Wednesday, March 28, 2007
As part of the continued development of the US Youth Soccer National League, the US Youth Soccer Board of Directors has adopted the US Youth Soccer National League Charter.
The League will begin operation in the 2007-2008 seasonal year that goes from September 1, 2007, through August 31, 2008. For this first year, competition will be held for the U-15 and U-16 age groups, girls and boys. Beginning with the 2008-2009 seasonal year, the competition will be expanded to include the U-17 age group, girls and boys.
The League will be administered by a National League Committee of up to nine individuals appointed by the president of US Youth Soccer, subject to approval of the US Youth Soccer Board of Directors, and a National League Commissioner appointed by the President in accordance with the Charter.
Each gender age group will have eight teams. For the 2007-2008 seasonal year, all teams playing in the top US Youth Soccer Regional League of each region during the 2006-2007 seasonal year will be eligible to apply to play in the National League. The applications from the teams of a regional league will be reviewed by its Regional Director, and the Regional Director will make recommendations to the National League Committee concerning those teams. The Committee will select the eight teams in each gender age group. The Committee must select at least one team from each region and not more than three teams from any one region. For the 2008-2009 seasonal year and following, the number of teams in each gender age group may be increased with Board approval.
The four semifinal teams in each gender age group for the prior seasonal year will automatically be teams in the appropriate gender age group for the next seasonal year. The balance of the teams in that gender age group will be determined by the Committee. US Youth Soccer programs and events are known for their excellence and the US Youth Soccer National League will continue this tradition. For US Youth Soccer members, the next months will be an exciting time as the plans for the league are further finalized.
More information will be provided as it becomes available.
For more information on US Youth Soccer please visit www.USYouthSoccer.org.
Brandi Niolon, a coach who attended the National Youth License Course in February, had this to say about developmentally appropriate.
It is a term that is used quite often in education and childcare. It means to take into account the level of physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of a child.
In other words, we should be concerned with the “whole child”. Every child advances in these different areas at his or her own rate and the range of these rates can be rather broad at any given age. This is very important to the growth of the child. The use of this term in sports is a fairly new, but welcome change.
Participation in sports has expanded at enormous rates and for children of increasingly younger ages. It is crucial for coaches and administrators to understand the patrons they serve.
While there is no one right way to care for children, there are guidelines that focus on how a child develops and the care that is appropriate at various stages. These guidelines help teachers, child care providers, coaches and parents understand ways to care for children while helping them develop positive self-esteem.
The common thread in what is coined as developmentally appropriate is an understanding that each child is unique and that each child's experiences should match his or her development abilities. Children learn best through hands on experiences. This can be demonstrated easily through sports.
It is the responsibility of the coach, teacher, child care provider and parent to ensure that each child participated in developmentally appropriate activities. These activities should acknowledge both the age and the individual needs of each child. The idea is that the program should fit the child; the child shouldn't have to fit the program!
Monday, March 26, 2007
Soccer in the United States has progressed tremendously over the last 30 years. Yesterday, I walked into a restaurant in Warwick, R.I., and several televisions were tuned to the United States versus Ecuador men’s national team match.
I was struck by several revelations at once. First, that the match was on at all on a Sunday afternoon. It was not long ago that to see a United States match on TV you’d have to be a night owl and the broadcast would be often interrupted with commercials. Now this international friendly was on broadcast television without commercials during the match. Also, the commentators actually knew the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick and that you don’t head butt the ball.
I was also struck by the fact that the match was already playing on four TVs in the restaurant and my party, the soccer people, didn’t have to make a special request of the restaurant manager to get the game on. What’s more no other patrons complained about that foreign sport being on. As I watched the match I was impressed with the ever-improving abilities of our national team to compete internationally. Twenty or 30 years ago, we would have struggled to score a single goal against a talented team like Ecuador and now we control much of the match and score three goals.
The United States players on the pitch all play professionally, either domestically or overseas. Wow! There’s a large number of Americans playing abroad; once that number could be counted on one hand. Here at home, we have healthy professional and semi-professional teams both indoor and outdoor. Many of their matches are played in soccer stadiums. Holy kick-off batman! Soccer specific stadiums in North America are becoming the expectation. Some of those even have ancillary facilities to support local amateur soccer.
