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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.


Coaching Clinic at Presidents Cup

Sam Snow

During the finals of the US Youth Soccer National Presidents Cup I ran a coaching clinic. Nineteen coaches signed up and the clinic was held over the last two days of the tournament. We had class presentations on Match Analysis and Game Day Management. The coaches also gave group reports on the matches they observed. Each group was given specific aspects of the matches to analyze and then report to the class. This really helped the coaches to improve their observation skills and to see a game with a different lens than as a spectator or the coach of the team.

Among other topics here are samples of the points of emphasis given to the coaches to observe in the four matches seen during the tournament.

Communication within the team –

  • Does it exist?
  • Is it effective?
  • Are key players taking responsibility?

Compactness – Does the team know how to stay together and execute defending principles in groups?

  • Horizontal
  • Vertical

Style of defending (man-to-man or zone or combination) – Do the players understand it?

How quickly does the team make the transition to defense? Are they consistent?

Describe the interaction of the coaching staff with the players before, during and after the match.

Does the team formation help or hinder this team on offense?

Do the players know and execute the principles of attack?

What variety in attack does the team display or are they locked into one method of attack?

Does the goalkeeper stay physically and verbally connected to the team throughout the match?

Discuss the keeper’s organization at free kicks and corners in the defending third.

Discuss the keeper’s choice of defensive techniques (ball skills).

Observe the keeper’s distributions.

  • Choice of technique?
  • Makes tactical sense?

Here are a few comments made by the coaches attending the clinic:

“That was a very informative and fun weekend.”

“Thanks again for a very enlightening and productive coaching clinic this weekend. This is the first coaching event I've been to and was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the program and process. I learned a lot and can put it to use immediately to be a better coach.”

“Thanks again for putting on the class, I enjoyed.”

“Thanks so much for the well organized and efficiently detailed coaching course! You do a great job of communicating!”

US Youth Soccer plans to hold similar clinics at our events in the future.  Sign up to receive the Coaching Advisor newsletter and be the first to find out when and where new clinics like this will be held.

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Superlatively Factual

Susan Boyd

Normally I wouldn’t watch it, but my nearly 15 year old grandson is visiting and he’s a fan, so we tuned into American Ninja Warrior. The subtitle was “USA vs. the World.”  Given the recent Women’s World Cup fever, the premise sounded promising. However, apparently “the world” in the Ninja Warrior universe is made up of Europe (one team) and Japan (another team). They couldn’t even muster Asia as a team. The European team had four members, two of whom were expat Americans. The contest is a series of obstacle courses over water where the teams compete in heats against one another, the clock and the treacherous obstacles.  In the background are two announcers whose sole job is to hype the drama playing out on our television screen. We are told regularly how no one has yet completed the third course, how the hand grips are just two inches deep, how much upper body strength is required and naturally how the competitor overcame a major life obstacle on his/her way to this course in Las Vegas. At the end of three courses Japan was eliminated, the irony of which was not lost on the announcers who mentioned Ninja and Japan at least 20 times in the space of two minutes, but the USA and Europe were tied leading to an unprecedented showdown. The showdown is on a mountain of steel scaffolding, dramatic lighting and strategically placed cameras. Contestants must shimmy up a rope some 20 or so stories to the apex of the industrial peak and hit a buzzer. Again, the issue of upper body strength is flogged, remarking often that rock climbers do the best at these events. This show takes up two hours on NBC, and despite the obvious athleticism of the entrants, its main purpose is hype a la arena wrestling.

When we attend sporting events we create our own build up based on our love of the game, the team and the players. We don’t need any externalized boost to our enthusiasm through embellishment of information. We understand the talent needed, the sacrifices made, the obstacles faced and the competitive context for the game. Any tension in the match is created by the events unfolding on the pitch and our own knowledge of the history surrounding the contest. However, when we watch on TV, we get an entire scenario of drama based on whatever facts, figures and stories the announcers can dredge up. We get enveloped in a cloud of statistics pulled out to further tout the tension of the game:  If she scores it will be her 100th career goal; that yellow card made him the most penalized player in the league; only seven other players have more international caps. While these facts rarely have anything to do with the outcome of the match, they are used to make it more exciting, as if that was necessary. Statistics are kept on sports as much for adding color to the game as for keeping records. Nevertheless outside of the game day pronouncements I do get intrigued about many of these superlatives. They add interesting details to my knowledge of soccer and can present some fascinating information. With my curiosity piqued by the Ninja Warrior experience, I decided to glean some of the better statistical superlatives such as most, fastest, first and oldest as they relate to soccer.

