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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on USYouthSoccer.org every Monday.  A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom". 

 

Making the team

Susan Boyd

            Your son or daughter wants to play college soccer—how do you make that happen? Will it happen? If it does, what does that mean for your player and your family? Getting recruited doesn’t mean sitting back and letting your child’s statistics speak for them. Having a college coach develop an interest requires some hard selling unless your child happens to be on the National Team. Even Regional Team players find themselves in the position of hustling to be noticed. You need to start early and you need to be tenacious.
 
            First the good news: As long as you keep your options open your child has an excellent chance of getting on a college team. Girls have an advantage because there are more women’s college soccer programs than men’s. This is due to Title IX and the need to offset football programs. Obviously, if you look primarily at schools without a football team you are more likely to find men’s soccer teams. The other consideration is Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3 in the NCAA and the NAIA. I know most kids and parents see NCAA Division 1 as the only option but by narrowing your options so much you may be denying your child the opportunity to play college soccer. There are schools out there that go begging every year for quality players who might be able to find your child more than just an athletic scholarship because they want him or her badly. Bryce was offered $32,000 a year by a Division 2 school with $34,000 of expenses. He eventually turned down the offer to play for a Division 1 school with even more expenses and only a $7500 offer. He based his decision on location and major.
 
            That’s the next most important consideration. When Bryce was visiting University of Wisconsin, which is in the middle of Wisconsin on a small lake, the coach told the story of kid they were recruiting. They thought they had reached an agreement and the coach was so excited to get the guy. At the end, he asked the player what he was planning to major in. "Marine Biology," was his reply. That was the end of the negotiations. Pick schools to pursue based on going to that school, not on the team. This means, of course, in the topsy-turvy world of college sports that the number one team in the country might be 50th the next year due to loss of players and/or personnel. Coaches get fired, move to new teams, quit, or retire. The team you fell in love with may not be the team that exists by the time your player joins it. Robbie’s college team has had three head coaches in four years. So once again, make your choice based on the school, members of the team you might respect and whether or not you want to be close enough to go to the games. Everything else can change in a heartbeat. 
 
            In picking schools ask the important questions. Does your child feel comfortable at a school with 48,000 students? Is he or she comfortable living a long distance from home? What does your child want to major in? Would your player be better off being on a great team with little playing time or a weaker team where he or she could be a significant player? What living arrangements does the school offer? Will that be comfortable for your child? Don’t get stars in your eyes and be blinded to the more important factors. If your child spends a season on the bench because of injury, will he or she still love the school experience? Will the school be too tough for your player to handle both soccer and academics? Remember, there are academic standards for playing sports that can end up costing your son or daughter a season if he or she can’t keep up.
 
            Remember also that there are three divisions in NCAA and there is another college league, NAIA, which also has three divisions. Don’t rule out non-Division 1 schools. Division 3 in the NCAA and NAIA can’t offer athletic scholarships, but they have other resources and may actually be able to give your child more money to attend school than the schools who can give athletic scholarships. Likewise, Ivy League schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, putting their emphasis on academics. Less than 1% of scholarships are what is considered "full ride" and in soccer that hardly ever happens. Instead, soccer splits around 9.5 scholarships among all the men soccer players on a team and 12.5 scholarships among all the women players on a team. Since most soccer teams carry 25 to 32 players you can see that the money isn’t great. In fact, in all of the NCAA there are only 138,000 full scholarships for Division 1 and 2 and most of those go to football players. In the NAIA the standards to get an athletic scholarship are less stringent, so your child is more likely to qualify. You also need to remember that scholarships are renewed each year at the coach’s discretion. If your player spends a lot of time on the bench he or she is likely to see the scholarship dwindle to make more money available for "performers." 
 
            Begin your college search early so you can "market" your player properly. Locate a variety of teams at all levels and in all leagues. I would say 20 to 30 teams to begin with. Eventually, you’ll narrow these choices down. Be sure you have up-to-date emails for all head coaches and assistant coaches. Head coaches make the final choices but assistant coaches do most of the active recruiting. Letting schools know you are interested in their program is the first step. end to all the coaches an email that includes why you like the school, the location, the academics, and the soccer program. Personalize the email by showing that you have paid attention to what is happening on the team.  Note the skills of a particular player or talk about a recent game. Coaches want to know that you are truly interested in their team and not just blindly emailing every school in a 200 mile radius. Start this process in the sophomore year. Your soccer team should be attending at least two college recruiting tournaments a year, so let the coaches know when and where the team will be playing and once you know the schedule, send that along as well. You can contact coaches by email and phone as much as you want under NCAA rules, but they have very strict rules about how much they can contact you, including returning phone calls. I recommend having your child do the contacting. Even if a coach doesn’t reply, keep sending emails. One a week wouldn’t be out of line. Coaches can push delete. A player is considered a sophomore until September 1st of the junior year which is when coaches can contact him or her. This is when the emails can build up in your account. Your child may get emails from schools you never considered so be sure to look them up and find out if their interest in you should be met by your interest in them. Remember, it’s a bird in the hand kind of situation.
 
