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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.

 

New State Course

Sam Snow

US Youth Soccer has delivered a new coaching course to the 55 state associations. The course is for coaching in The Outreach Program for Soccer (TOPSoccer). The TOPSoccer coaching course is a state association delivered four hour course.  The course is three hours of classroom work and one hour on the field.  The field session is done with the instructor and candidates, so no players are required for that portion.  There are PowerPoint presentations and group breakout work during the classroom session.   Our broad goal with the course is to get more folks involved in coaching TOPSoccer players and to increase the number of participants nationwide in this program.
 
The materials for the course have been delivered to the state associations. Those whom the Association will designate as instructors of the TOPSoccer course must first earn the certificate. This will provide continuity for the instructors. This is the standard operating procedure for all of our coaching education, you have to actually hold a certificate or license before you will be considered as a possible teacher of the course. So to get the course off the ground US Youth Soccer is conducting regional symposia for TOPSoccer administrators and coaches. The course will be delivered during the symposium. Check your region's web site for the details on the TOPSoccer symposium in your region.
 
Please note that the region symposium is NOT an instructors' course.  Many folks may attend the symposium and earn the TOPSoccer coaching certificate but they are not automatically a state instructor of the course.  Who teaches the course within each state association is to be decided by the state Technical Director.  Candidates who successfully complete the course will earn a certificate issued by the state association. Then for those who have earned the certificate continuing education for TOPSoccer coaches and administrators will take place at regional symposia.
 
Here are the topics covered in the course. 
       Why People Play Soccer
       Players' Challenges
       Qualities of Coaches
       Prevention and Care of Injuries
       Risk Management
       Communication
       Ideas for Coaching
       Characteristics of well-selected games and inclusion activities
        Organizing a training session
 
The course objectives include:
  1. Apply existing coaching skills and experiences to meet the needs of players with disabilities
  2. Establish basic communication skills
  3. Appropriate safety and medical considerations
  4. How do we modify activities to include all players
  5. Demonstrate coaching methods
 
Remember that we all have disabilities, in some of us they show!
 

Favorite Things

Susan Boyd

Last week I bought a new soccer chair that I had seen advertised for the Memorial Day holiday. This is high entertainment for me, picking out a new chair, testing it in the store and then unveiling it on the soccer sidelines. I bought this chair in the middle of the U.S. Soccer Federation Developmental Academy spring college showcase, so I had my old chair one day and my new chair another day, which allowed me to enjoy the ooohs and aaahs of the other parents. This chair is royal blue and has a canopy which shelters me from sun and rain. It doesn't require a bag, so ends up being high end in the transportation area as well. I am a very happy soccer mom right now.
 
Buying the chair got me thinking about my other favorite soccer things. Naturally my boys and grandkids rank at the top of my list of favorite soccer things, but they have an edge being flesh and blood and cute. So I just wanted to focus on the top ten things that aren't related to me.
 
10. Updated soccer rule book. I pick up a copy every few years as rules change, especially for the younger ages. The book is available at my soccer supply store for less than $10 and gives me good guidance in what constitutes fouls, off-side, and other soccer regulations. I keep it with me in the car. Every once in awhile I do need to haul it out and give it a look. The referees at one game even used the book to resolve a complicated overtime issue.  
 
9.   Finding a parking spot right near the gate into the world's largest soccer complex. I know I already have a two mile walk to the field, so I love not having to walk another mile from my parking spot just to get into the park.
 
8. Getting Crocs on sale. I live in Crocs, winter, spring, summer, and fall. I have fleece-lined Crocs for the winter and Mary Jane's for those formal soccer events. They are perfect for those two or three mile hikes to and from fields at tournaments.
 
7. My ten year old, slightly broken Dry-Guy about which I have waxed poetic in other blogs. This machine is the size of a small toaster, packs in a gear bag easily, and saves blisters, muddy floor mats and smelly rides home.  With a car adaptor, you can use it right at the fields to dry out shoes and socks. With a goalkeeper son it provided dry gloves for important games and helps the gloves last longer. 
 
6. I absolutely dote on audio books. Even the boys got into some of the books on our long trips. You can find audio books on any topic, by any author, and of any length. My brother gave me Pepys' Diary as a gift, and it got us through a trip to Florida. I think we listened to a John Grisham novel and Harry Potter on the way home. Cracker Barrel Restaurants have a loan policy on audio books that provides us with unlimited books for a small use fee on each one. The only drawback is that the restaurant tends towards romance and crime novels. Your local library will usually have a collection of books to check out as well.  Parallel to the audio books would be my satellite radio which offers English Premier League games, talk radio, and a 60's music station to fill the hours of driving.
 
