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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.


Sideline Performance

Sam Snow

The message below from the club executive director was brought to my attention by the chair of our risk management committee. I think it is worthwhile for youth soccer coaches and administrators to read.

Thought you'd enjoy this message by David Carton, executive director of the Discoveries Soccer Club that he sent to all of his club's membership. If we had all of our clubs taking this positive approach, our players' development would be so much more.

Bob Brantley, chair of the US Youth Soccer Risk Management Committee

Executive Director Update


I am writing this address with a great degree of disappointment.

While the players have kicked off the 2014/15 season showing great promise, our on the field performances have reached some new heights. Players are meshing well, coaches are pushing and demanding, and the balance between development and results is showing the correct synergy to allow the players and staff to arrive at the training pitch with excitement and hunger.

Unfortunately, it has been our sideline performance which has been below par. Since the start of the season, we have witnessed some of the most unpleasant, needless, and disrespectful displays of adult behavior in recent times. It is without doubt, that competitive team sports can teach kids lessons that are hard to find elsewhere; teamwork, accountability, responsibility, discipline. But none of these lessons supersede the most important lesson the game can teach us, and that is respect.

Every team I have been involved in, from Rec to Academy, from College to Pro, I try to instill three messages to each and every player, all revolving around this theme. Respect for the opposition, respect for themselves, and respect for the game.

Unfortunately, this message gets lost when a child hears his/her parent, the most important person in their lives, their supposed personification of influence and guidance, illustrating and demonstrating the kind of disrespectful behavior we have seen this season.

These developments have prompted me to address some truths listed and outlined below;

- We do not lose games because of refereeing! Football is a continuous, free-flowing game and regardless of how qualified, experienced or certified a referee is, players influence games far more than referees. In other words, when we lose we need to be accountable.

- Winning and losing is not life and death! We are all competitive, we all want to walk away victorious, but it is not the end of the world if we don't! The lessons we learn in defeat far outweigh the lessons we learn in victory. Development is a process that takes time. Look for the positives, and address the negatives as opportunities to improve. In other words, defeats are opportunities to improve, victories are opportunities to be humble.

- Asking for an opposing player to be booked/red carded is disgusting! Screaming for a referee to brandish cards to opponents lacks class and degrades us as a club. Referees are encouraged to act as educators to young players, not disciplinarians. The next time you decide to ask for a card ask yourself how you would feel if it was your child.

- Attending a game does not empower you to criticize another player! Each player is doing their best. There are many reasons for a young player to underperform, do not assume that it is from a lack of effort or talent. Ultimately, all parents want their child to have a positive experience. Do not be the negative agent for another child's experience.

- If you think you can do better, send me your resume! Sideline coaching is an epidemic that inhibits and confuses. If you feel that you can do a better job than your coach then apply for a coaching job. 

- Your child looks up to you, reflect a good example! Bellowing and screeching like banshees is not a good example. The nature of soccer is that mistakes can be immediately rectified by responding positively to setbacks. Teach your child to get on with it, and not look for someone to blame!    

Essentially, all our members need to remind themselves that they are ambassadors for our club. When you registered for Discoveries Soccer Club, you signed up to represent the values and standards that we deem acceptable. I have written before that wearing our crest is not a right, it is a privilege. It is an opportunity to continue the hard work so many others have done before us, which allows us to have such a club. A club steeped in history and tradition. A club that presents a primary purpose to represent its members with respect. There are greater lessons to learn than just drills and tactics, and these are the lessons that are more important to me than any trophy or State Cup.

To address this issue I will be scheduling a Parent Education Seminar with South Carolina Youth Soccer DOC Greg Valee in the next few weeks. I will also be arranging a Parent-Referee Seminar hosted by MLS Referee and DSC Parent Jeff Muschik. Details for these events will be released ASAP.

It is not my intention to isolate any incidents as we do not want to treat the symptom, but cure the cause. I now implore all of our members to introspectively reflect on how they feel they represent our club. Please take two minutes of your time to watch the clip below, and ask yourself...Is this me??

