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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.

 

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.
 
 

Coaching Education Philosophy

Sam Snow

US Youth Soccer provides service and resource support to our member associations at the state and local levels by providing youth coaches with developmental and age appropriate methods and curriculum of coaching.
 
Our Educational Philosophy
The Game Within The Child (Quinn, 1995) is at the center of all belief, decisions and actions taken by the child, coach and organization. Our goal is to unlock the game within children to reach their full soccer potential.
  • Play- Children come to play the game, not to work, not to listen to the coach lecture, and not to discuss the game. They come to PLAY, and playing equates to fun.
  • The Game is the Teacher- players learn best by actually playing the game in an environment where they feel free to try new ideas.
  • Organized Spontaneity- Encouragement of free and unbridled play by modifying the playing environment to small-sided games (3v3, 4v4, 6v6, 8v8) and limiting the amount of input from the coach. Again, the game is the best teacher.
 
Curriculum & Methodology
US Youth Soccer believes in an age and developmentally appropriate educational curriculum of coaching education. The needs of Under-6 players and coaches are different than those of Under-12 players and coaches. Developmentally appropriate methodology includes addressing the psychomotor, cognitive, and psychosocial implications of child development. US Youth Soccer will emphasize continual development of our educational curriculum.
 
Continuing Education
A commitment to further the development of a Continuing Education curriculum. Coaching courses, clinics and seminars as well as multimedia resource material is available or will be developed for the continued improvement of our youth coaches.
 
Goals
  • A commitment to provide educational materials and opportunity for education to every parent coach working with players ages 5-12. Approximately 70 percent of all registered youth soccer players are 11 years of age or younger. These parents are the least experienced and most in need of relevant coaching information. These coaches should complete an introductory education program prior to working with youngsters. This could be considered part of their responsibility and commitment.
  • The willingness to accept pertinent information and utilize acceptable methods of coaching in working with youngsters. This would mean that the youth coach would agree that their central role is that of a facilitator: set up the right environment and let the game teach!
  • Adopt modified games of 3v3 for Under 6, 4v4 for Under-8, 6v6 for Under-10 and 8v8 for Under-12 play as outlined in the US Youth Soccer Recommended Playing Guidelines. This would not only improve the playing environment for players, but also could establish and affirm the role of the youth soccer coach as facilitator.
  • To promote an understanding of the game and that soccer is a vehicle for learning and child development. The game should not be viewed in an adult sense, with competition as a means to an end, but in a child's view of joy and fun.
 
PLAY IS THE KEY WORD IN PLAYER DEVELOPMENT