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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.

 

Priorities of Coaching No. 12

Sam Snow

From the Position Statements of the 55 state Technical Directors:
 
PRIORITIES OF COACHING  No. 12
 
We recommend the prioritization of events by coaches:
·         Objectives are identified and a season plan is developed that balances training, competition along with rest and recovery.
·         The interest of the player must be dictated by the quality of scheduling and the choice of events.
·         Entering all the possible competitions/tournaments available can have a long lasting negative impact on basic skill and fitness development.
·         A systematic approach will maximize the chances of achieving peak performance by bringing players to peak form for important competitions and minimize the chances for over-training, over-use injuries and burnout.
·         We recommend at a minimum the following training session to match ratios:
  • U6-U8                          1:1
  • U10-U12                      2:1
  • U14-U19                      3:1
·         In order for an athlete to adapt (improve technical, tactical and psychological components) there must be periods of low intensity activity or complete rest interspersed with periods of high intensity activity.
·         "More is not better."  Quantity alone does not improve quality; soccer should be a test of skill not survival.
·         Practicing or playing in matches where players are "going through the motions" due to fatigue or lack of interest reinforce bad habits and retard development.
·         Sound nutrition and ample rest allow for more rapid recovery from intense activity.
 

Position statements No. 9-11

Sam Snow

From the Position Statements of the state association Technical Directors, three Statements concerning the early play to must win environment throughout youth soccer:

Festivals for players Under-10 No. 9
                We believe that Soccer Festivals should replace soccer tournaments for all players under the age of ten. Festivals feature a set number of minutes per event (e.g., 10 games X 10 minutes) with no elimination and no ultimate winner. We also endorse and support the movement to prohibit U-10 teams from traveling to events that promote winning and losing and the awarding of trophies.

State, regional and national competition for U-12s No. 10
                We believe that youth soccer is too competitive at the early ages, resulting in an environment that is detrimental to both players and adults; much of the negative behavior reported about parents is associated with preteen play. The direct and indirect pressure exerted on coaches and preteen players to win is reinforced by state "championships" and tournament "winners." We therefore advocate that, in the absence of regional competition for Under-12s, state festivals replace state cups. We also strongly recommend that with regard to regional and national competition the entry age group should be U-14.

Tournament Play No. 11
                We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development, and can serve to reduce long-term motivation. Do not 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 twelve should not play more than 100 minutes per day, and those players older than thirteen 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.
 
 

Youth Soccer Month and TOPSoccer events in Connecticut

Sam Snow

Over the weekend, I traveled to Connecticut to work with state Technical Director Austin Daniels on a Youth Soccer Month event at Southern Connecticut State University and a US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer coaching course. Both events were well attended successful events.
 
For the Youth Soccer Month event we held a clinic for about 60 kids and we had the very capable assistance from a number of the of the university's women's soccer team and coach Bob Dikranian. We were able to meet with the parents as well as train the players for a fun-filled afternoon.
 
Yesterday, we conducted the US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer coaching course for 45 coaches from around the state. We also had over 25 TOPSoccer players join us for the practical session at the end of the course. Connecticut Junior Soccer Association has a healthy and widespread TOPSoccer presence and those involved are now better equipped to coach the players in their clubs. The hope is that the course will enable more clubs to refine or begin TOPSoccer programs. The TOPSoccer coaching course is now in its second year of offering and the hope is for more state associations to take a lead as Connecticut Junior Soccer Association has done to deeply impact the soccer coaching community by offering the course several times a year. For more on the TOPSoccer course, listen here to Daniels.
 

Vacation Depravation

Susan Boyd

Our eight year old neighbor informed me yesterday that it was only 29 school days until teacher convention break. There have only been seven days of school so far. This type of countdown to vacation preoccupies most students who attend any type of school. I had one of my college students, who can't seem to remember an assignment deadline, correct me about the dates of the mid-semester holiday without even referencing his calendar. Yet depressingly Americans don't take advantage of their time off. Every year Expedia does a vacation depravation survey which, depending on your point of view, Americans either ace or fail miserably. We get the fewest number of paid vacation days a year, thirteen, and even then we leave three of those days on the table.   Of the nations surveyed, America comes in the lowest, meaning that we are the best at depriving ourselves of vacations.

