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Silicon Valley Eagles Blog

The Silicon Valley Eagles Soccer Academy blog is a great source of soccer coaching tips, parents and players improvement tips and advises, and updates on the soccer world news.

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Recent blog posts

soccer-tryouts-questionsIt's June or January and that means tryouts for club soccer teams. There are a few select regional-quality teams that can pick and choose the cream-of-the-crop players. But in general, soccer teams are a buyer's (players/parents) market. Teams need good players more than good players need teams, and good players can exercise their power by moving to a team that closely fits their needs.

With that in mind I have a list of questions that players and parents should be clear on before accepting a spot on a club soccer team.

I intend no disrespect to any team or club. I do think that players who are offered a spot on a team should know for sure what they are being offered. And I think most teams and coaches will be truthful and forthcoming. Most coaches really want the players to know so there are no misgivings later in the season. If the answers are vague or the team/coach doesn't respond, players and parents should take that as a warning flag and look for another club/team. The critical point is to find a team that is a good fit for you.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_youth-league-manager-stronger.jpgCoaches have to put up with a lot. Whether it’s resentment over lack of playing time, dissatisfaction about how game situations are handled, or just general griping about the way the team performs, coaches never have it easy. And where do many of these complaints come from?

You guessed it. Parents.

US Soccer polled close to 300 coaches, asking them questions about how much time and money they spend on coaching. In short, they spend a lot of both. See a full summary below.

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overtraining youthA few years ago while Chuck was teaching a karate class at my gym, a mother and her son arrived for the youngster’s first private karate lesson. As they sat down to wait for the lesson to begin, he noticed the boy was sitting on his mom’s lap—he was 12 years old. An hour later, another 12-year-old arrived for his baseball lesson. His father informed him that they had just come from the 12-year-olds strength & conditioning coach at another gym and then off to football practice after the baseball lesson.

The truth is, training a 12-year-old as if he’s a 22-year-old doesn’t work. Over-training puts training at risk for fatigued muscles, injury, and mental burnout. In his book Any Given Monday, orthopedic surgeon Dr James Andrews says “over-use injuries are at epidemic levels and every year more than 3.5 million children will require medical treatment for sports-related injuries, the majority of which are avoidable through proper training and awareness.” Yet (with dreams of making it to the pros), we see kids being over-trained in youth sports all the time. Or, we often see the opposite; treating a 12-year-old as if he’s still six. Neither situation represents good balance in training.

A person’s interest level is most often the deciding factor whether or not they continue to improve and advance in their sport or activity.

All sports require that certain skills be developed in order to continue on to higher levels. That’s a fact. Talent is nice, but a kid’s interest level will play a significant role in that development. Parents must remember that just because their child is good at something, it doesn’t mean they want to do it at the level the parent has in mind. Once a kid has found their passion, however, some real progress can be made because they will be the one who wants it―they will be willing and able to sustain the effort required for more serious training, and will come to enjoy the process.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_sportsmanship.jpgChildren gain so much from participating in sports, like the opportunity to develop physical literacy and the chance to make lasting friendships. Playing sports can also help kids become better people as they grow up. My soccer teams have always been known for good sportsmanship. Through the years, coaches and parents from other teams have often told me that they like to play my teams, even when we beat them in competition, because my kids are basically “nice.” That says something.

What makes my players nice? In a nutshell, I coach them to play to win, but always honestly and fairly. Compete as athletes, train hard, and then win by using your superior skill, fitness and intelligence. Don’t compete with personal insults or dirty fouls or vulgar chants. We’re not about “winning at all costs.”

It’s about honoring everyone and learning what respect really means. Most people will agree that good sportsmanship means honoring everyone on the field of competition, including opponents, officials, parents, spectators and ourselves. However, not all kids learn this.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_speed-training.jpgPeople have frequently asked me the question “what happens when an athlete gets faster?” There are a lot of benefits, from constantly beating your opponent to improving your vertical jump. But the most amazing and fun benefit is to watch an athlete’s entire identity positively transform. Becoming a faster kid builds confidence and personal power from the inside out.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a real quote from the parent of an athlete that became faster: “…also, Jack looked really amazing in practice today. He is running properly, and he is not hurting anymore when he runs. He even looks more confident. He has now decided to try out for his school’s soccer team.”

