PARENTS! YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING! This sign is posted on the fence outside of a little league baseball field somewhere in our great country. The Federal Government should require that this sign or a sign like it be posted on, around, in front of, behind, on top of every athletic field that our young children play on. We wonder why some of our children have behavior issues, poor attitudes or are un-coachable. If you can stomach it then go and spend a weekend watching the parents at a youth athletic event. You will find the answers you are searching for.
This past weekend, April 13 – 14 South Carolina Youth Soccer, along with hosting club Sumter Soccer Club, conducted a very successful Palmetto Academy Cup and Kohl’s Recreational Cup Tournament which included over 100 teams from across the state. The tournament is solely for our U9 through U12 age groups. As the Director of Coaching for South Carolina, my primary purpose at this event is to hand out the awards to the age group champions and finalists. Are there Champions in these age groups? This question will be explored in a future blog along with other youth soccer issues.
While waiting to pass out the awards to the young conquering heroes, I get to walk around, anonymously, and watch our young aspiring players. These children are doing something that they enjoy and that is playing the game of soccer. Unfortunately, what usually catches my eye is not the technical speed in which a player manipulates the ball or the eye of the needle pass that is received in full stride or the thunderous shot that bulges the back of the net. Don’t get me wrong those are all present and all plant a gleaming smile on my face. What caught my eye is the behavior or lack thereof from the parents that are watching. PARENTS! YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING!
Now before you get too upset, I understand that the majority of parents are not like this and you are to be commended for your unwavering support and positive enthusiasm. My favorite is the mom or dad that heads and kicks the ball with own child prior to the game. Unfortunately there are always one or two malcontents on the sideline that just crush the atmosphere. Yes I understand that we all get caught up in the emotion of the moment and that we only want the very best for our children.
An example of the emotion that is transmitted to those young soccer players on that 65 x 55 yard patch of grass was one father kicking his portable chair no fewer than 5 times during the 1st half of a U9 game. A second example were two parents at a U10 game giving a volunteer field marshal from Sumter Soccer Club an earful about the terrible officiating that was taking place. Several parents during a U9 game were yelling at the opposing coach that her players were too rough and were touching their players too much. Last time I checked soccer is a contact sport. My favorite complaint was about the terrible field conditions that the players were forced to play on during a U9 game which did not allow the ball to bounce off the ground at all. Coincidently, this was the best U9 game that I have watched in a very long time. The players adapted well and were very skillful in their use of the ball and should have been commended for that. I think the parents weren’t able to comprehend that an actual game of soccer was taking place in front of them as the ball stayed on the ground and was used intelligently by these young players. The parents were confused, perplexed even as they were not able to yell “BOOT IT” as much as they usually did. It is disappointing for the parents, they were too busy complaining about the field, something out of their control, that they missed their children overcoming some adversity.
PARENTS! YOUR KIDS ARE WATCHING! As parents we want to be proud of our children in their success on and off the soccer field. We also want to see how our children deal with failure both on and off the field as well. Athleticism, sportsmanship, diligence and compassion for others are a few of the character traits South Carolina Youth Soccer tries to instill in our players. Be sure to remember that during soccer games. Our children are watching us and learning. Let’s make sure that as adults and parents, our actions and emotions on the sidelines during THEIR soccer games make THEM proud.
Please feel free to email me with comments, questions or suggestions for the blog. Gvallee@scysa.org
The title says it all: Director of Coaching Education, Player and Club Development. This is the official title that South Carolina Youth Soccer has bestowed upon the full time position that I currently occupy. There are 54 other professionals that hold the same position across the United States. Each Director has a unique set of geographical, socio-economic and cultural circumstances to master. Although the states and soccer associations are different, we all share a common goal. That goal is to develop and educate young, old, new and experienced coaches, players, families and clubs on how to establish a solid foundation in the fundamental elements of our great game of soccer. This solid foundation will allow for the future success and the continued growth of soccer from the local, to the national and possible global level.
The 55 state soccer associations take our lead in coaching education from the United States Soccer Federation Coaching Education Department. US Soccer has implemented many new changes in the structure, content and delivery of the coaching courses that it offers. Each state association is responsible for delivering US Soccer’s E and D Coaching Licenses as well US Youth Soccer’s Youth Module. South Carolina Youth Soccer held 4 E courses and 3 D courses in January and February of 2013. We held 6 Youth Modules across the state during the same time. When it’s all said and done a total of 236 youth soccer coaches attended a coaching course in 6 weeks in our small state. That’s a phenomenal number. A number we hope continues to grow. As the number of educated coaches in our state grows so too does the possibility of our state developing quality players for the youth national teams and possibly the senior national teams.
