Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Winning is Great, but it’s Not the Goal!
It always seems when coaches get together, the topic of winning always comes up. Coaches always boast about their team winning 10 of 12 games or about beating some well-known team by one goal. It seems it’s always about winning. If we don’t win then the parents will take their children to another club that believes winning is the right thing to do. There’s a wide differences between loving to win and having to win, between competing to be our best and competing to be the best.
Is it almost un-American to say winning is not the goal. In fact, many would say we compete in a “win-at-all-costs” environment. How does this help or hurt our player’s performances and how does it assist with their developing into to productive citizens? Yes, we all want to win, but please understand the distinction: winning is a byproduct, not a goal.
Winning odds increase when you place your focus on how you get there rather than on winning as the goal– the learning and development, the continual movement toward mastery. During competition this means having a moment-to-moment, concentrated focus on executing skills and maintaining a positive attitude.
John Naber, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, exemplifies this vital concept. He shares, “My goal was never to win a race. My goal was to be the best I could be that day.” Disturbing news stories and studies show a focus on winning can produce unsportsmanlike behavior, outright dishonesty and unethical use of dangerous drugs.
I have known many great youth teams that were undefeated during their regular season and lost their first postseason match when they played a team that on paper they should have easily have defeated. Perhaps their focus is on the outcome rather than on the moment and the process. Focusing on winning can lead the performer away from the power of the present moment and creates performance-lowering tension by putting attention on something not under a player’s direct control.
Parents have a part in this process; they can help the player stay focused. How? Be interested in what the child is learning about him or herself and what skills they are developing. Ask the child what they like about playing soccer. You certainly don’t have direct control over how well your child will play in the game, but you do have control over how calm you are during and after your child’s games or training sessions, what you say and how encouraging you are very important in the process of winning or losing. Sometimes losing is better then winning in preparing a player for the future.
There will be times when you find yourself getting frustrated or annoyed at your player or child’s performance, ask yourself, what am I trying to control that I don’t have control over? Then zero in on what you do control. And remind yourself the focus should be on the learning and the fun!
Monday, January 29, 2007
This past weekend I attended the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association AGM (Annual General Meeting). On Saturday evening a banquet was held for their soccer hall of fame. Seven folks were inducted and many past inductees were in attendance. Some of the hall of famers include Brian Bliss, Joe Marrone, Tony DiCicco, Charlie Kadupski, Bob Dikranian, Sunil Gulati, David Socha, Dan Woog, Ray Reid, Dan Gaspar, Joe Machnik, Curt Onalfo, and Andrea Duffy and now add David Vaudreuil among others.
These are names many of you will recognize and there are many others in the state’s hall of fame that you likely would not recognize unless you have been involved in soccer in that state for years.
However, those other folks have made equally important contributions to the game. The event highlighted for me the rich and long history of soccer in the United States. We tend to look back only a few years and think of ourselves as a newcomer to the sport of soccer.
This is far from the truth. Soccer is the second oldest professional sport in our country after baseball. The first intercollegiate game, between Princeton and Rutgers, was in 1869. Our football association was an early member of FIFA joining in 1913. We played in the inaugural World Cup in 1930. To learn more about our soccer past, present and possible future take a look at Soccerhead by Jim Haner.
The hall of fame dinner in Connecticut reminded me that our sport has deep roots in many of our states and cities. We must not forget the many contributions that generations of Americans have made to soccer on these shores. We must celebrate our soccer history and bring it more into the consciousness of the current generation.
By looking back we can also see some of the paths we must take now and in the future to continue the growth of our game as well as seeing some of the pitfalls to avoid. We are now at the beginning of a new chapter in the story of soccer in the USA. We must revive our missionary work of bringing the game to new segments of our society. We have managed the soccer boom and once again need to grow the game. We have a 147 year old history of modern football (soccer) in our country and in the last 30 years we have made impressive strides forward. We can grow the game on reservations, the inner city and rural communities.
We have the chance NOW to begin the next soccer boom.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
You can see the complete list at www.USYouthSoccer.org. There you'll also find links to the Soccer America pages that detail each club in the rankings.
For the fourth year, Soccer America selected the top 20 boys and girls clubs, based on success of their teams in national youth competitions over the last three years and national recognition for players from these clubs in 2006. The most important criteria for determining 'America's Best Youth Clubs' was success in the US Youth Soccer National Championships during a three-year cycle (2004-2006) an and the number of players who went on to U.S. Soccer national teams and were selected to US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program All-Star rosters via the annual Thanksgiving Interregionals.