Thanks for taking the time for reading this message, the public perception of our club is very dear to me, and as I said in my annual address, my job is to pave a way for all players under my watch, but it is also to do so in a way that is loyal to what so many greater than me have achieved over the past 30 years of our clubs existence.  

Dave Carton, Executive Director - Discoveries Soccer Club

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The 50/50 Blog: 10.13.14


U.S. Men's National Team vs Ecuador



Watch the highlights from Friday's game against Ecuador.



FC Dallas clinches playoffs



Our neighbors across the parking lot clinched a spot in the MLS playoffs with this great put-back header by Fabian Castillo.



David Villa scores in Australia



MLS fans get ready. David Villa still has gas in the tank and score in his first appearance on loan in Australia.



Common Goals


common goals

Check out news, education articles, training tips and other content to help grow the game. Read More.



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A Line in the Turf

Susan Boyd

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a time to reflect not only on ways to battle, cure and survive breast cancer, but all types of cancer. Therefore, when NBC News did an investigative report on the possible carcinogenic effects of the black filler pellets (called crumb rubber) used in artificial turf fields, it highlighted the paucity of study on the subject. Despite amazing advancements in the detection and treatment of cancers, we actually know far too little about the direct causes. Scientists understand that it’s a complicated formula involving genetics, environmental factors, age, gender, diet, exercise, length of exposure to possible cancer agents, and lifestyle. Isolating which factors are most significant for any given cancer can prove not only daunting but confusing. Since prevention will depend on discovering the antecedents of a particular cancer, the medical community searches for answers. Right now we are better informed on treatments, which have come a long way, and some promising flags for early detection for such cancers as breast, colon, skin and blood. But we still don’t know how to actually prevent cancers from happening.

In NBC’s report, it looked at the possible link between crumb rubber pellets made from shredded tires and blood related cancers, in particular non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The original concern came from Amy Griffin, the associate head women’s soccer coach at the University of Washington. She was never aware of any players with lymphoma, but suddenly 10 years ago several soccer players she knew, and in particular goalkeepers, were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It was brought to light vividly when she accompanied one player to her chemotherapy and the nurse said, “Don’t tell me you guys are goalkeepers. You’re the fourth goalkeeper I’ve hooked up this week.” From that point forward, Griffin began to collect data on any youth players with cancer that she was aware of. Her list now stands at 38 players, 34 of whom are goalkeepers. As the mother of a goalkeeper, that fact naturally piqued my interest.

Before we throw the field out with the pellets, it’s important to know that scientists are divided on how harmful the crumbs are and if there is actually any discernable link between them and cancer in youth players. Since the formula for creating rubber tires varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, collecting data is difficult when dozens of brands mix together in the pellets. There are known carcinogens in tires such as arsenic, lead, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, but authorities argue that with the vulcanization of the tires the chemicals become inert. Even the EPA has said that their studies show no harmful effects from the pellets. Yet under direct sunlight, the rubber can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter releasing gases which lead to a concern of breathing in harmful vapors. Add that red flag to getting the pellets rubbed into open cuts and abrasions and ingesting them unintentionally, and you make the case for further scientific investigation.

I began my professional life as a scientist, so I know firsthand the seriousness and difficulty of creating reliable studies. It’s hard to isolate a factor in an environment where so many factors meet. What is the genetic history of these players? Are athletes just more prone to blood diseases given the way exercise oxygenates the blood? Which, if any, of the chemicals in recycled tires could be linked to the development of cancer? Why are goalkeepers more susceptible than field players? What about football players who spend huge portions of a game lying face down on the turf? What other conditions do these players share, for example, drinking from the same type of plastic water bottle or wearing the same keeper gloves or living close to a freeway? What length and level of exposure might lead to cancer – just once or twice or long-term intense? Then these results need to be replicated in studies by other groups to be verified as true and reliable. Finally, the results must be compared to the general population. Is there a significant difference between soccer players getting NHL and other young people getting it? These are just a few of the difficulties in ascertaining a connection between crumb rubber and cancer.

