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The 50/50 Blog

Note:  Opinions expressed on the US Youth Soccer Blog (web log) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the United States Youth Soccer Association (US Youth Soccer). Links on this web log to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by US Youth Soccer with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of topics and issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.

 

The 50/50 Blog: 4.1.14

Stickley

Bubble Soccer

 

 

You'll just have to watch the video and see for yourself why Bubble Soccer is super fun.

 


 

U.S. Men's National Team away jerseys

 

USA 2014 World Cup Away Kit (1)

 

U.S. Soccer officially unveiled the away kit for the U.S. Men's National Team's trip to Brazil.

 


 

Free kick goal

 

 

He's now 35 years old, but the great Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme is still making the highlight reels -- here with a free kick for Boca Juniors against archival River Plate.

 


 

Orlando City

 

OrlandoIsReady

The Orlando City Council on Monday approved the construction agreement for the future home of Orlando City SC, giving fans of the 2015 Major League Soccer expansion franchise their first glimpse of the specifics of the planned soccer-specific stadium. Read more here.

 

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Tournamentitis

Susan Boyd

How about this? We should stop holding tournaments for U-13 and younger teams that channel participants into a championship game. Why? Because the competitive nature of those “win or go home” contests doesn’t facilitate the development of young players. Additionally, consider the cost to benefit ratio. The expense of attending tournaments for young families often eats up a big percentage of any discretionary funds they may have. Shouldn’t they be able to get a full complement of games for their time, trouble and money instead of having the tournament cut short if they don’t advance?  Shouldn’t they be able to challenge themselves against a variety of skill levels? Isn’t it rather demoralizing to spend money on a hotel Saturday night knowing that your team is already out of the race but you still have to play one last meaningless game on Sunday? How does a club and a coach justify the expense and time of a tournament to players who get little to no playing time because the team wants, one might even argue needs, to win?            

Some experts contend that youth players shouldn’t participate in tournaments at all. Health professionals believe playing several intense games in the brief period of a weekend accelerates serious stress injuries. Other experts will say tournaments put the emphasis on performance rather than on development, which should be the most important factor for young players. Clubs and parents have bought into the theory that tournaments played (and by extension won) increase the club’s and the player’s worth. For the club, that can mean wooing better players for future years, and for the players, it can mean being identified by scouts. So, the popular opinion is to enter competitive tournaments early and often. In some cases, teams will play twice to triple the number of tournament games than regular league games that have an accompanying expense, both financially and physically. Many parents feel pressured to buy into the tournament mentality and actually go into debt just to support their child’s tournament play. Bob Gansler, the former U.S. Men’s National Team coach, stated that America “suffer[s] from a huge case of tournamentitis.”              

There are definitely both benefits and allure to tournaments. I remember when the boys’ teams were accepted into the Disney Soccer Showcase at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. We thought we had died and gone to youth soccer heaven, only to get there and discover that, like most tournaments, only a small percentage of the games were played at the main venue with all the other games scattered around a 25-mile radius. Nevertheless, we had fun attending games, playing against teams from all over the world, and, of course, visiting Magic Kingdom. The opportunity to play teams outside of your usual regional pool helps teams measure their development and give them targets for development. We attended a tournament in Tampa, Fla., where our U-11 team played a team from England. The boys were nervous since their image of English soccer came from watching the dexterity and power of the English Premier League. They quickly discovered that U-11 players from England aren’t necessarily any more advanced than U-11 players in the U.S. They actually won the match. It was a great experience for us and the banner the English team members gave to each player is still proudly displayed in Robbie’s room. Of course, for the British players and parents, it was an exciting trip to the U.S. made possible through soccer. Tournaments can offer families, not just players, the chance to travel to parts of the U.S., even the world, they might not usually go. It can be an enriching experience for everyone.            

Therefore, how can we address the problems of tournaments while keeping the benefits? US Youth Soccer speaks to the importance of the issue: “We believe that excessive play at competitive tournaments is detrimental to individual growth and development and can reduce long-term motivation. 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 offseason.” We might resolve these difficulties by instituting some simple boundaries.

