Check out the weekly blogs

Online education from US Youth Soccer

Like our Facebook!

Check out the national tournament database


Wilson Trophy Company

Rethink your postgame drink!

Nike Strike Series

Premier International Tours

728x90 POM USYS

PCA Development Zone Resource Center

Bubba Burger


Dick's Team Sports HQ



Print Page Share

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.


Youth Awards

Sam Snow

A youth coach asks:

"I am looking for some guidance on coaching Under-9 boys’ soccer. Specifically, is it acceptable to give out player recognition/accomplishment awards to some players (i.e. sportsmanship, MVP, coaches award etc.). I was advised by one parent that soccer is a team sport and these types of awards should not be used. Can you comment on this or provide me with a reference from which I can get some advice? I would not want to use this type of player recognition if not advisable by your organization."

I think that for 8 and 9-year-old kids the focus should be on their participation in the game, growing their love of the game, making friends in the team, getting healthy exercise and learning some life skills along with soccer skills. The coaches giving recognition for good play during training sessions and after a match to individuals is fine, as opposed to a formalized awards ceremony. I also suggest that during the course of the soccer season you look for a chance to give public praise to each kid on the team.

Additionally, a private word of encouragement, recognition or praise will go a long way in building self-confidence. But, it has to be earned and sincere; no cheerleading so to speak.

If you want to have an end of the season picnic for the team and its supporters that would be the time for public recognition of group accomplishments.

Generally wait until the teenage years to give individual awards as you describe in your message, as it will then mean more to the players. They will have achieved at this age a better understanding of the award and its significance.

Comments (2)


