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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.

 

Possession Plus

Sam Snow

Possession Plus

Possession is always a highly valued topic for soccer practices and keeping possession certainly helps a team at many points in a game. However if we focus on possession alone without directional possession, we fail to optimally prepare our players for the game.

When participating in a 360 degree possession game a player can quickly find the most immediate or closest option in any direction and, thus, do not need to look forward or far or prepare their body as they would do so if needing to go forward. A player’s approach to the ball, hip positioning, pre-reception scanning, and first touch are all different when playing 360 degrees versus playing directionally. There clearly are times players need not go forward in the game and simply maintaining possession to make a defense chase is exactly what a team wants to do. If only practicing this a team will not have the necessary skills when they do need to go forward (or the time presents itself to do so) and attack the goal. Speed of play always becomes a larger variable when playing directionally as space becomes smaller and defenses become more compact than they could in a 360 degree game. True, a defense would try to restrict space and time in a pure possession game, however the reality of a specific area of the field or goal being the target provides a different challenge that requires skill building.

The skill of a penetration pass or dribble is not always needed in a 360 degree possession and often players are given touch restrictions preventing them from dribbling. Providing such freedom and presenting situations that create these demands are hugely important in developing creative attacking players.

As I have recently transitioned from spending many years directing youth clubs and a state to spending more time coaching college players the points above have risen to the top of my thoughts repeatedly. Strong players I coach have great difficulty adjusting to playing sideways-on and taking peeks forward before receiving every ball. Proactive attacking first touches need to be coaxed out of them very often. We spend weeks and, often, over a season breaking habits formed over past years when these players were not forced to play directionally often or at all other than in games. Once my players have learned to do so, they become much more impactful, more dangerous attackers. First, we work on mechanics of doing so. Then, we work on decision making when given the options such early preparation allows. Makes me wonder how much more expansive their skill and creativity could be had they done these things regularly when 13 or 14 years old and following.

Mike Singleton
Head Men’s Soccer Coach
Washington and Lee University

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Experience in Barcelona

Sam Snow

Recently I had the pleasure to go on a soccer tour in Barcelona, Spain. The tour was arranged through Premier International Tours. There were 36 coaches on the tour. Those coaches came from youth soccer clubs from all across America. Specifically on the tour with me from US Youth Soccer were Dr. Tom Turner, technical director for Ohio Youth Soccer - North, national instructor for U.S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer and the chair of the US Youth Soccer technical committee, Coach Ian Mulliner, technical director for Mass Youth Soccer and a member of the US Youth Soccer technical committee as well as a national instructor for U.S. Soccer and US Youth Soccer and the most noteworthy, Coach Nick Zlatar. Coach Zlatar’s credentials and experiences comprise a long list. Most recently he received the US Youth Soccer Excellence in Youth Coaching Education Award, "The Dr. Thomas Fleck Award". (http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/workshop/fleck/)

Here are the highlights of our activities during the tour.

Program Barcelona Coaches Tour 2017 

PIT1

 

Friday, February 3rd

11.00 hours Arrive at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat, Home of RCD Espanyol for a Youth coaching and development seminar with RCD Academy Staff

14.30 hours Arrive at the Nou Camp, Home of FC Barcelona for a Stadium Tour

15.45 hours Transfer to the offices of FCB Jugadors (Past players Association) for presentations by the Jugadors Ramon Alfonseda and the FCB Escola, Isaac Guerrero.

Saturday, February 4th

10.00 hours Arrive at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper (training complex FC Barcelona). Attend FCB (youth) Matches. Our group will be met by Pere Gratacos – Head of International Relations of FC Barcelona.