Soccer, as we play it, had a morbid start in the early 1800’s in England in Newgate prison. Thieves who had lost their hands as punishment adapted their ball playing to feet only. The game was originally called basket-ball because overturned wicker baskets served as goals. The first football club was Sheffield FC founded in 1857. The term “soccer” was actually created by the British in the 1800’s as a slang term for Association, but while the US and Canada are corrected for calling the sport soccer so too do many Pacific Ocean nations who were once under British control such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The first televised soccer game was in 1937 as a friendly between two Arsenal practice squads. The soccer ball is actually a bit oval but the pentagon pattern gives the optical illusion of a perfect sphere. There are 32 panels on a traditional soccer ball originally representing the countries of Europe. Yellow and red cards were first used in 1970, and England’s Premier League tried using teal cards in 1994-98 to indicate possible fouls to be reviewed by instant replay. A soccer field is called a pitch because it was built with a five percent incline from one baseline to the other so teams play uphill for half the game.  In 1872 the first international match was played between England and Scotland. The first World Cup was played in 1930. Worst miss would probably be when five Viera FC players shot on goal within eight seconds and all missed. Their shots were foiled only once by the keeper; the rest bounced off the side net, the upright, the crossbar and over the net. All shots were made within three yards of the goal mouth. The average professional soccer player will run between six and nine miles during a match and use over 100 different joint and muscles movements.

Players have their share of amazing statistics. Asmir Begovic, goalkeeper for Stoke City F.C., is credited with the longest soccer goal of 91.9 meters when he sent a drop kick down the pitch 12 seconds after kick-off. It hit the ground, bounced over a defender and the opposing goalkeeper and landed square in the back of the net. Nawaf Al Abed is generally recognized as scoring the fastest goal in two seconds, although the game was ultimately disqualified due to ineligible players. Two seconds was also all it took for the fastest red card ever issued when Lee Todd colorfully remarked about the loudness of the opening whistle. US Youth Soccer alum Carli Lloyd scored the first and only hat trick during a Women’s World Cup final. Seven players have scored more than 10 goals in Men’s World Cup competition with German Miroslav Klose holding the record at 16. For the women, Marta from Brazil has 15 with US Youth Soccer alum Abby Wambach close behind at 14.  Two women players have appeared in six World Cups:  Brazil’s Formiga and Japan’s Homare Sawa. On the men’s side the top number is five World Cups held by Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal and German’s Lothar Matthaus who also has played the most WC games. Pele’ had an amazingly efficient goal-scoring ability recording 1,279 goals in 1,363 games or achieving a 94% scoring average. German soccer player Mesut Ozil donated his 300,000 Euro World Cup winnings to provide surgeries for 23 children in Brazil. Giving John Kerry a run for his money, Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast and Chelsea FC brokered a cease fire ending a five year civil war in his country. Discounting 18 month old Baerke Van der Meji signing a 10 year contract with VVV Venlo FC of the Netherlands, the youngest professional player to actually have minutes is Bolivian Mauricio Baldivieso who in 2009 entered a game between Aurora and La Paz in the 39th minute 3 days shy of his 13th birthday. Freddy Adu attracted attention when he was 12, but had to wait until his 14th birthday to sign with DC United. The most violent player might be a subjective choice, however when combining the lists of most cautioned, most ejected and most sanctioned, three players fall at the top end of each list:  Roy Keane, Eric Cantona (who actually fly-kicked a fan in the stands), and Patrick Viera. Honorable mentions have to go to Zinedine Zidane, who is the most penalized player in World Cup history, and famously head-butted a player to earn one of those penalties, and Luis Suarez, who sank his incisors into three players between 2010 and 2014. The male player with the longest career was Yorghos Kudas of Greece who played for 27 years. His female counterpart was Lily Parr of England who played nearly 31 years between 1920 and 1951. A more contemporary example and in second place is Kristine Lilly of the US who played 23 years. The oldest professional soccer player was Neil McBane who made his last appearance in a game at age 51.  The longevity of players proves that training well can extend a career.            