So how does speed help athletes, both on and off the field?

For starters, you are less fatigued because you run and move more efficiently. Your body just doesn’t hurt as much. Conditioning becomes easier, which helps you get in shape sooner, which improves the quality of your practice, which then transfers to your game.

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Posted by on in Coaching Tips

b2ap3_thumbnail_soccer-kids-bad-weather.jpg

Like most outdoor kids’ sports, coaching soccer during inclement spring and fall seasons can be tricky.

While winning is motivation enough for a game, that motivation dissipates during cold, wet, or windy practices –especially for the youngest athletes.

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Posted by on in Coaching Tips

b2ap3_thumbnail_soccer-tryout-tips.jpgTrying out for a sports team can be a scary process. Coaching evaluations, competition for roster spots with other players, and even expectations from parents can be enough to fill make you uneasy before your tryout.

Here’s the deal: although tryouts can be intimidating, if you were able to somehow know what the coach was looking for before you started trying out, wouldn’t this give you more confidence?

The reality is that coaches can vary in the “technical” aspects of what they are looking for in players (i.e. the type of plays they run or the strategic aspect of your sport), but every coach has a few specific things that they look for when they are evaluating players.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_new-sports.pngKids love to move. They love to jump and climb and tumble and, as their coordination improves, to throw and catch.

But when does it stop being fun? For some kids, it’s when pressure from school or parents starts to make sports feel like work. For others, it’s when fixation on a single sport takes the joy and spontaneity out of it. Encouraging your child to try new sports can be a great way to remind them that sports are all about one thing…fun!

New sports provide new opportunities

Playing only one sport can make a young athlete’s world extremely narrow. It can limit opportunities for making new friends, and when the focus is on competition, the stress of winning and losing can put established friendships to the test.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_parents-sideline.jpgIn our quest to help the younger soccer players improve, we may have started something that is more harmful than helpful.

It is natural for adults to shout encouragement and advice to children as they are playing. The instinct to help is prevalent in all of us.  As role models, however, we may need to take a look at some other more familiar sports and learn from them.

Picture these examples:

  • The long fly ball is heading toward left-center field. The fielders begin to run underneath the ball. Do the coach or parents start yelling directions to the fielders as who, what, where and how to catch the ball?
  • The quarterback drops back into the pocket to throw a pass, and his pass protection starts breaking down. Does the football coach or quarterbacks’ parents begin yelling instructions to the scrambler as to where and how to run in order to avoid being sacked?
  • The ball handler is in the lane ready to shoot a lay-up. An opponent is coming from the right side to block the shot. Can the coach or shooters parents call out any instruction that will help the player protect the ball from the opponent to get a clear shot at the basket?

You, of course, know that the answer in all the above situations is a loud and resounding – NO!

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b2ap3_thumbnail_health-food.jpgPractices are a good way to test what snacks work best for your child in regards to energy and performance.  Just as the old adage goes for adult athletes, “Do not try anything new on race day;” this also can be applied to youth soccer players.  Testing what food works well for pre/post practice can then be applied to pre/post games.

A snack before a soccer practice or game should be something that isn’t heavy, but is enough to keep kids fueled. Try to fuel muscles 1-2 hours before an athletic event. Some kids will need two hours to digest before they play. This depends on the individual kid and timing of eating needs to be experimented with at practices. Also, a snack that travels well is best, since travel to and from games is commonplace.Make sure to avoid fatty foods, extra sweet foods, and caffeine. These cause spikes in blood sugar, and then sugar levels can drop quickly during performance. This will make kids feel sluggish.

Here are some examples of good pre-practice and pre-game snacks:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_off-season-training.pngOh, the weather outside is becoming delightful…
And getting ready for the soccer season can be a little frightful.
Since it is possible for you to make some time to play…
Here are some ideas on preparing your child for the season starting today!

 

Parents, surely you realize that you are your child’s first and most influential teacher/coach. The stimulation and support you provide can instill a desire for your child to want to improve. So, it is important that you make learning experiences as fun as possible in the hope that your child will eventually become self-motivated to want to improve.