Program Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper:

10.15 FCB Boys Alevi “C” vs. FC Cornella ‘D’

10.30 FCB Girls Alevi/Benjamin vs. Manuel Lanzarote

12.00 FCB Boys “B” Cadete vs. Vilanova

FCB Girls Infantil/ Alevi vs. Vilafranca

14.00 hours Depart for the Nou Camp

16.00 hours Visit pro game FC Barcelona vs. Atletico Club de Bilbao

Sunday February 5th

Program Ciutat Esportiva Dani Jarque:

10.00 hours Arrive at RCD Espanyol’s Dani Jarque Training complex

10.00 hours RCDE Boys Juvenil “B” vs. FC Barcelona “B”

RCDE Girls Infantil/ Alevi vs. Fontsanta Fatjo

12.00 hours RCDE Boys Juvenil “A” vs. Sabadell ‘A’

13.00 hours RCDE Girls Alevi/Benjamin vs. Martinenc

16.00 hours Arrive at Hotel for a Video Analysis seminar with Xavi Guila, Technical Director of Analysis for FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City

PIT2

Tour Summary

http://www.premierinternationaltours.com/single-post/2017/02/12/Barcelona-Soccer-Coaches-Trip-2017

In addition to being a first rate professional coach Dr. Turner is an accomplished amateur photographer. Here is a slide show that he created showing our experiences during our whirlwind tour of Barcelona: https://www.dropbox.com/s/n9b7jg85xvp7i6e/Barcelona 4.3 2017.zip?dl=0

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Precious Moments

Sam Snow

Casey Mann, Executive Director of Nebraska State Soccer, shares his thoughts in this week's Coaches Blog:

Youth sports is nuts. Youth sports is out of control. Crazy parents, Obsessed Coaches, and a whole lot of innocent kids simply along for the ride. Dare you try to work in this culture, to administer in it, and to navigate your way through its volatile landscape, and you quickly become forced to build an emotional shell around you in order to survive. Soon nothing excites you, and nothing surprises you. You just keep plugging away, day after day.

Yet every so often, youth sports can remind you of the power and beauty playing games has on all of us, and to do so in a way that stops the crazy and whacked out win-at-all-costs culture dead in its tracks.

My son’s team was short players, so they asked him to play in goal. I was a goalkeeper and my son enjoys goofing around in the back yard every once in a while pretending to be a goalkeeper, but his interest has never gone beyond Butler Avenue. So when coach emailed, he reluctantly said yes. My son is a nervous-nanny as it is, and so the minute he hit “send” and accepted the role, his anxiety exploded. “Is Tayte going to be there? Will I have any defenders? I’m scared!” … and topped all off by the answer he was so fearfully dreading most of all …. “Who do we play?”  St. Wenceslaus. “St. Wenceslaus? They are 8th graders, they are huge!”

Yet, his interest in trying to play goalkeeper “for-real” was evident too, as I went to jump in the car and he was already in his (his dad’s) goalkeeper jersey, with gloves on, spitting and dumping water on the gloves to get them sticky and ready.

I am sure it was an eternity for him until the match kicked off, but when it finally did, it was neat as a father to see his soon look the part of something I used to be. After the mandatory pics texted to family, the game got underway. I will admit that I was prepared for anything, mistakes, confusion, some good and some bad. So when the first attempt on him in the game was a breakaway and he came sliding out in a collision and stuffed it, I was excitedly amused. Not two minutes later, he made a wonderful save on a set piece. Good enough for the coach of the other team to shout, twice, “Nice save keeper.”

At this point, my emotions and interest went from semi-detached and disconnect to hopeful and curious. I went in to the match hoping to sneak in a few moments to read in the car, to not wanting to miss a moment. I wasn’t competitive for him, just excited and engaged and all of a sudden things mattered. There was hope. There were possibilities. I am sure there was a little voice somewhere in my head whispering “Who knows, maybe with a little training…?”

I tried to be reasonable and put things in context. This was a rec soccer game, it was one half of play, and there was a long way between this moment and stardom, but when we are not careful, it is in these moments that we as parents start to project our own emotions, visions, and ideas onto our children’s games. That little voice gets a bit louder, a bit more decisive, and because it is shrouded in the best of intentions, we take that voice as a good thing. Who doesn’t want their child to be successful, to be a star, to succeed?

But here’s where, if we just let it, youth sports can show us that the games are not meant for us as parents to project our visions onto it, but for us cherish and embrace the lessons it gives all if us. The game is wonderful, whether that be baseball, soccer, or football, but the game is wonderful because it is simply the framework for everything else in life. Teamwork, competitiveness, adversity. It’s all there. We can’t control it, but we can learn from it.