As I travel across our nation, I am continually impressed by the quality and quantity of our soccer facilities. If you build it they will come. No, they were already here. They played in parks, on the outfield of a baseball diamond, in a parking garage, someone’s yard, the beach, the mowed down corn filed, the vacant lot or the field the high school football team wouldn’t use and was sometimes used as a parking lot. Yes, they were already out there playing and because they were already playing, we built it. We now have soccer facilities to accommodate literally millions of players.
Now-a-days they will stay up till 3 o’clock in the morning to watch a live telecast of a World Cup match. And will do so in Nielson eye catching numbers. Not so long ago, you would have to drive to a distant city and pay to go in a theater to watch a closed-circuit telecast of a World Cup match. If the established order had been thinking they could have imprisoned all ‘those soccer nuts’ in one place. They, WE, have come a long way with the growth and acceptance of our sport. The soccer bashers, who once seemed to be more plentiful than stars in the sky, are now a minority.
Some sort of soccer reference shows up in more TV shows and commercials than ever before. Even Hollywood is in on the act with soccer movies. The Game of Their Lives… what a tribute to our 1950 team! Whether they care for it or not the majority of Americans know the World Cup takes place. Even the WNBA owes thanks for its acceptance to the groundbreaking success of the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team on national television.
I bet that if the Battle of the Superstars was still going on that more soccer players would be standing next to Kyle Rote, Jr., as a champion. Alright, I really aged myself there. See you next week on this same bat channel.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
A Window of Opportunity, Optimal Trainability
After this past weekend’s ODP National Championship and our Coaches Connection Symposium, I went back to read Optional Training, by Istvan Balyi, Ph.D., National Coaching Institute British Columbia, Canada, and Ann Hamilton, MPE Advanced Training and Performance Ltd. Victoria, B.C., Canada.
Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight to 12 years of training for a talented player/athlete to reach elite levels. This is called the 10 year or 10,000 hour rule, which translates to slightly more than three hours of practice daily for ten years (Ericsson, et al., 1993; Ericsson and Charness, 1994, Bloom, 1985; Salmela et al., 1998).
Unfortunately, parents and coaches in many sports still approach training with an attitude best characterized as "peaking by Friday", where a short-term approach is taken to training and performance with an over-emphasis on immediate results. We now know that a long-term commitment to practice and training is required to produce elite players/athletes in all sports.A specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete’s career.
Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long-term rather than winning in the short-term. There is no short-cut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete’s career.This article discusses trainability during childhood and adolescence.
Coaches worldwide currently design long- and short-term athlete training models, as well as competition and recovery programs based on their athletes’ chronological age. Yet, research has shown that chronological age is not a good indicator on which to base athlete development models for athletes between the ages of 10 to 16. There is a wide variation in the physical, cognitive and emotional development of athletes within this age group.
Superimposing a scaled down version of adult athlete training and competition models is not a good alternative either. Ideally, coaches would be able to determine the biological age of their athletes and use this information as the foundation for athlete development models.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable procedure to identify biological age non-invasively. So what can be done to remedy this situation?
Monday, March 19, 2007
While observing youth matches over the weekend I was reminded of the over-coaching that so many youth coaches do during a match. Micromanaging a soccer game is very difficult to do as the action changes so fast that by the time a coach finishes a sentence of instruction the situation has changed.
The ball has moved and so have all of the players, so the information is likely now useless. A coach yelling out general reminders, such as move up to support or recover to defend, is fine. It is the step-by-step instruction coming from coaches and many spectators does that is in fact harming the players. With young players, 12-years-old or younger, the comments made are actually a mental distraction.
This means the player no longer is focusing on the match but instead is trying to hear and act upon what is being yelled by the adults. Move this to the teenage level of play and now the tactical reaction by the players is too slow. If they have come to rely on instructions from the touchline then they must be able to hear the instructions, filter out the extraneous parental comments from the coach’s comments, process the information, make a decision and then act upon it.
Odds are very high that this process is too slow for that player to now make an impact on the match. Players must be able to think for themselves in order to act fast enough in a match. The player who is hindered by the coach to rely upon the coach during a match is doomed to never be more than a reaction player. A reaction player is the one who just reacts to what just happened.
