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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.

 

Physicality

Sam Snow

Here is a comment I received about the physicality of soccer in the youth game in America and my response.

As we are drawing to the close of the spring season, I wanted to re-iterate my concerns over how physical the youth game is here in the US. In your previous responses, you've acknowledged the problem and advised that the solution is multi-faceted (parents, coaches and referees). I do not disagree. But my recent experience is that this is going to have to be driven in the short term from the referees. There are simply too many parents and coaches already in place that ignore the coaching education and leadership you are providing on player development. 

Way too many of the teams I encounter are being driven by coaches and parents that seem to have a strong desire to turn soccer into American Football (or at the very least use physical play to negate skill and intimidate younger or smaller teams). My boys are getting beat up and are not enjoying matches and tournaments to the extent that they should. I depend on the referee to protect them and to preserve their ability to enjoy the game by enforcing the spirit of Law 12. The excuse that players at the U-11/12 age can't control their bodies adequately to play within Law 12 is simply not correct in most cases and shouldn't apply anyway. I am working very hard to implement the player development model set forth by USYSA and USSF, but I need some protection for my players so that they enjoy the competition without having to resort to retaliation (which I do not allow) to protect themselves (or even the playing field). All I am asking is that referees in youth matches enforce Law 12 at the physical level of the better professional leagues (i.e. EPL, La Liga, Serie A - perhaps referees should watch some of these matches...). We rarely get that treatment now. The typical youth match I have seen gets progressively more physical (and dangerous) as the game goes on because the larger team discovers that the referee is not willing to enforce Law 12. 

I believe this issue is the single biggest problem with youth soccer in the US. I realize that referee education is not within your realm of supervision or management. However, I know that you are well respected in the U.S. soccer community and that is why I am asking for your help. And again, I agree that coaches and parents must step up as well - but from a practical standpoint, the referee is going to have to force a significant majority to do so by managing the game in accordance with Law 12.

Thanks so much for your time and consideration.

Your point is well stated on the over physicality of some youth soccer play. And yes, indeed some coaches and players make up for a lack of skill by simply being more physical or even intimidating in the way that they play. You are also right that the solution does not lie with referees alone. Referees, coaches, club/league administrators and most importantly parents must work together to improve the standard of play. But when it comes game time the actions of the players when it comes to infractions of the Laws of the Game are mostly up to the players themselves to control. However, young players must be taught how to play skillfully and intelligently with resorting to athleticism last and never to intentional foul play. The teaching of the players comes from the coaches predominately. However, referees do have a role to play. They can teach the Laws of the Game and Fair Play to the players by enforcing the rules. Also, when players are in their preteens they should explain the calls they make to the children to aid them in learning the rules for their age group. So in other words, all of these groups of adults: referees, coaches, administrators and parents, have a role to play in the teamwork to improve the American youth soccer experience.

Now, having said all of that I think that your next step is to solicit the aid of your state director of instruction and the state technical director to address the situation in your league. I also suggest that you engage with your club president and director of coaching so that, as a club, you may take on this issue within your own club. Then let the league or state association take on the matter with youth soccer across Arkansas.
 

It's always something

Susan Boyd

Most of us have at one time or another felt like absolute incompetents when it comes to getting our kids to a soccer game on time with all uniform pieces, equipment, treats, and sideline necessities in hand. Maybe a few of you have the organizational skills, memory, and foresight to be able to head out the door fully prepared, confident that everything you need has been carefully inventoried the night before, placed either in the car trunk or laid out neatly in the bedroom, and have directions programmed into the GPS. In my fantasies this is how my life goes – I do try hard to achieve this perfection. But I'm guessing most of you live some form of my real life. Here is a typical soccer scenario for two boys, one Saturday, and two games at different fields at 10 a.m. and noon.
           
Friday – 10:00 p.m. Robbie asks if I can wash his uniform which he has pulled out of his bag crumpled, grass stained, sweaty, musty, and muddy. I'll need to soak it for at least 30 minutes, wash it, and then dry it. I prepare the sink with hot water and Oxyclean.
 
Friday – 10:30 p.m. I rinse out the clothes in the sink and move them to the washer. The cycle begins. Robbie trots downstairs with his socks which were under his bed. I stop the wash cycle, set up the sink again, and put the socks in. They are disgusting. I consider buying a new pair on the way to the fields, but hope my usual treatment works.
 
Friday – 10:45 p.m. Bryce brings me his rancid uniform (since I am doing the wash). I throw it in with the socks. I ask him where his socks are. He goes to search for them.
 
Friday – 10:55 p.m. Bryce locates his socks in the car balled up against the floor heat vents. This explains the odor I've had in the car for a week.
 
Friday – 11:20 p.m. I rinse out the clothes in the sink. They actually look pretty good. I throw them all in the washer and start the cycle. I go on the computer and print off directions to the fields for both games. They are just 10 miles apart, so I'll drive Bryce to his game during half-time of Robbie's game and then return to pick up Robbie. When I check the calendar for the game times I realize I'm responsible for the treat after Robbie's game. Luckily I have fruit snacks and granola bars in the pantry, but I'll have to grab juice boxes on the way to the game.
 