Sticking with the Coaching Education theme a bit longer, US Soccer is in the midst of overhauling, upgrading and establishing new standards in their coaching licenses and coaching education department. From the bottom of the coaching education pyramid all the way to the tip US Soccer will be on par with the highest standards and qualities of the top countries in UEFA and in FIFA. Starting in the 2012 US Soccer introduced a new E license curriculum that we have been teaching and have had nothing but positive feedback from the candidates that come through and complete the course. The next course to get an overhaul is the D course. The new D course, which will be introduced in our summer course schedule promises to offer an opportunity for a longer learning period and more interaction with instructors over the length of the course. The length of the course stays the same, 36 hours of overall instruction. The new format will call for an added 8-12 hours of pre-course and during course work assignments. The course will take place over 2 weekends but instead of the weekends being back to back weekends now coaches will be required to wait a minimum of one season before taking the 2nd weekend of the course. During the time period between course weekends coaches will have assignments to complete and will have access to one of the SCYS Coaching Education staff coaches. Instead of the learning taking place over two weekends coaches now have an opportunity to extend that learning possibly over 3-4 months. We are very excited about the possibilities that this will provide the SCYS Coaching Education staff to interact with coaches across the state during an actual soccer season.
Coaching education is only a part of the job. Player development and club development are also a part of the job that I embrace and enjoy. I have learned that more often than not player and club development are often a bi-product of the coaching education courses that we offer throughout the year. We are working hard to make player and club development a priority across the state and offer these topics as standalone clinics or seminars for any club that is interested in either. We recently offered a free goalkeeper clinic which was hosted by Walterboro Soccer Club. The clinic was offered on a Thursday night this past month. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, I mean Walterboro isn’t exactly in the middle of the state. Much to my shock and astonishment 56 soccer players of all ages and abilities attended that free goalkeeper clinic. 56 players! On a Thursday night! We had players ranging from 6 – 16! Recreational players, club players, high school players and even some of our Olympic Development Program players attended the clinic. Players came from Charleston, Summerville, Lexington, Columbia, and even as far away as Sumter and Camden! What a turn out. Players left happy and left having learned something about a position many coaches know very little about. What does this mean for soccer in our state? On the grand scheme of things it means little. But as we all know these little things add up to big things. This shows us what our members want, need and enjoy. This gives us hope that through our efforts we can and will continue to grow the game of soccer at the grassroots level.
Please feel free to email me with comments, questions or suggestions for the blog. email@example.com.
A new fall soccer season has started and the question amongst parents and coaches is, "How many games are we going to play and how many and what tournaments are we going to this season?" Many a parent and coach want to cram as many games into a twelve week season as possible. The rational behind this? Players learn and develop best by playing in games, so why not play as many games as possible when the opportunity presents itself?! As someone that truly believes in player development this question and rational drives me bonkers! It's true that games aid in player development and that competition provides unique problems that players must solve but in this case too much is not a good thing. The recreational and elite levels of play have done a good job at figuring this out but the middle level, that of Academy, Classic and Challenge are still using the more games the better approach.
Games are really for parents. Parents want their monies worth for the program they are in. They want to watch their players perform. They want bragging rights at work, in the neighborhood or in the local tennis leagues. They want to be entertained. They are more concerned about the wins and losses and how many tournament championships a team wins then they are about their player developing. Yet these are the same people that will be the first to complain that their player is not developing and that they want better results on the weekend. Well if they are truly concerend about their player developing why don't they actually watch what their player is learning at practice. They are there anyway, mind as well watch, ask questions and get a little educated about the game. If we use education as an example when is the last time a teacher gave a test whithout first covering the material? Can you imagine what the success rate wouldn't be? If this method were adopted in our education system parents would be up in arms! Now we understand that not all parents and coaches are like this but these parents and coaches tend to have the loudest voices and stick out from the rest.
The suggested and proper practice to game ratio is 3:1. That is 3 practice sessions for every one game played. In reality at the level we are discussing that ratio is often 1:3. Talk about getting your monies worth of entertainment. So let's look at the average 12 week season of a mid level team/player. If a team practices twice a week for 12 weeks that's a total of 24 practice sessions. A decent number of practices. Now let's look at games. Pre-season games is usually 2. League play can be between 8 to 12. Tournaments up to 3 with a minimum of 3 games per tournament with a possibility of 4 per tournament. State Cup competition can be anywhere between 1 to 4. On the low end we have 21 games in 12 weeks. On the high end we could possibly have 30 games in 12 weeks! A player playing in the English Premier League will play 38 league games in a 44 week schedule. These are professional athletes, grown men, many world class calidber players playing at the highest level and they are playing 38 games over the course of 9 months! We are asking our young developing players to play almost as many games in 12 weeks. Where's the time for rest? Where's the time for regeneration? Where's the time for development? Where's the time for, GASP, RELAXATION and allowing kids to be kids?
What of tournaments? Tournaments are great! Tournaments allow clubs to tap into a revenue stream to help with operating costs. Tournaments provide players opportunities to compete against teams from outside their leagues that they normally wouldn't play in locations that are usually far from home. Here's the problem. We are asking our players to play and compete in possible 4 games in 2 days! Often times these games and tournaments are played in extreme weather conditions on fields that are far from safe. Are we developing our players or abusing them? I can tell you from expereince that there's nothing left in their little tanks at the end of the weekend. So next time you are screaming, yelling, excuse me, enthusiastically encouraging your player or team to work harder, run faster or play better, stop and think for a moment what it would be like if you were out there. If you can't do that then please find something that you can relate that experience to and imagine how you would feel. Most of you are probably thinking, "I'm an adult, there's no way I could play 4 games in 2 days." Exactly! Yet we ask our players that are still developing phycisally, mentally, emotionally and socially to bear this burden on their little shoulders.
So how do we fix this? One idea for tournament play is to play 3 30 minute mini games per day. Yes I know this is contradictory as this would equal a total of 6 games in 2 days. In truth this equals one 90 minute game per day for a total of 2 games for a tournament. This would allow for each team to possibly play all of the teams in an age group. How do you determine a champion? Who cares! If we are truly trying to develop players at this level then let's give them the platform to do so. I am positive that those people that are in the know of tournament organization and tournament development could come up with some marvelous solutions. Moving forwad SCYSA is going to look at reworking the tournament structure of the Fall Festival and the Palmetto Academy Cup for 2013 and 2014.
In many ways the recreational level has got it right. 12 weeks, 24 practices, 12 games. The elite level has moved to 3 practices a week and two games a weekend, 1 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday. Maybe the middle level should take a page from both and refocus on actual player developmet instead the amount of games being played.
The SCYS Coaching Education Staff have just wrapped up another round of coaching education courses across the state. Beside the blistering heat, 115 degree heat index and the lightning delays it's been a wonderful summer of courses. A total of 126 coaches have taken and passed the E and D courses this summer and we still have a wave of coaches to go through various Youth Module courses across the state in the next month. Great numbers for a state our size!
The focus of the E and the D courses are to introduce coaches to the methodoly of coaching, teach them the basic techniques players need to be successful. A brief flirtation with basic tactics and the importance of Long Term Player Development. Notice that we didn't mention winning in the above discription. This may upset some and many that take these courses come in with an attitude of "I just want to see a bunch of drills that is going to help me win with my U10 boys team." Well last time we checked SCYS, USYS and FIFA were not sponsoring any type of U10 championship. So we put winning on the back burner during these courses and teach coaches the importance of developing players for the future. Talk about a topic for discussion. Development over winning!
We are going to focus on competition and coaching and teaching players how to compete. Coaches this is for you and for those parents that read this take note and pass the word on.
There are two ways to coach competition to our players. Coaching Competition as a Threat and or Coaching Competition as a Challenge. For fun let's see which one you identify with or you identify your players coach with.
Coaching Competition as a Threat Coaching Competition as a Challenge
Emphasize Winning Emphasize Effort & Fun
Think Short Term Think Long Term
Lack Emotional Control Deal Well with Setbacks
Link Self-Esteem to winning Link Self-Esteem to committment & Development
Young Players Respond Young Players Respond
Lose Motivation Become more Motivated
Lose Confidence and Self-Belief Gain new levels of Confidence and Self-Belief
Collapse under Pressure Cope with Pressure
Blame others for Setbacks Take and Accept Responsibility
Which coach are you? Which coach do you want to be? Who do you want your players to play for? Do we want to win now and be rewarded now only to see our players drop out because the proper foundation hasn't been laid when they get older?
The importance of Technical Development and more importantly FUN can not be stressed enough at the youngest ages and even at the older age groups. Fun is pivotal. If a sport or activity is not fun young people will not participate. Technical and skill development is a major part in a player having fun. Ask most players and they will tell you that getting better is more important than winning. As a players skill level and comfort level increases they will seak out greater challenges. It's the coaches job and yes even you parents can help to facilitate this by encouraging development over winning. Encourage your players and your children to spend at least 2 minutes a day, 2 MINUTES, 120 SECONDS a day with a soccer ball at their feet when they are away from practice. Don't coach them, encourage them and if you're feeling up to it actually play and have fun with them. You just might learn something!