Foremost, you must find out if your child is actually interested in improving during the off-season. Make a conscientious effort to listen to your child by engaging in two-way conversation, meaning you’re talking and listening. Be sure to talk about in which areas of the game your child would like to improve.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_youth-soccer-team.jpg1. Teach Your Players the Skills They Need. Strong Basic Skills win games.

SoccerHelp has free No Lines Soccer Drills for ages 4 to 18 that teach Skills and Aggressive Play. 

2. Motivate Your Players to be “Brave” and to “Win 50/50 Balls.”

Every kid wants to be Brave – “Brave” is a more motivating word than “aggressive” or “tough”. Being Brave means not being afraid of the ball, of contact, or of trying. There are lots of ideas about how to motivate this on SoccerHelp.

3. At Practice, Minimize Lines and Maximize Activity.

Lines waste time. The key to learning skills is “Touches on the Ball” – the more touches, the faster kids learn skills. The SoccerHelp No Lines Drills teach players skills and Aggressive Play. Players will get 300% more touches per practice, so one practice is equal to 3.

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Posted by on in Sports Parents

b2ap3_thumbnail_Build_Confidence.jpgHas your young athlete ever gone into a game competing against him or herself?

You might be thinking, Of course not! Why would anyone do that? Well, no one goes out there trying to make themselves fail on purpose. But some athletes are still their own worst enemy. The truth is, if you go into a game with low confidence, you are indeed competing against yourself.

Confidence, in a nutshell, is how much conviction athletes have in their ability to succeed. Even if young athletes have the physical ability and raw talent required to be successful, they won’t perform up to that ability if they don’t have confidence in themselves.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_never-make-it.jpgThis topic will UPSET many people & clubs so get ready!

Here is the Scenario: No matter how hard you try and how long you train, you still struggle to make the “TOP TEAM” in your club. You are not the most athletic player at your club, but you work hard but never seem to make it to that next teir.

If this is your case, you are just one of thousands of frustrated parents,  field players and goalkeepers who’ve tried for years to make the “top” team and still can’t make it!! WHY?

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b2ap3_thumbnail_WINNING-ENVIREMENT.jpgTake a look around. It’s not hard to find examples of parents gone wild at youth sporting events. Arguing with officials, arguing with coaches and berating young kids has become so commonplace we hardly bat an eye. But as coaches, reining in the parents is crucial to a successful season.

Establishing a winning environment for team parents is a mix of education, getting everyone on the same page, having open communication and holding parents accountable—even if that last part is sometimes uncomfortable. 

Education

My town rec league has coaching clinics galore, but we do nothing at all for the parents. That’s an obvious problem.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_young-soccer-training1.jpgJozy Altidore is one of the bright young stars playing soccer for the U.S. Soccer team. He currently plays for Sunderland in the English Premier League and recently teamed up with Go Pro Workouts to share his off-season training program with young aspiring athletes. Two exercises that Jozy performs regularly improving his quickness and core strength are the side planks with rotation and barbell front squats. Start incorporating these exercises into your athlete’s training routine and help them become faster and more complete players.

Exercise: Side Plank with Rotation

Exercise Description: Hold yourself up on a forearm with your legs straight and extended to your rear. Raise the opposite arm straight into the air toward the ceiling. Next, rotate that straight arm to the ground and underneath your body. Pause briefly and then return it back into the air. Repeat motion and then switch sides. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Coach-and-Players-768x509.jpgOne day at my hitting school, during a class with nine-year-old boys, we were working on the technique of hitting the ball using a pitching machine. One boy, Jake, was struggling with this new skill. His dad finally decided to point out to me all the different things that he was doing wrong with his mechanics.

I replied with, “He’s doing alright. New things can take some time.” Jake’s father said, “No―he just won’t do what he’s told!”

