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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.

 

Staff Development

Sam Snow

This past weekend I visited Atlanta to work with the Georgia Soccer staff. The schedule had included a training session with players in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. Unfortunately, it had rained so much on Friday and Saturday that the fields were flooded, so the training session planned for Saturday had to be cancelled. Never-the-less, the Technical Director for Georgia Soccer, Jacob Daniel, and I were able to attend a "D" license coaching course at Oglethorpe College.

We were able to join the coaches during one of their practice field sessions (In the "D" license course the candidates have two practice field sessions). This is when they are given a topic and run a portion of a training session on the field. The candidates then receive feedback from the instructor and their fellow candidates on the strengths and weaknesses of the session. In this course there were 30 candidates divided into two groups for practice. Coach Daniel and I observed each group and we then joined in with the course instructors to provide feedback on the practice session. Despite the soggy field conditions, freezing temperatures and drizzle the candidates did a fine job in their practice sessions. They made the mistakes common to coaches still learning the craft. Some examples are a warm-up not related technically to the topic of the training session, poor transition from one activity to the next, coaching at the wrong moments or making comments not relevant to the training topic. From the practice sessions the candidates all improved in these areas, hence the two practice sessions prior to testing. Going through the state coaching course is very important to all coaches. We all must strive to improve our craft of coaching. That is a never-ending process as there's always more to learn. If you have not earned a state coaching course certification or license then I urge you to attend a course this year.

Yesterday was the state staff instructors' seminar, this was the main reason I had come to Atlanta. Coach Daniel holds this seminar once a year as continuing professional development for the Georgia Soccer coaching course instructors. This is a great initiative that all state associations should copy and I know that many of them already do so. We had both classroom and field sessions with the theme being creativity. The objective was to demo to the instructors how to emphasize creativity and deception in the sessions within the context of the coaching courses' USSF driven curriculum.

12 pm                 Introductions                                                  classroom
12:15 pm            Creativity – The Missing Link                            classroom            Sam Snow
1:15 pm              Incorporating Deception into Training                field                    Jacob Daniel
2:15 pm              Developing Creative Players                            field                    Sam Snow
3:30 pm              Latest News on Coaching Courses & FAQ's        classroom            Jacob and Sam
4:30 pm              Coaching Styles and Methods                           classroom            Sam Snow
 
We had wonderful discussions and interaction with the instructors, we even had fun playing on a muddy field. If you would like to receive a copy of my sessions just drop me a note and I'll be happy to share.

I look forward to seeing you at the 2010 US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop on the 26th and 27th of this month in Fort Worth, Texas.
 

All soccer, all the time

Susan Boyd

With Fox Soccer Channel officially going HD this past Thursday, three of our household members talk breathlessly about being able to watch the waver of grass blades and the glistening trail of sweat. I just finished reading the message board on Fox Soccer Channel 's website about its launch of the HD channel and judging from the number of entries posted in just a few hours, I would say the percentage of people who are hooked on the sport has to be significant. All of them were clamoring for the HD feed to be added to their service provider's channel line-up. For them HD on FSC is akin to the advent of fire or the dawn of the Renaissance. No longer is it enough to have soccer available 24/7, now it has to be consistently in brilliant, crystal HD. 

I, on the other hand, have a more cautionary view. I worry that we will run out of recording capacity on our DVR. HD uses up to four times the memory than regular TV. Right now we have six English Premier League games stacked up on the DVR which translate to twelve hours. We can record up to 133 hours of SD (standard digital) TV, but only 37 hours of HD. Those six EPL games would translate to one third of our recording capacity if they were in HD. Come World Cup in just five months we'll be in real trouble since ESPN's tier of channels already broadcast in HD. I'm being both practical and protective. I have my own set of shows I want to record, but I'm afraid I'll lose out to the phalanx of HD soccer competitions. If the boys tape all the permutations of the World Cup games available we'll run out of both recording capacity and time to sleep. I also worry that they'll be so busy watching "life-like" soccer that they'll forget about playing "real-life" soccer.

