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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: 9.17.13

Stickley

Welcome to the '50/50 Blog'

We hope that everyone enjoys this new blog and we hope that we can share some things that are relevant and some other things that are just fun and inspirational. Here's a picture so you can get to know some of us a bit better. If you see any content you think would fit well on the blog let us know at support@usyouthsoccer.org.
 

 

Youth Soccer Month

In case you didn't know, September is Youth Soccer Month! We are giving away some great prizes and there are some great events going on during the month! Make sure you enter to win one of our daily prizes and you use this month to just enjoy the beautiful game.
 

 

Looking for New Cleats?

Nike colors
 
Stand Out in all conditions with the new hi-visibility colors from Nike Soccer! We're positive these are some of the brightest and boldest colorways that have ever been released.
 

 

Triad Elite in the News

Presidents Cup Blog
 
Triad Elite 96 (NC) finished second at the US Youth Soccer Presidents Cup in just their first year. Watch here.
 

 

Brandi Chastain: The Ultimate Super Mom!

AK-13-09-10-brandi0904
 
Access Hollywood ran a great article recently on Brandi Chastain. It's hard to believe it’s been 14 years since Brandi’s iconicWorld Cup moment! Now, 45, she’s a mother to a 7-year-old son Jaden and 23-year-old stepson Cameron with husband Jerry Smith. She’s still active on the soccer scene and wants to get kids everywhere playing. Read more about how Chastain is a super mom.
 

 

Oooops!

It's never fun to have one of those embarassing moments during a soccer game, and especially not one where you feel you have to apologize to the fans for such a poor miss! Fox Soccer shares a video of what happened with this Algerian league player. Think how you would feel if this happened to you.
 
 

 

The Feel-Good Story of the Day

Last fall, we posted a story about FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz helping someone in need by donating bone marrow. ESPN recently ran a story on E:60 about another talented young athlete who did the same thing to help a young girl halfway across the world have a chance to live.
 

 

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Leightweight Soccer Ball

Sam Snow

New in the American soccer marketplace is the availability of lightweight size 4 and 5 soccer balls.  They are the same circumference as regular soccer balls of those sizes, but not as heavy. Now that has some intriguing possibilities for youth soccer player development.

Young players whose ball skills are still primitive could use a larger ball. The larger ball has a bigger "sweet spot" and it’s easier to track its movement, especially when bouncing or in the air. These facts are especially true for the U6 and U8 age groups. The problem with them using a size 4 or 5 ball is that it’s too heavy for them to dribble for very long or shoot at the goal from far away, much less to make a pass. With that in mind we have been using a size 3 ball for the two youngest age groups in organized youth soccer.

With the lightweight ball young players could expand their ball skills at a quicker rate. Take the U10 and U12 age groups for example. With a lightweight size 5 ball they could have that larger "sweet spot" but also be able to play longer passes, shoot from farther away from the goal and make crosses to the far post. With the lightweight size 4 or 5 ball players in these two age groups could add the air game into their repertoire sooner in their developmental timeline. The lightweight ball might alleviate some children’s anxiety with receiving the ball out of the air or to head the ball. Skills such as chipping and volley shots become more realistic for the U12 player using a lightweight ball.

There may be one pitfall to the lightweight ball though. Because many players will be able to hit the ball farther it may encourage them, and some coaches, to fall deeper into the abyss of kickball style soccer. Kick-n-run soccer is not in the best interest of the American player.

Whether you use the lightweight soccer ball in just your training sessions or in your matches too, I encourage you to give the ball a try as another component of player development.

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A Little Romance

Susan Boyd

Love encompasses a myriad of emotions. Love can be devotion. Love can have an unhealthy intensity that leads to addiction or hate. Love can be a comfortable contentment. Love may be passionate. There is the love we feel for our children, which is different than the love we feel for a spouse but no less sincere. There’s a love for friends. You can love certain food, clothes and movies. We love our pets, almost to the point of the love we have for our children. There seems to be no limit to the spectrum that is "love." I began my love affair with soccer when I was an exchange student in Germany in 1966 and 1967. I sustained it despite the relative dearth of soccer on TV by getting my fix every four years with the World Cup and the Olympics. Now I can watch scores of college and professional games every week, which could morph my love into that dangerous area of addiction. However, I really enjoy watching my own children play. Tonight Robbie has a game in Chicago, and I’m as giddy to go see it as I was for his first game 16 years ago. We parents often intertwine our love of soccer with our love for our children. I’ve known dozens of parents who hated soccer, but begrudgingly developed, if not a love for the sport, at least a respect because their own children love it. And who wouldn’t love what our kids accomplish in the sport, even if we can’t quite muster the deep passion felt by fans around the world. My hope is that more parents find the same love for soccer that I’ve cultivated over the years of watching. In that spirit I want to share with you what I love about soccer so you might notice some of those aspects of the sport that make it so special for me.
               