And so for son and father, the second half began. A few saves, a few crosses, and my son seemed to be on his way to a shutout in his first match as a goalkeeper. He was all over the place. And as he would come sliding out for a save on a cross, block a shot, or punt the ball downfield, my hopes began to slowly replace my earlier indifference. And then it happened. The moment I won’t soon forget and will forever be thankful for.

With about 2 minutes to go the other team took a decent but routine shot that sailed at Keagan. Seemingly in position, the ball slipped through his hands and into the goal. His team lost 1-0. For a kid who was hesitant about playing in goal, and only sometimes loves the sport, there was still a part of me that knew this was an important moment for him.

In a moment frozen in time for me, he was smiling as he walked off the field and once into the car … started bawling, and all the while, I was loving every minute of this. Not the anguish my son was in, but the moment to be there for him, to connect, to tell him stories of when I made mistakes and dropped balls for goals. For all the dreams, hopes, and futures that youth sports focuses on, this moment with my son was real, it was here and now, it was raw, and it was true. For all the drama I deal with, for all in this business that forces me to put up a shell, this small moment cracked it wide open again.

I am so thankful for it, thankful for a mistake, for a loss, because it gave me a moment with my son to connect. It was what sports are supposed to do. It allowed me to be dad, to support, and to be there for him in HIS moment, and use my past to TEACH him. There was no PROJECTING anything on him, no futures, no glories, just a dad and son in a tough but true moment, a moment we will both be better for and may never have gotten to had he caught the ball.

If youth sports are a fast track highway to some glorified future, I am glad for the moments on the off-ramp where things slow down and you can enjoy life with your child.

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Player Development - General Tactics

Sam Snow

I encourage all coaches to take advantage of the free documents and newsletters on the US Youth Soccer website. Here then is an excerpt from the US Youth Soccer Player Development Model – Spatial Awareness.

Tactics in General

Tactics may be defined as the art of planned and rational play, adjusted to meet game situations in the best way possible. Tactical awareness, to some extent, is a matter of talent (mental and physical); it can be developed to a considerable degree by suitable activities, coaching and age appropriate training.

A player’s tactical ability and experience can be judged by the extent to which the player can use both practical and theoretical knowledge in match play. Tactical experience is relative to age, individual characteristics and the soccer environment in which a player grows.

As players grow through the zones in the player development pyramid they internalize game concepts. Understanding soccer has a lot to do with recognizing and using space on the field, whether attacking or defending. Tactical examples are given throughout the document of how players can learn to utilize space on the field. Using space on the field requires intelligent movement and positioning. It is said that 98% of the game at the top level is spent without the ball -- various ‘locomotor’ movements, etc. Off-the-ball movement is at the heart of quality soccer.

Soccer players need to learn when to run and when to not run. There are times when it is tactically correct to not run. They also need to learn at what angle to run. Far too many American players run constantly in straight lines on the field. Coaches must teach players when to make straight runs and when to make diagonal, square and bent runs. Of course these runs could be forward or backward on offense or defense.

Players must also learn about the timing of runs, when to start and when to stop. With a novice player most off-the-ball runs start too early so the player is marked up once he or she arrives in the space where he or she hopes to meet the ball. Directly incorporated to the timing of runs is the pace of the run. Recovery runs on defense are probably going to be all out. Tracking runs on defense will have to match the pace of the opponent being marked. Many, but not all, attacking runs without the ball will start off slow or at a moderate pace and then accelerate at the last moment darting past an opponent to meet the pass.

Two factors must evolve for youth players to intentionally use off-the-ball runs. Psychosocially they must grow out of the ego-centric phase. Additionally, they must mature in their ability to estimate distance and angle. Over time, these factors improve with players thus leading to the possibility of meaningful off-the-ball runs.

You can download the full document here: http://www.usyouthsoccer.org/us_youth_soccer_releases_spatial_awareness_coaching_guide/

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