Friday – 11:55 p.m. Wash cycle is done. I decide to get up early to dry the clothes. I go to bed and set the alarm for 7 a.m..
 
Saturday – 8:05 a.m. The dogs wake us up to blinking alarm clocks. The power has gone off due to a storm over night. A quick look outside shows that the storm was probably powerful but swift. Things don't appear waterlogged, but I need to go on the teams' websites to see if the games have been canceled or moved due to field closures.
 
Saturday – 8:30 a.m. Websites confirm that one game has been moved. They are now 15 miles apart. I need to scramble and find Robbie a ride home since I can't get Bryce to his game and get back to Robbie's game. I wake up Robbie's teammate's family who had also lost power. They are grateful for my call and quickly agree to help out. I smile a certain self-satisfying smile that another mom is worse off than I am right now.
 
Saturday – 8:40 a.m. Bryce wants to sleep longer. He feels no urgency for Robbie's sake. After several minutes of "discussion" which ends with "Fine1" he gets up and takes his shower. Robbie comes down to eat breakfast. We need to leave in 15 minutes so Robbie can be at the fields 45 minutes before the game. "Where's my uniform?" That smirk flies off my face.
 
Saturday – 8:45 a.m. I throw the uniforms in the dryer. I'm hoping 10 minutes will get Robbie's uniform nearly dry. I run upstairs to get dressed. I return downstairs to see Robbie and Bryce eating the granola bars that I have laid out for treats. Perfect. Now I'll have to get treats along with juice.  My smirk earlier seems not only ill-timed but also unwarranted. I ask the boys to please pack up their soccer bags with cleats, shin guards, ball, water bottle, and for Bryce, keeper gloves. I hear activity in the garage. I'm hopeful.
 
Saturday – 8:55 a.m. I pull the uniforms out of the dryer. They are moist. I tell the boys to hold them out the window and let them air dry. This is met with , "Are you kidding me?" and dramatic eye rolls. We get in the car. Luckily my chair, umbrella, and visor are always packed in the car. I have the directions, so we are off. Five miles down the road I hear from the back. "Mom, I don't have my cleats." Apparently Robbie knocked them off and then set them by the car to put in his bag later. We rush back home.
 
Saturday – 9:21 a.m. We arrive at the fields late. The team is already warming up. The teammate I called has not yet arrived, so Robbie won't be the last one. Apparently other families actually put backup batteries in their alarm clocks. Bryce complains that his uniform is still wet. I tell him to spread it out on the hood of the van and let it dry in the sun. He resists as this is not cool. I tell him he can be hip or wet. His choice.
 
Saturday – 9:25 a.m. I open my trunk to see an empty space where my chair should be. I vaguely remember seeing it as I backed out, but was too focused on getting to the game on time for that image to register. Bryce tells me they took it out of the car to make room for their soccer bags. I call my husband and ask him to bring the chair to Bryce's game when he is done with his rounds at the hospital. 
Saturday – 9:55 a.m. I tell Bryce to collect the uniform off the hood. I forgot I have to run to the market and get treats and juice. The only grocery nearby is a gas station. I pay 40 percent  more for what I need. Beggars can't be choosers.
 
Saturday – 10:10 a.m. I return to the fields. Robbie has already scored a goal. I hand the treats off to the family who will take him home. I get told how spectacular the goal was that I missed. I know I will pay for missing it with the silent treatment.
 
Saturday – 10:30 a.m. Time to drive Bryce to his game which has moved. I realize I forgot to download directions to the new location. I know approximately where the fields are, so I'm hoping if I get close enough I can find someone to help me. I do not have a navigation system which Robbie tells me I need. If I have to keep buying treats for about the cost of a system I'll never get one.
 
Saturday – 10:43 a.m. Trapped in a construction zone. They are repairing the only bridge over a 2 foot wide stream. I consider using my four wheel drive to ford the stream, but there are houses on either side. I just have to wait for our direction to go. The person running the slow/stop sign seems to have something against west heading traffic.
 
Saturday – 11:10 a.m. I have arrived at the general location of the fields. Everyone I ask looks at me suspiciously as if I am seeking directions to an ultra-secret undercover government storage facility. Eventually I find someone whose child plays soccer and they know what I am talking about. Receive a phone call from husband who is at the original fields. I apologize for forgetting to let him know about the field change. At least I can give him directions now.
 
Saturday – 11:25 a.m. We get to the fields late. Bryce discovers that he left his socks behind on the grass. I call the family who are taking Robbie home and ask them to pick up the socks. I discover Robbie scored another goal - So much for rooting him on from the sidelines. My soccer box is also missing from the trunk. Bryce borrows socks from a teammate whose parents manage to keep things in their trunk.
 