First, I love soccer because it is one sport in America where both men and women have more equal footing in the fan base. This is a sport where girls can take great pride in the success of the Women’s National Team, and the players are well-known to even non-soccer fans. I really appreciate the power of strong sports role models for girls who are often second-class participants. Recently, TIME Magazine had a cover article about how colleges should pay their athletes. That’s a wonderful idea if it could be spread across the board, but the reality is that the sports who bring millions to colleges are football and men’s basketball. Women would be completely out of the equation, as would their male counterparts in less lucrative sports, such as soccer. This country’s focus on male-dominated sports can be frustrating as we parents of daughters attempt to encourage them to get active and to participate in the positive aspects that sports can bring to youth players. Soccer at least has a strong presence and respect among viewers for the women’s side of the sport. That exposure helps boys, as well, both by teaching them that girls bring plenty of athleticism to the table and by making sports fans aware of soccer.
               
While the Super Bowl has its halftime show filled with wardrobe malfunctions, Madonna falling, Beyonce bouncing and The Who aging right before our eyes, nothing can match the overall pageantry of soccer. First of all, there are far more opportunities for the glitz and spectacle. You can watch UEFA Europa League, UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup and the queen of glamour, the World Cup. Because these events have a longer and richer history than even the Super Bowl, they have had a long time to form, improve and nurture the pomp and circumstances of these events. The World Cup becomes a summer-long celebration every four years with play-in games all over the host country’s territory, so everyone has a show to present. Each cycle gets more elaborate as nations attempt to outdo the previous sponsor country’s display. Many of these contests have their own sound tracks, which make great use of trumpets, stirring strings, resonating bass and a choir to stir the emotions. Brazil has a thumping Latin sound for its World Cup theme song. I have no idea what the pre-event celebrations will be, but a country famous for Carnival will certainly deliver something spectacularly sparkling and explosive. Sit back and have your emotions toyed with – you won’t be able to resist getting passionately involved in the games that follow.
               
While the sounds of music make for an immediate visceral response to the game, I really love the sounds of the sport itself. That unmistakable thud as a player connects with the ball and sends it flying either to a teammate or on goal. The slap of a goalkeeper’s gloves while making a save. The clank of a ball hitting the crossbar that will either engender relief for some fans or disappointment for others. The chants of the crowd create an auditory backdrop for the passion and intensity of any game: Ole, ole, ole, ole rising from a stadium as a game comes to a close; Hey Ho yelled from one section to another who echo it back; "We love you, we love you, we love you, and where you go we’ll follow, we’ll follow, we’ll follow, ‘cuz we support the U.S., the U.S., the U.S." as sung by the American Outlaws. You can actually follow the game based on fan vocals – the "ahhhhhhh" crescendo as a goal kick is lofted, the collective inhalation as a strike is taken, the depleted exhale and "ooooooh" as the goal is missed, and the rumbling hurrah as a goal is made. Then there is the sound of scarves being whipped in the air as thousands of fans spur on their players. Drums, vuvuzelas and air-filled beating tubes add to the cacophony in the stadium. If you sit close enough, which you definitely will for youth games, you can hear the players shouting out to each other to both generate plays and warn players of an attack. The goalkeeper will be directing his or her side. I love to hear what the players see happening on the pitch since it helps me learn what to look for in a game. Of course, there’s the scary yowls of injured players that bring a lump to the throat and an audible crowd response as a player rises from the grass or claps of support as a player is helped from the field.
               
Besides pageantry, the game has more ordinary yet stirring sights. Fans dressed in their team colors (yes other sports have this, but soccer has so many more interesting colors), flags, placards and ribbons fill the stands, and teams line up to face the fans with the referees to create a line of contrasts. Because the game is continually fluid, there’s the ebb and flow of attack that pricks the attention and offers a new perspective every few seconds. Keeping an eye out for offside can be a full-time job, especially since offside includes an "over and back" aspect. During professional games, there can be fireworks, flashing lights, confetti and even fire balls creating eye candy that exceeds what other sports offer. Of course, there’s always the significant sight of your own child streaking down the field or blocking the ball that can happen instantaneously and yield significant results, so no gossiping with your neighbor and missing that all-important goal. This nearly non-stop action makes the game so much more involving and intense than waiting the 40 seconds between 10-second plays in American football (unless you’re watching a University of Oregon game). This action also tests the stamina and athleticism of the participants, so that you can see amazing feats of agility including bicycle kicks, runs through several defenders and spectacular saves.
               
