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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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b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2067-2-672x372.jpgMaking it in soccer is difficult. Training programs and players have improved dramatically in the past 15 years. Worldwide exposure has grown the sport and our knowledge about the development of elite athletes is progressing every day. To make it to the elite levels of soccer it takes a combination of skill, resources, luck, and opportunity. But even on this treacherous development journey, a player still has a lot of control. Through observation and research, we have learned that elite youth athletes exhibit similar thinking processes and behavior.

As a professional trainer, I have numerous stories about players that have progressed to the next level. The problem is that anecdotal evidence is heavily biased and not necessarily accurate for generalization. But when on-field observation aligns with empirical research, then we know we are starting to discover important truths about the elite youth player. In learning and athletic development, research confirms that the best performers are successful at self-regulation. Self-regulation involves processes that enable individuals to control their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Effective self-regulators can adapt and control behavior/thinking to counter responses that might prove detrimental to performance. For example, a youth player shooting a penalty kick to win a game is a stressful situation. An effective self-regulator could probably calm their emotions, disregard parents screaming “kick it,” and rely on their training to execute the task at hand. As a result, this athlete would increase their chances of scoring the goal. In sport, effective self-regulators are typically the best learners. Athletes who better control their learning and environment are more often capable of maximizing their athletic potential and thus succeeding in high performance settings. This is relevant to elite sport where you are constantly battling to earn or maintain a spot.

Behaviors and cognitive (thinking) processes of successful elite youth athletes:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_teaching-progression.jpgThe biggest mistakes I see from youth soccer coaches, whether they be parent, or worse, they are paid to coach, is the failure to follow teaching progressions and failure to communicate with youth players. Coaches that teach complex ideas using foreign soccer jargon to 8-12 year old “competitive” soccer players waste time. It also waste an opportunity to teach. Why do we do it?

1. The biggest reasons coaches fail here is that they have not properly identified the problem. This comes from two main reasons: (a) the failure of the coach to give the team and players her focus and attention, and (b) lack of experience. If you cannot see the problem, then you cannot correct it. Failing to identify means coaches miss the boat on what to teach. Identifying the issues requires focus and effort — even though it is mental effort. It is taxing. It is work. It means not talking on your cell phone during a session. It means thinking about each of your players and how you can help them.

Lack of experience is a problem because a coach’s inexperience with youth players, regardless of the level the coach played at, can make it hard to identify and communicate with younger players. This is particularly true if the coach does not have kids.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_3004-300x200.jpgIt is that time of year again…tryouts for youth soccer teams. Or rather, it is the hunting season for clubs and coaches to recruit players and find new investors. So, having 5 kids in the system and being a licensed coach, I thought I would add a list of questions and answers for parents for this time of year. I seem to keep having the same conversations so it would be easier just to put the information here:

I. Why should I pay for soccer coaching? I mean, I see dads coaching soccer every Saturday or Sunday. Why should I spend money on something that obviously anyone can do?

While parents don’t necessarily say this exactly, I hear it in their reasons why they do not feel the need to pay for soccer training. The best analogy I can think of his music lessons or dance lessons. People have no problem paying for those lessons but somehow think soccer is different. What is sad is that parents make this mistake at the most critical ages (7-12) thinking that it is just kid soccer. In my opinion, this is when you need professional help the most. If your coach does any of the following, he or she is hurting the development and love of the game in your child (this is aimed at players 7-12):

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Posted by on in Youth Soccer development

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2001-1-300x168.jpgWe are halfway through what soccer coaches refer to as “camp season.” This is the time that paid coaches for clubs have available time to make some extra money in the form of “camps.” And that is the first thing that your should know … camps are about money to clubs and coaches not skill development of individual players.

I am writing this from two perspectives: (1) as a parent who has spent a lot of money on soccer camps, and (2) as a professional coach (I am paid per team that I coach) who is very demanding on preparation and teaching in sessions.

