Wednesday, May 30, 2007

JT's Blog - Winning and Coaching - May 30

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

There are times when I wonder if the increase in paid coaches in youth soccer is a good thing for our youth players. I have observed over the years that some paid coaches train two or three and sometimes even four teams. Why? Because it’s their livelihood. Would you agree that in order to get the best out of youth development you really need to get to know the players in order to be able to provide training that fits their ability to play physically and mentally? Perhaps training more than two teams during the same season may not allow the coach to train the teams to their full potential.

John Kessel, USA Volleyball Director of Membership Development and Disabled Programs, states; “I know that kids don't care how much I know about this sport, until they know how much I care about them.” I agree with that statement what about you?

When a coach is paid there is sometimes a misunderstanding by the parents that the check is the only motivation the coach needs to get the players prepared for the match. That assumption may also support an expectation of winning every match, which can bring more pressure on the coach and players. Wining is part of playing the game of soccer, but training and playing matches are also part of learning life skills. Will the coach that focuses on winning at all cost be the coach that has your child’s best interest at heart? Will winning every match make your team a better one? Once players get to their teen years it may be more appropriate to start training towards winning, but training to win at any cost in youth soccer should never be the goal. Training should include tactics and techniques to win matches, but winning isn’t the end all when it comes to learning how to play the game. Let’s not forget about team building, how to deal with winning and losing with dignity, and how players may learn from both.

Coaches are role models paid or not, good or bad. Please understand that you have a great responsibility to know the impact you will have on your players and parents. Coaches should build on the player’s skills and understanding of how to play the game, but you must also work on what’s right and wrong. If you yell and scream at players or the referee, what message do you think you’re role modeling to your players and parents? You are showing them it’s ok to yell and scream. If you can take a look at yourself and don't like what you see when you’re training for a match or when you’re coaching a match, then you may not be projecting what could be considered a good role model. Coaches need to know how to balance fun - smiles and humor in training, with a healthy focused on being competitive.

What are some of the behaviors a coach might want to be aware of and perhaps work on to be a good role model? The coach should stay calm through every storm of competition, so the players can play through challenges with out being overly stressed about the results of the game, and still have a drive to win. Be consistent, and allow the players to rely on who you are as a coach, never have to worry about "which coach" they might be talking to. A coach should never stop learning about the beautiful game.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sam's Blog - Girls' Soccer - May 29

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

Recently I received an inquiry from a student in Sweden on the status of soccer for females in the U.S.A. and how we got to the point of having so many girls playing soccer. The questions are ones that bring clarity for us too on our fortunate circumstance of having soccer being so well accepted by both boys and girls. Here are the questions and my replies.

What possibilities are there for a woman to be a good soccer player in the USA? In general I say the possibilities are good here for females to develop into good players. We have over 1.5 million girls playing soccer at the youth level. Their opportunities for a good club soccer environment are almost as good as the boys and in most cases just as good as what the boys have. The girls have every opportunity to play in high school and the chances of the girls playing in college is better than the chances for the boys and they are more likely to receive athletic scholarship money than the boys. On the other hand their chances to play at the semiprofessional or professional levels are not as good as for the men. The girls have the same chances to participate in the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program as do the boys.

Do men/boys have the same possibilities to be a good soccer player as girls/women, if not, what is the difference? The boys have good chances to become good players too. The opportunities at the club and high school level are as good as the ones for the girls and in some parts of the country the chances are better for the boys. It is at the college level that the girls have a better chance of a scholarship than the boys since colleges give more money for the female soccer teams than for the male ones. This is because the colleges put more money into the boys’ American football teams than anything else. While the boys may not have access to as much athletic scholarship money for soccer as do the girls there are in fact more teams at the college level for the boys, but not many more.

Are there youth teams, school teams, clubs where they can play? In US Youth Soccer we have 4500 clubs across the country. There are other youth soccer organizations so there may be as many as 7000 clubs in the country for youth soccer players, boys and girls. There are thousands of high school soccer teams (boys & girls) in the U.S.A. and there are hundreds of college soccer teams for men and women at several levels of competition.