Although these facts have less to do with understanding soccer and more to do with adding detail to what we watch as well as giving us a leg up in trivia, it’s still significant for fans of the game to appreciate the extremes within which normal play and players exist. Many of the major impressive superlatives have been achieved by players of little notoriety otherwise who simply worked daily to better their game and lift up their team.  When teams achieve it comes from group efforts which may include a few superlative moments, but generally rely solely on good, solid performances. Best, worst, most, least, oldest and youngest will always be in flux. Despite being categorized as the ultimate they will surely be surpassed. We can enjoy these facts for the moment, chuckle at many of them, gasp at some and then be assured that these anomalies don’t define soccer play. Besides something newer, better, and bolder will tweak our emotions again. That’s the best that can be said for any trivia.


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The Biggest Stage

Susan Boyd

First off, congratulations to the U.S. Women’s National Team for its World Cup Victory last Sunday. It was an historic win in an exciting competition. Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick, the first ever in a Women’s World Cup final. It also avenged the penalty kick loss four years ago to Japan with this year’s decisive 5-2 win. And the U.S. managed to score four goals before the 20-minute mark. Hope Solo only allowed three goals the entire tournament with 540 minutes between the first goal allowed in the first game against Australia and the second in the 27th minute of the World Cup final. Amazing! The team came to Canada to win and stayed focused on their goal. The defense shone throughout the month. The real test was supposed to be Germany in the semis, but after a foul in the box, the U.S. scored the PK and never looked back. Even England rallied against Germany in the 119th minute of overtime to score and beat the Germans in the consolation game. The tournament awarded fans with spectacular play, a couple major upsets such as Australia beating Brazil 1-0, and examples of true determination. We have to wait another four years for the next Women’s World Cup in France, but there are plenty of opportunities to watch the women of the world play again, especially in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

World-class soccer gives our youth players not only something to strive toward but an important validation of their own choices. As more and more U.S. broadcast channels, announcers, and fans embrace soccer, players can take great pride in being a part of that movement. They also realize they play a sport which dominates the world stage in a way no other American sport does. Just for fun I entered the word “soccer” on my TV provider’s search engine and for the next week there are 279 opportunities to watch soccer games, and this is a slow soccer month. Once September arrives there are a myriad of international games that can be viewed, not to mention the beginning of men’s and women’s college soccer and the last third of the MLS season and then their championship playoffs. The broad spectrum of channels carrying matches mirrors the international nature of the sport: Bein (Middle East), GOL (Spanish Language), Telemundo and Univision (Mexico), Sky Sport (Europe), Setanta (Italy), and U.S. national and local sports stations such as ESPN and Fox Sports. Fans can watch English, Scottish, Italian, French, German, Japanese, Argentine, Columbian, Mexican, and Canadian soccer matches regularly along with our American matches including MLS, college, and even local high school. Youth players can and should be part of this international community because it opens up the competition to aspects greater than wins and losses such as the politics and culture of the nations involved.

Despite the recent problems facing FIFA, there is one area where the organization has truly benefitted the sport. FIFA established rules for soccer that cross all boundaries and equalize all playing options. The penalties our players get disciplined for are the same ones a child in Ghana or South Korea would receive. By standardizing the rules for the entire globe, FIFA has insured that soccer can be played anywhere by anyone in the same format and fair play. Further, by governing the sport since 1904 FIFA provides an impartial and regulated arena to air and resolve disputes. Players and teams who want to play internationally need to adhere to these rules and this oversight. It may seem constricting, but it is no more so than that of the NFL, NBA, or MLB. The framework provides an even playing field all around the world. Countries who can’t agree politically or religiously, all adhere to the FIFA model. It’s gratifying to see 209 nations (60 of whom were added between 1975 and 2002) all agreeing to a single set of rules and a single court of resolution. Countries actually clamor to be a part of FIFA, giving the organization tremendous power to require compliance and to do good. The only major international item unresolved is the inclusion of Israel in the Middle East confederation. Due to the internal restriction of Israel and other Arab nations which don’t allow Israel to play in Arab countries and vice versa, FIFA moved Israel to the European conference. Even that decision shows that the organization can resolve conflicts and maintain peace across the borders. FIFA even attempts to handle issues such as racism and poverty, not always in the most powerful ways, but they recognize that they can bring a universal message and use soccer to promote that message.

