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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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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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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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