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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.


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.
  • 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.

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.