Soccer Connects Us All

Susan Boyd

Okay, here’s the first story. Last weekend we were in Minneapolis for a National Premier Soccer League game for Robbie. After his game, we were looking for a place to eat. Our choice was to go north on the freeway or south. I said, "Let’s go south." Then I saw a sign for what I thought was a Joe’s Crab Shack and started thinking steamed Dungeness crab. I also remembered years ago going with Shane’s in-laws to a Joe’s Crab Shack and realized these were one in the same. So we took the next exit, traveled to the road the restaurant was on and kept driving. It didn’t take too long to figure out that the billboard had not been Joe’s Crab Shack, but Joe Senser’s Sports Theater, which had cruelly used the same font as Joe’s Crab Shack and also moved into its location. Bummer. So we kept driving until we seemed to run out of developed areas and decided to turn around. Nothing had looked good. But in turning around we noticed this restaurant called "The Good Earth," which served all natural, local foods. So we figured we couldn’t go wrong with natural. At the hostess desk, a young woman greeted us and asked if we had ever been there before. "No actually. We’re from Milwaukee and found this just by chance." She smiled broadly, "I’m from Bayside." This is the community next to our suburb, so we thought that was really coincidental. But it gets better. As we were being taken to the table she asked why we were there and we said the NPSL game. "Oh, I played soccer." Turns out she played at the same club as our older son, she was a year behind him, and knew of him, many of his soccer buddies and his high school team. Then she remembered Robbie and the conversation expanded to what various players were doing, who she had lost touch with and how her college career had gone. It was amazing that a series of decisions, a serendipitous misreading of a billboard, and a choice to eat healthy led us to reconnect with one of the boys’ former soccer chums. But it also shows how prevalent these connections are for our kids who have the opportunity to travel and compete in soccer.
Here’s another story. We had gone to a tournament in the Tampa area. Since the airlines began charging a mortgage payment for every ounce of luggage you bring along, we didn’t bring our soccer chairs as it was cheaper to buy new and then donate them to a local family. So I went to the Wal-Mart to purchase some chairs for the four-day tournament. I went straight to the camping/outdoor section and was greeted by a really nice young man who directed me to the chairs. Then he asked, "Are you here for the golf tournament?" My Wisconsin accent probably indicated that I wasn’t from Florida and I was still a bit young to be a snowbird, although now that I think of it, asking if I was there for the golf probably had something to do with my age. Anyway, I answered, "No my son is playing in a soccer tournament." "Oh, where are you from?" "Wisconsin." "I used to play against a player from Wisconsin, but he played for a Chicago team." "Robbie is playing for the Chicago Magic, but he’s guest playing this weekend for his old Milwaukee team." "Robbie…Robbie Boyd?" "Yes." "Oh, I know him really well." Then he started talking about playing against him in several leagues and tournaments. They had apparently become good friends and texted and emailed each other periodically. So I went back to the hotel, collected Robbie, and the two of them spent the young man’s break at the snack bar reminiscing and having a really good time. The guy came to one of Robbie’s games and they again had a good visit with several of Robbie’s teammates along for the ride.
Third story. I was in the LA airport waiting for my flight back to Milwaukee. The flight was non-stop to Milwaukee, so the likelihood of meeting someone from our town was high, but it wasn’t like that for this story. A young man was strolling through the waiting room, sat down near me and started staring. I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered, wary or ignore it all. After a few long looks in my direction he got up and approached me. "Sorry to bother you, but are you Bryce Boyd’s mom?" I wasn’t sure how to answer, but he continued. "Last year, Bryce was a guest goalkeeper for our Atlanta team at the Disney Tournament." Robbie’s Chicago Magic team was playing there, so Bryce had put himself on a list as available to play for any team that might need extra players. This Atlanta team asked him to join them for one game since their goalkeeper would be late arriving in Orlando due to high school finals. So this kid recognized me from that one game. Amazing. He had just come down from San Francisco, where my flight home originated, and was on his way back to Atlanta. We didn’t have a lot to say to one another, but he had kind things to say about Bryce’s skill in the net and how well he had fit in with the team. So that was really nice to hear. It was also another one of those delightful coincidences.
Have I lost you already, or are you up for two more stories? Here’s one that concerns me. I was at a tournament with one of the boys or possibly both of them. I really don’t remember. I just recall this gentleman coming up to me to ask if I was Susan Boyd. Apparently he was one of my blog readers (possibly the only one and if so, I’ll just say hi). He wanted to thank me for the blogs and how useful they had been as he navigated the labyrinth of soccer rules, frustrations and triumphs. He certainly made my day. As a reader from a completely different geographic area, I felt a bit omnipotent in being able to reach across the miles. On the other hand, my kids do that fifty times a day through Facebook and Twitter, so I shouldn’t get too full of myself. Still, knowing that someone likes what I do and takes the initiative to approach me gives me a small modicum of pleasure.
Finally…yes the last story. We were driving Robbie and his stuff cross-country to the University of California Santa Barbara for his freshman year. It was a crowded trip with lots of miles covered each day. We had made it to Omaha the night before and we were planning to stop west of Denver in Utah that night. We got to the Stapleton Airport exit at lunchtime, and we figured there should be several choices for restaurants. We decided on Chili’s. As we started our lunch, a family walked in and was seated two booths behind us. After about 10 minutes we heard someone say, "Hey Robbie, Robbie Boyd." Robbie looked up, smiled and said, "Hey dude." He got up and walked over to their table. They had a long conversation until their order arrived, when Robbie returned to our table. "Did you play against that kid?" I asked. I assumed he played for Colorado Rapids Youth team or Colorado Rush. "No, that’s Kevin from Marquette High." Turns out his family had a condo in Aspen, had just gotten off the plane and had stopped for lunch before driving west. So, someone from Milwaukee took a flight, arrived just at lunchtime, drove to the same collection of restaurants, and then chose the same restaurant we had after driving two days from Milwaukee to Denver. And the son played high school soccer at the same school Robbie attended. Kismet I guess.
The moral of these stories, if moral is the right word, seems to be that soccer isn’t just a game, it’s an experience that has tendrils curling out from our kids across the country to others who play soccer, connecting us. If you can afford it, and your kids have the desire to do it, encourage your soccer team to participate in nationwide tournaments or even joining a team that plays league games against teams from all over the U.S. Friendships grow from having soccer as a common base. Both Robbie and Bryce have played against kids that they run into in other soccer events, including tournaments, regional and national leagues, and college. They were lucky enough to attend a Jesuit high school that belongs to Jesuit HS league of four schools that rotated hosting a yearly competition. The schools were from Denver, Kansas City, Washington D.C., and Milwaukee. Their high school also traveled to at least one non-state tournament in places like Indianapolis and Sacramento. Those opportunities gave them the chance to play against some of the top college recruitment talent and to test their abilities. That was significant. But I think even more substantial were the connections and friendships that formed from a common respect for one another’s talents. When I think of these stories that show out-of-the-blue run-ins, I think how many other connections we missed when the moments didn’t intersect. If these few experiences are any indication, there have to have been dozens of others that were close but not close enough. I cherish these contacts because they are the ties that bind us all. As huge as America is, there’s still an intimacy that allows us to have shared moments based on shared experiences. Some of these moments are with strangers as would be the case when we witness an event together, but some are with distant friends that we end up running into — making us all part of the soccer family.