Right now there are over 11,000 turf fields in America, most of which use crumb rubber. In addition, many playgrounds employ crumb rubber around swings and slides to cushion falls. Even environmentalists are reluctant to give up on the pellets because they are seen as a win-win solution. Landfills are no longer clogged with tires that can’t biodegrade and millions of kids experience fewer injuries on playing surfaces. There are alternatives fillers such as coconut fiber and cork, but these are products which are more expensive and scarce. Nevertheless, New York City no longer builds turf fields in its parks and Los Angeles is approaching a similar ban. The issue becomes does the injury buffering of crumb rubber outweigh the possible cancers? All this concern may actually be moot, as several organizations and studies suggest. A 2006 analysis in Norway concluded that inhalation would not cause “acute harmful effects” and that oral exposure would not increase health risks. Still, the study also suggested that more investigation was appropriate. Short-term studies aren’t nearly as strong as long-term studies, which can explore effects on the developing neurological and physical conditions of young players. Unfortunately by the time such studies are complete most youth players today will be married with kids of their own.


According to St. Jude’s Hospital, nine kids out of a million under age 15 develop NHL each year. There are 81 million kids under 18 in the United States, so that translates to approximately 730 new cases per year. That’s a really small percentage. Of course if your child develops the disease, it’s 100 percent, which is why anecdotal evidence is so powerfully alarming. National five-year survival rates are over 66 percent and increasing every year. To put this all in perspective, 650 children 12 and under were killed in car accidents in 2011, and we still drive to those soccer games on turf fields. All the same we should push for more study. It’s important to discover what correlations might exist between crumb rubber and cancer, not only so we can prevent particular cancers, but so we can also develop ideas on how to unlock other cancer-environmental connections. The names Amy Griffin is collecting make an interesting and significant data base to begin the investigation. Scientists need to broaden that list with names from football (boys are three times more likely to develop NHL than girls), track and other turf field sports. They need to collect data on familial histories, diet, lifestyles and other factors. They will need to compare with the general population to see if there are statistically significant differences. All in all, it will be a long process, but any inquiry will definitely promote research’s goal of early detection and prevention of all cancers.

Childhood cancer strikes terror in any parent’s heart, so hearing a national news organization report that soccer players may be at greater risk due to their playing surface can give us pause. However, given all the data, we need to avoid an alarmist approach. While a risk may exist, consider these facts. The number of general sports injuries far outpace any NHL cases. So taking the overall incidence of sports harm to youth players, NHL has a small, albeit emotional, impact. As a parent, and a parent of a goalkeeper at that, I wouldn’t hesitate to have my kids, grandkids, neighbors, and friends play on a turf field, but I would also ask for more research, while calmly paying attention to possible warning signs of trends or symptoms. Since any cancer can appear in any child at any time, it’s not a bad idea to look out for signs of fatigue, easy bruising, swollen lymph nodes, coughing or trouble breathing, fever, night sweats, and/or weight loss. While these symptoms can indicate cancer, they can also indicate any other number of serious health issues, so following up with a physician would never be a bad idea. Childhood has lots of intrinsic dangers, and as parents we need to measure how much we will restrict our kids’ activities based on risks. In this case, I would recommend “Play on!”

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The 50/50 Blog: 10.10.14


Landon Donvoan





Landon Donovan does ODP



The first time Landon Donovan was mentioned in Soccer America -- the first of 3,313 mentions -- was in 1997, on a list of players selected to the "national pool" at the US. Youth Soccer Interregional event we still hold each Thanksgiving. Read more here.



Root for the Sounders



Everyone probably saw this but, in case you missed it, this is a great letter from the Timbers to their fans!



Goalkeeper Training


England's National team putting their goalkeepers through a vigorous reaction training exercise. 



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