Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Clubhouse

Play for a Change

Like our Facebook!

Check out the national tournament database

Sports Authority

Marketplace

Wilson Trophy Company

Happy Family

Nesquik

Capri Sun

Active Family Project

Active Family Project

Olive Garden

Play Positive Banner

Print Page Share

Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

Get over it

Susan Boyd

As some of you know I like to watch Judge Judy. My sons think it’s a waste of time, and it probably is, but I can’t help myself. She’s one tough cookie, calls it like it is, and handles the “excuse-makers” with a verbal sword that leaves them speechless. For 30 minutes I vicariously thrash everyone who has ever done me wrong. Occasionally she has a show that speaks beyond the swift justice she dispenses. A few weeks ago she had a case with a child taking martial arts. His mother was suing his martial arts teachers for not providing him with the proper uniform after attaining some predetermined level of achievement and for eventually kicking him out of the school for being insubordinate.
 
As the case evolved it became abundantly clear that the mother was way too involved in her child’s training. I began to have a deep sympathy for the defendants who were trying to cater to a class of twenty students, one of whom had a sports mom who rivaled Mommie Dearest. She had so many demands that I lost track of what this school was supposed to do for her son. The problem with the uniform was it had the wrong Korean symbols according to her and a different embroidery thread than the other uniforms. It was also too big, and she believed was given to her son in the larger size specifically to embarrass him. Therefore she was also suing for pain and suffering. 
 
As Judge Judy eventually said, “Every parent thinks their child is God’s gift to a sport. Get over it!” And with those words she dismissed the case. As she put it, “He’ll grow into the uniform.” There’s that wonderful common sense I love in the show. As far as kicking the child out of the program she said, “If I had to deal with you for even ten minutes I would have kicked your son out immediately!” In other words she had no sympathy for the mom’s demands and every sympathy for the school which had put up with these antics for a year.
 
I have stood back and watched parent after parent insinuate themselves into a child’s sports life, cringing as I hear the words coming out of their mouths, and wishing I could do an intervention. While parents know their child, most don’t have the perspective to understand their child in the context of the sport they are playing. Few parents can see with an unbiased eye the pool of talent that exists around their child. They see the goals their child makes, the four great passes in a game, and the excellent tackle made to steal the ball at the start of the game, and they translate that view into their child being indispensable to the team. First I can tell you no player is indispensable to a team, ever, even if he is Wayne Rooney or Hope Solo. Second I can tell you that until you have traveled around to at least thirty regional tournaments you can’t possibly begin to judge the strengths and weaknesses of your child. And even then, there’s an entire country of players left to set a standard. 
 
I wish I had a video camera with me at all times where I could record parents’ behavior as they talk to coaches about their children, then play it back. I’ve seen parents poking their fingers at and into coaches as they demand more playing time. I’ve heard parents declare their child the best player on the team and threaten to remove their child if their demands aren’t met. I’ve witnessed parents bullying other players on the team. I watched strong coaches who have refused to participate in these discussions and even disciplined parents for their behaviors. But more often I’ve seen coaches and, worse, clubs capitulate fearful of losing an integral player or having someone bad mouth them to the community. I think clubs should take their cue from Judge Judy and tell parents to “get over it!”
 
When I was a club administrator I had one parent who owed $100 in additional fees for his daughter’s registration. His response was “I’m not paying it and if you make me pay it I’ll take my daughter out.” When I told the club president, he said to let it go. Then the father began to brag on the sidelines about not having to pay the $100, leaving me with a dozen angry phone calls on how could we let this guy get away with this. Given that tryouts were long over and that most strong teams had full rosters, I’m not sure where this father would have taken his daughter. I would have preferred calling his bluff and telling him his daughter couldn’t practice with the team until he was paid in full. In the end, his daughter left the next year anyway for what they believed were greener pastures taking with him six players.
 
One player on my son’s former team was being picked on mercilessly by the father of another player. When he approached the coach about the situation, the coach refused to intervene because the bully’s son was one of the stronger players and he feared having the father pull the kid out of the club. In the end the bullied player left and several parents who had witnessed the club not acting also took their players out of the club, leaving the coach with his strong player and no support teammates. When a very strong player tried out for a team, the parents felt threatened for their children and informed the coach if he took this player they would all quit. The coach followed the wishes of the parents which ended up becoming the first of dozens of demands once they realized they had the power. It ended up pushing the team into disarray and their success dwindled.
 
These are anecdotal examples, but I have to believe that when the parents, who usually have the least amount of soccer experience, have the power to control what happens on a team, rather than the coach, that team’s chemistry will suffer. Coaches and clubs need to say to parents that they are welcomed on the sidelines to cheer, but they are not welcomed to advocate for their child or to suggest how a team should be run. If parents don’t like what they see, then they have the option to change clubs during tryouts. 
 