Comments (1)


Practicing at Home

Sam Snow

My 10-year old son plays soccer and loves to play and go to the team practices. He is in good programs with good coaches, but he doesn't want to practice between team practices and work on things the coaches have given him to improve on. When I do get him to practice at home, and point out that he isn't doing what his coaches have taught him and we end up arguing.
Am I expecting too much from a 10 year old?
When he does practice, should I just let him practice the wrong way, as long as he is practicing, and let his coaches worry about getting him to improve?
- a concerned parent
There are a few important factors in this scenario to consider.  The most important one is the child’s self-motivation.  For an athlete to become top class in any sport requires a lot of drive and determination.  That must come from within.  No one else can put those emotions into the player, only he or she can produce those qualities.  However, the right soccer environment can inspire those emotions to grow in a young player.  Coaches, teammates and parents should inspire young players to practice and play more on their own.  Yes, parents could force the issue and make a young player put in extra practice, but the results will fall short of the results that come from the player deciding on his or her own to put in the same extra time with the ball.
If the coach has given players soccer homework then by all means parents should remind their child to do that assigned practice.  Fundamentally approach it as you do with the child’s academic homework.  Specifically to the question of if he does practice but he’s doing it wrong the answer is yes.  If the child asks for assistance then help out, otherwise let him or her practice on their own.  If technique mistakes are being made then the coach can help the player to correct them at the team training sessions.  The most important point is the child’s decision to get out on his or her own to play the game and practice ball skills.  That’s when parents give praise!

Comments (0)