            It would be a good idea to create a DVD of some of your child’s highlights. Don’t send it until it is requested. We visited IUPUI and saw a 33 gallon trash can in the coaches office overflowing with DVDs. They don’t have time to watch except the ones they request. Include both club and high school highlights and a stat sheet. Start keeping stats freshman year. Don’t include stats before then. Coaches aren’t interested because the competition can’t be trusted. On the back of the stat sheet do a resume with a photo. In the resume give facts such as GPA, SAT, ACT scores, outside service, school awards, interests, and family contact information. Update the DVD and sheet regularly. Usually when you attend a college recruiting tournament, the sponsor will offer the opportunity to post your child’s resume, stats, and photo on a website where coaches can download the information. Bryce actually got recruited this way. The coaches of his school came to see a player on the opposing team, saw Bryce play, were impressed and looked him up. So have a photo and information you can easily upload to these sites.
 
            Don’t give up if you really want to play at a particular school. Robbie emailed his top school every week and never heard back from them. We sent him to the camp they sponsored along with nine other schools. He ended up being named MVP of the camp and got recruited on the spot by the school and two others. I don’t recommend going to lots of camps as they are expensive and sometimes schools are already done recruiting. But if players have a top school that has been ignoring them, then why not? There are 250,000 seniors playing high school football and only 19,800 available scholarships. Image how much worse it is for soccer players. Therefore, don’t fight for a school because you think there will be money. Since your child should be picking a school on academics, he or she could go to the school and then "walk on" which means requesting that the coach allow him or her to practice with the team in the hopes of making a positive impression. Some coaches don’t allow any walk-ons, so find out what the coach’s policy is before planning on this strategy. Also, some coaches will only allow walk-ons during spring season. Your chances may be slim, but with some confidence it could be the best option. Many colleges have a club team, so consider joining that as coaches have been known to show up at a game to watch for talent.
 
            At the aforementioned camp one of the schools which was actively recruiting Robbie was an NCAA Division 3 school which consistently ranks number one in the country and has won numerous national championships. He loved the coach and the school was excellent academically. However it was in Texas, way outside Robbie’s comfort zone. He will never be in a national championship with his present college team, so he can be a bit wistful about passing up the opportunity. As you help your child search for a school, keep that kind of experience in mind. There may be more opportunities for success and national recognition with a smaller school and a different division. Decisions about who gets invited to professional combines often come down to a player’s position in his or her college league. Being a big fish in a smaller pond could prove to be more effective than being a big fish in huge pond. An excellent player might get dwarfed by a ton of other excellent players. Depending on your child’s aspirations you might want to keep future opportunities in your considerations.
 
            Finally, remember that if you look to a variety of choices for schools and teams you have the best chance of landing both a spot on a team and a scholarship. Most decisions are made before the beginning of senior year, which is why you need to start early. Girls with a spring soccer season often have their decisions made before January of their junior year. These will all be verbal decisions. Nothing is set in stone until national signing day and even then I’ve heard of players reneging with consequences. Until signing day, there’s a gentleman’s agreement which can be disrupted, but is rarely. Usually a player has to do something unusual to prompt a school to reconsider or a new, better offer has to come in for a player to want to change schools. This rarely happens because if a school really wants your son or daughter the school will speak up earlier. Most importantly, don’t waste a coach’s time. Remember, if your student doesn’t meet the minimum academic requirements for the school he or she won’t get in. Soccer coaches don’t have that kind of pull with admissions and they worry that your child won’t be able to handle the academics and will become ineligible. Don’t think your superstar soccer player will be attending Notre Dame if his or her grade point average is 2.5. Coaches talk to each other, so they may end up discussing your son’s or daughter’s record. Don’t lie on the stats or the resume. Coaches are very astute and have ways of getting stats from high school, club and tournament websites. They do their homework and won’t take kindly to being duped. No matter what responses you get, if your child wants to play college soccer I can nearly guarantee there will be a match out there. You have to plug away, which means starting early enough to give your player a chance to discover and stretch out the options.