The advent of multiple TV carrier options means soccer broadcasts aren't limited any longer. Twenty years ago all most soccer fans could hope for was the World Cup finals. Ten years later we had ESPN to deliver soccer games and championships but these were often taped and broadcast days after we had already learned of the outcome. In 2006 Fox Sports World went all soccer being reborn as Fox Soccer Channel and opening up the U.S. market to international soccer with live and taped games throughout the week plus Fox Soccer Report to deliver news from the world of soccer. With a geometric proliferation satellite, cable, and ATT services provide additional soccer channels including GOLTV and Setanta. Americans can see games from England, Italy, France, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Germany, Spain, Canada, and Australia as regularly as citizens of those countries do. Major soccer competitions such as the Gold Cup, MLS, Women's Professional Soccer, NCAA games (men's and women's), international friendlies, United Soccer League games, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, FA Cup, UEFA championship and games, and of course FIFA World Cup qualifiers and games air across ESPN's tier, Fox's tier, Setanta, GOLTV, Telemundo, Telefutura, Univision, and that ratings giant Channel 1 Russia. Occasionally CBS, NBC, and especially ABC will broadcast major soccer games. In addition, some US Youth Soccer National Championships games are shown on both national and local TV feeds. Soccer has now become the sports equivalent of the Law and Order franchise – turn on your TV any day, any time and you'll find a game.

I applaud the burgeoning landscape of soccer transmissions. It celebrates the growth of soccer in America. It provides youth players the opportunity to see soccer outside of their own soccer games and to appreciate the traditions and skillfulness of the sport. It definitely promotes the sport by broadening the fan base and bringing diverse soccer fans together to enjoy a game in a sports bar or restaurant. It introduces soccer to the uninitiated especially to sports fanatics who end up lingering on a channel and having soccer appear unexpectantly. But we also need to get out of the house and watch soccer in the ultimate HD experience – live. Use soccer on TV to bring kids into the game, to better educate them about the sport, and to foster their love for soccer. But don't watch TV soccer at the expense of playing the sport or supporting local soccer teams by going to their games. While the sophistication of play on televised professional and college soccer games are an important part of loving the sport, the immediate camaraderie and intensity of a live game can't be duplicated.

But don't underestimate the broadcasters from doing whatever they can to duplicate the live experience and keep us indoors to watch the games and the attendant commercials. Just today I read that the Arsenal/Man U game telecast on Sunday, Jan. 31 was presented in 3D in pubs throughout Ireland and Great Britain. I only have two questions: How soon will this technology hit US programmers and how much of my precious DVR memory will it demand.   Because I know the soccer fans in my house will not only want this option, but will watch as many games as possible in 3D. And I'll be reduced to watching Judge Judy on my iPhone.
           
 

Coach Rotation

Sam Snow

The question comes up now and then about how long a youth coach should stay with a team. So, here is the question from a club coach in Indiana.

Hi Sam,

What, in your opinion, is the correct amount of years a soccer coach should stay with and coach a team? Bearing in mind we at our club are all about player development. At the moment, our policy is three years with the option of a fourth year at the discretion of the club director of coaching, but after four years they have to revert back to a younger age group or change teams. Do you think this is right or wrong? Your advice is welcomed. I will not take your opinion as policy. Thanks.

My personal opinion is that a coach should stay with a team for two years and then take on another team. The players learn more about the game when exposed to a variety of good coaches over the years; emphasis there on good coaches. If they go from a coach who has experience and talent to a novice coach then that will not serve their developmental needs. However, if the club has a good progression of coaching talent then the players can move onto a new coach in the club every two years and benefit from learning new twists on the game from another coach. Ideally, the coaches in the club are all working from the same progressive curriculum and the U-12 coach has briefed the U-14 coach on the players moving up for example. Now, we're talking about a club that really has vision on player development. In the end, let's also keep in mind that as students, these kids get a new teacher each year and their academic progress is not hindered consequently.

Here are the comments from Vince Ganzberg, US Youth Soccer Coaching Committee Region II representative, National Staff Instructor and Technical Director for Indiana Youth Soccer.

I concur with Sam's opinion. For the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP), I move a coach every two years. I did it when I was a club DOC as well. I guess I view it like a kid in elementary school. For the most part they have a teacher for one year and then move on. Every now and again though, they will have that same teacher for another year which is fine, but after year two a new voice is often useful and beneficial.
 

The cases are real

Susan Boyd

If you have been reading my blog for awhile you know that one of my guilty pleasures is Judge Judy. I plan my laundry folding around that 4 to 4:30 p.m. time frame. I'm not sure why I enjoy JJ except that the show is like the proverbial train wreck that we can't ignore. It also reaffirms daily that my life is at least not as bad as the lives of the litigants. When you've had the tenth blow up with your teenager over cleaning up the basement, it's nice to know that at least he didn't wreck his girlfriend's car while driving drunk with a suspended license and leaving the scene of the accident. He's just messy.