I was a bit shocked by Jake’s father’s lack of patience and need for instant results. I felt like saying, “Why don’t you jump in there and let me speed the machine up to about 80 m.p.h. and I’ll tell you to ‘just hit it’ and see how you do.”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_223870_458686824151654_1876606557_n-300x158.jpgSo…let me start by saying that I have spent way too many hours thinking about this issue. While development is the goal, particularly in the small-sided years (anything below 11v11), does there exist a formation for 8v8 that complements development? Or, I should say, that complements development and my coaching philosophy? My coaching philosophy is player development with the style of play being possession based soccer, emphasizing creativity and mastery of the ball, short passes with the ball primarily on the ground. I encourage dribbling around defenders in 1v1 situations, while at the same time recognize the value of the give and go and other 2v1 sequences. I want the boys and girls I coach to be cerebral players and always “think about the next play.” “Show for the ball” when your partner is in trouble, move to space when he is not. I believe strongly that all players need to learn all the positions and be able to interchange (that is Code for “yes, little Johnny may have scored 100 goals as a 7 year old but he needs to learn to defend too”). That is my philosophy in a nutshell.

I have coached 8v8 since 2006. I cannot count the number of games I have coached. I have coached players at all levels of skill, both technical and tactical, from basic recreations to high level competitive kids. I have labored through the years to come up with an approach from a formation to assist the kids in their understanding of the game and their responsibilities. I do not believe in teaching kids positions in this stage other than basic soccer concepts and theories of defense (compress the field, delay, cover) and attack (enlarge the field, penetrate, support). So, what are some formations I have used?

1. 2-3-2

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b2ap3_thumbnail_87794939_XS.jpgCommunication is an essential tool for someone training young kids to play soccer. Just as essential, I believe, is for the trainer to have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the players with whom he is working. Training sessions with diverse skill levels are detrimental to the skill development of all the players involved. One thing trainers need to do is to ensure that training sessions are built with the skill of the kids involved. And, as mentioned, avoid placing weaker kids with stronger kids for training purposes regardless of age. Some clubs are going to a data system where each child is rated for soccer ability and athleticism, given a score, and then placed in a training group consistent with that score (not based on age). This ensures all kids are in groups where they are challenged and can excel.

But, that is not the point I wanted to discuss. I mentioned before how coaches sometimes give instructions that, as we say in the legal business, assumes facts not in evidence. What I mean is that coaches will tell kids to pass in games, but the kids lack the ability to catch. If they cannot catch the ball, how can they pass the ball? My experience with kids is that if they have the ball with time and space, they generally do something smart with it. From my observations, one of the main reasons young players lack time and space with the ball is because (1) they lack mastery over the ball so that when a ball is presented to them (from a teammate or a loose ball), they lack the ability to control it quickly, and (2) they lack the ability to run off the ball to open space where they can receive it with time and space. Note in (2), a proper catch is still required. We can save (2) for another day.

I noticed this with my girls’ team in year 2 – at our first tournament. When you play better teams, your players’ time and space gets squeezed. My girls just couldn’t get a clean handle on the ball, thus, rarely had it with the time and space they needed to do something helpful with it. From then on, we worked on traps. All kinds. Trapping rollers, bouncers, line drives, punts. You name it. Even then, I lacked an understanding of the technique to properly teach the technique. Through research, assistance from other coaches, and trial and error, our system was/is: (1) relaxed foot (angled 45 degrees to ground) (we called it a “loose tooth”), (2) foot slightly off the ground where contact with center of the ball is likely, and (3) encouragement to catch the ball in front of your body, not underneath. The whole system was referred to as “peanut butter feet” as opposed to “concrete feet.” Not sure why. It just fit.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Speed-Soccer-Kick-740x410.jpgWe all know — games are more fun. More fun for the kids. More fun for the parents. In a typical training session, the most common question asked by the players is “when are we going to scrimmage?” As trainers, we have been taught to let the “game be the teacher” but, why is training more advantageous to developing players than games? The answer is MATH.

In a typical training session, each player has a ball. It may be that the ball per player ratio is 1:1, 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1 (depending on age and activity), but in almost all cases is the ratio better than 22:1 (or 16:1 for 8v8), which is what you get in a game. In other words, as a parent, ask “how often is my child touching the ball in training versus a game?” That, among other benefits, is the advantage that training has over game play.

Tom Turner, a prolific writer and proponent of player development, breaks down the touches on a ball thus:

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