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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.

 

Short- or Long-Term Solutions

Sam Snow

I spent the morning here on Presidents Day watching some good Under-18 and Under-16 matches. Overall the level of play is good, although there is still too much run and gun style of offense. In all I saw 15- and 17-year-olds play like…well like teenagers. There's nothing terribly insightful about that except that they play an awful lot like the teenagers of 15 years ago. Our style of offense over the last 15 years has settled into a linear game; lots of passes north/south or east/west. Straight line passes…not many diagonal passes or diagonal dribbles or diagonal off the ball runs.

Consequently, the defending tends to be one-on-one or recovery runs onto through balls. Not a whole lot of block defending or team defending tactics is being demonstrated. And all of this is from some of the best club teams in the country that I watched today. This is not to say that it was all high level kickball. A few matches, and a few moments in other matches, were good soccer. But why is that we are no more sophisticated in our skills or tactics than 15 years ago?

Why is it that now considerable effort is being focused on level 2 of the U.S. Soccer player development pyramid? Well certainly these players deserve the attention and effort being put into their development as future professional and national team players. This is fine as it helps strengthen the fabric of our game in the USA. Yet it seems to me to be a short-term solution to a long-term challenge. Trying to considerably improve the game of a 17-year-old may be a little too late in the player development timetable. Even for a 15-year-old the odds are beginning to lean towards what you have now in playing tendencies is what the player will have five years from now.

The energy and money should instead be poured into level 1 of the player development pyramid. These are the childhood and pubescent players. If we considerably improve their soccer environment then the odds improve for us to develop talented players. This will take time though to see the fruits of the labor. Ten years? Twenty years? A generation? This means the adults must be patient. That's quite a challenge for some and doesn't always fit into a political agenda. However the only way the USA will produce truly world class soccer players is with long-term player development. So the money and effort should go into raising the standard of coaching at the recreational level. Parent education on player development within a team sport must be delivered every season in every soccer park in the nation. If we are truly serious about competing internationally then get the best coaches we have working with preteen players now. When we improve the early soccer experiences of these young players then more of them will stay with soccer. If we reduce the drop-out rate then our number of participants increases and the odds then improve for us to produce more high caliber players.

Ask any house builder and they will tell you that the walls and roof are quite important but that the single most important part of the building is the foundation. With a solid foundation we will support our game for generations to come.
 

The Second Soccer Boom

Sam Snow

Our first soccer boom was earmarked by quantity. It was in fact explosive growth. So much so that to a significant extent the boom was uncontrolled. The first soccer boom brought soccer into the mainstream.
 
The second soccer boom has begun. It's not as loud or obvious as the first, but make no mistake that it is underway. This soccer boom is more controlled. Well perhaps it can be. But only if we decide now to control and direct it. The second soccer boom will be driven more by professionals and less by volunteers. This is not to say that volunteers are no longer a part of the team. Volunteers have been, are and will always be vitally important to the fabric of our game. Yet today's soccer boom is driven by professional administrators, professional coaches and professional referees. These professionals work today in many levels of the game. The numbers who earned qualifications and make a living in the game will increase as American soccer continues to evolve. Know though that the supporting hand for the professionals will be the volunteers. We are a team after all!
 
If quantity is the legacy of the first soccer boom then what do we hope will be the legacy of the second? For what will current soccer leaders be known? Quality!
 
We have the numbers. What shall we do with them? We have numbers of players, of fields, of team managers and of coaches. We even have good numbers of referees, supportive media and giving businesses; although we never have quite enough in these realms. We now have the infrastructure and means. So we must now act quickly, decisively and clearly to chart our future. The core tenant of our policies guiding us into the future shall be quality.
 
Quality in our decision making.
Quality in our programs.
Quality in our products.
Quality in our services.
Quality in our leadership.
 
Because of the World Wide Web a vast amount of soccer information is within easy reach of anyone in the world. No longer is the dissemination of soccer information largely controlled by centralized organizations such as FIFA, U.S. Soccer or US Youth Soccer. So what will distinguish us from so many other soccer resources? Quality and research. This educationally sound and research based approach must permeate not only our products, but also our policies, procedures and indeed our foundation for decision making.
 