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Road Trip

Susan Boyd

            Fall brings tournaments— many of which will be far out of town. I have always loved tournaments— in fact I’m going to one this weekend— but the travel can be expensive, stressful, demanding, and taxing on family scheduling. How do we travel to these events and still keep the lid on all the negatives? There are definitely things a family can do that can make trips both enjoyable and manageable.
 
            One very important preliminary planning step for any tournament trip would be to insist that there is a team meeting before the season even starts. This is where you can let the team manager know that you like to travel with your family, but you also need to keep to a budget. You’ll probably find that other families feel the same way but might be afraid to speak up. Robbie played on a team where the parents always wanted to stay in higher class hotels. It got pretty pricey, especially when we had Bryce with his own tournaments. Now I’m not a double bed kind of gal, so I know that getting queen beds usually requires a bump in price. A savvy manager can get some good deals by using the increasing number of websites with hotel coupons (hotelcoupons.com, travelcoupons.com, groupon.com, etc.). Occasionally large tournaments will pre-assign hotels to teams. Even in those cases you can see if there are greater discounts online, especially for major hotel chains. 
 
            Team meetings are also the place to find rides for your child if you can’t attend a tournament. Don’t be shy about asking for help. Likewise, volunteer to take a player or two if you have the extra car space. We usually got two rooms when we went to tournaments and bunked the boys in one room while we parents stayed in another. The families pitched in to cover the cost of the second room and kids brought their own food money. We always felt comfortable asking a family to help us out when we needed to be two places at once. Most soccer families understand that they will need to have help at one time or another so they are very willing to help out when they can.
 
            Team meals can end up being really expensive if you don’t choose some reliably nutritious and reasonably priced restaurants. Kids can be picky eaters, so it’s not always easy to find places everyone will like. We have always found Cici’s Pizza, Sweet Tomato’s, most buffet restaurants, family style Italian restaurants such as Buca di Beppo and Mongolian grills allow for people to dine for $10 or less per person with plenty of food to satisfy anyone’s appetite. The team should plan ahead for meals using the internet to locate appropriate restaurants and making reservations if necessary. Last minute decisions often result in more expensive situations. Again, look for coupons to make the cost even more affordable (retailmenot.com/coupons/restaurantchains).
 
            Usually you’ll drive to most tournaments but occasionally you’ll need to fly and rent a car. Knowing where and when to reserve flights is a complex and frustrating process. The best website I have found is CheapOAir.com, which has coupons to take an additional $10 to $25 off flights. They also have a best price guarantee. If you find a better price on another website within four hours of booking your flight they will either refund your entire ticket or refund the difference. This feature allows you to book and have the option to still search. Bing.com/travel/flights has a price predictor which indicates the best time to purchase tickets to your destination. Car rentals fluctuate constantly. Renting at the airport will always be the most expensive, so if you can get to a rental office at a hotel or in the city you will probably save substantially. It might be worth taking a free hotel shuttle to a rental office there. When reserving your car seek out satellite sites. Don’t be afraid to search non-traditional rental car services such as E-Z Rent-a-Car, Ace, or Advantage. As always, find online coupons to lower the cost even more (rentalcarmomma.com).
 
            When you do make it a true road trip, how do you make the miles melt away? Road games of course! You can elect to do some classic non-equipment games or games that have been adapted to play in a car (or on a plane or train). While you may have a car equipped with an entertainment system, popping in a movie isn’t always the best way to develop family togetherness. Most kids have some type of portable gaming system, but again burying their heads in their Nintendo DS or clicking Angry Birds on their iPhone doesn’t promote family communication. Given our busy schedules, which include soccer practices and games, it could be a golden opportunity to turn a road trip into a family bonding experience. Disney offers ten great car games that only require enthusiasm and some eagle-eyed attention to the landscape (familyfun.go.com/vacations/classic-road-trip-games-713633/). There’s also no need to purchase games like Car Bingo. These can be printed off from the web and kept in the car for any time you need them (momsminivan.com/printables.html). Additionally, plan ahead by looking at your route and finding some spots of interest where you can take a short break and see something of the land you are traveling. Find those scenic viewpoints, historical markers, and oddities that we often race past at 65 miles per hour. Most of us have GPS and don’t bother with AAA any longer for maps, but those wonderful Triptiks offer lots of information about highlights on your way to your destination. You can get them on-line and there is even a Triptik app you can download (www.aaa.com/AAA_Travel/AAAMaps/travel_directions.htm).
 