Observations:

(1) Skill level of participants is mixed. There will usually be a few high level players, but a lot of weak players. If a camp is open enrollment, meaning all skill levels allowed, the competition and quality of the sessions will be mixed. Most camps are open enrollment because, remember, these are money-makers, not skill-makers. How can they realistically promote player development when you have everyone from beginning recreation player to a highly skilled player in the same session? We would never allow that at club-level training.
(2) Quality of coaching is mixed to poor. From what I have seen, the coaches are young, inexperienced coaches but former or current players. The only value coaches like that have is to inspire the players by their presence as, usually, they lack the ability to teach the game to young players. There may be some top youth coaches mixed in, but, from my experience, most of the coaches are young and inexperienced in teaching the game. But, as your player is not realistically going to gain increase in skill in a short camp, fun and inspiration from a former player may be the perfect thing. Just do not expect a good evaluation of the players.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Soccer-Ball-Field.parents-in-back_web-300x199.jpgLike it or not, sports come with pressure. There will come a time when your young athlete gets the ball with the clock winding down or steps up with the bases loaded. When that happens, mental toughness often determines whether or not they’ll succeed. Even though you can’t be on the field or the court with your young athlete during these situations, there’s plenty you can do to help beforehand. Here are five methods to get you started.

1. Call Your Young Athlete a Competitor

“There goes our little winner” or “Here comes Johnny, our star goalie.” How do you introduce and describe your kid?

Be careful about using descriptors that emphasize only part of their identity. They are not always winners, and they certainly don’t always lose. A parent of an athlete I know once introduced her as “perfect little Sara.” That’s tough to live up to.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Baseball-in-Grass.jpgGo climb a tree!

No, seriously, it’s good for young brains to climb trees, jump on rocks, balance on a log and many other outdoor activities. Known as proprioceptive tasks, when kids do movements that force them to be aware of their body’s position in space, it forces their brain to multitask and rely on working memory. 

According to a new study out of the University of North Florida (UNF), the improvements to working memory capacity are impressive, beating out more static activities like yoga or sitting in class.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_kids-soccer-coach.jpgRelationships with coaches can be tricky to navigate, but the key to any solid player-coach relationship can be answered with a simple question:

Does your coach trust you?

There are three simple habits that players (with the help of their parents) can develop that will build trust and immediately strengthen any relationship with any coach.

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13

b2ap3_thumbnail_jesus_navas_spain.jpgNo matter your sport or age, anyone who’s ever played has felt those pre-game “butterflies” in their stomach. Some of us also get the sweats even before we set foot on the field or in the arena. And in the extreme, you might feel your heart pump so rapidly, you think you’re about to faint.

Although they feel nowhere near normal, these symptoms are actually common to anxiety, clinically known as Cognitive Mental State Anxiety. Other symptoms can include negative thoughts, feelings of apprehension and nervousness. Another form of anxiety is known as Somatic Physical Anxiety, which describes the characteristics you are born with (for example, if you have the habit of vomiting before a big game).

Both types of pre-game anxiety can be overcome, but you must keep in mind that what works for one athlete may not work for another. Therefore, overcoming anxiety requires a wide range of tactics.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_61788958.jpgEach week in the world’s top soccer leagues, injuries take an expensive toll. Millions of dollars of talent left on the substitutes bench or back in the training room, risking their team’s place in the standings.

In the past, injuries were an accepted part of the game, but new training and prevention techniques and tools have emerged that allow coaches and players to monitor their training load and proactively predict risk factors to avoid downtime.

In the top European leagues, as well as many elite youth leagues, players can play between an average of 1.5 to 2 games per week for a 10-11 month season. Factor in multiple training sessions, travel and the ongoing stress of competition and the likelihood of injuries and missed games increase. Previous research has shown that the most likely predictor of future injuries is a history of a similar injury.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_soccer-training-for-flexibility-3.jpgParents, 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.

Then, find out from your child’s coach what areas your child needs to improve so you can work on those strengths and weaknesses using the following techniques:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_soccer-juggling-illus1.jpgTypical Instruction:

“Toss-right foot laces-catch; Toss-left foot laces-catch; Repeat sequence!”