We separate ourselves from the pack by our quality as well as by the humility and integrity for which we are already known. To further influence the American game we must share this vision and act jointly with our members. To accomplish such a lofty goal we must build our team.
 
Our team is the men and women of character among the state associations and clubs. Regardless of the role they play these individuals collectively allow us to design a bright future for generations of American soccer participants.
 
This future is embodied in the second American soccer boom. Our first American soccer boom occurred during the last thirty years of the 20th century. The foundation of that boom was built up by decades of soccer in ethnic enclaves and our universities and high schools. The catalyst for the boom was a small, but significant interest in professional soccer by a handful of investors and media. The flagship of the boom was the North American Soccer League. The energy source behind the boom? Moms and Dads! Volunteers who started soccer clubs, who built fields, who prodded authorities to support soccer programs in an ever-growing number of communities and schools. Without these parents the Beautiful Game in America would remain hidden in those ethnic neighborhoods and a campus here and there. Thanks to those volunteers we now have millions playing the game in almost every community of our nation.
 
What will be our legacy?
 

Travel and Representing

Sam Snow

My work requires a good bit of travel throughout the USA.  My family and friends comment that it’s a great way to see the country.  Well it has been a chance to see airports, hotels and the soccer fields that now dot the countryside.  I do occasionally get to sightsee a little and there is so much our country has to offer.

I must say though that what the travel affords me is the opportunity to meet the wonderful people involved in the beautiful game.  Keep in mind that those people are not just the ones on those soccer fields I mentioned. 

Often they are fellow travelers, airline crew, hotel and restaurant workers or even the taxi driver.  I’ve gotten into conversations with flight attendants who are volunteer coaches or administrators or the parents of players in US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) or TOPSoccer.  I’m impressed by how many Americans now have some connection to soccer.  So here’s my final thought of this little meandering of mine. 

Those of us who represent the game as professional coaches, administrators or referees must carry ourselves well.  If you are being paid any amount of money to referee, coach or administer soccer then you are a professional in our sport.  Those of us in that boat must be cognizant that we are always being judged when in public.  We represent American youth soccer and our appearance, demeanor, words and actions reflects upon the sport and all of us in that boat with you.  Let us then strive to set and met high standards for ourselves.

 

 

Workshop presenters and events

Sam Snow

This week I'd like to give you some insights to many of the first rate presenters who will be available to you at the 2008 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop in Pittsburgh. For our coaches, referees and administrators there'll be sessions that may educate and inspire. We'll have sessions for the technical development of mainstream players, select players and disabled players. 

The presenters include our newest hire in the US Youth Soccer Technical Department John Ellinger, as well as from Dr. John Thomas and me. Alongside of us in the coaching tracks are John Hackworth, U.S. Soccer Academy Director and Assistant Men's National Team Coach; Jeff Tipping, the NSCAA Director of Coaching; Detlev Brüggemann, FIFA Instructor; Brett Thompson, Director of Coaching for Ohio South Youth Soccer Association and US Youth Soccer Region II Olympic Development Program Head Coach for girls; Dr. Don Kirkendall from the University of North Carolina and FIFA's FMARC; Karla Thompson, Director of Soccer Operations for the Arizona Fury and former U20 Women's National Team player; Brian Bliss, Director of Coaching for the Kansas State Youth Soccer Association and former Men's National Team and MLS player; Paul Halford, Director of Coaching for PA West, plus many more outstanding American coaches.

For our colleagues in officiating and administration some of the top class clinicians are Larry Monaco, President of US Youth Soccer; Rodney Kenney; Herb Silva; John Kukitz, Chair of the Soccer Start Committee; Todd Roby, US Youth Soccer Senior Manager of Communications; Dr. Aimee Kimball; Dr. David Carr among many others.

With help from many of the PA West soccer clubs we'll have on hand (foot?) some wonderful young players to assist the coaches in showing you the best in the craft of coaching. Plus for the first time there will be a Kick Zone for local players to come and try out their skills.

Did I mention the Awards Gala with the presentations of the Dr. Thomas Fleck Award, Coach of the Year honors and more? There will be exhibits, meetings, sharing of information and experiences along with new and old friendships. Join us for a fabulous time with those who support and guide youth soccer in our country.