            Finally, make that road trip comfortable with plenty of fluids and snacks. You can get a "refrigerator" which operates off your car battery. These eliminate the need for ice and the mess that melting ice can produce. While you can get really fancy, there are coolers which cost under $75 and can be found at Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target. Since an ice cooler runs around $30 and requires the additional cost of ice, getting an electric cooler isn’t unreasonable. To help reduce bathroom breaks purchase the smaller bottles of sports drinks, juices and water. Kids will generally keep drinking until the bottle is empty. For snacks, you should avoid crumbly items that will leave your car or van with a case of food dandruff. Also, most flavored chips have coatings that will smear all over your upholstery. Dried real fruit snacks, nuts, and granola bars make good choices as they are high in nutrition and low in mess. Don’t forget about old stand-bys like animal crackers and string cheese. Suckers and Tootsie Roll Pops can be a great long lasting treat so long as you can trust your kids not to lay them on the seats! I’m a huge fan of jelly beans which provide a variety of flavors.
 
            I always get excited about the possibility of a road trip to a tournament. I really enjoy the journey and once we arrive I love watching other teams play so I can see the level of ability out there. We allow sufficient travel time so we don’t feel rushed and can adapt to those occasional traffic back-ups. We take breaks every two to three hours to make sure we don’t end up with "car fever" and let our circulatory system shake out. Road trips can be a wonderful time to see a bit of our country, have some conversations with our kids, and make discoveries if we plan ahead and have a positive attitude about the drive.

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Just a Little Civility

Susan Boyd

            I took my grandsons to a nice pizza restaurant for dinner and got an unwelcomed serving of R-rated language from the table of high school boys next to us. The adverbs and adjectives of choice began with "S" and "F" and were as liberally sprinkled into their conversation as flakes of parmesan on a pizza slice. When I approached their table to ask them to tone it down, they were shocked and ultimately very polite about it. I don’t think they even thought about the venue and how their language was drifting unconstrained into the room. While this episode ended with everyone agreeing on what rules of decorum should be followed, too often in sports we witness atrocious and uncontrolled incivility, and I’m talking about youth sports!
 
            Whatever behavior the parents exhibit the kids will mimic. After all they want to be adults, and obviously adults belittle, swear, argue and fight. I’ve seen parents come to blows over the most trivial of reasons. There was a sideline battle when one parent told another parent that his team’s colors were stupid. Not sure why it had to be said and not sure why it couldn’t have been ignored, but I am really not sure why it required actual fisticuffs. I’ve heard parents call referees names that would make longshoremen blush. Even worse, it’s completely unacceptable to direct that type of verbal poison at a kid. We hear the stories of parents going onto the field, the court, or the ice and physically and verbally attacking a child for some perceived slight or play infraction. I witnessed a parent at a tournament approach a referee during a U8 game and slap him. The poor ref was only twelve and had no idea what to do. Police were called and the mother, yes it was a mother, was arrested right there in front of family and friends. There’s a warm, fuzzy memory for her child to cherish.
 
            Coaches can forget that their charges are not seasoned adults, but impressionable insecure kids who only want to please. After a particularly tough contest that the team lost, the coach pulled one kid aside and told him, "You’re the reason we lost!" In the first place that’s blatantly false – no one player is responsible for a loss or a win – second, if the kid was playing so badly as to warrant that comment, the coach had the option to substitute him, and third, what lesson was the coach trying to teach? A better approach would have been to first focus on what went well in the game – fighting through two overtimes comes to mind – then breaking down some of the tactics and skills the team could improve on. We all have or have had kids and we know their attention span rarely exceeds three minutes. A few quick notes will sink in but a detailed analysis of the entire game won’t. Sadly, those moments when we say something rude and demeaning seem to last forever.
 