French workers get 38 paid days of vacation a year. Germans get 27 while Britain has 26. Austria, Spain, Italy, and New Zealand average in the 20s, while Australia and Canada get nineteen days.   Japan gets fifteen days a year, but 92% leave an average of seven days on the table. The only reason they aren't the worst vacationers is that they power vacation, meaning when they travel, they go for a week or more and travel outside the country. What I have noticed is that those countries with twenty or more vacation days also have intense soccer fever.  Laugh if you want, but I'm thinking they have grown to depend on those extended vacation days so they can follow their beloved teams or attend UEFA Cup or even the World Cup without making a huge dent in their vacation time.

Given our nation's woeful vacation history and our burgeoning, but not yet fully realize, interest in soccer, perhaps there's a way to make soccer work for family vacation time in America. While those families with players on traveling teams obviously have an immediate and necessary vacation excuse, any soccer family should be able to combine vacation time with their soccer schedule.   Use the sport as your vacation portal.

This Saturday, for example, my grandson has a game in Poynette, Wisconsin (pop. 2,300) about thirty miles north of Madison. At first blush the possibility of doing anything vaguely family vacation oriented seems unreasonable in a small town. But with the power of the internet you'd be amazed what a family can find. If you're going to drive to play a game, you might as well find somewhere fun to eat and visit. Check the Chamber of Commerce, your state's recreation department and tourism bureau, or just put the town's name in your search engine and see what appears. Poynette it seems is home to the MacKenzie Environmental Center, a 250 acre nature preserve with trails, a fire tower, three museums, maple sugaring demonstrations in the spring, and a large picnic grounds. There are herds of buffalo, packs of wolves, flocks of birds including bald eagles, and abundant smaller wildlife all visible from trails. So after the game we'll head over and spend the afternoon having a walk amongst nature and if the weather holds out a picnic as well. This is free of charge, although donations are always welcome.

Rather than rush up to a game and then rush home, families can extend their time together with some creative planning and limited expense. Not every vacation has to include a cartoon mouse and twenty story thrill rides. More importantly, every vacation doesn't need to be longer than a few hours of family togetherness in order to recharge the batteries. Look upon soccer as an opportunity to create an adventure. While you might not independently travel to see the chicken who always wins at Tic-Tac-Toe, you might take a five minute side trip on the way home from a game. The books "Off the Beaten Path" written for a number of states offer some great surprises. They emphasize the finds on the back roads nearby many of the small towns and fields you'll be visiting as you play league games or even tournaments. Taking time out to do a corn maze or see a Hopi Indian Village can take some of the stress out of preparing for a game or having to travel for a while. It doesn't have to be long – it can be as short as a stop to get some homemade ice cream from an old time soda fountain. But having the family discover it and plan it jointly adds even more family time together. 

For really young players you might consider doing planning together as a team. Sometimes large families have to be three places at once so you can't plan something for every game, but the team could plan things to do together. Given the internet savvy of kids, teams could even assign a town to each player to research and find something fun for everyone to do when in town. It could be something they do for fun or a place to eat or picnic. On one trip to Iowa, we were introduced to Maid-Rite by a team member's mother who grew up in Iowa.   Maid-Rite is ground beef cooked in boiling water that is dished out onto a bun and garnished with whatever you want. It's kind of like a dry Sloppy Joe. But it's good, and we would have never thought to eat there because in truth it sounds like a cleaning service. 

If we can't get 38 vacation days like the French, we can use American ingenuity to carve more days out for ourselves by crafting mini-vacations. Rather than dissecting the game on the trip home, you can hop out at a fruit stand and dissect a few apples. Rather than dwelling on a tough loss, you can relax at a trout farm catching dinner. Instead of dreading the drive back, you can break it up with a stop to see the world's largest rubber band ball. They aren't things you'd ask Expedia to reserve for you, but given the next Expedia survey you might be boosting America's score.