Since soccer is played world-wide, kids have the opportunity to travel anywhere to play. Soccer is a conduit to discovering new cultures, spectacular architecture, and political differences. There are a variety of organizations that offer various tours based on soccer but not necessarily exclusively for just training in or playing soccer. The exciting part of going anywhere in the world is that soccer becomes a universal language. One of my favorite documentaries which has a companion book is Pelada which chronicles the journeys of four 20-something soccer players. They brought their play to different countries across a wide spectrum of socio-economic conditions. The film details how quickly kicking a ball around on a patch of grass or a city center fountain square could draw a group of players. Although the four travelers often didn’t speak a word of the country’s language, they communicated with the citizens through a shared love of soccer. In Jerusalem they organized a game among Arabs and Jews that transcended politics and resulted in a joyous afternoon of laughter and happy competition. They played in the slums of Nairobi where the same exuberance emanated on the pitch as was seen in the wealthiest suburbs of Dubai. Youth players, if they can, should venture out into the wide soccer world to test their abilities, to learn the various tactics played in different nations, and to share a passion with strangers who become friends.

Recognizing the extensive net soccer casts in the world gives young players a wider perspective on the power of the sport. Dozens of international and continental competitions are played out every year with the granddaddies being the Men’s and Women’s World Cups and the Olympics. Right now through July 26 the CONCACAF Men’s Gold Cup is being played in the United States. This competition brings together national teams from North America and the Caribbean. With three years to go before the 2018 Men’s World Cup in Russia teams are jockeying for bids. The Gold Cup performances will factor into who earns enough points to make the World Cup list. Therefore these games will be hotly contested with the best players each nation can bring to the pitch and thus a great representation of international soccer. CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, recently completed their continental competition which had many of the games televised in the United States. On August 2nd, Arsenal will meet Chelsea in the FA Community Shield game which is held annually between the winner of the FA Cup (Arsenal) and the first place team in the Premier League for the previous year (Chelsea). This is akin to our Super Bowl and will be broadcast in America on Fox Soccer 1.

Letting youth players step onto the large international stage that defines soccer gives them not only some goals to shoot for but also an entry to the global community. Soccer can encourage players to learn other languages, travel to exotic locations, or study up on the history of a country. Often during international games, the commentators will highlight some of the struggles of the individual players or the team’s country which might inspire kids to research more of the details. Understanding that soccer crosses borders means understanding that borders don’t need to limit us. Kids can celebrate their athletic choice anywhere in the world and know that they will be joined by scores of other youth players. The soccer community can be very small and personal when kids play with their friends but can expand to include us in a larger world. We can be included by watching international competitions or by actually traveling to another country to play. When Robbie went to Kenya for a study abroad program he engaged groups of kids, most of them orphans suffering from extreme poverty, in games of soccer. The fields were rocky, overgrown, and without lines or goals. Yet he could connect with them through the sport and ultimately help to educate them about public health issues once they trusted him as a fellow player. That’s the power of soccer – to bring us together transcending borders.

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Receation Programming

Sam Snow

My friend and colleague Julio Paiz is the Director of Coaching for the Louisiana Fire in Kenner.  The club is in the process of hiring an administrator for the club’s large recreational program. He and I exchange some ideas on points to help standardize a recreational program in today’s soccer club. Here are the points that I made:

If I were undertaking such a project I would consider these points:

1.    All players, coaches and team managers must register centrally with the club

2.    All teams must use the club colors and name

3.    All team equipment must be ordered through the club

4.    At least 50% of a team roster will be scrambled annually to keep coaches from building up “dynasties”

5.    All adult personnel with the recreational teams must undergo a background check

6.    All adult team personnel must pass the CDC concussion course

a.    Heads Up: Concussion in Sports Intro Course - To learn more about concussions take the CDC’s FREE "Heads Up! Online Training for Youth Sports Coaches." This training will help you with a basic understanding of concussion.  Simply go online and take the self-guided training. Once you complete the training and quiz, you can print out a certificate, making it easy to show your league or school that you have completed this intro course offered by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and US Youth Soccer.

