Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

US Youth Soccer Intagram!

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

Play Positive Banner

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Happy Family

Nesquik

Capri Sun

Active Family Project

Active Family Project

Olive Garden

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.

 

Are you match fit?

Sam Snow

""Are you match fit?""  The definition being, you are fit enough to play at a high pace for a full match.  Now the problem is not that coaches and players do not try to get soccer fit, it's that the approach is a bit haphazard and inconsistent.  You may have noticed that I keep referring to ""match fit' and ""soccer fit"" as opposed to simply physically fit.  That's because players and coaches must follow the S.A.I.D. principle to achieve the type of physical fitness needed for soccer.  Coaches learn this principle when they attend the ""D"" License coaching course.
 
The S.A.I.D. principle is Specific Adaptation to Imposed DemandsThis means that the human body will adapt to the physical demands placed upon it.  Hence, the physical demands in a training session must be similar to the physical demands of a match.  Furthermore, the physical fitness training conducted must be specific to soccer.  This means coaches should do away with running laps around the field.  Soccer is not long distance running.  It is a series of short sprints, jumps, jogging and walking over a full match.  Predominately soccer is anaerobic in nature.  This means the muscles must work for short bursts without oxygen.  Long distance running (jogging around the field) is continuous movement with a steady supply of oxygen.  Go out in the yard and run straight for thirty yards at a jogging pace and then do three ten yards sprints and you'll notice the difference.
 
So how do coaches and players make their soccer fitness training specific to the demands of the game?  Simply play soccer!
 
Is there a place for fitness training without the ball?  Sure, but the majority of weight training, wind sprints, two-a-days, etc. should be confined to players sixteen-years-old and older.  Older teenage and young adult players are well into adolescence and their bodies will respond better to the demands of overload training.  Chances are also high that players those ages will be participating in highly competitive club, high school, ODP, college and/or professional soccer.  They will certainly need the extra fitness for the demands of the game at the highest levels of play.  But can players get fit enough for soccer by simply playing soccer?
 
Unequivocally yes!  IF, the coach and players put sufficient demands into a training session much can be accomplished.   Then both fitness and technique, and possibly tactics too, can be trained.  This is called economical training.  The problem is that most players' train in second or third gear and the coach allows them to get away with it.  Then come match time and they must play in fourth gear, and occasionally in overdrive, and they are not up to it.  The lack of fitness is even more noticeable in extreme weather conditions, especially high heat and humidity.
 
Certainly there are training sessions where the players should not be pushed to play at match pace.  When learning a new ball skill or tactical concept the pace will need to be slower.  This is so the players can have success and build their confidence.  Once the technique or tactic is well learned, then to improve players must train at match pace.  Can a team train at match pace for an entire training session?  No, and a good coach would not want them to do so.  A proper warm-up and cool-down are essential.  The first few activities during a training session must ease into a higher pace.  The last two or three activities of a training session are the ones done at match speed.  However, even in a training session intended to broach new topics the overall rhythm of the session should be quick.  Far too many training sessions drag along and thus become boring and insufficient demands are placed upon the players.  You cannot expect to train in a nonchalant way, in second gear and then perform well in a match.
 
So the key is that when the training session has reached the match condition stages the players must push themselves, and be pushed by the coach, to perform at match speed.  This one factor alone is missing in most training sessions.  With it the competitiveness, speed of thinking (tactical decision-making), technical speed and fitness improve.  The players have a responsibility here to push themselves.  Don't wait for the coach to have to yell at you to play at a pace that you yourself wish to perform at come game day.  You get out of training what you put into it!  Train in second gear and you'll play in second gear and when you try to play faster you'll fail.  Players need to push themselves first and foremost.  Only then do you have a right to expect that your teammates should do the same.  Then the coach is there to push you along when you need the help.  The coach has the responsibility to relay these expectations to the players and to set the tone at the appropriate training sessions and at the proper time of a session.
 
By training often during a season at match pace the team will be prepared for the specific demands of the match.  If the team trains this way then the need for calisthenics and running laps is eliminated.  Match pace training brings out the best in everyone.  Finally, while playing at match speed is indeed physically demanding, it's much more enjoyable because the ball is involved and you are actually playing the game.  That's always more fun than wind sprints.
 
Enjoy the game!
 