5. Sudoku puzzles while away those empty minutes between when I have to drop the boys off at the fields and when the game begins. I can sit in the car, or now, in my canopied chair, and give my brain some exercise.
 
4. Express lanes! With all the driving I do, I love when I see the sign "Express Lanes Open." Sometimes they reduce my trip only a few minutes, but there are days when I breeze past totally stopped traffic in the other lanes.
 
3. In the same vein I love my I-Pass which is now linked with some other states. Once they make these electronic tollway fee payment gadgets valid nationwide I'll be in soccer heaven. I can breeze through toll booths rather than dig for change and wait in long lines. Of course I have to watch out for the few I-Pass lanes that have gates, which do still exist.
 
2. Warm blankets that roll up in tiny packages. Since soccer games can be played scores of miles from home, weather won't always be as warm or cooperative as where you came from, so being prepared without having a lot of bulk to do so adds convenience to comfort. I have one blanket that is waterproof on one side and fleece on the other and fits in its own easy to carry bag. I love that blanket.
 
1. All soccer gear on sale or even better, free!   There are often tents at large tournaments with soccer gear and jerseys. I've found that vendors don't want to repack everything at the end of the tournament, so you can make some really good deals. I've become expert in digging through bins to find shorts and jerseys which usually come in only one size. I got a brand new Barcelona jersey for $20 because it was the last one and a size small. I have found socks four pairs for $10 that usually sell for $7.50 a pair. I love the bargains and make shopping for them part of my soccer week.
 
Since my chair and I have a significant relationship, I didn't include it here. I think everyone should have a chair they love and use. I donate my older chairs to other soccer families and keep two or three on hand for those times when guests come along to a game. While I really love my new chair, I was told by another mom that she had spotted the same chair with a foot rest. So my favorite chair may no longer be my true love. Call me fickle, but come on – it has a canopy AND footrest. I think anyone would trade up!
 

Pass it On

Susan Boyd

Outside in our courtyard the neighborhood kids have set up a soccer goal. It's one of those small pop-up goals that my own boys set up in the same courtyard ten years ago. Ours is now in Columbus, Ohio in the hope that it will encourage my grandsons there to be soccer players. The courtyard bears the marks the boys put on it over the years. There's still the hole in the middle of the courtyard with a soup can in it, where they attempted to create a putting green, and the rubber home plate that never got picked up and put away in the garage is now permanently frozen in the turf and well-used. The boys even went out in the courtyard this past weekend to throw around the baseball, then opted to head down to the soccer field to hit some fly balls. This weekend our subdivision pool opens for the season. And our lake serves as a fishing pond half the year and hockey rink for three winter months. It's a pretty idyllic neighborhood to tell the truth.
 
These types of opportunities aren't available to all kids. The boys have friends who grew up in Milwaukee in row houses with the nearest park too far away to be easily accessible.   My sons went to high school in the city where the neighborhood park doubled as the freshman soccer field. The boys learned early on to keep an eye on their soccer balls because they had a habit of disappearing only to reappear flying through a hoop or rolling across the field in the company of the young boys who gladly chased loose balls across the street. For two summers Robbie played in an inner-city soccer league, which was not only competitive but filled with good company. The field had more dust than grass, but was surrounded by families cheering on their children and sharing picnic items. A local shelter donated the uniforms and some of the kids played in running shoes, but everyone loved the game and participated with heart and joy.
 
Every year I collect a minimum of a locker full of used and unwanted soccer equipment both from my own boys and others. Some of the soccer boots are too far gone to pass on, but many have good life left in them. Shorts, jerseys, balls, shin guards, and keeper gloves also have plenty of life in them. All over America and the world children play soccer without the benefit of this gear. They run barefoot in vacant lots kicking a coffee can or a crate. They mark goals with trash. Yet the fun they have and the commitment they express are no less intense than players with more monetary resources. The scenario holds true for other sports as well. Kids play stick ball with cans, basketball with any ball they can find and hoops that have chain nets or are self-created with the ingenuity born of desire. And every year perfectly good sporting equipment gathers dust in garages, sheds and attics all over America.  
 