The game is so accessible to the spectators. Players are out in the open without tons of protective gear masking their faces and movements. I love being able to see their expressions, how they cut, what they do with their hands, including the fouls, and how they interact with one another. A good lip reader would be able to keep up with arguments on the field, disagreements with the referees and discussions of how to create a play. Last week, I observed Robbie talking to his defender on his side of the field, telling him he could beat the opposing defender so to send him the ball. Then he talked to the midfielder and clearly indicated the run he wanted him to make. Sure enough, the next play resulted in a goal by the midfielder, assisted by Robbie and begun with the kick by the defender. It’s a wonderful sport for being able to see things developing. In most venues, fans are just feet away from the field when they watch. Even in the largest stadiums, the configuration is to optimize fans’ closeness to the game because those who understand the game also understand the power of intimacy even in a stadium with a 90,000 capacity. It’s also not unusual with professional teams that several players make themselves available to the fans after a game. This happens in other sports, but in soccer the fan connection is unmistakably significant in the strength of a franchise. 
               
I love the "ballet" of the game. People new to the sport complain it’s boring. After all, it’s not unusual for a game to end in an 0-0 draw. So why watch? Because the power of the sport is only partial found in the win-loss columns. The real attraction is in the movement of the play and the moments of explosion. Lots of people find baseball boring and a ton of us have no idea why cricket is so popular. But baseball is America’s pastime because we have learned how to watch the game. We look for how the outfield shifts for certain batters, how managers choose when and if to remove a pitcher, changes in batting order, whether or not a player will steal, how a team protects the field when bases are loaded, and the choices infielders make when a ball is hit to them. We understand the intricacies so we look beyond the score to appreciate the play. Soccer is that way too. We can look at how plays advance and appreciate the orchestration needed to have any outcome. Learning those nuances takes time, but yields big rewards in a fuller understanding and appreciation of the game. If your child decides to continue to play soccer and has a passion for the game, you’ll want to become the most informed fan you can be. Watch games on TV. Study the player in a game who has the same position as your child. Practice figuring out if a player is offside. Try to predict what will happen next. Scrutinize the keeper to see positioning under different conditions (corner kicks, PKs, free kicks, player advancing center, left or right, and chips). Use the rewind capabilities on your DVR. And most importantly, do all this with your youth player sitting next to you. Elicit his or her opinion, ask for an analysis of what just happened, cover areas of confusion for you, and encourage them to keep improving. The more you know, the more you’ll feel invested in the game. In time, you’ll be the sideline expert!
               
When love is a passion for an activity, it can translate into a lifelong devotion. There’s a saying in the English Premier League, "I might divorce my spouse, but I’ll always stick with my team." That’s a love that probably borders on the insane, but most soccer fans understand that description.
 
 

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Play For A Change this September and help introduce soccer to kids in underserved communities

Stickley

By Amy McCready
Guest Contributor
 
You could say soccer is a way of life for my family. I’ve been to seven games this week already, as my two teenagers play varsity high school soccer and club soccer, and my husband coaches, too. So I know how important being active and having fun – two big benefits of soccer – can be for a family.
 
As I’ve seen with my own boys, youth soccer – above all – is fun, whether it’s at the recreational or competitive level. They’ve formed new friendships through soccer, enjoy fitness and health benefits, and it’s brought our family closer together. We’re not alone either, as soccer is the number one participation sport in the country – more than 3.9 million American kids are registered to play soccer! Those families know the importance of getting outside to get healthy and stay healthy, and now we have the chance to share that with other families.
 
I know first-hand how expensive soccer can sometimes be with league fees, tournament costs, travel expenses and equipment and the financial commitment can make it difficult for some families to participate. That’s why I’m so excited for Play For A Change, a great new partnership between Merck Consumer Care’s Active Family Project and US Youth Soccer, which not only encourages families to get up and get moving, but aims to make soccer more accessible to those who otherwise might not have a chance to experience the sport.
 
To top it off, a soccer legend that I’ve admired for a long time, Brandi Chastain, is championing this effort, encouraging families to take part in the Play For A Change program. She’s even offering soccer tips on the Active Family Project Activity Finder at www.activefamilyproject.com. Those are tips from an Olympian and World Cup champion (and a mom, too)!
 
But we can also help, and it’s as easy as hopping on Facebook. The Active Family Project will donate 75 soccer kits (valued at $15,000 for 75 kits), filled with the equipment needed by kids in underserved communities, to US Youth Soccer. You can help send even more kits – for every 100 engagements (likes, comments or shares of any of the posts) on the Active Family Project Facebook page at www.facebook.com/activefamilyproject through September 30, the Active Family Project will donate an additional soccer kit, up to 50 more (valued at $10,000 for 50 kits). By providing these kits to families in underserved communities, we can give more families the opportunity to be active together through soccer.
 
What better way to celebrate Youth Soccer Month this September than by getting more kids involved in the sport we love? Let’s help send out those kits!
 
Amy McCready is the founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and a proud member of Merck Consumer Care’s Active Family Project Play Council.

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