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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". 

 

A View from the Sidelines

Susan Boyd

Today I sat and "supervised" my son's high school team during captain's practices. Team captains gather the HS players together two or three times a week to practice in the month leading up to the beginning of the season. Robbie's team is practicing at another local high school which required an adult to be present at all times with the permit for use of the fields. Tag I'm it.

The upside of sitting on the sidelines during these practices is that I get to observe my son as a leader. This is the same son who can't remember to bring his laundry down every morning or take it back up stairs every night. This is the same son who spends four hours a day playing Halo. This is the same son who calls me from school and asks me to bring the backpack he forgot. So watching him take charge of twenty-three players overwhelmed me with both pride and wonder. 

Making that passage from child to adult is never easy or guaranteed. But I do think that involvement in sports helped my children learn the lessons of cooperation, sacrifice, humility, time management, setting and achieving goals, and adapting – the very behaviors that translate to adulthood. The journey goes in fits and starts, but I got a glimpse of the finished product today on the soccer field. I have also seen my older son grow. The journey has been anything but smooth, but it is nearing its completion with every important accomplishment. He wants to start this year on his college team and that means beating out the senior goalkeeper. Bryce's fitness has been an issue, so he has begun a rough and steady program for making himself fitter and muscular. I get to watch the progress since he does his weight lifting in the family room. I am sharing all the ooofs and ughs that accompany the exercises. As he literally grows in front of me physically, I see him growing responsibly as well.

On the flip side, I had to decide how much to be involved as the kids moved through their sports lives. It's hard not to meddle when we all want so much for our kids and we feel we can see the big picture better than they can, but I've discovered ultimately it is better to let them decide for themselves with whatever input I can give. This year, for example, I would much rather that my son plays with a local club. He should be committed to a college before high school season is over so it doesn't seem necessary to me for him to travel to Chicago where none of his games are ""home"" games. But he has his reasons for staying with his club team, and so that is what he is going to do. When Bryce's team dissolved at Under-14, he made the decision to play with a local ethnic club. I thought it could be a step down for him, but he knew several of the boys on the team, so that's where he felt comfortable.  In the end the year he spent on that team turned out to be terrific both for him and for our family. While he ultimately moved on to a more challenging team, the opportunity for him to be one of the strongest players on his club team gave him great self-confidence and taught him valuable leadership skills. While both boys mature, I still nag about cleaning their rooms and getting homework done – I can't be completely hands off!

I've had plenty of opportunities to observe parents overly invested in their kids' success. This is not to say we shouldn't want the best for our kids and do whatever we can to assist them, but meddling isn't assistance. Part of growing up involves our kids investing in their own future and developing the skills to make their goals reality. While we can offer advice and teach some of the skills, we shouldn't be doing the work. Being a mentor is probably one of the most difficult jobs since it requires some very skillful tightrope walking. We all want to leap off and rescue our kids by running interference, but we shouldn't do that. And we all think if we just push hard enough we can maneuver our kids onto the path we think they should follow. 

My kids accuse me of being a nag (and I am) so I constantly have to decide which moments to push and which moments to just back off and let them figure it out. This means allowing our kids to fail, which is definitely the toughest approach we take to child rearing. But every stumble teaches our kids to learn how to pay attention and leap when necessary. We won't always be there to pick them up. Sports provide the perfect opportunity to let kids succeed on their own terms. All too often we define success as being the absolute best. But success can also be making every practice or getting to start in a few games. We need to applaud those successes without reminding our kids that they didn't get to the very top. There's only one David Beckham in the world, but there's also only one of each of our kids. As deserving as Beckham is of our adulation for his skills and effort, our kids are even more so deserving of our support for all their successes no matter how small. The chances of our children being the next Beckham or Oliver Kahn are minute, but the chances of our children growing into happy, productive adults are nearly 100% so long as we don't have unrealistic expectations or try to achieve their success for them.