If you were to judge the top clubs in the country how would you set the criteria? Would you like to see a weekly or monthly ranking for youth soccer?
Do you think your club should have made this list? Why?
Player development is the act or process of developing; unfolding; a gradual growth or advancement through progressive changes…
While teaching at the National Youth License course, hosted by Florida Youth Soccer Association, in beautiful Weston, Fla., on the January 2-6.of Jan 2007, the topic of much discussion was on player development. My thoughts on this subject and discussion to follow, is a summary of comments from Mike Strickler, Florida State Youth Soccer Director of Coaching, Virgil Stringfield, Assistant Director of Coaching for Florida and Bill Buren one of the writers of the National Youth License and the candidates in attendance at the course.
I think a majority of young players become what they were always going to be largely by their own efforts and a lot of encouragement and information from coaches. Playing as many matches as possibly will not alter that fact, nor will playing in more tournaments or conducting more or longer training sessions.
What can we do to help the process, foster a love for the game and allowing talent to develop in a sane environment means an appropriate number of matches and training sessions for the age group. The idea that the game is the great teacher is very true but misunderstood and misapplied. Some believe the more matches the better. This is not true, in fact fewer games the better for youngsters. The game will show a player how he or she has progressed or what they need to work on to improve. The game should teach players how to play before they are asked to compete for wins.
Approximately 0.01 percent will make it onto a national team be it youth, Olympic or the full National Team, according to the NCAA. The NCAA also estimates that only two percent of high school players in all sports will go on to play in college. Soccer is a long-term athletic development sport. Starting to play on teams when barely out of diapers will not amend this fact of the time needed to grow physically and psychologically to become an accomplished player.
While the players are in primary and secondary school, the adults caring for their soccer experience and controlling their soccer environment must be patient with an eye to long-term goals as well as short-term objectives. The coach must allow the player the freedom to develop by learning from millions of experiences. The coach must resist the temptation to interrupt the players, realizing that learning takes place by experiencing the game.
Coaches should not try to solve every problem in each session. Coaches need to understand that development whether individual or team is a long-term process. They also should understand that players can only assimilate a little information at a time, so they should choose their comments carefully. In the end, it does not matter what the coach knows or says it only matters what the players can receive and put in to action.
One of the best chances a coach has to develop a player is to insure that they love the game. Make players part of the process and make all decisions concerning player development around the idea of player centered decisions.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I’ve just finished teaching some sessions for U10 coaches at the coaching symposium of the PA West state association. Joining me at the symposium were Paul Halford, PA West Director of Coaching; Jeff Pill, U. S. Soccer National Staff Coach; Glen Buckley, Director of Coaching for New York West and Chris Hershey, US Youth Soccer ODP Girls Region I Goalkeeper Coach. During one of the presentations a coach asked how we can teach ball skills in game-like activities. Do not the players need the repetition for muscle memory that they get in drills?
Indeed many, many repetitions are part of learning a ball skill. However, given the dynamic nature of soccer ball skills need to be rehearsed in a dynamic and random way. Drills tend to be static, not dynamic and the technique execution tends to be blocked not random. A certain amount of trial and error is necessary in learning soccer skills.
As an example a 4 versus 4 activity provides opportunity for trial and error, random skill repetition and is obviously dynamic. Coaching during the activity could focus on a certain skill and there is the coach’s chance to teach technique. Follow the principles of youth coaching and you will achieve a good learning environment for your players.
PRINCIPLES OF YOUTH COACHING
• Developmentally appropriate
• Clear, concise & correct information (demonstration)
• Brevity, clarity & relevance
• Simple to complex
• Safe & appropriate training area
• Decision making
• Implications for the game
Monday, January 15, 2007
While attending the NSCAA convention I was asked by a coach, who is a graduate of the National Youth License course, what are the traits of a good coach? I answered honesty, realistic expectations of the players, open-mindedness and depth of knowledge of the game. Well that was the short answer for an on-the-spot interview. Having had time for reflection I will add to the list a strong moral and ethical character, good communication skills and a willingness to share your passion for the game.
I would further add the following thoughts from Mike Smith, currently the assistant coach for the women’s team at the University of Oregon, but he was working as the Recreation Director of Coaching for the Oregon Youth Soccer Association at the time he penned these words:
A good coach is someone who knows winning is wonderful, but is not the triumph of sports.