The Goal Kick

Sam Snow

I am at the US Youth Soccer Region III National Championship Series in Raleigh, NC. I am working on a technical analysis of the trends in play of the boys and girls in the U14 to U19 age groups competing here. Quite a few more events need to be observed for consistent trends in play to be valid. But there is a notion as I watch these matches that seems to be emerging as a real style consistency in the American youth soccer match performance. It is the goal kick.
 
It appears that many of our elite youth teams have no real tactical play when taking a goal kick. True a goal kick is not as potentially impact of a free kick as one that is in range of the opponents' goal, but it is still a moment in the match when the team on the attack should have some plan of play. Too often in these matches the team taking the goal kick has its players massed in the central channel of the field and the goalkeeper taking the kick just launches a long ball into the mixer. Often the kick is up the central part of the field. There the field players are faced with 50/50 battles. Sometimes the opposition wins the ball and the team that just took the goal kick is under immediate pressure and scrambling to defend the goal. The attacking team just gained possession of the ball with a goal kick so why are they hitting 50 percent passes?
 
While a goal kick is a restart situation in the match after the ball has gone out of play just like a throw-in or a corner kick it should be considered an attacking opportunity for the team in possession.  So to make the most of the opportunity of having possession of the ball the attacking team should have their goalkeeper take the kick as this gives them a numbers even situation on the field with the field players. Goalkeepers need to not only practice the technique of striking the ball for a goal kick but also should learn the tactics of the situation. Generally goal kicks should go towards the flanks of the field where there is more space. Also if possession is lost on the flank it is less of an immediate direct threat to the keeper's goal than a ball lost in the middle of the field with a better angle for a shot on goal. The goalkeeper must read the game and decide if a short kick or a long kick is in order. If the opposition has dropped back to the area of the halfway line then a short kick to the side of the penalty area to an outside back is in order for build up play. If the opposition is pressing forward near the keeper's penalty are then a long kick up field is in order and most likely aimed towards the outside midfielders.
 
Now the field players have a role to play too. As I have watched the matches here in Raleigh, I am dismayed at the lack of movement by the attacking team at the goal kick. The field players of the attacking team must move to shake off markers and perhaps to create space for a teammate to receive the ball. Too many attacking players just stand, with a defender next to them, waiting for the ball from a goal kick. Remember that the goal kick is just another pass from a teammate and you need to move to get open to receive passes.
 
So there are a few thoughts on the goal kick. Coaches please let's teach our teams to make the most of `this opportunity to create our attack at this dead ball situation in the game.
 

Double Edge Sword

Sam Snow

Our organization in youth soccer is a double edged sword for us. On one side our organizational abilities have helped us grow the game of soccer in the USA dramatically over the last 35 years. Because of the efforts of innumerable people, most of them volunteers, we have soccer in communities where the sport never existed 40 years ago. We have millions of youngsters playing the game and we have millions of alumni from the youth soccer ranks who have now reached adulthood. Hundreds of thousands of adults participate in youth soccer as referees, coaches and administrators. Businesses support soccer like never before. Soccer on television is at an all-time high viewership. Because of our organizational abilities both private and public soccer complexes have sprouted up across the nation. The quality of many of those facilities is truly outstanding. Jobs in soccer have grown from a cottage industry to a true business and on a large scale. In many ways due to American organizational skills we have in only one generation become a soccer nation.
 
Look at the number of colleges now with intercollegiate teams – the number of professional teams is healthy – American players are being exported to other nations to play in the pro ranks. Our national teams regularly qualify for international events and we are always competitive. In every measure of the game our skill at organizing the game has nurtured the growth of the game.
 
Yet on the other side of the sword our organizational skills get in the way of player development. In the desire to be organized many adults cannot step aside now that the game is moving on its own. Too many adults interfere too much in the player's game. At the youngest ages we adults need to be less involved in telling the children how to play the game. Our role now is simply to be the taxi drivers, game-time setters, grass mowers and otherwise let them play without our adult expectations weighing upon their small shoulders. So can we adults instill a school physical education approach and mentality into our youth soccer world? We now have a professional team franchise mentality permeating all that our kids experience in the sport. Those adult results orientated perspective in fact hinders the development of our players. We could and should have even more players than we do qualified to play college soccer and beyond.
 
Now don't tell me that we cannot change this attitude because it is ingrained in our American culture. People say the same thing 30 years ago that soccer would never make it here since it was not part of our mainstream sports culture and clearly that has changed. We can and must change the mentality of the adults involved with youth soccer. Yes it may take 30 years, but so be it!
 