Which leagues can women's/girls’ teams play in, in the USA? Most of the leagues are at the youth amateur level. At the semi-professional and professional levels there is the W-League.

Here is the link for their web site for more information:

Are WUSA going to start again, in that case, when? There is a business plan that has the WUSA returning in 2008, but that is not yet confirmed.

Have you got any idea or knowledge why women soccer in the USA is so big, for example if you compare it to men's soccer or other countries women soccer?

Soccer is a big sport for women in the U.S.A. due to several factors. In 1972 the U.S. Congress passed Title IX. This law requires colleges and universities that receive any funds from the federal government to give equal opportunity and funding to female sports as they do to male sports. This occurred at a time that American society was also becoming more accepting of girls participation in sports. This also happened at a time when the ‘soccer boom’ occurred in this country. The ‘soccer boom’ was when interest in playing soccer exploded in the U.S.A. and the game moved into the mainstream of our society. Prior to 1970 the game was played here but predominately in ethic enclaves of German or English or Italian or Argentinean or Jamaican immigrants and so on.

So soccer sought out girls to play and that was different than the established sports of football, baseball and basketball who did not accept girls in their sport at first. Soccer was trying to grow so we invited everyone to play, male or female, good athlete or poor one. The girls who play soccer here today owe many thanks to the pioneering efforts of the girls and women of the 1970s and the 1980s.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

JT's Blog - California North's President’s Workshop - May 24

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

On May 19-20, I attended the California Youth Soccer Association North’s President’s Workshop in Oakland, hosted by the Director of Coaching Karl Dewazian. It was my first time attending a California North event and I was excited with anticipation of what was to come.

The outline of the scheduled events was:
Mr. John Murphy, Sideline Behaviors
Ms. Regan McMahon, Author, Revolution in the Bleachers
Karl Dewazien and myself, Choosing the Right Coach
Mr. Kurt Barthel, Independent Contractors vs. Employees
Mr. Marc Pinnell, Online Registration

Mr. Murphy, Sideline Behaviors, discussed the following:

- How positive leadership can affect the sideline behavior
- Never underestimate the effect of the positive leadership as a model for others to follow.
- Acceptances of responsibility: Not only coaches, but parents and spectators must own up to appropriate sideline behaviors.
- If coaches, managers, parents and spectators can’t manage their sideline behavior, then the referee should.

Coach Karl and I discussed some of the requirements the board may want to consider when hiring a new coach:

- The personality fits with the children
- Appropriate levels of soccer education
- The right attitude towards children
- The right attitude toward coaching
- The right attitude toward the game

Mr. Barthel discussed employee vs. independent contractor. Mr. Barthel explained the differences between the definitions of an employee and independent contractor. It is very important that the paid coaches and hiring organization are both clear as which contract the coach will work under. This will help to avoid any issues with the IRS.

Mr. Pinnel discussed the upgraded software now being used for online registration.

Lastly, Ms. Regan McMahon discussed her research and new book called Revolution in the Bleachers. In her book and article Ms. McMahon looks at what has happen the last 20 years with childhood and the family life. The demands of sports for our youth today are pushing family time and structure away from what it use to be. I think it’s very important to understand the cost of what is being called hypercompetitive sports life. Kids are getting stressed out, burned out, injured and are not spending holidays at home or with the entire family. What’s more important is that Ms. McMahon gave her thoughts on how we can give some of the playtime and childhood back to our kids. Ms. McMahon gave permission to copy and re-print her article. To learn more see McMahon’s article in the
San Francisco Chronicle.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sam's Blog - Moral Development and Fair Play - May 22

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

Not long ago a coach asked what does US Youth Soccer teach regarding sportsmanship.

Well we do have a publication titled The Principles of Conduct and we certainly do promote good sportsmanship in our events. In the National Youth License coaching course we conduct a session on Ethics and Morals for coaches. So in reply to the coach I passed along a document titled Stages of Moral Development.