A kid’s coach is someone who goes to work early, misses meals, gives away weekends and plays havoc with family schedules so he or she can help out a group of youngsters.
A good coach is someone who stays half an hour or more after practice to make sure every one of the players has a safe ride home.
A good coach is someone who rarely hears a mom or dad say `Hey thanks,` but receives a lot of advice on game day.
A good coach is someone who makes sure that everyone gets to play.
A good coach is someone who teaches young people that winning is not everything, but still lies in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering whether he or she might have done anything differently to have turned a loss into a win.
A good coach is someone who can help a child learn to take mistakes in stride.
A good coach is someone who sometimes helps a child to develop ability and confidence that sometimes did not exist before.
A good coach is someone a youngster will remember a long time after the last game has ended and the season is over.
Monday, January 8, 2007
I just finished teaching a “Y” License course in Houston, Texas and another course concludes tomorrow in Weston, Florida. The Texas course had two coaches from Mexico attending and the Florida course has a coach from the Czech Republic in attendance. In the past other coaches from other countries have attended the “Y” License coaching course.
The American way of coaching preteen players is making its way across the world as well as across our nation. The course will definitely change your outlook on how to coach children. The coaches in the course learn to shift their training perspective from a coach-centered environment to a player-centered one. They learn how to ask the players questions to help them learn rather than always telling them what to do.
The coaches learn how children learn and this impacts their coaching style tremendously. The results are players who not only grow technically and physically but also mentally and tactically. The long-term result is the development of a self-reliant and independent player who can make decisions for him/herself on the field.
Because of these changes in the coaches we will produce some of the finest players in the world!
Friday, January 5, 2007
Regional winners of the 2006 US Youth Soccer adidas Boys’ Coaches of the Year are:
Region / Coach / Hometown / State Association
Region I / Warren Searles / Pittstown / New Jersey State Youth Soccer Association
Region II / Chad O’Donnell / Sioux Falls / South Dakota State Youth Soccer Association
Region III / Derek Goodwin / Alexandria / Louisiana Soccer Association
Region IV / Terry Gentry / Portland / Oregon Youth Soccer Association
A little more on these winners:
Warren Searles believes that the game is the best teacher, and that is how he organizes practices with the North Hunterdon Soccer Club. In addition to regular practices, Searles has designated Fridays as ‘pick up day’ at the club, without any coaching. When it comes to sportsmanship, Searles practices what he preaches. Known as a true sportsman and gentleman, he teaches the enjoyment of the game. To stay sharp, he continues to play in the local men’s soccer league and takes at least one formal coaching course annually. Searles also actively seeks input for training sessions and games and consults other coaches on how to improve player development. He is a tireless volunteer, who is a role model not only for children, but also adults.
Chad O’Donnell hopes that the players in the Dakota Gold Soccer Club take all that he teaches and puts it to work in their lives, on and off the field. He is one of many volunteer coaches who said yes when asked if he would give coaching a try and has never looked back. He took the initiative to study and learn all that he could to help his players. The time spent at practice is valuable to the players. O’Donnell’s main goal is to teach the game of soccer to as many kids as possible and to create a love for the game that sticks with them. In 1999, his team became the first South Dakota team to win a US Youth Soccer Region II Championship. O’Donnell knows his players well. He is encouraging, but if they don’t play up to their full ability, he knows how to light the fire.
Derek Goodwin started in soccer as a player. He played professional and semi-professional soccer in England and Singapore. When Alexandria, Louisiana, needed an improved soccer program, he started the Crossroads Soccer Association. Today, the Crossroads Soccer Association continues to flourish. Goodwin also worked in Virginia at Soccer Academy Inc. with a former teammate from the Royal Navy. Goodwin served as Director of Coaching for five years and recruited many great coaches to the program. He is currently the head coach of the men’s and women’s programs at Louisiana College.
Terry Gentry teaches young recreational players in the Mount Tabour Soccer Club technical skills, socially acceptable conduct and team spirit while keeping soccer fun. Being around Gentry makes you want to be a better person. He is extremely encouraging and motivates everyone. He encourages good sportsmanship and is a great role model who is always in control. His positive attitude is an asset to the team; he talks to the boys respectfully and accentuates their positive accomplishments. Gentry embraces the spirit of recreational sports and is more than fair to players of all skill levels.