Several national organizations now collect this equipment to share with boys and girls both in the United States and around the world. Each spring I dig through the mountains of soccer gear that erupt in the garage and mudroom and assemble a box filled with well loved, but not much used equipment to donate. The task is easy, the results provide a non-lethal pathway to my car, and the rewards extend to dedicated players world-wide. It's fun too. We have pictures of a soccer team in Honduras wearing Bryce's team's old jerseys, kids in Iraq kicking around their old balls, Robbie's cleats on a boy in Mexico and an entire Guatemalan village outfitted in Wisconsin Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) t-shirts. Robbie and Bryce have both passed on cleats to the players in the inner-city league who promptly used them to beat Robbie's team! I don't really see it as charity because soccer creates a world-wide family, and families are notorious for hand-me-downs. We're just passing on to a soccer brother or sister the family belongings. 
 
There is no shortage of opportunities for families to share their equipment. Sports Gift (www.Sportsgift.org), National Alliance for Youth Sports (www.nays.org) and Peace Passers (http://peacepassers.org) all collect soccer equipment and distribute it nationally and internationally. You have to mail your equipment in, but several of the organizations will reimburse you for your shipping costs.   United States Soccer Federation sponsors the Passback program and has collection days that it coordinates through state soccer organizations. These dates are usually advertised on your state soccer association website or at www.passback.org. In addition, you can find local churches, National Guard stations, schools and colleges have their own collection sites for donations that will go to their particular charity. We have an Army friend who collects soccer balls to send to Iraq. There are organizations which allow you to sponsor an entire team so you can make it a club effort. Pick a day to collect used gear, pack it up and ship it to the organization. We kept up correspondence with the team we sponsored in Honduras, so we were able to provide gear to them for several years. They became our brother team and we shared accomplishments, stories and friendship. We fully expect to see one of those boys on the Honduran National Team come the Olympics. You can also check with your city's Parks and Recreation Department. Often they run leagues and depend on donations of equipment to keep the league members outfitted. Along with those resources, call up local shelters and city aid organizations. They may also sponsor teams and appreciate equipment donations. Like the team on the field, the larger world soccer team can pass the "ball" to other team members. It's not hard to do, and it can provide some very special extras for everyone involved.
 

Teaching Games for Understanding

Sam Snow

Recently I attended the fourth International Conference for Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) in Vancouver, Canada. Over 300 people from 26 countries were in attendance to exchange research, new ideas and to make professional connections. Some of the attendees are physical education teachers and some are coaches. All of them recognize the validity of the approach of teaching athletes how to play a sport through the use of games that get them to think and thereby have a 'feel' for the sport. We already advocate the use of game-like activities in training for soccer. We teach much of the games approach in the U.S. Soccer National Youth License course that is delivered by US Youth Soccer. Here for you then is a sampling from my notes from the conference.
 
To teach well within the method of TGfU the coach must know the topic very well. Consequently our coaches who should be able to use this method the best are the most experienced and educated ones. The experienced coach shapes the game. If it's a good game then learning will take place – observational learning. However, even relatively novice coaches can use portions of the TGfU approach in their training sessions. 
 
If a coach has any doubt about what he's doing then he'll fall back on what he already knows; his previous knowledge and experiences. These tools are usually then the command style with a drill approach to coaching. Those approaches when used predominately in soccer training tend to produce robotic players. They are technically competent, but not masterful and they are adequate tactically, but not savvy. The guided approach within the TGfU model tends to develop players who are more intuitive (tactical awareness) about their sport.
 
TGfU = Games Sense and Games Concept
 
Tactical Awareness = core principles of play, problem solving, guided discovery with a coaching method of "Don't tell me – show me."
 
What are the stages of tactical development? How do they lead to tactical awareness? It begins with physical activity which leads to intrinsic motivation so the practice environment is of huge importance. The TGfU approach produces greater intrinsic motivation over the skills based approach. Girls respond well to the task approach and boys prefer an ego orientated environment. In other words the performance versus outcome culture in sports. Part and parcel with our sports culture is the belief of many coaches that skills must come before tactics when in fact we could approach soccer from the other direction. This is the idea of developing soccer literacy with our players. Some traits of being soccer literate include playing with poise, confidence and enthusiasm. Within the concept of soccer literacy are the metacognitive processes of critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. Key goals of soccer literacy include enhancing overall performance, enjoyment, creativity and autonomy. The skills based approach to coaching soccer had focused on block practice. In the games-like approach that US Youth Soccer advocates skills practice is done in a random practice fashion. The immediate effects of practice (random or block) are similar, but long-term retention shows lasting affects with the random approach. Children report that games (random) as more stimulating than drills (block).