Lessons from USA vs. Argentina

Sam Snow

Well, of course, last night we all watched the U.S. Men's National Team play against the number one national team in the world, Argentina. There are so many things for us to take away from the match. Indeed there are even a few items to take away from what we did before this match. 
 
Let's start with three in a row against some of the very best in the world, Argentina, England and Spain; all in preparation for 2010 World Cup qualifying matches for us here in CONCACAF. This is a great sign of the health of our sport.
 
Number one, USSF has the financial wherewithal to arrange such matches, which cost a pretty penny. Second it is clear that we have the confidence and foresight to take on very good teams in preparation for World Cup qualifiers. This states indirectly that we want the experience that pushes our players and staff to their limits and helps them to grow beyond those limits. Further it tells every other team in CONCACAF how serious we are about qualifying for South Africa. These are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding last night's match.
 
Now, as to the match itself it was good to see us play a rather complete game. We went forward and attacked and created good scoring chances. That's a highly significant fact given the caliber of the Argentinean team. The U.S. squad did this with a mix of veterans and youngsters on the field. Bob Bradley showed real confidence in his personnel to give a good number of new faces to our National Team playing time in a high level match. This is great preparation for the depth of our team that no doubt will compete in South Africa in 2010. Yes, our play was a bit choppy at times, but I believe that's normal for most National Teams which get little time together to gel as a team. We are still in the testing phase of our pool of players. Several of them tested very well yesterday.
 
Now mind you it was a friendly and doesn't count in qualification or a league standing, although it will influence our FIFA ranking. Yet Coach Bradley and his staff took some chances with their approach to the match. Those chances were worth any possible risk given the experience gained and lessons learned. I wonder how many youth coaches actually plan such events for their developing players. How many adults involved with youth soccer will recognize what our National Team staff did which is that many of the players on the full Men's National Team are still quite young developing players?
 
Several players for the USA came into the match as subs. It's a real challenge to a player to step into a match already underway and get instantly into the flow of the game and literally up to match speed. In your development of your youth players do you intentionally set up these experiences? One of the great lessons from the World Cup winning team of France 1998 was the preparation of the team by Aime Jacquet and his staff. One aspect of which was that every player on the team experienced being a starter, coming on as a substitute and being taken off. In this way the team was mentally prepared for any mix of players in the lineup. Does your team while on the road to the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series take such an approach?
 
Late in the match the USA had a player ejected and found themselves playing a man down against the number one ranked team on the planet. Now I'm sure that as a coach, you have experienced your team playing a man down at some point. Did you prepare for such an experience? Have you taken your team through that scenario during a training session or a practice match with another team in your club? Waiting until the situation arises in a league match is not preparation. So in training run the players through situations of playing numbers up and numbers down and how do they adjust tactically and the possible repositioning of the personnel on the field.
 
Those are just two of the occurrences from yesterday's match that also occur in youth matches now and then. Coaches need to put into their curriculum for player and team development these types of scenarios and teach players and staff how to handle them.
Well, of course, last night we all watched the U.S. Men's National Team play against the number one national team in the world, Argentina. There are so many things for us to take away from the match. Indeed there are even a few items to take away from what we did before this match. 
 
Let's start with three in a row against some of the very best in the world, Argentina, England and Spain; all in preparation for 2010 World Cup qualifying matches for us here in CONCACAF. This is a great sign of the health of our sport.
 
Number one, USSF has the financial wherewithal to arrange such matches, which cost a pretty penny. Second it is clear that we have the confidence and foresight to take on very good teams in preparation for World Cup qualifiers. This states indirectly that we want the experience that pushes our players and staff to their limits and helps them to grow beyond those limits. Further it tells every other team in CONCACAF how serious we are about qualifying for South Africa. These are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding last night's match.
 
Now, as to the match itself it was good to see us play a rather complete game. We went forward and attacked and created good scoring chances. That's a highly significant fact given the caliber of the Argentinean team. The U.S. squad did this with a mix of veterans and youngsters on the field. Bob Bradley showed real confidence in his personnel to give a good number of new faces to our National Team playing time in a high level match. This is great preparation for the depth of our team that no doubt will compete in South Africa in 2010. Yes, our play was a bit choppy at times, but I believe that's normal for most National Teams which get little time together to gel as a team. We are still in the testing phase of our pool of players. Several of them tested very well yesterday.
 