I wish more clubs called a parent’s bluff. Clubs have to release players, so a kid can quit, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be able to actually move to another club right away. I really encourage coaches and clubs to create a united front on issues of playing time, playing position, travel and fees. Parents need to defer to the experts. After all they chose the club because they thought it would be the best one for their child. If they end up with buyer’s remorse, then they need to “get over it” and go club shopping at the next tryouts. The stronger the club, the more competition your child will face for those precious playing minutes. If the supporting cast already has five midfielders, your son or daughter may find themselves tapped to be a defender or a forward. The coach has to judge what the best fit is for the entire squad not just for your child.
 
I’m pretty sure Judge Judy’s knowledge of soccer is limited to the fact a ball is involved. But I’d trust her to come down on most parents who think they can run the show and know precisely how their child compares in the vast pool of excellent players throughout the area. She would recognize that soccer decisions should be left not only to the experts but also to those who have the widest base of knowledge and no personal bias. Parents should give advice to their children and then let them fight their own battles. That’s the way kids get stronger and confident.

Comments (0)

 

What may be lost

Susan Boyd

 Mike Barr wrote a compelling article for Youth Soccer Insider entitled "The Case for High School Soccer". The U.S. Soccer Federation Development Academy has decided to go to a 10-month schedule, which will directly interfere with high school soccer for boys. Additionally, the Academy is requesting that players forgo high school soccer even if there isn’t a conflict. Barr details the reasoning behind this decision including lackluster competition, lower quality team members and weaker coaching at the high school level. But he also argues that these worries are not always realized in the first place, and even if they are, there are advantages to participating in a high school sport which go beyond development and competition. Barr comes from the position of a coach. I’d like to make the case for high school soccer from the position of a parent.
 
When my boys were in high school I first heard of this idea to give up high school soccer not from other boys but from the girls teams. Apparently in preparation for the National Championships, several elite girls’ teams around the country were asking their players to give up high school soccer and train full time with their club team in preparation for this event. One of those teams was our local select team who had several members from our home town high school. Those select team members were telling their high school team members, "Sorry, we know this means you won’t make it in the State High School Championships, but we have to follow our dreams." That double-whammy, letting down their high school teammates by pulling out a major number of top players and doing it so they could succeed at the expense of their high school friends didn’t sit well with me. We expected our sons to fulfill the commitments they made. I actually couldn’t believe these players were doing this, having grown up with these families as neighbors and friends. But there it was nonetheless.
 
The Hollywood version of this scenario would be that the plucky remaining players on the high school team would rally, play their hearts out and win the State High School Championship while the club team would find itself defeated in the Regional Championship. Oh right, that is what happened! I remember watching the high school finals as the girls dug deep, rose to the level of champions and won the game. Their joy in achieving this milestone radiated around the stadium. Everyone knew the story about being abandoned by a half dozen of their teammates to pursue the brass ring, which only added to the wild celebration.
 
Arguments can be made about the club team wanting to have intensive training for a few extra months. That making a good showing in the championship run would afford the players more exposure to even more college coaches. That winning a National Championship trumps winning a State High School Championship. But there were other issues such as loyalty to their high school teammates and enjoying the social experience of playing a high school sport. Most high school seasons last just two and a half months. How could it hurt development to run 9.5 months instead of 10 months? How many of the Academy players will eventually play college soccer? How many will continue to play college soccer even if they are lucky enough to earn a scholarship? In the meantime they will have lost the opportunity to join together with a group of friends, boys and girls they have grown up with for more than a dozen years, and fight to win some games and perhaps even a championship.
 
Both my sons said outright that if they were told they couldn’t play high school soccer they would quit their club teams. They recognized the camaraderie and legacy that came from playing on their high school team. Those friendships and memories will be with them forever. This is not to say that they didn’t form friendships and memories with their club teams, but those were different. Those team members rotated in and out yearly or even semi-annually and they lived all over a large area. So the connections were more tenuous. Even club teams can disappear or change with mergers. So a club team’s heritage can’t compete with the legacy of a high school.
 
As a parent, I loved the years spent at high school games. I loved traveling just a few minutes to get to a home game, sitting in the stands with friends and neighbors, cheering on local boys as they competed, getting home at a decent hour, manning the snack shack, expressing my loyalty to the local school and sharing the ups and downs of the community team. After driving Robbie five hours every trip down and back to practice with this club team, those few months of staying close to home and enjoying the companionship of people I rarely saw the rest of year became a well-deserved respite. I know Robbie felt the same way. Both boys enjoyed those ten weeks as a time to strut the halls, practice close to home and be an important part of homecoming celebrations. Putting all your eggs in one basket may make sense in countries where there are scores of professional teams players can join and a development system which includes everyone worthy of participation. But for teenage players in the United States, high school has advantages that the development and club teams cannot yet match. I may be sentimental, but sometimes sentiment can be a good thing.
 