After reading the document the coach made the comment and asked the question here, “Thank you for the insightful information on moral development. I had read it before, when I first took the National Youth License back in 1998. However it was good to read it again. I have one question, given that individuals cannot conceptualize morality any higher than one stage above their present stage and also given that only a small percentage of individuals ever reach level 6 ‘golden rule’, then how are we suppose to teach ‘Fair Play’ which is the golden rule?”

Indeed most players follow the ‘Golden Rule’ merely for reciprocation; that is they are hoping that if they treat others well then they may get the same treatment. This is especially true for children. It is not that they follow the rule because of a greater sense of the concept of morality, but instead an “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine”. So while they follow the Rule for the wrong reason they do in fact follow the Rule. In time, they may grow to level 5 or 6 and come to a more holistic understanding of the Golden Rule.

It has become difficult to teach young players fair play when they see professional players often cheat. Nor is the cheating confined to players on the field during a match as coaches, team managers, and club administrators and occasionally the referees also bend the rules or out right cheat. Too many participants and spectators of American sports now accept gamesmanship and breaking the rules in order to win.

If this were not the case then groups like the Positive Coaching Alliance would not be necessary. Some universities now have Sports Ethics classes to teach tomorrow’s physical education teachers and coaches to play by the rules and demonstrate good behavior. Unfortunately only 20 percent of the coaches in youth sports in America have ever received any formal training to coach youngsters.

For us as youth soccer coaches being a good sport starts with how we conduct ourselves in front of the players. Do our actions reflect our words?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

JT's Blog - Soccer Goal Safety - May 17

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

As I looked over some of my e-mails this pass week, they called to my attention the numerous young players who have been injured in the United States involving soccer goals. Most of these accidents could have been prevented. When portable goals are involved, safety has to be first on the minds of all.

What steps can be taken to prevent these incidents from occurring again and again? I know there are some parents, coaches and referees that may chose to use the total number of players, which is in the millions, versus the number of players injured to perhaps highlight the low percentage injuries. Yes, there are over 3 million players in US Youth Soccer, but, there have also been 28 deaths since 1979 related to goal safety and numerous other injuries. One occurred just this month. I believe one death is too high. In reality no coach, referee, manager or anyone involved in the game of soccer begins a training session or lets a game start without believing that they have done everything within their control to improve safety, including checking for goal safety.

One of the major safety issues is not during the game, but when the goals are being moved. Goals are moved before the games start or when training sessions are about to begin, and sometimes in the middle of a training session. So, if we know the times when the possibility of injures may increase what should we do? How should we deal with the moving of the goals, and who should assistance us with this task? Remember safety first.

Although accidents will happen, my concern is that most of these accidents are preventable. We need to plan before we make any decisions to move a goal. We have alternatives to training without using the actual goals to ensure we keep our players safe and achieve our goal for the training session. Remember, goal safety first.

Let’s get a dialogue going. Please share your suggestions on ways to maintain goal safety while marinating the mission of the practice.

More information about goal safety is provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Learn more at

Kwik Goal, a US Youth Soccer sponsor, promotes proper anchoring systems. Learn more at And check out Kwik Goal’s Soccer Goal Safety Booklet for more ideas on how to play safe.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sam's Blog - Too Much Talk is Dangerous - May 14

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

In the January 2007 issue of Champions magazine, Sir Alex Ferguson states, “You see training sessions where the coach is talking all the time and the words get lost in the wind. I remember when I was a player wanting to get on with it and the coach was rambling on.”

Hundreds of thousands of youth soccer coaches across America do the same thing at the matches as well as the training sessions. When the coach takes center stage in this way it takes the game away from the players. Yet the game is all about the players and the players are the game.

In the National Coaching Schools it is taught to interrupt the training session infrequently. Make a coaching point or ask a guided question at natural stoppages. Rarely “freeze” the activity to interject as the coach. This style of coaching gives a better rhythm to training. If the challenges and rhythm are right then the players get into a flow of play. That flow is a powerful learning environment. Indeed if the coach is constantly interrupting the players’ flow then when do they touch the ball?

