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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.

 

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.
 

US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop

Sam Snow

In a short while the 2008 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop will take place in Pittsburgh.  Most folks who attend likely don't realize the work that goes into pulling off such an event.  Planning begins several years ahead with the selection of the city and venue for the event.  Many factors go into the selection process including the spaces for demo sessions and classes.

The nitty gritty for each Workshop begins a year out and of course picks up pace as we get closer to the opening day.  The State Association in the state where a Workshop is held is a key player in the team that makes each Workshop a success.  The State Association promotes the event with its members, gets volunteers to assist with a multitude of tasks and through its clubs gets the players for each of the demonstration sessions.  The quality of each Workshop is credited to the host State Association and the US Youth Soccer employees. The national office staff put in hundreds of hours to drive an event that is a service to our referees, coaches and administrators.

At the Workshop there's something for everyone including the players at the Kick Zone.  The sessions are first rate and aimed at the needs of youth soccer.  Check out the sessions and clinicians here. I'll be back with more on the Workshop next week.  I look forward to seeing you in Pittsburgh!
 

Tournamentitis

Sam Snow

Tournamentitis
 
True it's not a real word, but it does convey the condition of too many tournaments on the American soccer scene. Indoor, outdoor, 3-a-side or 11v11 on almost every weekend of the year there are hundreds of tournaments of one type or another taking place across the land. They are for old and young and every level of play.
 
Tournaments started as a means to supply games for teams when there were far fewer teams than today. The distance between the teams often meant that the investment in time and money to get to another soccer club caused everyone to maximize the effort by playing lots of games. These tournaments began in earnest in the 1970s. Clearly the number of soccer clubs has grown dramatically since then. The distance between teams has become closer simply because of the proliferation of teams in town after town. Yes geography still plays a major role in the way we manage soccer in the USA. The size of the country will not change and distance's impact on time and cost for travel will not change. What has changed and will continue to change is the distance between the home grounds of clubs.
 
In the 1980s tournaments took on another focus. They became the main revenue stream for many clubs. Proceeds helped to build facilities, greased the wheels of local governments and business to support soccer by their financial impact on a community. The profits made even helped to create jobs within the clubs for administrators and coaches. Certainly many positive types of fallout from tournaments have aided in the growth of soccer in our nation.
 
Yet the dominant place of tournaments in youth soccer is a double edged sword. Often teams participate in tournaments for poor soccer reasons or no soccer reason at all. When a team plans to play in a tournament they must ask: who, where, when and why. Teams should indeed play in tournaments to get exposed to a different style of play or a different level of competition. With young teenaged teams it can be part of learning how to play on the road. For older teams the chance at regional and national level competition can also provide for scouting opportunities by college and professional coaches. In any case the number of tournaments must be balanced with the rest of the team's schedule of training sessions and matches. There can be too much of a good thing.
 
The most talented players tend to play the most matches (100+) and are generally the least rested. By virtue of the number of matches played (and the minutes played therein) the most talented players tend to be under-trained (ideal 5:1 ratio; 10,000 hour rule – Istvan Balyi Ph.D., et al). Most of our elite players never learn how to train in a professional manner.
 
With so many tournament matches in two or three days players go into survival mode and play in third gear. Seldom, except perhaps in the semi-final match, do they give 100% when on the field. This means our competitive players never learn how to play in a professional manner.
 
Mental and physical exhaustion leads to poor play, typified by kick-n-run soccer. These factors may also contribute to injuries as players who make late decisions get into tight situations and maybe bad tackles, unnecessary fouls, poor tactical positioning on the field and so forth.
 
To avoid the malady of tournamentitis a coach must carefully plan the season with a good balance of tournaments, league matches and training sessions. In closing here is the Position Statement from the 55 state association Technical Directors on the topic of tournament play.
 
We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development, and can serve to reduce long-term motivation. Do not multiple matches being played on one day and one weekend have a negative effect on the quality experience and development of the individual player? Further far too many playing schedules include so many tournaments and matches that there is never an ""off season."" We believe that players under the age of twelve should not play more than 100 minutes per day, and those players older than thirteen should not play more than 120 minutes per day. 
 
We also recommend to tournament managers and schedulers:
• The players should be allowed ample rest between matches.
• That all tournament matches be of the same length and that no full-length match be introduced during play-off rounds.
• Kick-off times allow players a reasonable opportunity to prepare for competition. This encompasses rest and recovery, nutrition and adequate time to warm-up and stretch after traveling a long distance in addition to taking into consideration extreme environmental conditions.