Unusual young players are able to toss the ball to either instep and are able to tap it back into their hands. These rare individuals are fortunate in having developed their eye-to-hand-to-foot coordination and will love to repeat the sequence because they are successful. These players often develop and fine tune their control of the ball, very quickly resulting in truly loving to play the game. They need to be challenged toward eliminating the “catch” in the sequence, resulting in “Right foot laces; Left foot laces; Repeat sequence!”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_partner-squat1.jpgAs the soccer season begins, all youth soccer players are excited to start playing again. One thing to remember is that many injuries happen at the beginning of the season. Many of these injuries can be preventable! Below are some tips to help stay injury free for this soccer season and beyond:
Pre-season training:

Many kids enter their season with no off-season training, and their bodies aren’t prepared to play again. A preseason conditioning program should include proper full body warm-up, strength training, agility drills, and stretching.

Strength training is one aspect that can be easily overlooked. Strength training is important because it helps improve coordination, confidence, and help protects the body from injury. Here are some examples of good strength training exercises for young soccer players (recommended for ages 10+). Below are a few pictures of the body row, plank, and partner squat.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_apple_XXSmall_20160203-220354_1.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:

Whole grain bread w/peanut butter
Cereal that is low in sugar
Low-fat cheese
Yogurt
Turkey or chicken
Fruit, such as: apples, bananas, pears, oranges
Post-soccer practice or post-soccer game snacks are something one needs immediately following the event. First thing is fluids. Some examples are water, chocolate milk or natural fruit juices. Sports drinks can be included as recommended fluids, as they aid in replacing electrolytes, but read the labels to make sure there is no caffeine. After fluids are replenished, youth athletes need a mixture of food that includes both carbohydrates and protein. Again, something fast and that travels easy is likely to be a good choice. This way, kids can eat something on the car ride home and they won’t be starving by the time they eat their next meal; which is not good for their blood sugar levels to dip too low.
Some good post game and practice snacks are:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Multiple-Sports-300x221.jpgKids 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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Posted by on in Sports Parents

b2ap3_thumbnail_sportul_la_copii.jpgOur kids learn from what we say and do. Don’t we all want to be the kind of sports parent that teaches good sportsmanship, teamwork and respect? Here is some simple advice on how to be the best sports parent before, during and after the game.

Before the Game:
Make them get their stuff together. It’s important for kids to learn to know what to bring to play their sport. As a parent, you can always do the quick check to make sure they did it correctly (don’t need any baseball bats at soccer), but tell them to go get ready and grab their stuff.

Get them to the game on time. Most of our coaches ask for players to arrive 45 minutes before the game starts. This allows for a proper amount of time to warm up, talk about the game plan, etc. Showing up late can result in a rushed warm up (and potential injuries as a result), a distraction to the team and a lesson to your child that being late is OK. The kids on our older teams who drive themselves and show up late are generally the same kids whose parents were dropping them off late before the kids started driving. Teaching them punctuality early is super valuable as they get older – think about things like their college classes, job interviews, etc.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Soccer-Player_web.jpgLet’s face it: most athletes, particularly teenage athletes, are mentally under-trained. While they might acknowledge that the mind is important to their sport, they don’t always have a plan to integrate mental skills into their physical training. Just like physical skills, there are some mental skills that athletes have, and some that they need to learn.

When kids play sports, they learn things they don’t learn elsewhere. We’re all familiar with the important lessons gained through participation in sports, such as teamwork, goal-setting, perseverance, responsibility, and dedication. And these lessons involve skills that make up mental strength.