These points are not meant to convey that the coach should be silent at a training session. Well-timed questions and comments to the players are crucial for the kids to learn. But they also need a chance to talk among themselves to sort out the challenges of the game. Whether you call it football or soccer and whether you are male or female you certainly are more effective when you put your mind into the game as well as your legs. The skillful and soccer savvy player is the one coaches should strive to develop. Coach this means you are now the guide on the side.

Coaches must be skilled in the art of “asking meaningful questions.” This will give players the opportunity to practice problem solving and will help them to become more capable of solving problems that arise in training sessions and matches.

Our goal is to develop more “soccer savvy” players who are more self-reliant during a match. Players consistently coached with this method will be more adaptable to the demands of the game. This coaching method is also likely to produce more creative players.

While the training session is the best time and place to interact with the players with critical thinking and guided discovery, during matches may be a time to further the coach’s efforts to get the players to “sort it out” for themselves. Questions could be posed to the players on the bench and thus better prepare them mentally/tactically for when they enter the match. Appropriate questions to the team during half-time can get them all on the same page for the second half. Furthermore, if the players are sorting it out among themselves at half-time then the odds of them actually executing the second half game plan improves.

Soccer is easy to teach to children because many of them already know a good deal about it and many are so keen on it. Simple principles, professional organization, appropriate incentives and unlimited encouragement – any coach worth the name can hardly fail. Even more important, he or she will gain enormous gratification from the pleasure and satisfaction gained by the children.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

JT's Blog - National Youth License Course in Philadelphia - May 9

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

Recently, I assisted in teaching a National Youth License course, which was hosted by Starfinder Foundation in conjunction with the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (EPYSA), a proud member of US Youth Soccer. About 60 coaches from inner-city Philadelphia and surrounding areas attended.

EPYSA coach Billy Tompkins delivered part of the youth module and Mike Barr the EPYSA State Director of Coaching also was in attendance and conducted several field sessions.

To kickoff what was a fantastic couple of days, I delivered a coaching clinic to Multi-Cultural United, a local Under-16 boys team. The Multi-Cultural team is a diverse group of inner-city youngsters of mostly African decent.

After the clinic, Tony Williams, President and Founder of the Starfinder Foundation invited every player, through a full-scholarship, to attend Starfinder’s Youth Leadership Camp and to become a part of the organization’s exciting and innovative vision.

The week-long program uses soccer to develop character and leadership skills. Participants can also receive coaching and referee certifications. One of Starfinder’s goals is to increase job opportunities by securing referee badges and coaching certifications.

These students will develop the attitudes, characteristics and leadership skills of the next generation of players/leaders living within inner-city Philadelphia.

The next morning, the coaching education got underway with the first 20 coaches working with the Philadelphia Soccer Club Under-6 boys team. That afternoon, 40 coaches who attended the Under-8/Under-10 youth course worked with the Anderson Monarchs, an African-American Girls Club, from South Philadelphia.

The event was a great success with a lot of positive feedback from the coaches involved in the sessions.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Sam's Blog - Advice needed on managing players with superior skills - May 7

Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

The question below is from a US Youth Soccer coach working in his community with grassroots soccer. Please see my response at the end.

What is your advice on managing younger kids with superior abilities?

My youngest son is a Under-6 (only misses being a Under-7 by just over a month) and is dominate on the field. He has superior technical abilities (e.g., changes direction dribbling, shoots with both feet) for his age and very knowledgeable about the game. I won’t bore you with the details, but he can score at will and no one on the opposition can score when he’s in the game.

He’s not bored and is still having fun. Luckily for me, he is not consumed with scoring and limits his shoots. He gains possession and passes to a teammate. He does so on his own; I did not tell him to do this.

My larger concern is with the other kids. As a coach, he changes the dynamic at practice. I cannot put him with anyone if I’m doing something in pairs. I set up two games to end practice (2 v 2 and a 3 v 3) and he dominates the game he’s in. I’ve tried 2 v 3 with him on the short side to no avail.