While it has been a struggle to stay on the sidelines, rather than insert myself metaphorically on the playing field, I have to admit that the evolving view is fabulous. I wasn't always successful in letting my kids work through their sports' experiences without my maneuvering. But I learned early to stay out of playing time issues and to let the kids chart their own course through their sports experiences. My lip probably has permanent teeth marks from biting, but it was necessary. My job is to watch from the sidelines and to cheer – not coach.  Well, some gentle coaching is allowed, but not interference. Nevertheless I still feel anxiety as my children step into total independence and adulthood. I sit on the sidelines and wait for that adult to emerge. I trust that it will, and watching Robbie today blessedly reinforced that trust.
 

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.
 
Goals
  • 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.
 
PLAY IS THE KEY WORD IN PLAYER DEVELOPMENT
 

Hopelessly Devoted

Susan Boyd

My oldest grandson, Keaton, was born on July 4, 2000, and I just returned from his 8th birthday party. His birth date came perfectly not only for easy memory but also because that was the year we were picking up a chocolate cocker spaniel puppy in Iowa. Keaton needed to arrive before July 7th or after July 11th. He accommodated us kindly and we retrieved our new puppy. We named the puppy Cobi Jones who was Robbie's soccer hero. Cobi, the puppy ended up with a scatter of hair on his scalp that looked exactly like Cobi's, the soccer player, dreadlocks. Robbie, himself, had dreads. We have a memorable picture on our refrigerator of Cobi and Robbie together when the Galaxy came to Milwaukee for an exhibition game. The two share both the same distinctive hair and the same captivating Cheshire Cat grin. Keaton's birthday reminds us that Cobi, the dog, is also eight, although given the dog year equation he is exponentially older than Keaton. Nevertheless they act like they are both eight, that is to say they are carefree, rambunctious, silly and occasionally naughty.

My second granddaughter's birth came while Bryce and Robbie were due to play in the Wisconsin high school state finals. So I was in Las Vegas to help out our daughter, Shane, who had been scheduled for an induction four days before the state final. I had my ticket home, but Megan decided to enjoy the hospitality of her mother's uterus for an extra three days. The boys' team won with Bryce making important saves and Robbie scoring the insurance goal. Luckily the entire game was available on our local cable access channel for several weeks after, so I did get to see their victory within the isolation of our family room. Megan's birth provides the requisite benchmark for remembering the anniversary of the championship, so every year she celebrates her birthday, we can fondly recall that highpoint of the boys' soccer experience.

Objects of devotion can be as varied as objects in the universe, but some are also simply universal. Devotion to family can encompass other objects of devotion, which in our family includes pets and soccer. Unfortunately as a family grows, so grow the conflicts. Trying to find balance and equity isn't always a successful venture. On the rank of events you don't want to miss, a granddaughter's birth and your sons' state championship come pretty close to equal. But with the assistance of digital recorders, cell phones, and email, I nearly managed to be in two places at once.   Still I've missed all of Keaton's football games, all but Andrew's first two birthdays, all but one of Bryce's college games live (although I did catch them through streaming video), several of Robbie's travel games, and the list will only grow. Fall of 2009 both boys will be in college and will have games perhaps thousands of miles apart.

I'm grateful every chance I get to be involved in my kids' and grandkids' experiences and lives. Select soccer is a cruel task master, requiring lots of money and, even worse, lots of time. I have friends with three and four kids in select soccer and they have an elaborate calendar to insure that they get to at least a couple of each kid's games. I feel lucky to have to juggle only two kids, but once I add the grandkids into the mix, the juggling qualifies for Cirque d'Soleil. Nevertheless I revel in those moments when I can share an experience with any one of my family. While soccer takes the lion share of time now, I feel my life separating from soccer and cleaving to other sports and activities as the family expands. It's actually invigorating to have such a rich plate from which to feast. 

This winter the entire extended family is headed to Orlando for a reunion. While the Disney Showcase will be in full swing then, it won't be a part of our week there. Instead we'll be devoting our time to getting reacquainted, giving the youngest kids a basket of good memories, and giving the older kids a well-deserved break from the rigors of school and soccer. I don't even think anyone will go into soccer withdrawal. In fact the first night there, the Packers are playing on Monday Night Football, and we all plan to be visions in our green and gold. I can't wait to get everyone together! I'm hopelessly devoted to them all.
 

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!