Dr. Mara Smith, a sports psychologist who consults with various national governing bodies including USA Hockey, USA Gymnastics, US Figure Skating, USA Bobsled and USA Luge, offers three ways parents can help their kids understand and build their mental strength through sports.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_soccerfriends.jpgThere are a variety of benefits to enrolling your children in youth sports programs. There’s the physical fitness aspect, as kids get the exercise they need to stay fit and active. It’s a grade booster, as studies show that those who participate in youth sports are more likely to do better in the classroom. Above all, however, sports are fun. It can be very rewarding to watch your children dedicate themselves to a sport while having a great time in the process.
While there are a bevy of benefits to youth sports, there’s one big benefit that may not necessarily be top of mind: career building. Youth sports help provide career-building skills that will benefit children years down the line when they’re in the workforce. Here’s a look at some of the ways youth sports provides career-building skills:

Preparation: They say practice makes perfect. Thus, not only is it important to hone your skills at a particular craft by putting in the practice hours, but it’s also important to prepare for the game or task at hand from a strategic standpoint. This is also true in life. In the classroom, you’ll have to prepare for tests. In the workforce, you’ll have to prepare for interviews. After you’ve gotten the job, you’ll likely have to plan presentations for clients or bosses. Planning and preparation is an important part of a career, and it can all begin with the important details one learns before the big youth championship game.

Getting along with others: As your child plays sports, it’s highly unlikely that he/she will be friends with every single teammate. The same can be said about the working world. You’re not going to get along with everyone you work with and everyone you do business with. However, just as it’s important on a team, in your career, you have to put differences aside and come together for the greater good. On a youth sports team, this greater good is doing what it takes to win the game. In the career world, this greater good is doing what it takes to accomplish sales goals or attract new business.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_multiplesports_web.jpgThere are a bevy of benefits for kids who play multiple sports. These include becoming better overall athletes from engaging in multiple disciplines; learning to be smarter and more creative players; and staying more active and having more fun in athletics. In addition, research shows that the majority of athletes who go on to play college sports come from multi-sport backgrounds.

According to various studies, the benefits of children playing multiple sports far outweigh the disadvantages. For instance, a study from Ohio State University reported that children who specialize and only play one sport early on are more likely to experience physical inactivity as an adult. Another study from Loyola University found that up to 93 percent of athletes who play just one sport are more likely to be injured than those who play several. Furthermore, data also shows that children who specialize in only one sport are more likely to suffer from burnout and lack of enjoyment with that sport over time.

As you can see, there are many benefits to being involved in multiple sports. However, what if your child wants to pick just one to focus on? Here’s a look at how to encourage your children to get involved with multiple sports:

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b2ap3_thumbnail_seated-sideline-parents_web.jpgAs a former coach with well over 30 years of experience helping young people learn to play soccer and learn life lessons on the field, I’ve seen some changes over the years. Equipment has gotten more expensive and fields have gotten nicer, but there are changes in the parents and the way things are run as well. Here’s my take on what I saw 30 years ago and what I’m seeing today.

Yesterday’s Sports Parents
They walked to their neighbor’s house, local school or the recreation department, if they had one, and waited for the meeting to begin. The host, usually a parent or department employee, would eventually start the meeting. The agenda, if they had one, would cover the program’s needs.

They were told their child could not play unless someone “volunteered” to coach that team. They were told the games could not be played unless someone “volunteered” to referee. They were told the league could not operate without some “volunteer” administrators to guide the program. Eventually, everyone who wanted their child involved would be given a job, from putting numbers on T-shirts to marking the fields.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_JobInterview.jpgThere’s no question about it: kids (and kids at heart) love participating in team sports. In 2011, 21.5 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 played a team sport. And, as ESPN says, “Youth sports is so big that no one knows quite how big it is.”

Whether it’s soccer, basketball, football, baseball, hockey or rugby, playing an organized sport is a great way for both kids and adults to stay in shape, build close relationships and learn about themselves. Another benefit that many people don’t think of? Being part of a team can also help people prepare for business success.

Participating in a team sport is about more than just having fun. It’s also about doing your best to support the goals of a group of your peers. If you’re looking for ways to prepare for your own future success in business, or you want to establish a solid foundation for your kids, it’s worth your time to consider participating in a team sport.

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