Saturday -  11:45 a.m. Husband arrives with chair. He also brings me a water. Somehow we have managed to survive another soccer game day. We have two more games tomorrow. I make a mental note to buy a 9 volt battery for the clock.
 

Recovery Time

Sam Snow

Does US Youth Soccer have any requirements or recommended practices as to how much time should be scheduled between games during a tournament? We had an incident with one of our recent tournaments with a real short recovery time between games and are contemplating adding a recommendation/requirement to our policy and would like to stay consistent with US Youth Soccer. Please advise. Thanks!

US Youth Soccer does not have a policy on this matter.  However the state Technical Directors do have a pertinent position statement.

Tournament play    # 11
               
We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development and can serve to reduce long-term motivation.  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 12 should not play more than 100 minutes per day and those players older than 13 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.
Additionally, U.S. Soccer's Best Practices document also urges a proper rest period between matches in a tournament.  I suggest also that it is a risk management issue regarding injuries.  Without time to recuperate between matches, fatigued players will make poor decisions, execute skills sloppily and move in a less controlled way.  Anyone of those impacts can lead a player to clumsy play and bad timing of moves that could injure that player or an opponent.  Furthermore, there's a hydration and nutrition need to refuel after the strenuous exercise of a soccer match.  We are told by the American College of Sports Medicine that at least 24 hours is needed to replenish the body's nutrients to a level needed for competition.  Even to digest easily digestible food will take at least three hours.  So, I think you should aim for a minimum of four to six hours between matches if at all possible.  Most of the State Association tournaments try to schedule only one match per day for a team.
The players should be allowed ample rest between matches.
 

Even the Mighty Fall

Susan Boyd

          I just watched Brazil, ranked by FIFA number one in the world, get defeated by the Netherlands, which is ranked fourth. Consider these statistics: When scoring in the first ten minutes of a World Cup game Brazil was 8-0-1 until today; when leading at the half Brazil was 35-0-2 until today; Brazil had never lost under coach Dunga when both Kaka and Robinho played together 30-0-4 until today; and the own goal to tie the game was the first own goal in Brazil's 97 game World Cup history. Adding insult to the inconceivable, Brazil lost Felipe Melo (who scored the own goal) to a red card in the 73rd minute, so they played a man down in the last 20 minutes.
            The lesson, painfully learned by the Brazilians, but oft repeated among all teams, is that no one is immune to defeat no matter what the numbers say. My grandson just lost his season championship in baseball. His team was undefeated all season and they were playing a team for the championship that they had beaten handily earlier in the season. To make victory even more certain, they had two chances to win since it was a double elimination tournament. Monday night they lost to the Cubs 4-3 and then Wednesday night they lost again 4-0. Losses are painful and even more painful when you are expected to win. But all sports have with them an element of uncertainty which makes them exciting to watch and subject to Vegas odds. 
            Having left the Region II Championship series earlier this week, I saw or learned of a number of upset victories. They are part and parcel of soccer. How often have we attended a game where one team dominated with dozens of strikes, but no goals? Then the opposing team capitalizes on an error and scores the winning goal with their only strike. ""That's soccer,"" the coaches will say. That's life too. We try hard to succeed, do everything right, play by the rules and end up getting short-changed. It happens because fairness isn't a guarantee. It happens because the serendipitous overrides planning on a regular basis.
            In the first round of Wimbledon two players, John Isner and Nicholas Mahut played a three day 183 game tennis match, the world's longest. After that marathon, where any mistake could spell defeat and an errant blade of grass or sudden gust could create those mistakes, it was amazing that they synchronized point for point over the course of the final set of the match which went 70-68. Isner eventually won, but in the end no one wanted to declare a victor. The Wimbledon governing committee even held a ceremony directly after the match that rivaled the Men's Singles Trophy presentation, including royalty to give gifts to the referee and the players. Mahut could only accept the gifts graciously and then melt into the locker room to lick his wounds. And Isner? He lost in straight sets in the next round. These history makers completely faded into the background of more well-known and still active names. Now the focus turned to a championship and away from the diversion of an aberrant match.
            I enjoy the World Cup because nothing is sure. Between cards, injuries, upsets, and untested match-ups, the outcomes take unexpected journeys. I also appreciate that the World Cup takes a moment to acknowledge the issue of racism, especially in a country well-known for its former racial policy. It's comforting to know that no matter what happens in the games, these nations and their fans are expected to respect all the cultures, races, religions, and political views of the participants since those are not the factors on the pitch determining wins and losses. Even the vuvuzelas (those bee humming horns that hang in the background of every match) prove that national cultural traditions will be tolerated during the matches. I don't expect the World Cup to foster sudden world peace or even a truce in conflicts. But I do like the fact that the conflict on the pitch has a definitive end and outcome that all sides must accept even if they feel it was achieved unfairly. Like all athletes, those who lose will feel that outside forces conspired against them and bad calls or bad plays contributed to their defeat. But even the mighty have to accept the score that exists when the final whistle blows. That's soccer.