimes a friend. Most of all, a coach must be positive. A positive coach has the following traits:
 
Puts players first
Develops character and skills
Sets realistic goals
Creates a partnership with the players
Treasures the game
Your approach should be educationally sound and appropriate for your players
Your philosophy must be ethical
Your coaching philosophy should be compatible with your personality
Fair Play should be a top priority in your philosophy
 
Coaching is much more than just following a set of principles or having a well-established program. Coaching is interaction in young people's lives. The player who comes onto the field is a student, a family member and a friend to someone. He or she is the same person in all areas of life- he or she has the same personality, ideals, flaws and struggles. It is the responsibility of the coach to help your players make right and mature decisions in all areas of their lives. You must help them develop character, discipline, self-motivation, self-worth and an excitement for life. To achieve these objectives, the coach must raise the standards that the players and others around them have set. Then you must help them reach those standards by developing appropriate relationships with them based on respect, caring and character. When character development is the foundation for your program, players will get the most out of their soccer experience. And when that happens, you will also get the most out of your players, for this makes champions.
 
The most successful coaches are not necessarily the ones who win the most games. Coaches who have successful experiences focus on team cohesion. The desire to see the players learn and improve their skill is the key to effective coaching. Commit yourself to using all of your knowledge, abilities and resources to make each player on the team successful. Your focus is to promote an atmosphere of teamwork, mutual respect and commitment. By achieving this we will be successful and we will also win.