Now mind you it was a friendly and doesn't count in qualification or a league standing, although it will influence our FIFA ranking. Yet Coach Bradley and his staff took some chances with their approach to the match. Those chances were worth any possible risk given the experience gained and lessons learned. I wonder how many youth coaches actually plan such events for their developing players. How many adults involved with youth soccer will recognize what our National Team staff did which is that many of the players on the full Men's National Team are still quite young developing players?
 
Several players for the USA came into the match as subs. It's a real challenge to a player to step into a match already underway and get instantly into the flow of the game and literally up to match speed. In your development of your youth players do you intentionally set up these experiences? One of the great lessons from the World Cup winning team of France 1998 was the preparation of the team by Aime Jacquet and his staff. One aspect of which was that every player on the team experienced being a starter, coming on as a substitute and being taken off. In this way the team was mentally prepared for any mix of players in the lineup. Does your team while on the road to the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series take such an approach?
 
Late in the match the USA had a player ejected and found themselves playing a man down against the number one ranked team on the planet. Now I'm sure that as a coach, you have experienced your team playing a man down at some point. Did you prepare for such an experience? Have you taken your team through that scenario during a training session or a practice match with another team in your club? Waiting until the situation arises in a league match is not preparation. So in training run the players through situations of playing numbers up and numbers down and how do they adjust tactically and the possible repositioning of the personnel on the field.
 
Well, of course, last night we all watched the U.S. Men's National Team play against the number one national team in the world, Argentina. There are so many things for us to take away from the match. Indeed there are even a few items to take away from what we did before this match. 
 
Let's start with three in a row against some of the very best in the world, Argentina, England and Spain; all in preparation for 2010 World Cup qualifying matches for us here in CONCACAF. This is a great sign of the health of our sport.
 
Number one, USSF has the financial wherewithal to arrange such matches, which cost a pretty penny. Second it is clear that we have the confidence and foresight to take on very good teams in preparation for World Cup qualifiers. This states indirectly that we want the experience that pushes our players and staff to their limits and helps them to grow beyond those limits. Further it tells every other team in CONCACAF how serious we are about qualifying for South Africa. These are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding last night's match.
 
Now, as to the match itself it was good to see us play a rather complete game. We went forward and attacked and created good scoring chances. That's a highly significant fact given the caliber of the Argentinean team. The U.S. squad did this with a mix of veterans and youngsters on the field. Bob Bradley showed real confidence in his personnel to give a good number of new faces to our National Team playing time in a high level match. This is great preparation for the depth of our team that no doubt will compete in South Africa in 2010. Yes, our play was a bit choppy at times, but I believe that's normal for most National Teams which get little time together to gel as a team. We are still in the testing phase of our pool of players. Several of them tested very well yesterday.
 
Now mind you it was a friendly and doesn't count in qualification or a league standing, although it will influence our FIFA ranking. Yet Coach Bradley and his staff took some chances with their approach to the match. Those chances were worth any possible risk given the experience gained and lessons learned. I wonder how many youth coaches actually plan such events for their developing players. How many adults involved with youth soccer will recognize what our National Team staff did which is that many of the players on the full Men's National Team are still quite young developing players?
 
Several players for the USA came into the match as subs. It's a real challenge to a player to step into a match already underway and get instantly into the flow of the game and literally up to match speed. In your development of your youth players do you intentionally set up these experiences? One of the great lessons from the World Cup winning team of France 1998 was the preparation of the team by Aime Jacquet and his staff. One aspect of which was that every player on the team experienced being a starter, coming on as a substitute and being taken off. In this way the team was mentally prepared for any mix of players in the lineup. Does your team while on the road to the US Youth Soccer National Championship Series take such an approach?
 
Late in the match the USA had a player ejected and found themselves playing a man down against the number one ranked team on the planet. Now I'm sure that as a coach, you have experienced your team playing a man down at some point. Did you prepare for such an experience? Have you taken your team through that scenario during a training session or a practice match with another team in your club? Waiting until the situation arises in a league match is not preparation. So in training run the players through situations of playing numbers up and numbers down and how do they adjust tactically and the possible repositioning of the personnel on the field.
 
Those are just two of the occurrences from yesterday's match that also occur in youth matches now and then. Coaches need to put into their curriculum for player and team development these types of scenarios and teach players and staff how to handle them.