The Pause that Refreshes

Susan Boyd

Summer came officially on June 21. I know some of you have been under the heat canopy for several weeks already and others, like we Wisconsinites, have been anxiously awaiting some summertime weather. No matter your temperate zone, there’s no denying that summer brings concerns about our kids and their hydration. As the thermometer rises and exercise continues, kids can lose vital water, electrolytes and protein while at practices or during games. We parents needed to stay alert to the symptoms and effects of dehydration to prevent significant health issues. Every year hundreds of kids suffer from serious cases with some leading to the need for long-term treatment and even death. We often overlook the creeping signs of dehydration because by the time they are apparent, children are already in distress. It’s important to understand what the dangers are and how to avoid them as we set out this summer for tournaments and rigorous practices.
What exactly happens with dehydration? The body needs water to function. Many organ systems can’t operate without sufficient fluids and the electrolytes that go with them. When the body has a deficiency of water it will turn off various water depleting functions.  Kidneys shut down and therefore don’t release toxins which build up. The body quits sweating, which interrupts the natural cooling process. Muscles, including the heart, begin to cramp due to poor electrical firing. According to the web site, symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, decreased urination, lethargy, low blood pressure, rapid pulse, loss of skin elasticity and even shock. However, the most obvious sign of dehydration in young players would be cramps and dizziness. Drinking small amounts of fluid may be sufficient if you have mild dehydration. However two serious problems can arise from more advanced dehydration:  heat-exhaustion and heat-stroke.
E-medicine defines heat-exhaustion as the overheating of the body through dehydration and high external temperatures during strenuous exercise. The body temperature rises but remains below 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the body cools itself through sweating, high humidity interferes with the ability for sweat to evaporate and cool the body down. In this more extreme form of dehydration, the effects are magnified such as the fluid-deprived body going into protective mode and restricting. When lost through sweating, electrolytes, which fuel our body’s electrical needs such as the firing of our muscles including the proper beating of our heart, need to be replenished by taking in fluids. In most cases just balancing the mix of water with electrolytes already present in the body would be sufficient if we keep up with fluid loss. However, players who regularly get cramps during games are often suffering from low electrolytes or a poor ratio of fluids to electrolytes. Just as cramps are an important signal that the body is suffering from dehydration, they can be a precursor to heat-exhaustion. Look additionally for flushed skin, especially around the face and hands, disorientation, elevated body temperature and complaints of a sick stomach.
Heat-stroke is far more serious. It can occur rapidly and requires immediate medical intervention. Signs of heat-stroke include unconsciousness, convulsions, dry skin, vomiting and even diarrhea. When any of these symptoms appear adults should not hesitate to call in emergency personnel. Heat-stroke is due to the body completely shutting down the cooling system and can be further complicated by various medications and/or humidity. Since once the extreme symptoms of heat-stroke appear they can rapidly cause severe mental and physical damage including death, it’s important to address the less dangerous symptoms of dehydration as early as possible.
How do we treat heat-exhaustion?  The best treatment is prevention. We need to insist that players take hydration breaks regularly every 15 to 20 minutes during both practices and games. For the youngest players taking a break during games is easy because the half doesn’t last very long, but for older players it becomes more problematic. The standard for when games should be interrupted for hydration breaks should be temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity above 60%. Referees need to look for natural breaks such as after a goal or when a ball goes out of bounds so as not to disrupt the equality of action, but breaks do need to be taken to insure the safety of all the players.
Additionally players should have available cool wet cloths to put on the areas of their body where the blood flows close to the surface such as the wrists, temples and back of the neck. Many teams purchase two or three dozen cheap wash cloths and keep them in a cooler of water and ice near the benches. I would also suggest keeping fluids and cloths on the opposite sidelines so players can get a quick treatment without needing to run the width of the field. Remember that throwing drink bottles on the field is not allowed, so players have to come over to the sidelines to retrieve them. Same holds for the cloths. I’ll cover the various options to provide for hydration in a moment. If a player exhibits signs of heat-exhaustion he or she should be pulled out of the game and allowed to rejuvenate before returning to play. This also gives adults a chance to detect if heat-stroke is possible. The sooner heat-stroke is dealt with the more likely it won’t have adverse effects.