  1. Teams younger than U-14 should not participate in more than three tournaments a year (one or two a season). 
  2. Youth teams should be allowed a larger roster so players can rest for a half or an entire game during the event.
  3. Rotating playing time should be strictly enforced for tournaments.
  4. Reduce the “competitive” pressure of tournaments by eliminating championships for U-12 and below. Do a round robin with tournament directors being careful to pair up teams from different regions and giving as many teams as possible international opponents.
  5. Limit the number of games concentrated on the days of the event. Offer a special for teams that want to come a day early. Many teams that travel a great distance have to arrive on Thursday or Friday, so they might be excited to spread games out over more days. Local teams would probably be happy to participate as opponents on a weekday afternoon.
  6. Clubs should try to only do one tournament a year requiring air fare (or a really long drive) in order to mitigate family’s expenses.
  7. Clubs should offer parents the chance to select tournaments from options the coach has gathered rather than just being told this is what is going to happen. This allows sensitivity to expense and family vacation disruptions.
  8. Guest player rules for younger teams should be relaxed through state associations. Clubs might even consider joining forces and merging two teams for a tournament, clearing this officially with their state association. If the rules don’t allow for tournament mergers, then perhaps the board should consider updating the rules.
  9. Parents should be able to opt out of tournaments without any adverse effects on their child’s position on the team. This would be easiest to implement if guest player regulations were more liberal for younger teams.
  10. Since these youth tournaments won’t be about winning, coaches have no risks and will be able to sub regularly to reduce the risk of stress injuries, fatigue and inadequate muscle recovery. The added benefits are that parents who make major financial investments in attending these tournaments will be rewarded by being able to see their child play throughout the weekend.


Tournaments are money-makers for clubs, not to mention for businesses that specifically manage competitions throughout the country. There’s very little likelihood of tourneys being cut back in the near future. However, we can do things to make tournaments part of the overall development of players rather than events adding stress to schedules, finances and health. There’s no reason for teams to be whittled down to find a champion at these young ages. Instead, tournaments should be places where teams can not only further the development of their players, but enrich their competitive experience playing unusual opponents. Teams could still be ranked based on their league performances in order tobe sure not to have blow-out games, but because the quality of any league in any region can be difficult to accurately assess, it doesn’t necessarily follow that tournament rankings will be fair and exact. Therefore, it’s most important that teams all participate in the same number of games for their fees, they don’t overdo the number of games for any particular player through the benefit of larger rosters and making frequent substitutions, and they experience a variety of teams and levels in their matches. With some creative thinking, “tournamentitis” can still be infectious without worrying about its risks.

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Coed Soccer

Sam Snow

Thoughts on coed soccer training sessions and games between club, state and national coaches…

My name is Ed Leon and I'm the Director of Coaching at NSA Premier in Illinois.  I just wanted to get your opinion on some observations I have made with coed training.

My son, a U16, and daughter, a U15 player, train once per week in a coed environment. Both teams are high level and have tremendous technical skills. Currently during the indoor season, we've been doing cross fit type training (body weight only) and then playing coed futsal. It is a controlled environment and the boys are extremely respectful and aware of the physiological differences between themselves and the girls. The teams are selected on a boy, girl, boy, girl fashion and are balanced.

My general observations:

  • The two teams are great friends and have formed close bonds.
  • I've noticed an increased speed of play with the girls when they play only girls. They are far more aggressive as well, without being reckless.
  • On the boys’ side, I've noticed the boys are willing to experiment more with their 1v1 skills, maybe because they feel they have time to do it, whereas when they play boys of their own caliber, they combine more and depend on working together as a unit. However, if they need to go 1v1, they can do it, in part because of their futsal training with the girls and keeping those technical skills sharp.
     

As we transition outdoors, hopefully, if the weather improves in Chicago, we plan to maintain the once per week coed training environment. The emphasis will be more on the 7v7 thru 11v11 topics. I hypothesize that we will continue to see similar results as we have during the indoor season, improved speed of play and technical 1v1 mastery.

I hope you can provide me with further suggestions to improve our training environment for our players.



Hi Ed,

Thanks for your note.  I think what you are doing with coed soccer is a great format.  I am sure the kids get many benefits from the training you are providing.  I am sure they learn both intrinsic (leadership, communication, etc.) as well as the more obvious extrinsic (ball skills, tactics, etc.) from each other.

As you transition to outdoor play this spring may I suggest that you follow predominately a 7v7 format as you note below, so that the sheer athleticism of the boys (speed, strength, etc.) doesn't become their solution to each tactical dilemma the girls will give them.  Occasionally though do play 11-a-side.  By keeping that format a unique experience the kids will value it more when it comes around.

Ed, I imagine there are indeed other clubs across the nation doing a similar format for coed soccer, but I've not had any reports from them. I’ve asked the 55 state association technical directors to find out from them if they have clubs doing anything along these lines.

Sam



Sam,

Thanks for taking the time to respond in a thoughtful and thorough manner. I will certainly take your advice on keeping it more on 7v7 and have the boys rely less on their physicality. I'm always curious to learn what others are doing to help our kids develop as players and people. With what I've observed with my two older kids, I started using the same format this winter with my U12 daughter and my U11 boys. Very cool stuff from soccer to socialization. I will follow that into the spring season too.