I will always argue that we need a better development system in the United States. But throwing out high school soccer for the sake of an extra month of training hardly seems the right answer. Where are the studies? Is high school really a time of weakening player’s abilities? Before we do another significant shift in how we train our youth players, let’s do the research and discover the strengths and weaknesses of the two systems. Without properly creating the right processes for developing our players, we’re just implementing plans that can’t succeed. What works elsewhere in the world may not work here because we don’t have sufficient professional clubs to provide support and we have an expanse of land that makes scouting and training difficult. We need to figure out how to make those advantages. Getting rid of high school soccer now doesn’t seem to address either of those problems. It just seems to be something we can do, so we’re doing it. 

Comments (0)

 

U-8 Ejection

Sam Snow

The article below from the Daily Mail hit my inbox via Soccer America a few days ago. Mr. Beckham's actions aside, I agree with his sentiment. Ejecting a 7-year-old from a youth soccer game? Really people? Come on!

The story here is not Becks. The story is a crazy youth soccer environment. For starters why would there be a league for the U8 age group? That age group should be playing in-house only. Better yet that in-house play should be in an academy format of no set teams. From the U.S. Soccer Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States: U-8: 1st and 2nd Graders – GAME APPLICATION
  • Game Form: 3 v 3 is best option for these ages
  • GK Status: Optional. Players should not be limited to playing one "position"
  • Field Size: 4 v 4 (40 yards x 25 yards)—3 v 3 (30 yards x 20 yards)
  • Ball Size: 3
When ball goes out of bounds, the game is restarted with a kick-in or dribble-in. No throw-ins. U.S. Soccer recommends that there be no organized matches at this age. Consistently set up mini games at practice for your kids to compete with and against each other, according to their age. There will be no need to keep score or even be very involved, except to enjoy the players and their effort and joy.

Let's also discuss the rules under which the match was being played. Penalty kicks at 7? Does a 7-year-old child really understand penalty kicks? What's going through the head of the child who committed the foul to give the PK? Is the psychology on someone that young strong enough to handle the outcome that could be that the team lost today because of your foul. What about the PK shooter and the goalkeeper? They too have fragile personalities now facing the up close and personal situation of a penalty kick. Think of the moment. The entire match has stopped, all the players are still and the spectators and all of the bench personnel from both teams are entirely focused on those two kids. Wow! Even professional players waiver under that kind of scrutiny. No matter how the PK goes, one of the two kids is the goat. No wonder so many kids quit our sport before age 15.

This particular youth soccer organization should, as should all youth soccer clubs, play under the US Youth Soccer Modified Rules instead. Here's the link: /coaches/RulesSmallGames/

The type of game and league described in the article points to one that is entirely outcome based. This is the adult model of soccer competition, not the child-centered model of soccer competition, which is process based. The U-8 age group should not be in a soccer experience that is based on the score and league standings. What's next, promotion and relegation? Stop the insanity!

It is the adults who are responsible for setting up the soccer environment for children 8 and younger. In this case they are the ones to blame for allowing such an atmosphere of yellow or red cards being shown to these very young players. Most to blame are the parents. The parents are the customers and they can cause a club and/or a league to change by taking their business elsewhere. The parents need to get the ball rolling in this instance to evoke these changes:
1.       Get the U-8 age group out of league play
2.       Adopt the US Youth Soccer Modified Rules for the U-8 age group
3.       Be the watchdogs that their club follows the curricula and guidelines set forth by US Youth Soccer and U.S. Soccer
4.       Remember when watching a youth match that we adults are guests at the children's game

It's too bad that David Beckham was ejected from a youth match. But maybe not, as it is helping to bring into the spotlight a need for change in the youth soccer game.

'The ref gave me a red card!' David Beckham reveals how he was 'sent off' from the sidelines at son's football game in LA

He's faced a red card in his own professional football games in the past, but David Beckham would hardly have expected to be dealt one while cheering on his sons at football match.

The 36-year-old revealed during his appearance on last night's Jonathan Ross show that he was 'sent off' during a match in LA recently after sticking up for a child who he felt had been punished too severely.

During the interview, which aired on ITV last night, the footballer recalled: 'I was watching the kids play the other day, it was the game just before they were playing.

'It was the younger kids of Romeo's club, and they're playing in the game and there was a penalty given. And the kids are seven-years-old and he sent the kid off.

'And I was like, "Come on, he's seven-years-old, referee, you can't send him off." And he looked at me and was like, "Yes, I can." And I was like, "Ok, well, you can't, he's seven-years-old."