How do we treat heat-stroke?  If a player exhibits any of the signs of heat-stroke, he or she needs immediate medical care. Drinking down eight ounces of water isn’t going to resolve the issue. These players need IVs, watchful care and treatment by EMTs and physicians. Again, the methods used to prevent heat-exhaustion can also prevent heat-stroke, but if the temperatures are very high over 90 degrees with high humidity over 60% then players need to be rotated often during practices and games. Every 15 minutes a fourth of the players need to take a break and replace the next group coming out 15 minutes later. Shade is essential, so teams should consider investing in a 10’ X 10’ awning that would be available during practices and travel with the team to games and tournaments. There are water bottle fans which spray water through the blades of a cooling fan that can be quite helpful in lowering body temperature and providing the cooling skin effect that sweat should be accomplishing. In no case in the face of the serious symptoms of heat-stroke should the adults hesitate in getting medical attention. Better to err on the side of treatment since once heat-stroke sets in players can go from very healthy to serious health risk in merely a few minutes. We have read the stories of kids who suddenly dropped to the ground, convulsed and died. While rare, it happens often enough to warrant our attention. We can help insure that players never get to this point with these important steps of fluids, cooling and enforced rest in shade.
What fluids should we use?  For most young players water is sufficient. They don’t play hard enough and long enough for extended electrolyte loss, but they can still get dehydrated leading to cramps and general wooziness. Water can also be flavored, although we need to read the labels and be sure the water has less than 10 grams of sugar. Sugar can actually cause water to be leeched into the stomach to break up the sugar molecules, increasing the symptoms of dehydration. Small amounts of sugar can be beneficial in terms of boosting energy, but pure water is overall the best option for most young players. Water is readily available, easy to transport and inexpensive if you use your own water bottles and jugs. If you feel better knowing that the water is filtered, there are great reusable bottles which included a water filter so you can safely replenish your water using the taps at the field or hotel. Brita, Rubbermaid and CamelBak all offer filtered water bottles on sites like Amazon for less than 20 dollars each, and in many cases less than 10 dollars. Keeping several of these in your soccer box in the trunk of your car insures you’ll have fresh water available and be kind to the environment.
Since many kids want to be like their favorite sport star, they want to use the product they promote. These sports drinks can provide the essential electrolytes of potassium and sodium as well as energy producing carbohydrates. But parents need to be cautious of the latter since carbohydrates can actually impair hydration, add calories to the daily diet and provide a quick burst of energy followed by a crash.  There are also sports drink drops made by Gatorade, Powerade and MiO Fit that can be added to water. These are convenient and less expensive than buying bottles of sports drinks. You can fill a child’s water bottle, reuse the water bottle and keep costs down. However, it is more difficult to control the actual dilution and amount of electrolytes. Parents also need to keep an eye on the amount of sodium their children are ingesting every day. Even though kids will sweat some out, parents still need to watch their child’s sodium intake. Gatorade Recover Shake has 540 mg of potassium which is a healthy, replenishing amount, but the amount of potassium in their other products and in other sports drinks is negligible, probably because the taste of potassium is pretty gross. Overall the sports drink vs. water controversy comes down to taste rather than which is more beneficial. If it tastes better, players will drink more. During exercise it is recommended that athletes consume four to six ounces of fluids every 15 minutes. If drinking a flavored sports drink helps a child achieve that goal, then go for it.
Another excellent hydration source but not as well-known is coconut water. Coconut water comes from young green coconuts where the water occurs naturally to nurture the endosperm during development and differs from coconut milk, which comes from brown mature coconuts and is squeezed from a mash of the nut meat. Coconut water has seen a surge in popularity as media and sports stars have embraced it as an excellent way to restore fluids and electrolytes. It is naturally high in potassium and anti-oxidants plus it has protein and a broad spectrum of vitamins while being low in sugar and fat. It provides 10 percent of the daily recommended dose of potassium, which is helpful for athletes who lose this electrolyte during activity. Vita Coco now offers juice boxes of flavored coconut water for kids. The problem with flavored coconut water is that sugar is added with the flavoring. So parents need to watch the labels. For one juice box of kid’s Vita Coco there are 8 grams of sugar which falls in the limits so long as kids don’t consume box after box. Coconut water has a salty taste due to the potassium, so most kids will not want to drink the pure form, but the flavored water should appeal to them, just as flavored sports drinks do.
All too often we take the position that something can’t happen to us. We may think it shows weakness to stop the game for fluid breaks or to rotate players out of practice, but nothing could be further from the truth. We show our strength in protecting our kids from potential harm. There isn’t a game or a practice worth endangering a child’s health when preventive measures can ensure a safe experience. We buckle our kids up in the car, hand them their helmets when they go out to bike or skateboard, teach them stranger danger, show them how to safely cross the street, take them under cover during lightning strikes and exercise other protective efforts without feeling that we have exhibited a weakness. We simply want to do our best to assure as much safety as possible. We need to do the same with hydration. It’s not that disruptive or complicated to guarantee the maximum risk-free playing environment for all our players young and old. These suggestions go for adults as well who train and referee our kids, even we parents who sit in the sun and humidity. None of us is immune from the dangers of dehydration, so all of us need to exercise the same vigilance.

Comments (0)