7.    All coaches must hold the “F” license at a minimum and they must do so within 48 hours of being named a team coach (the course is 2 hours long and entirely online) -

8.    All Zone 1 age groups must play in accordance with the small-sided games mandate from U.S. Soccer

9.    All players of every age group must be recorded by the U.S. Soccer mandate of birth year registration

10. All parents of the players will be required to take a brief on-line clinic and supply the certificate to their team manager or coach

a.    Parents’ Guide and Introduction to Youth Soccer - The guide is designed to assist parents new to the game of soccer in growing the spirit without limiting the child. Chapters cover information from the basics of youth soccer and making a positive impact on children to roles of coaches and referees to lending support to your child.

11. Team managers and coaches will be encouraged to show the Positive Parenting DVD at their initial team meeting:

12. So that they can appropriate guide their child’s sport nutrition habits the parents will be encouraged to take the free on-line clinic:

a.    Coaching Healthy Habits - Did you know that there are three simple things you can do to help your players stay healthy and perform their best? Learn how you can encourage players to Drink Right, Move More and Snack Smart in the Coaching Healthy Habits course, developed by US Youth Soccer and Healthy Kids Out of School. In two brief chapters, you’ll learn about basic nutrition and physical activity for young athletes and find practical tips to implement these healthy principles at your trainings and matches.

13. Coaches will be asked to sign up for the free e-newsletter: Coaching Advisor

14. Players and coaches will be asked to watch the skills videos:

15. All parents and any novice coaches will be guided to use the Pocket Guide:

Here’s the job description and duties from Coach Paiz:

Louisiana Fire Soccer Club

Title: Louisiana Fire Recreational Coordinator

The position of Recreational Program Director serves as an important role within the Louisiana Fire Soccer Club to support, stabilize and strengthen our recreational soccer program consisting of 800 players and 100 volunteer coaches as well as promote the program in our community in accordance with our club mission.

Key Responsibilities:


  • To manage the administrative aspects of the Recreational Program.
  • Ensure that all policies of Louisiana Fire Soccer Club are adhered to and enforced.
  • Responds on a timely basis to calls and inquiries related to the Recreational Program.
  • Work with DOCs in updating and maintaining the “Rules and Regulations” for recreational program.
  • To educate parents on program goals, objectives, strategies and related details through appropriate channels to ensure the highest quality soccer experience possible for recreational program participants and their family members.
  • Player Retention: Responsible for tracking player retention and success including identifying talented players and ensure that players are provided with the best possible instruction and support to encourage respect for the sport of soccer. 
  • Plan, organize and direct the set-up of player seasonal registration.
  • Work with DOCs in creating a strategic marketing plan to target the growth of the Sparks, U6 & U8 programs.
  • Create a calendar year timeline for all recreational activities.
  • Prepares and posts content and other relevant information on the club website in a timely manner.
  • Create an online resource library, including age appropriate training activities and plans, to assist volunteer coaches and encourage meaningful instruction at team events throughout the season.
  • Maintains a database of coaches actively engaged in the club as well as prospective coaches eager to participate in the recreational program.
  • Create and maintain all club manuals relating to recreational teams.
  • Work with DOC in managing age group directors in order to ensure the highest quality of training services available to the target audience in the Recreational program.
  • Work with DOC in organizing and chair quarterly Recreational Meetings with age group directors.
  • Work with DOC and age group directors to identify, recruit, train, schedule and monitor the performance of all volunteer coaches and assistants.
  • Work with DOC and age group coordinators in scheduling, organizing and developing pre-season coaching clinics for recreational volunteer coaches.  
  • Work with age group directors to ensure that all volunteer coaches complete a background check.
  • Work with DOC in organizing end of the year Festival and other identified events.
  • Work with age group directors in providing an end of season evaluation for volunteer recreational coaches.
  • Work with age group directors in collecting a grade for each individual player at the end of the season (e.g., 1-very good, 2- good, 3- need improvement).
  • Assist in the ongoing evolution, implementation and evaluation of youth referee program by providing support to the referee assignor in planning and conducting programs for youth referee training and development.
  • Plan, organize and direct a school clinics program (Should include 20 school visits a year).
  • Create a quarterly newsletter for the club.  It should include recreational, YDP and competitive content.
  • Build working relationships with key constituents within the club and state and national soccer coaching communities. 
  • Participate in local and regional soccer educator seminars, workshops and professional development opportunities.


My questions to the reader are:

  1. What points do you think should be considered as a club works to standardize its recreational programming?
  2. What should be the duties of the administrator in the club charged with overseeing the recreational program?

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