We want the American player to be an anticipation player. This is a player who can read the game and can then anticipate what may happen next. This is the player who can think one or two moves ahead of the action. This is a player who is now more likely to become an impact player!
When a coach yells frequently during a match the coach then doesn’t know if the players are communicating among themselves. That intra-team communication is crucial to success. Players that do not talk to one another will always be one step behind the opposition. A coach who is quiet during the majority of the match is one who can hear IF the players are talking.
Then the coach can asses what the players are saying. Is the talk positive and tactically useful? If not then the coach can address that to a small extent at half-time or the end of the match and then more thoroughly in the next training session. Some coaches who make the change from over-coaching to a match appropriate level of coaching will find initially that the players do not talk because they are not accustomed to doing so. The coach had been doing all of the talking and the players were largely silent.
Now that the coach is saying less, the players need to fill in the blanks and most will not be in the habit. Here the coach must show patience and allow the confidence to speak up during a match to grow with the players. This begins with the coach saying little during the scrimmage at practice so that players may take the lead in communication. Too many of our players do not speak up during a match, but many have not been able to get a word in edgewise over the monologue from the coach.
So here’s the bottom line…the coach needs to be quiet during a match and the players must do the talking! What do you think?
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The pressure to win is often what takes the fun out of the out of playing and makes soccer players so afraid of losing, makes you feel as though you are standing in front of a jury instead of playing a game. But you have the power to turn your jury into more of a party. There is a chance that it might not even take that much power, since the jury could all be in your players head. Yours parents might not be judging you. Your teammates might not be judging you. The problem could be simply that you are judging yourself too harshly.
The way to have more fun as a soccer player is to get away from the judging and get back to playing. Get back to running kicking and all the things you liked when you started playing the game. Get back to the joy you use to feel before you started keeping score. While winning might be more fun the losing, you can’t let losing take the fun out of playing soccer. You can’t let losing make you feel like a criminal. Losing is not a crime. Losing is part of learning.
If you’re in a rut your teammates might be able to help you have more fun. Reach out to them. Talk with them. Go somewhere with them after a game. You might discover that they also aren’t having as much fun as they would like. Who knows? You might even learn that your team is suffering from a fun deficiency, which isn’t so uncommon in soccer, given that there are coaches who act more like sergeants than coaches.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Yesterday I conducted the inaugural Soccer Fair for recreation coaches for the Colorado Youth Soccer Association in Littleton with 115 coaches in attendance. It was a great service by the state association to set up such an event for its members. Some state associations have done similar events in the past and a growing number of them are planning to do so in the near future. We had discussions on players and coaching methods, practice time on the field with the coaches, demonstration of training with players and then practice time with a few of the coaches in attendance running an activity or two with the kids. That was followed up with a critique of their sessions and then a general question and answer session.
This all worked quite well on the day and is a good model for other state associations and clubs. Yet the experience brings to my mind once again of how do we better reach the truly grassroots coach? It is challenging even for the home club to get those coaches to take advantage of the many educational opportunities that abound for them. Some will say that we cannot expect volunteers to spend even more time attending a course, clinic or symposium, yet over 100 of them did so at this Soccer Fair. I think more of our volunteer coaches would take advantage of these sorts of opportunities if they knew they existed.
Sometimes the problem lies in the fact that a club head coach or an administrator has made the decision for those volunteer coaches and assumes that they would not attend a coaching education event and therefore does not pass along the information on the event. That person has arbitrarily made the decision for other adults. I contend though that those adults are quite capable of making their own decisions and that clubs and states associations must always pass along the details on coaching education events to the grassroots coach and let him or her decide for him or herself. It is incumbent upon the local soccer organization to give its new coaches information on coaching resources.
An example is the recommended reading list posted by US Youth Soccer.
Another resource is the courses and clinics offered by the state association. Here’s the link to all of the state associations websites so that you can tap into the website for your state soccer association.
There are many DVDs, publications and magazines and so on for the new coach to use to learn a bit more about soccer and how to coach. The issue too often is that the volunteer coach doesn’t know where to begin to look for that information. This is where more club directors of coaching need to be more proactive. Those coaching leaders must be sure that every coach in the club knows where to look for reliable coaching information.