The other day a JJ case hit closer to home. A mom whose son played in the Pop Warner Football League had volunteered to be the team's treasurer. Apparently the team generated thousands of dollars every season through fundraisers, dues, and donations. So she oversaw a significant treasury. She was suing the coach of the team because by her reckoning he fired her without cause and owed her $1,700 for materials she had purchased for team gift bags. That last statement made me very glad my boys chose soccer over football. At the end of the year we usually had juice boxes and some treat. We then gave the coach and the team manager thank you cards and a small gift. If we spent $300 we were on the extravagant end. So I did gasp at the $1,700.

Apparently the main argument from the coach was that she was derelict in her duties by asking the parents to write their checks to her which she then deposited in her account and paid out. She countered by saying she kept records of every check she received and that she took personal checks for only one of the many money collections. My response – big deal! I was team manager for several of my boys' soccer teams when they were very young, and I can tell you I collected money all the time in what could only be described as haphazard. Parents would come up to me in the middle of a game and hand me $20 in one dollar bills. I'd scribble their names down on a napkin using a crayon I found under the back seat of my van and then accidently blow my nose on the napkin. Yet somehow I managed to keep track of all accounts through memory and some retracing of funds. Years later when someone else was a team manager, I never worried that she would take the funds I gave her and have an evening out at Jack in the Box on me. Did I occasionally have to remind her that I in fact paid? Yes. Did I occasionally have to check my bank records? Yes. Did I probably pay twice in a few cases? Yes. When I was manager did I have to cover someone who just never paid? Yes. But the amounts were so small and making waves just didn't seem worth the possible tsunami they might create. This Pop Warner team had taken the entire idea of team treasurer to the level of CFO.

The mom argued that she was dismissed because the coach's wife believed they had engaged in some unsavory behavior at a team party. It later came out that someone had possibly seen them kissing by a car and had told the wife. The mom claimed she wasn't even at the party. The coach pleaded the fifth. The mom further argued that her son had been kicked off the team as well. Then the President of the Pop Warner League stood up to defend the coach's actions. Why he wanted to get in the middle of this soap opera is beyond me. In the end the treasurer got her $1,700 back, but everyone lost some dignity that will be much harder to reimburse.

The final blow came in the after case interviews when the mom said, "And this is just touch football for first graders. I can't imagine what goes on in real football." I nearly fell into my laundry basket. These adults had dug in their heels and carried a battle about $1,700 and suspicion over an affair into a public venue seen by millions, and their children are just six years old. The lesson to be learned screams out to us: youth sports are for the youth. These parents forgot why their kids were playing touch football. The extravagant expenses had nothing to do with kids being able to play the game. Good grief! We played touch football every Thanksgiving with an old football we had to reinflate and whatever clothes we were wearing. It's a cheap sport. Kids don't need gift bags, and I can't figure out what fundraising had to be done unless they used diamond studded footballs. This should have been an opportunity for the kids to get some exercise while having fun rather than for the parents to air their personal secrets, showcase their indulgences and continue their petty feuds. I'm hoping no one recorded the episode, but I'm sure someone did so that Johnny and Molly can relive the horror of their parents' bad behavior. 

We all need some serious perspective adjustments if we take youth sports this intensely. Robbie and Bryce have played on dozens of youth sport teams most of which they never continued. Yet I know they have fond memories of those teams. They loved basketball, baseball, volleyball, gymnastics, skate- and snowboarding, and soccer. But it was only the latter that they eventually pursued seriously. Even today they still participate in each of those sports and talk about the "remember when" moments. I can guarantee that we never paid more than $150 for any sport, that they never got a gift bag, and that we never participated in any major fundraising until we got to upper level soccer. But I can also guarantee that they had great experiences, learned the fundamentals of the sports, and formed good friendships. That's all we can hope for when we put our children in youth sports. If there's going to be drama, let it be on the field or the basketball court rather than a courtroom. Make sure we remember our responsibility – we're the parents, so we need to be role models and take the high road. If we want to indulge our children, then indulge them with love and attention. They won't admit it, but they really want that more than what money can buy. And they certainly want it more than being notorious Judge Judy litigants. Just as I can say thank goodness my children aren't anything like the children on that show, our kids want to be able to say thank goodness their parents aren't anything like the parents on that show.