On Friday, March 2, the national Coach of the Year – Boys will be awarded in conjunction with the US Youth Soccer Awards Gala during the US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop and Coaches Convention.
Regional winners of the 2006 US Youth Soccer adidas Girls’ Coaches of the Year are:
Region / Coach / Hometown / State Association
Region I / George Jardine / Wilmington / Delaware Youth Soccer Association
Region II / Rimini Ross / Lincoln / Nebraska Youth Soccer Association
Region III / Bobby Lovelace / Raleigh / North Carolina Youth Soccer Association
Region IV / Mathew Heubest / Boise / Idaho Youth Soccer Association
A little more on these winners:
George Jardine is devoted to the Hockessin Soccer Club. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for the past two years, each season Jardine coaches a team, trains referees and trainers, officiates tournaments, lines the fields and volunteers for other duties. In short he is critical in making the club run. Committed to the game and his team, Jardine understands how to coach young women, how to encourage them and provide instruction. He also values diversity. One of his best players that he recruited is hearing impaired. He teaches the girls how to accept and respect each other.
Rimini Ross doesn’t just motivate, she inspires. Recently she took her Capital Soccer Association team from Division I to state finals in a single year. Ross strives to be an even better coach; she continues her coaching education and has earned her B license. Ross encourages her players to do well in school and go to college. One of her players said, “What I think puts her above other coaches is how much she believed in us.” Ross not only brings out the best in her players, but she also convinces them that they are capable of becoming whatever they want, on or off the field.
Bobby Lovelace challenges and constantly raises the bar for the Triangle Football Club. He encourages creative play, risk taking, one-on-one attacking and defending in a possession-oriented style that emphasizes shape and attacking in numbers. His encouragement and advocacy instills the girls with a sense of confidence and a desire of excellence. Lovelace is a teacher at heart. He recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of players and team dynamics and helps players recognize them as well and find ways to improve.
Mathew Henbest is a soft-spoken coach for the Boise Blast that gets fantastic results. He is a motivator, who offers individual evaluation with positive observation and suggestions for improvements. Fitness was a major emphasis during last year’s season and all of the girls excelled. In addition to fitness and skills, players and parents are encouraged, by word and example, to respect themselves. Sportsmanship is Henbest’s number one rule. He has high expectations of his players. Henbest took the initiative to write the values and guiding principles of the Boise Blast Soccer Club. Also, Henbest previously coached the Idaho State Youth Soccer ODP Girls teams, in addition to coaching the Boise Blast.
On Friday, March 2, the national Coach of the Year – Girls will be awarded in conjunction with the US Youth Soccer Awards Gala during the US Youth Soccer adidas Workshop and Coaches Convention.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
Today I am in Houston, Texas working as one of the instructors at a “Y” License course. There are 31 candidates in this course from Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Mexico and Texas. Concurrently another National Youth License course is taking place in Weston, Florida with another 20 candidates.
The National Youth License; a.k.a., the “Y” License, focuses on how to coach players in the U6 to U12 age groups. In every state the majority of players, perhaps up to 75%, are in these age groups. The pyramid of soccer in the USA rests upon the foundation of these ages groups playing youth soccer.
Every select team, high school team, state-level US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program team, college team, professional team and even the full National Teams come into existence out of these young players. Therefore the “Y” License is the most important coaching course offered in our nation. It is a foundational course that influences every level of soccer. It is the one educational opportunity that every soccer coach and administrator should attend. It is a course that will change your vision of youth soccer and the way that we adults guide the experiences of our children in sport.
More info is available here:
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
The four US Youth Soccer ODP teams, one from each of the four regions, had a great showing over the week. Fresh from the US Youth Soccer ODP Boys Thanksgiving Interregionals this November, the US Youth Soccer Boys 1990 Regional teams made up half of the eight-team adidas Super Group at the Showcase.
After the first day of play the US Youth Soccer ODP Boys Regional teams were a combined 3-1 with wins over U.S. U-17, Tigres and Real Madrid.
As the competition went on the boys continued their success and compiled the following overall records:
Region I 2-1-1
Region II 2-1-1
Region III 1-1-2
Region IV 3-1-0
Leading goal scorers from the US Youth Soccer ODP were Nick De Leon of Region IV with three goals followed by Kirk Urso of Region II with two goals.
To see the complete set of scores click the link below:
Learn more about US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program by clicking the link below: