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Coaching competitive youth sports

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by kingcreole, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    Didn't really know what to title this, so I went with something generic. But I have run into a problem on my daughter's soccer team and am unsure how to handle it.

    First, some background:

    The youngest princess is playing her first year of competitive soccer. It's Under-8. Since we live in a small city with nothing more than a YMCA league, we have to travel two hours roundtrip to play in a league. They also have played in a tournament.

    The coach is a great, great dude. He's taught the girls a plethora of moves, fakes and jukes. Almost every practice deals with dribbling and learning new moves. Of the seven players on the team, two are able to do many moves without a second thought. Two other girls are just bigger and stronger than most of the girls in the league and can muscle their way by most opponents. They have tried some of the moves with success. Another girl, who came aboard late, is fast as shit. In other words, this team is pretty good. Including the tournament, they are 9-1 this fall. In our city, for a team this young to have this kind of success is amazing. Often, the youth soccer teams in our city get outclassed.

    Moving on ... I have volunteered my time to help the HC. He has gratefully accepted my help and leaves me in charge in the rare instances he can't be there. I miss a few practices and games due to the nature of my job, but have been to most of them. I have learned a lot from the HC. I think he likes having me around because I emphasize to the girls to use their moves that they've learned in games. I've told a couple girls that once they learn to use the moves they've been taught they'll be unstoppable. After all, my daughter uses them frequently with success, and she's a tiny thing.

    So what exactly is my issue here?

    A few parents are hung up on the girls learning to pass. One in particular. He's a nice fella, and we small talk all the time. But boy, he's all about the girls learning to pass, pass, pass. Our last game we won won 16-6 (four on four, no goalkeepers) against a pretty good team. The HC left me in charge the last five minutes while he got his other team ready at a nearby field. After, this one particular dad comes up to me and says, "Boy, I tell you, this girls are going to be unstoppable when they start passing."

    He's at most of the practices. He knows that we work on tons of dribbling and moves. This team is good and the core could become something special one day. The girls are good because they know how to dribble and beat opponents. My daughter absolutely loves doing the double-scissors, cutback (or Cruyff for the soccer geeks) and Matthews move. She says her goal is learn the Maradona move (totally unrelated to drugs) by the end of the season.

    I think most of the parents are just enjoying watching the girls play, but I'm sure some want to see more passing. I'm little more than a dad helping the HC. Yes, I have vast soccer knowledge, but I'm really not in a position to tell anyone to STFU and let the girls play the way the HC has taught them. The HC is a nice dude and seems to be the nonconfrontational type. So much in fact, that last night we had our first practice related to passing. I'm certain this one dad got to him and said the girls need to learn to pass.

    I don't have many options for my daughter to play for another team if it ever came to that. Just not sure how to tell this one person in particular that the way the girls have been taught (dribbling, moves, fakes) is the primary reason they've been successful and will continue to do so.
  2. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Member

    Just learning "moves" will only help them win on an under-8 team. They need to learn how to pass too or they will become that unstoppable under-8 team that gets smashed when they become a U-10 team and other girls learn how to stop the "moves."
  3. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    You have to teach them all areas of the game eventually. You might have a poor dribbler but an amazing passer in your group right now.
  4. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    I should emphasize that, at least for me personally, winning isn't a big deal. I don't care. These girls probably don't remember right now that they won two games last weekend. They certainly won't remember it in 10 years.

    I don't think we give kids enough credit for how smart they are. This group knows how to pass. They even know when a good time to pass is. I am under the belief that if they learn to create for themselves, they learn to create for others. The best players in soccer - and basketball and hockey for that matter - are the ones who can beat you one on one.

    I'm not against passing. It was my greatest strength when I played soccer, and for me, nothing was better than sending a pass on a dime to a teammate for a goal. But I have seen what a great dribbler can do, and sweet Hey-Zeus, it's awesome to watch.
  5. nmmetsfan

    nmmetsfan Active Member

    Might help to mention that at that age it's about learning the fundamentals. As the girls get better at dribbling, then passing can be introduced. That may have been the head coach's plan from the beginning.
  6. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    The best players beat you one-on-one, but the best teams beat your team by passing the ball.
  7. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Go here:


    Look at the Best Practices manual. It is the U.S. Soccer Federation's recommendation for coaching, and it is a gold mine for what you are looking for.

    --The most fundamental skill in soccer is individual mastery of the ball and the creativity that comes
    with it. This should be a priority in training and games, especially in the early years.

    --Coaches often focus on keeping the players under control and teaching what appears to be the basics of the game: organization, positions, tactics, how to prepare to win games. We choose order over apparent chaos. It is
    tempting to strive to have the youth games look like adult games, with kids holding their own in
    set positions, organized and disciplined. The magic of the Dutch players of the early seventies, or
    Brazil’s great players of the sixties, however, was not created from an organized practice routine.
    It began when they were children, in pickup games where the player and the game were the
    dominant factors. There were neither adults nor a set schedule of mandatory practices and games.

    --CONSIDER THIS: At the younger ages (6 to about 10), soccer is not a team sport. On the
    contrary, it is a time for children to develop their individual relationship with the ball. The fact
    that younger children are placed into team environments is not their fault. Do not demand that
    the more confident players share the ball. Encourage them to be creative and go to goal. Do the
    same with the rest of your players.Work to bring all your players up to that level of confidence
    and comfort with the ball. Coaches should avoid the impulse to “coach” their players from
    “play to play” in order to help them win the match. Coaches should not be telling their young
    players to “pass rather than dribble,” to “hold their positions” or to “never” do something (like
    pass or dribble in front of the goal).

    Print out the first 10 pages, highlight relevant passages (there are a ton of 'em) and give it to your parents. I was hearing a lot of the same talk. Since I gave this booklet out, I haven't heard a peep. And everyone is seeing their kids get so much better dribbling -- instead of a panicked clearing kick, we now have defenders who can take the ball up the field 20 yards and then deliver a through-ball.

    The idea that 7-year-olds need to learn to pass and share is exactly what's wrong with U.S. soccer development today.
  8. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Damn, LTL, that is some good stuff.
  9. kingcreole

    kingcreole Active Member

    Thanks LTL. I'll be certain to check it out. I've been reading a book by a well-respected youth coach named Andy Barney. He is all about individual creativity and finishing. He too says the problem with American - and British - youth soccer is we're all about winning. In order to win, we teach kick-and-run, passing and ignoring the big picture. Even at the youngest levels.

    Why is America so damn good in basketball? Creativity. Multiple players who can make you look silly in one-on-one situations, but players who can also create for others.

    It's a great concept, I think. I never thought of it before I starting reading Barney's book. I think my daughter's coach understands the importance of creativity, but also because the girls seem to love it. Passing? *yawn*
  10. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    U.S. Soccer just hired Claudio Reyna as youth technical director, and he's supposed to lead a big initiative aimed at the same goal of teaching the game instead of winning.

    Honestly I think a lot of this is the translation of the sport to American culture -- we equate it to football because there are 11 players, it's in the fall and, hell, it's called football. So the coaches, many of them old high school football players who were brought up to always be in the right place at the right time and do one specific thing on every play, carry that thought process over. But soccer can't be scripted (there's actually a line in that manual asking if it can even be taught).
  11. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Do they have something like that for football, basketball and baseball?
  12. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    It wouldn't be necessary for baseball, because every American dad knows everything there is to know about teaching baseball. Just ask them.

    Seriously, in my experience soccer is a bit unique in that the goals of teaching the game often run counter to the goals of winning. In baseball, you teach a kid to pick up the ball and throw it to first base, or teach him how to swing the bat properly, and a good result in that skill usually correlates to winning. Same with football and, to a lesser degree, basketball. In soccer, though, the things you want a kid to learn -- ball control and confidence, maintaining possession, playing in tight space, not being so locked into a set position but instead going aggressively after a 50/50 ball -- that can often hurt your chances of winning that particular game. Booming the ball 20 yards upfield removes the immediate danger of a goal scoring but doesn't make your fullback any better of a ballhandler; letting him take the ball up and build the attack will make him a better player but will, at some point, lead to him losing the ball near your goal.
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