So to help along those coaching leaders here is another link with many resources cited to aid their coaches.
I believe we can and should expect all of our youth soccer coaches to have some education on the sport and how to coach. The resources and opportunities are there. The state and national coaching educators need the help of the local soccer administrators and coaches to help spread the word with the novice coach. Teamwork once again is the way to success for us all!
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
9) Kids will be happy as long as they are part of a winning team.
I wish was true. Most kids prefer to play and play a lot. At the young age Under-8 and younger they really don’t care about being on a losing or not-so-good team, just as long as they’re playing in the games rather than setting all the time while all the faster or big kids play so they can win. They don’t even want to play sparingly on a championship team. Kids instinctively know that the fun of sport is in the actual playing, not in always being on the sidelines and applauding their teammates.
10) The vast majority of Moms and Dads tend to be honest and fairly objective about their child’s ability in sports.
Wouldn’t this be a wonderful thing if it’s was true but if we are speaking of the truth – we really aren’t. Most parents see their child as being better looking, smarter than the other kids, I know my kid is and certainly at least as athletically talented, if not more so, than the others players.
Monday, March 5, 2007
In the U.S.A. one needs a license to cut hair, but not to teach a child how to play a sport.
It’s curious that parents will let their child be coached by someone who may not be qualified to do so. The reasonable expectations of parents that a youth soccer coach have some minimum coaching certification should be higher. Whether a coach is a volunteer or paid he or she should have a coaching certificate or license from a state soccer association. By a coach holding a certification the soccer environment has a chance to improve through better coaching. Mind you that a coaching course will not change someone’s personality, but it will have a positive impact on coaching knowledge and talent.
Additionally by having a requirement for coaching certification clubs will find that the retention of coaches will improve. Someone who has been through a coaching course will stick with coaching a year or two longer than the coach who still feels in the dark. When a coach feels better equipped to coach, that he or she has better understanding of soccer and the players then that coach is more confident and positive. As the cadre of knowledgeable and positive coaches grows then fewer players drop-out. When the retention of players improves soccer clubs then have more wherewithals to grow their facilities, personnel and services to the community. There’s a positive and lasting ripple effect from required coaching licensure.
In closing I leave you with these thoughts from a US Youth Soccer coach.
“… it seems that US coaching education needs to be revamped in terms of early coaching education so that there is more emphasis on educating the novice coach on age-appropriate soccer learning (which is a cornerstone of the NY license). The reason WHY small-sided games and fun activities are good for youth soccer and HOW they contribute to overall learning seems often to be lost on many volunteer coaches (most of whom are parents with kids in the program).
"The problem we seem to be facing is a shortage of skilled youth soccer coaches who care about teaching. How many late teens compared to 30- to 50-year olds are there who are out on the pitch working with children? I bet very few. It seems that U.S. coaching education at this point is geared towards volume rather than excellence with a long-term plan to move towards excellence once a critical mass of soccer coaches has been established. In terms of parents, they can be your best allies if they are educated properly or your worst enemies if they remain in the dark.”
Thursday, March 1, 2007
7) Sportsmanship is something that can only be taught by your child’s coach.
In fact, being a good sport starts at home with the parent. First, starting when they’re very young, parents should teach their child how to behave not only after a loss, but also after a win. Explain to them the right way to act. Secondly, during the heat of games, you the parent and coach have to set a positive example of how to behave especially when a call goes against your child or your child’s team. Kids watch carefully to see how you react when things aren’t going your way. Leaving the lessons of sportsmanship up to the coach is a mistake. The coach should be reinforcing good sportsmanship – not teaching it as well.
8) All coaches are created equal.
I wish this was true, but it’s just not. There are a few exceptionally good coaches. There are also a few very bad coaches. Most fall somewhere in the middle. Like anything else in life, you hope that your child is lucky enough to play for a couple of those gifted coaches along the way, and can somehow manage to avoid the not-so-good ones. Do your homework before the season begins. Ask other parents. See if you can find out which coaches care about the kids and which coaches simply care about winning. It is important to try to determine which coaches will provide the best environment for your child. Winning is not always a sign of a great coach especially at the younger ages.