Ed Leon



Ed:

My experience here in Arkansas has been very similar to yours. I first noticed that our 11v11 adult leagues were small, and consisted almost exclusively of young men who had grown up playing the game at least past the high school level.  Our 7v7 adult leagues, on the other hand, were thriving, and featured a much better mix of men and women as well as a broader mix of playing levels. A very high percentage of our 7v7 adults never played the game until they had children of their own, so this was proof to me that we have to use small-sided games to introduce novice players to the game, regardless of their age.

As Sam pointed out, the 7v7 format does a great deal to neutralize the physical advantages that males have over females, and it shifts more of the game toward the technical and tactical aspects.  The other big benefit I've seen is that players are physically much closer to each other in 7v7, which leads to much greater social interaction than you see in 11v11.

I would differ from Sam in that I would reserve the 11v11 games for gender-specific play at the U13 and older levels.  I recall that the US Women's National Team played a series of scrimmages against the La Jolla Nomads U16 Boys back in 1999, during their training camp ahead of the 1999 Women's World Cup that they went on to win. The boys beat them comfortably (3-0, from what I remember) in those scrimmages, because they could simply kick and run past the women even though the women were tactically and technically superior. This was useful for the women to improve speed of play, but it certainly is not the kind of thing that makes much sense to do on a regular basis, because it will lead them to change the way they play (in a negative way) over time. Keep in mind that most of the '99ers grew up playing as the only girl on a boys team for significant portions of their childhood -- we lost that when the numbers grew to the point where gender-specific became possible, and I think there is a need to bring some of that integration back. The Germans currently select a few of their top girls to train with their top boys at their regional training centers (comparable to our ODP training sites across the US), so they obviously see a need for this, too.

Because of these observations, we introduced 7v7 coed divisions to our recreational leagues here in Little Rock three years ago. We still haven't convinced enough clubs to take advantage of this division, but it has been very beneficial for those teams that have participated. I have also incorporated two coed training sessions for my oldest players during our ODP Winter Training Segments, which allowed me to reduce the travel demands on some of my players while also taking advantage of the effects you've noted below. Again, I have to choose my training topics wisely for these sessions (to focus mostly on technique), but it has been well-received by the players thus far.

One final extension of this concept I'd offer is to ensure that you have your female coaches working with your boys just as much as you have male coaches working with your girls (to the extent that you have staff to do so). My ODP coaching staff is still 3/4 male, but all my women work just as many sessions with the boys as they do the girls. I've found this to be valuable for both players and coaches in their development, and it is something that I feel should be done much, much more across the country.

If you'd like another take on this idea, see Pia Sundhage's recent comments...

http://www.businessinsider.com/pia-sundhage-answer-coach-men-2014-3

Robert Parr, Director of Coaching - Arkansas State Soccer Association



Robert,

That's great feedback. I do agree with you on the introduction of coed environments; controlled of course, but coed. The more I hear, the more I'm convinced that this is the direction we need to look. As you mentioned, a key X factor for the 99ers was involvement with boys. I can really see the difference in how my daughters play due to their involvement with my older son and the boys. I guess this would be analogous to resistance training. By simple stress adaptation, you become stronger and faster.
 

You make a lot of sense with recommending small-sided as the way to go; however, if you keep the 11v11 games as a true mix of boys and girls on each team, you counter balance the impact of male vs female physiological differences. Also, as coaches, we have the power to ensure that physical strength is not the only means to beat the girls. I would suggest placing strong restrictions such as limited touches or everyone has to touch the ball before you can score, or whatever.
 

I will keep you posted on our progress and sometimes old school is the best way to move into the future. We can artificially replicate the 99ers experience. Maybe call the method, Project 99ers? Let's keep talking so we stay cutting edge.

Ed


 

I do use the co-ed training with my U14 boys and girls on a U12 field and they absolutely love it.

Steve Kehm, Technical Director – South Dakota State Soccer

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The 50/50 Blog: 3.31.14

Stickley

EA Sports 2014 FIFA World Cup

 

 

EA Sports released its developer video for its EA Sports 2014 FIFA World Cup video game spotlighting its 10 game modes. If you're more into virtual soccer than actual soccer you should pick this up. After playing, go outside and kick around a real ball!

 


 

Bundesliga goals
 

 

Sometimes you just have to take the ball on your own and smash it into the back of the net.

 


 

Start watching the MLS

 

dempbrad

Roughly half of the 23-man American roster this summer is expected to come from the United States' domestic pro league, Major League Soccer. Contrast that to 2010, when just four MLS players wore the red, white and blue for the USMNT; the rest of the team was composed of guys who played pro ball in foreign leagues. Read more here.

 


 

Tab Ramos named assistant

 

tab ramos

With a little more than two months until the World Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann has made a shakeup to his US national team coaching staff, adding Tab Ramos as an assistant and dropping longtime deputy Martin Vasquez, US Soccer announced on Sunday. Read more here.

 

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