            I’ve seen two instances of kids spitting on their hands before doing the obligatory handshakes at the end of the game. In one case the coach pulled those kids aside and told them that they needed to represent the team with pride, dignity, and courtesy. He warned them that the next time they would be benched for a full game. In the second case, the coach laughed, the parents egged the kids on, and the behavior became a constant until a referee stepped in and reported the team to the state association. It is unfortunate it had to come to a report. Kids, whose natural instinct is to stretch boundaries, will exhibit discourteous behavior when adults not only tolerate but encourage that type of behavior. For example, kids see their favorite soccer stars aggressively playing on the field, and they want to emulate that play. They don’t understand the evolution from controlled and civil field behavior to the tough, aggressive and often uncivil play of professionals. If they witness prejudicial behavior on the pitch against a race, gender, or religion, it’s up to us adults to immediately call that behavior into question. We have to encourage good manners and reject loutishness.
 
            Kids should be learning from sports that respect for others and rules of decorum need to be foremost in the experience. If kids hear foul language, witness reckless actions, become the brunt of belittling comments and see adults not showing proper respect to authority, they will slowly morph into players who don’t play with civility. Once a game is over what will we be doing? Usually, we have plans like going out for lunch or a movie, meeting friends for a play date, or going home to watch Tiger Woods putt. Those activities are on a par with any soccer game when it comes to creating fun memories and family togetherness. Would we stand up at a movie and start yelling that the director is an idiot? Would we take one of your child’s friends aside to tell her that she is lousy at Go Fish? We seem to understand within most situations what is proper behavior and what isn’t. So why at a youth sporting events do we suddenly become these demons of language and behavior that we would never accept in a store, at a restaurant or at school? What do we really accomplish by yelling at the referee, engaging the parents of the opposing team in battles over whose team is better, or cheering on a child who has just punched another kid because we felt the hit was justified?
 
            While I’m not an advocate of the "everyone is winner" type of false praise, I do believe we can encourage even when a child is playing dismally. We can find a way to approach a game positively without being disingenuous. If we don’t like a referee’s call, keep it to ourselves. We should expect our children to respect the authority of their coach and the referees, so we shouldn’t do anything to undermine it. We should teach our children that in the face of rudeness express only civility. It’s difficult because the tradition of "kill the umpire" pervades sports and trickles down to youth sports. In reality there isn’t a game our kids play that justifies bad manners. In the grand scheme of their lives and activities these games are mere blips; except of course for the game where your mother gets arrested. That game attains immortality.

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Basic Skills

Susan Boyd

           A quote from Mickey Mantle’s opened the film "Moneyball." "It’s unbelievable what you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life." While it referred to baseball it could just as easily apply to soccer. Even the greatest players continue to refine and develop new skills. Skills build on previous skills just like any learning process. All too often coaches don’t demand that basic skills become second nature for youth players. They opt instead for less repetitious and therefore less boring practice games. Retired U.S. Men’s National Team captain Claudio Reyna recognizes that "…you can’t teach skills to an old player. Youth coaches should keep in mind that individual skills need to be nurtured at an early age. Players who haven’t mastered the fundamental skills become frustrated because the game gets too difficult for them as they move into higher levels." All too often I see players on NCAA Division I teams unable to execute these basic skills. If players want to compete successfully they have to have a first touch, an ability to trap the ball, execution of a safe and proper header, an understanding how to play off the ball, play equally well with both feet, be at least 90 minutes fit, possess the instinct to come to the ball and have an accurate pass both on the ground and in the air. Simple, right?
 
           First touch is exactly what it says. Players need the deftness to gently accept the ball on a ground pass in such a way that the ball remains close to their feet. How often have you seen a player get a pass, have it hit the foot and bounce ten feet forward where an opposing player picks it up. I argue that when people say soccer is boring it is actually because of a series of lousy first touches creates a game of ping pong without the fluid dance of a team moving the ball down the field. That dance generates the electric possibilities that put a fan’s heart in the throat. Developing that nimble first touch requires hours of. If your child plays baseball, how many infield balls are hit to the shortstop with every possible permutation of the follow-up throw? How many fly balls are hit to the outfield? Drills are an important part of development. For youth soccer, drills should take up a significant part of every practice.
 
           Trapping the ball is the ability to receive a ball in the air on either the chest or by literally trapping it between the foot and the ground. Few players do it right. When trapped on the chest it shouldn’t bounce off like a racquetball hitting a wall. Instead of bouncing the ball should be cushioned and slide down to the player’s feet. If trapping is done with the foot, it needs to end with the ball under the foot and on the ground, not 20 feet in front of the player. Again, the only way to make this skill second nature is for the coach to drill the players in proper methods with the goal being near perfection.
 
