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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

Comments (3)


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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Hard Hitting

Susan Boyd

The tackle made national news. Michigan quarterback Shane Morris caught a Minnesota defender’s helmet under his chin and went down flat. He didn’t move for several seconds, and when he got up he was wobbly and unable to hold himself up. Yet he stayed on the field one more play before he was pulled. Even more troubling, a few plays later there he was taking the snap. The question on every news report: How did this happen? The coach said he doesn’t wear a headset, saw Morris wave him off, and thought his stumbling was due to an earlier ankle sprain. Michigan’s athletic director blamed it on poor communication and confusion on the sidelines. Yet, everyone saw the hit, saw the aftermath, and saw Morris stagger. It was broadcast on the jumbo screen more than once, and more importantly Morris’ teammates knew how the hit had affected him. So it’s natural that many viewers and sportscasters express cynicism towards the excuses offered by staff and administrators.

In the aftermath of the national hue and cry, Michigan instituted a new policy. Instead of having a neurologist just on the sidelines, they will now have one up in the command booth. I’m not sure how a doctor two hundred feet above the field will be able to do the nuanced assessment necessary to determine if a player should be examined or not. Nevertheless it’s an acknowledgement of how serious playing an injured athlete can be. It also brings home the point that has eluded too many NCAA Division I football programs: this is only a game and the emphasis should be on the “student” part of student-athlete.

When college players began demanding to be paid a salary based on the huge profits NCAA and the colleges were making, they were reacting to an evolution in amateur sports that has gone from absolutely no endorsements, no profits, no big budgets to exactly the opposite. They felt they deserved a piece of that financial pie since it was rolled out on their backs. The unfortunate fact is that we are witnessing the reason coaches are less willing to protect their players when they feel the injury isn’t severe enough. They are under pressure to win because winning creates a deeper revenue stream and winning insures their job. It’s probably no coincidence that Michigan is at the bottom of the Big Ten conference with an 0-2 conference record and an overall 2-4 record, so the coach’s job is in jeopardy along with the program’s prestige. So sticking with a quarterback who may not be great or healthy but is better than the alternatives becomes the coach’s best option to secure a win. The players, seeing this push to preserve and grow profits, understand that they may end up with a career-ending injury in the drive for money. So they want to share in the windfalls because it may be their only chance. It becomes a vicious cycle. Schools want to protect their financial bounty, in doing so they ask young players to take risks that could eliminate them from the pros, so players want money up front and leave themselves vulnerable to serious injury, which could endanger a winning season. We see the same scenario in the pros where bonuses are based on things like consecutive games played and tough hits placing those athletes in at risk situations. The big difference is that pro players are usually over 21 and have signed monetary contracts while college players are usually still in their teens and may or may not even have a scholarship.

When Shane Morris waved off the coaches, indicating that he felt he was fine to play, he was probably motivated by two things: first, he felt he was the one who needed to lead his team even though they were down 30-7 when he got his bell rung and second, players are taught to tough it out if they want to remain starters. Coaches make it clear that mental toughness is as important as physical toughness. So injured players tend to override pain with mental fortitude and fight through the damage. The Monday following the Morris incident, Today Show viewers were asked to weigh in on the question “Who should decide if a player can continue in a game?” The results showed 64 percent said “the coach” but surprisingly 36 percent said “the player.” Letting an injured player decide if he or she is able to return to the game is like asking a drunk driver if he or she can operate a motor vehicle. Judgment is impaired by a number of factors. Finding out how much pain a player is in or whether or not they have limited movement is part of the assessment. But the decision should be solely up to a trainer or doctor, not a coach and not a player. If the medical personnel clear a player then it becomes the coach’s along with the player’s decision.

Luckily on this point, soccer and other less attended sports at NCAA schools have an advantage. There aren’t huge sums of money riding on wins. Certainly prestige is important to play for, and water polo, soccer, and lacrosse teams to name just a few of the scores of underrepresented college sports regularly play for honor and glory. However, the coaches can err to the side of safety without sacrificing any monetary benefit a win would have for the school. The plain facts are that the big business of college football and men’s basketball have laid the ground for ignoring the overall safety of those players. Several plays before his concussion, Morris got clipped on his ankle, suffering a high sprain. He spent the entire rest of the game hobbling, wincing every time he was hit. In fact, several commentators argued that he got his head battered because he could not get out of the way fast enough due to his ankle injury, and watching the play I could see a case for that. That he was still in the game after injuring his ankle so severely begs the question — how bad does an injury need to be to sideline a youth player (and I consider college players still youth)? Fans have a role in this process because we stand by our alma maters and our local colleges with a fierceness of competitive spirit that encourages athletic programs to get wins at any cost just to preserve their honor. My graduate alma mater is the University of Oregon, which has a national football reputation. My husband is a bigger fan than I am even though he never attended the school. I know how much a loss devastates him. Multiply that disfavor by a million, and you have the makings of serious pressure on the school to succeed. I really admired Chip Kelly for pulling key players off the field due to either injury or discipline even in significant games. Of course, it’s easier to do that if you keep winning, which he did due to a deep bench. Other schools aren’t so fortunate and really rely on the starters to get them through the four quarters.

Within the culture of toughing it out and winning at any price, we have to attend to the youth players and their safety. You’re not an over-protective parent when it comes to injuries that can ultimately limited an athlete’s playing life, not to mention their off-field life. It’s our job as parents to be vigilant over our kids’ health. Michigan has lots of good football in its future and hopefully Shane Morris will be a part of that success, but he can’t be if he is too beat up to continue. Despite battles for ranking, conference or league dominance, and championship contests in the end it’s got to be about the players and their safety. They can possess drive, pride, and skills that make them want to over-stretch, so it’s the job of parents, coaches, and administrators to protect their bodies and minds while giving them the wisdom to make the proper decisions once they evolve into adults. 

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Perspectives of Opposing teams

Sam Snow

As the Monty Python skit used to say, and now for something completely different.

A Tale of Two Benches on Play-Off Day

by Roy Patton

Beautiful pass, lovely curved ball, you beat two defenders,

sweeper and all

Kick him, harass him, get in his face, they’re making you run all

over the place

 Fantastic turn, your man was real tight. That’s the best move I’ve

seen all night

Chop him, trip him, somehow stop him. Don’t look at me, just

get on top of him

Great first touch, superb control. Keep it up, you’re on a roll.

Stand on his foot, tug on his shirt. Remember I showed you all

kinds of dirt

Wonderful dribble, great turn of speed. That’s the soccer that

U.S.A. needs

Get fired up! Be really intense. Hammer that ball out over the


Congratulations, you played a great game. Let’s come out next

year and do the same

We won! We won! I’m 11-0. There’s not much about soccer that

I don’t know

You are more than a coach. You’re also a friend and that’s why

we hate to see this season end

Coach, it’s over. Here is my gear. I’ll probably play football or

baseball next year

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