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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.

 

Philosophy of Coaching

Sam Snow

""Once they cross that line, it's their game. It's not about us as coaches; it's about them being able to make decisions.""
Jay Hoffman
 
As a coach, you have much to prepare for each season. Of course, you are excited and eager about meeting the players and getting into the matches. You most likely have planned what you are going to do and believe that you are ready. But are you truly ready? Have you thought about the why's and how's of everything you will do as a coach? It is important as you get started in coaching to develop a philosophy. For that matter, even experienced coaches may want to re-evaluate their philosophy.
 
Some coaches do not believe in the value of developing a coaching philosophy. They do not realize how a philosophy can have an impact on their daily coaching procedures and strategies. However, a coach's philosophy is actually a very practical matter. Most of our basic philosophy comes from our former coaches. This is a natural start because it is the approach with which we are most familiar and comfortable. It is also reasonable to assume that the philosophy of a person's everyday life, thinking and actions would be applied when it comes to coaching. How many coaches would stick to principles of fair play rather than win the game? There may be a gap between what a coach thinks is the right thing to do in daily life and the action he or she takes on the field.
 
In your effort to form or analyze your own philosophy of coaching, first know what a coach is. A coach can be many things to many different people. A coach is a mentor, a teacher, a role model and sometimes a friend. Most of all, a coach must be positive. A positive coach has the following traits:
 
Puts players first
Develops character and skills
Sets realistic goals
Creates a partnership with the players
Treasures the game
Your approach should be educationally sound and appropriate for your players
Your philosophy must be ethical
Your coaching philosophy should be compatible with your personality
Fair Play should be a top priority in your philosophy
 
Coaching is much more than just following a set of principles or having a well-established program. Coaching is interaction in young people's lives. The player who comes onto the field is a student, a family member and a friend to someone. He or she is the same person in all areas of life- he or she has the same personality, ideals, flaws and struggles. It is the responsibility of the coach to help your players make right and mature decisions in all areas of their lives. You must help them develop character, discipline, self-motivation, self-worth and an excitement for life. To achieve these objectives, the coach must raise the standards that the players and others around them have set. Then you must help them reach those standards by developing appropriate relationships with them based on respect, caring and character. When character development is the foundation for your program, players will get the most out of their soccer experience. And when that happens, you will also get the most out of your players, for this makes champions.
 
The most successful coaches are not necessarily the ones who win the most games. Coaches who have successful experiences focus on team cohesion. The desire to see the players learn and improve their skill is the key to effective coaching. Commit yourself to using all of your knowledge, abilities and resources to make each player on the team successful. Your focus is to promote an atmosphere of teamwork, mutual respect and commitment. By achieving this we will be successful and we will also win.
 
 

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.