'And he came over and gave me a red card. He told me to get out of the park. For real. The gate was only 20 yards away and I waited and went back in when my son's game was on.'
David also spoke about the fact that despite being happy in Los Angeles, the family will always be proud of their British roots.

He said: 'My children have been happy for five years there, they're stable there. They're loving life there. My eldest is 12 years old now, he needs stability, so we did it for that, but we also love living there.

'But my boys, they love coming back to London, they love pie and mash.'

Comments (0)

 

Simple to Complex

Susan Boyd

Take some open space, something to kick and a few kids and you can have a soccer game. For most of the world, that's how soccer is played. While players do possess balls, there's no problem substituting a tin can, melon, or box if a ball can't be found. Few kids possess shin guards and fields with crisp white lines aren't found in most towns and villages. That soccer can be played without anything we regard as soccer essentials probably explains its popularity.
 
In our own house we had a firm rule that no balls were to be in the house, and should one roll its way in, no balls were to be kicked in the house. So the boys quickly found lots of substitutes such as bundled socks, towels wrapped in a rubber band, pillows, shoes, even a round candle. Once they fell in love with soccer, there was no stopping soccer play no matter where we were and no matter how many restrictions I imposed. They found a way around it. Eventually, we cleared out the basement, put taped goals up on the opposing walls and let the boys go. One wall was paneling that set off an office space behind and in just a week's time we were able to see through to the office without any problem.
 
Birthdays and Christmas brought more and more soccer paraphernalia to add to already overflowing drawers and closets of soccer stuff. This simple game resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of equipment, clothing and accessories. A ball wasn't enough; it had to be the official World Cup ball. Team uniforms wouldn't suffice; we had to add warm-ups, kit bag and "spirit" gear. Of course, as they grew older, they weren't on just one team. There was the club team, the summer league team, the indoor team, high school team and ODP. Then we bought the dresser to go in the garage with a drawer for each team so we could keep track of all the uniform items. Naturally there were jerseys for their soccer idols and flags for their teams. We subscribed to magazines, many of which came from overseas so cost twice as much. Coaches recommended instructional tapes and books. We bought portable goals. Then there were the peripheral soccer items like ornaments, computer skins, movies, picture frames, bedding and rugs.
 
You probably have your own list that grows every month. It's difficult not to reward your child's passion with items that further fuel the commitment. It's great for our kids to love something and feel empowered by that enthusiasm. So we rarely begrudge them their wants. Eventually we find ourselves buried in soccer stuff. When it comes to soccer gear such as uniforms, cleats, and balls, we can donate those items to any number of agencies happy to pass on the equipment to less fortunate players in the U.S. and around the world. Despite soccer not requiring any gear, it's always nice to have some as it not only enriches the game, but helps players develop the proper skills. We usually gathered together our unused gear once a year and donated it by bringing it to our state association offices for the Passback program or to our local soccer shop that collected for the Armed Forces. Finding someplace to donate is easy and much appreciated.
 
I'm not suggesting we shouldn't supplement the uniform and basic equipment needs of our children with extras. Every family has to decide what they can afford and what seems to be appropriate for their child's needs and wants. But I do suggest that you don't get sucked into a "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality. Even with unlimited funds, there is a limit to what a child needs to fuel his or her passion. So as you sort through the catalogs or visit the soccer store, you don't need to possess every scarf, blanket, and head band that exists. We quickly and painfully discovered that buying $120 official World Cup ball was money wasted. Within ten minutes of hitting the field that ball had sailed over the fence and into the Milwaukee River canal to make its journey east back to Germany. After that we never spent more than $25 on a ball. Likewise, team affiliations change rapidly as does idol worship, so we limited the purchase of jerseys to special occasions. In time you realize how much you have spent in essentially impulse buying and you learn to curb that. My admonition before we entered the soccer shop soon became "Don't Ask!" Still there was usually one shiny object that ended up attracting all of us. You know what I'm talking about.
 
When people ask how much soccer costs I have to answer "0 to 10,000 dollars." And I'm not being flippant. Soccer can be as inexpensive or as expensive as we want to make it. Some costs are unavoidable as our players get stronger and more skilled. They will naturally gravitate to the more expensive select clubs where training costs are higher. But especially at the younger ages, soccer doesn't need to be much above the basic level of a ball, a uniform, cleats, and shin guards. Lots of soccer stores offer a great package deal for the $25 to $30 range that will see your young one through at least six months of training. If you want to supplement that with a warm-up or a bag that's your choice, but don't ever think it's necessary. If they love soccer and decide to pursue it further, there will be plenty of time to pull out that wallet. Plenty of time.

Comments (0)