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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.

 

U10 Tournaments

Sam Snow

"I am a coach struggling with recreational U9/10 soccer parents and kids wanting to go to tournaments. According to the US Youth Soccer Development Manual [ed. note: Player Development Model], tournament play for U10 is discouraged (and I get that). Then why does almost every tournament out there offers U10 (some even U9 and U8) brackets?"
 
There are indeed many clubs and leagues around the nation that run tournaments for the U10 age group. For those folks it provides an additional revenue stream. Tournament organizers will go as young as they think they can get paying customers. That revenue stream is there because the parents of the U10 players either think that the tournament environment and the focus on outcome of performance develops the players and/or they want it as a sport spectator event for themselves. In fact, much of the challenge in providing a balanced environment of development and age appropriate competition for the U10 age group is impacted by the desire of the adults associated with the teams for a spectacle, as if they were watching a MLS match.
 
So what’s the solution? On the short term look for festival formats for your team rather than outcome based tournaments. Then work with the parents of your team to collectively address the matter as one of age appropriate player development with your club leaders. On a slightly longer term look to set up a U10 academy as is done in Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Montana, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina.
 
 

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Missing Piece

Sam Snow

A club director at a rural soccer club posed this question to me: "What will it take to create a program that can move an American parent from zero to soccer passionate and soccer competent?"
 
Yes we can move some parent-coaches into passionate soccer fans, but only a few. I think we have been doing that for many years.
 
That generation of former soccer players who are now the coaches, referees and administrators has begun. The former players of the 1970s and 1980s are largely the ones leading youth soccer now. The former players of the 1990s are coming into those ranks slowly now too.
 
Can we turn all volunteer soccer coaches into fans of the game? No. But you can influence a core group that could help a club raise its standard. So here’s one idea toward that end.
 
  • Organize a coaches’ game one time per week. Play 5 vs. 5 or less for them to experience both sides of the ball consistently. The small-sided game will put them into realistic game situations often so that their feel for what their players experience will be accelerated.
 
  • Use the game once in a while as a teaching game.
    • Laws of the Game
    • Techniques
    • Tactics
      • Principles of play
    • Fitness/recovery
 
  • Your idea of the chaotic, beautiful street game could help the coaches understand this model of play compared to the adult model through the coaches’ game.
 
Nothing gives someone a passion for the game better than the game itself. Give this a try!
 
 

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Guidelines for Heading in Soccer

Sam Snow

Not long ago an article hit the World Wide Web that speaks to the alleged dangers of heading the ball in soccer. The article was brought to my attention by Rick Meana, Technical Director for New Jersey Youth Soccer and Andy Coutts, Director of Technical Education for Minnesota Youth Soccer. Here’s the article:http://yourlife.usatoday.com/health/story/2011-11-29/Heading-a-football-could-lead-to-brain-damage/51463474/1.
 
I am not qualified in medicine, so I use the findings of FMARC (Fifa Medical and Research Center) and the U.S. Soccer Sports Medicine Committee to understand the risks of any soccer technique. Here is a document that I hope you will use to educate coaches on the progression for teaching heading in soccer.
 
Concerning the specific article mentioned above here’s the feedback from Don Kirkendall, member FMARC:
 
"I saw a different news item about this topic, too. Remember, that this is a presentation and presentations don't go through the rigor of peer review anywhere near the level of critique of a journal publication. Based on what I've read, my first inkling is that it won't get published. Here are the primary factors that a reviewer has to ask of every paper they review:
 
History: What do the subjects bring into the study? Don't care how detailed the interviews were, they were asking questions about a lifetime of soccer, heading exposure, injuries. FMARC data shows that players forget about half their injuries from that year. This is about a lifetime. I bet if you surveyed players about how many times they headed the ball during a match vs. what was captured on film the results would be remarkably different. History is a HUGE issue with this project. And I haven't even brought up learning disabilities, alcohol, non-sports head injury, non-head injuries, or drug intake. Plus, players this age paid little attention to concussions when they were half their age, so how many did they have? The only accurate answer is "...that I can recall". Hardly firm data.
 
Maturation: This is about changes over the course of a study. Not as critical here, but this group is making conclusions about the adult brain based on something that may have happened before the brain had matured.
 
Testing: Oral interviews using a 'detailed' questionnaire (that from another media outlet). One might wonder about the validity of the Q and A. Were the questions 'leading' the subject on one direction or another? Given the emotions surrounding this topic, this probably needs to be considered.
 
Instrumentation: MRI is getting very good; a question could be that it is finding variants that have little or no effect. Sort of like the right handed pitcher with a crooked left pinkie; a variant of no consequence.
 
Statistical Regression: Tendency for extreme scores to migrate toward the mean. Basketball team shoots 75% one game is due for a 25% game soon. Not sure this would be as much of an issue as other topics.
 
Experimental Mortality: Subjects who are included in the study fail to complete it-they drop out, move, die, get sick or hurt, etc. How were the subjects selected? What were the inclusion and exclusion criteria? Any bias in selection stacks the deck one way or another.
Selection-Maturation Interaction: are subjects selected because they have a tendency to gain (or not to gain) much during the study.
 
Hawthorne Effect: People behave differently when they know they are being studied. This has been shown to be an issue in concussion research. Mention the word, and people are on edge, so to speak.
 
Those are just the 'standard' items that can lead to an alternative hypothesis for the results. I haven't even approached the actual data and interpretation of the data. We'll have to wait this one out. Stick with the FMARC data for now. Sorry for going on about the peer review process. But the popular media will run with this without doing due diligence."
 
 

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Cracking coaching's final frontier

Sam Snow

Gary Williamson, Technical Director for North Texas State Soccer sent this article to me.  My initial response to Gary: "Nice article…not news to us since we’ve taken this approach since the mid 1990’s.  Good to see the rest of the world catching up to soccer in America!"  Perhaps a bit patriotic, but we do indeed do some very good things in soccer in our nation.
Never-the-less as I read the article these connections seemed clear to me.
 
1.      This approach is similar to the one espoused by Horst Wein (2005 US Youth Soccer Workshop presenter).
2.      Coach Wein’s approach seems to be in the same vein as what is taught in the National Youth License devised by Fleck, Quinn, Carr, Stringfield and Buren.
3.      All three approaches have a common root in the Teaching Games for Understanding approach developed by Almond, Bunker and Thorpe.  Rod Thorpe was a presenter at the 2005 US Youth Soccer Workshop.
4.      I draw the conclusion that we are ahead of the curve.  While we should be proud of that fact we have not penetrated this coaching philosophy and methodology deeply into grassroots soccer.  We have had success, yes.  But we should be further along after 15 years of work.  How do we impact on a much, much broader basis the coaches, administrators, parents and referees engaged with players in Zone 1 in the U.S. Soccer Player Development Pyramid?

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