           There has been debate concerning the use of head gear to prevent concussions in soccer players and to diminish the effects that heading a ball might have. However, most players and coaches agree that learning where on the head to receive the ball and how to rotate the head properly make a header safe. Yet often players are left to instinctively develop their header technique on their own leading to injury. There are header drills that coaches can conduct to help players develop the proper techniques. 
 
           Movement off the ball may be even more important than what a player does with the ball. Samuel Eto’o, the talented Cameroon soccer player, stated that, "The most important thing for a forward is speed of thought. Top players read the game." Playing off the ball requires a player to consider what options are present and how to maximize those options by placing himself in the most advantageous spot. That ability to read the game is somewhat innate but can be taught with both film and drills. Here is where practice games can pay off, because the coach can stop play to discuss placement and have players reason out where they could place themselves on the field. As Mia Hamm says, "Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it." Players can learn how to turn negatives into positives if they begin to understand that more soccer is played without the ball. Learning to be patient, not to be a ball chaser and see possibilities will make every youth player stronger.
 
           Learning to play with both feet not only develops a player beyond just serviceable, but actually catapults them into the highest levels. You’ve seen players miss an open goal because they had to shift the ball to their "proper" foot giving the defense time to intervene. Or you’ve watched a ball go wildly off course because it was hit with the "wrong" foot. Playing equally well with both feet doesn’t just double a player’s value, it can quadruple it. Defensively that player can steal a ball or slide tackle from any direction. Likewise, offensively the opposing team is vulnerable from all directions when a two-footed player begins the dribble. They can’t predict where she’ll turn or how she’ll turn. Coaches can conduct drills which require players to practice with their weaker foot until they develop the strength, skill, and intuition to use both feet.
 
           Every practice should begin with fitness training. The average distance a soccer player travels during a typical 90 minute game is seven miles. So players need to be able to run seven miles without lagging and without fatigue. Players without a strong center of gravity will be easily pushed off the ball. Youth players probably won’t benefit from weight training, in fact it could do harm, because they are still growing and developing their muscle mass. They can benefit from learning how to brace, how to use their bodies to protect the ball and what foods will best develop those fledgling muscles. Once players are in high school they can consider adding supervised weight training.
 
           Kyle Rote Jr. said, "If you're attacking, you don't get as tired as when you're chasing." Learning when to come to the ball can make the difference between an attack and a chase. A player sees his teammate is going to pass to him. He sets himself up to receive the ball. Suddenly the opposing defender steps in front, steals the ball and the chase is on. Players have to learn not to root themselves in a position especially when the ball is coming to them. Often they have the mistaken idea that they are five steps closer to the goal, so running away from the goal to meet the ball is unproductive. There are drills for learning how to shield the defender from stepping in front if the player wants to stay put and drills for developing the instinct of when to step to the ball. 
 
           The biggest and most frustrating bugaboo of soccer is passing. Players seem to settle for being able to send the ball away from themselves but don’t seem to be overly concerned about where those passes land. Voted European Player of the Century in 1999 Johan Cryuff manages the Catalan National Team. He observed that, "Football is simple but the hardest thing to do is play simple football." Nothing shows that more than bad passing. Players make lousy choices because they complicate the process. The center of the field leads to the center of the goal, prompting players to erroneously assume the best bet is to pass down the middle. In fact only 33% of goals are made in the middle of the net. That leaves 67% on the sides. Add to this that 67% of those goals are achieved by aiming low means that players who approach from the sides and shoot low have the greatest chance of scoring. Passing into the opponents in the center lane of the pitch isn’t as effective and often leads to an opponent picking up the pass. Learning which shoulder of a receiver to send a ball over requires an understanding of the direction the player is moving and which side of her the defender is on. There are excellent drills both for developing accurate open field passing and defended passing.
 
           Parents should look for clubs that will develop their players by developing these skills. While playing matches is fun, it won’t correct the bad habits players have or build skills that players need. Find a club that emphasizes drills, especially in those years leading up to high school. It’s important that players can take care of the basic skills if they want to move on to the more complex aspects of the game. While these skills don’t seem all that simple, they are attainable with the necessary practice and devotion. Coaches can do only so much to give a player these skills. Like anything we learn the quality depends as much on the student as on the teacher. Manfred Schellscheidt, the German-American coach and player, makes it clear, "I don’t believe skill was, or ever will be, the result of coaches. It is a result of a love affair between the child and the ball." A player who truly wants to get better will. While drills aren’t glamorous, they do offer players a chance to move up to a more glamorous role on their team. 

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