As someone involved with our club, I’m concerned with kids on other teams. No one can advance the ball when he is in the game. This past week, I only had five kids show up and he had to play the whole game. Needless to say, the opposing team did not score and anyone who advanced the ball into our side of the field had it taken away.

I’m sure this is not a unique situation and I assume US Youth Soccer has some suggestions on how to handle this. I’m looking for a solution that is both fair to him and fair to the other kids. Any information/advice would be greatly appreciated.

On a side note, I am planning to attend the National Youth License Course this summer. I have also offered to run the Under-6, Under-7, and Under-8 programs in my club next year. My goal is to educate our coaches with what is taught by US Youth Soccer. Some members on our board are very stubborn, so I’m uncertain as to whether it will be accepted.

My reply:
I am pleased to read that all is well with you and your soccer experiences. What you have is a “good problem.” Yet I know that it is indeed a challenge. Here are a few suggestions for your situation:

- During training sessions have him teach another player one of his favorite moves…peer teaching can be a powerful tool…next week he teaches someone else

- Ask him in training when you are playing a small-sided game to make passes to set up teammates to score (how many assists can you get?). After doing so in training a few times then ask him to do the same in a match.

- Give him more leadership responsibilities…this component of athlete development is often overlooked as coaches focus too much on the physical components
- Give him cooperation challenges that will stretch him beyond his social/emotional age such as combining on passes with more than one teammate (small group play – say of 3 players) or to make passes to teammates other than his closest friends.

- Be sure he is getting the opportunities to play in all of parts of the field.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started.

Friday, May 4, 2007

JT's Blog - Urban Soccer Programs Collaborative - May 4

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

On the weekend of April 26-28 together with 14 organizations such as: U.S. Soccer Foundation, Starfinders, Soccer in the Street, America Scores, The Eddie Pope Foundation and The Fugiees Family. We wrote a small but very important piece of U.S. Soccer History. No, we didn’t put together the best Olympic Development Program team or the next U.S. Under-18 National team or pick players for the next MLS draft players. This group working as a collaborative agreed that working together would make the most difference and impact in the lives of young soccer players, especially in the underserved communities.

Thursday, April 26 we discussed:
- The Vision, Mission
- Values and Beliefs
- Structure and Governance

Friday, April 27 we discussed:
- The Institute of Urban Soccer Leadership
- The collection and distribution of best practices
- Identified opportunities for collaborative professional development, and positive youth development/soccer programs and events.
- We identified strategies to communicate and raise awareness of urban soccer programming and events.

Saturday, April 28 we discussed development/fundraising:
- Identified potential sources of larger funding that can better leverage as a collaborative
- Discussed fundraising challenges, concerns, and strategies to overcome them
- Discussed ways that the collaborative could support and help individual organizations achieve operational excellence
- Reviewed and evaluated the conference.

Over the three days our discussion found that teaching the skills to the players and the character component might be easy, but the academic component of the program could be an obstacle. Perhaps some type of academy will be needed to address this area. The collaborative will not be a talent identification system, although some will most likely move towards travel teams, select and ODP. This would be an excellent opportunity for those that do. I came away from the conferences believing those in attendance believed it should be the effort of every association and/or organization to promote the message that it’s the responsibility of every soccer club/team/program to have a local community outreach element.

US Youth Soccer has the Soccer Start Program. Its initiative is to supply the template for clubs to set up programs in both inner city and rural areas trying to connect these clubs with state association.

The collaborative can be a positive choice where soccer skills are an analogy for life skills. Now for the challenging but even more exciting phase. To turn our collective ideas into an organization that works, and leads to significant, sustainable impact in our underserved soccer communities for the Good of The Game.

Proposed Name: The Urban Youth Collaborative
(Effecting Positive Change through Soccer)

Make a Positive Impact on Society through Soccer

Mission: Support and promote youth soccer programs in underserved communities through a cooperative platform designed to provide opportunities and resource standards of excellence.

Value and beliefs: Integrity, Diversity, Fun, Pride and Teamwork

The commitment to make this collaborative a reality and how far we take it will depend on us. The match is about to begin, so if you have any ideas, suggestions or questions then please comment.