World Cup Wednesday/Street Soccer
World Cup Wednesday/Street Soccer every Wednesday Night from 5:30 - 7:00pm. This is an optional training session (free of charge) for all U9-U14 Strike players. It is a great way to work in an extra night of training!!
March, 16 2015
Why Young Athletes Excel with Backyard Play
By Patrick Cohn
Gary Simmons, author of “Gymbag Wisdom,” and a sports performance specialist who concentrates on teens, has some interesting anecdotes to share about the athletes he works with in high school. The top players he deals with are not the ones who play on traveling teams. They’re not necessarily the ones who spend all their time playing on more than one formal team year-round, he says. No, the top players, he says, are the ones who, in addition to playing on organized teams, often play in the park, the backyard or the local gym with their friends and neighbors–without parents or coaches instructing them. And just what is it about playing with friends in informal settings that allows kids to excel? Kids who’ve spent a lot of time playing with friends are generally quicker on their feet and more coordinated, he says. What they also have—and this is key—higher levels of “exuberance,” says Simmons. As a result, they learn skills more quickly.
The teen athletes he sees who’ve experienced a lot of structured sports and traveling teams are often burnt out, he says. They’re less exuberant and don’t push themselves as hard. “You can be a 12-year-old state champion tennis player and give 70% in practice,” he says. “The kids who are behind you skill wise–but are moving faster and trying harder–are more likely to excel at their skill.” These kids who move faster and work harder–those who’ve had experience being competitive without the expectations of adults placed on them–often do well in competition when they’re placed in more structured settings.
In short, fun, unstructured play with friends can boost a young athletes’ mental game and performance. It’s not always easy, in our world of structured activities, to find a place where kids can play around together…. One option, Simmons says, is to structure some unstructured play. That means parents might gather up the kids in their neighborhood and organize a weekly game of ball. But once the game is organized, the parents should step back and let the kids play. Here at Kids’ Sports Psychology, we think parents and kids need to strike a delicate balance between structured play and unstructured play. Kids need some instruction to master skills, but they also need the enthusiasm, freedom, and passion required to be great players. With enthusiasm and passion, which often are based on the fun of unstructured play, kids are more likely to play freely and creatively and take more risks. That means they’ll keep growing, learning and excelling. Kids who are burnt out or who lack enthusiasm for what they’re doing often just go through the motions. They’re less likely to excel. Want to learn more about how you can improve your sports parenting skills and boost your kids’ enjoyment and success in sports? Check out Kids’ Sports Psychology.
Sincerely, Lisa Cohn and Patrick Cohn, Ph.D.
March 9th, 2015
Reviving the pickup game
By Sam Snow
Whether you call it street soccer, a sandlot game, a kick-about or a pickup game -- this is the way that millions upon millions over many decades have learned to play soccer.
While the pickup game has not disappeared in the USA, it is not used in soccer as it could be. There are millions of kids playing soccer in our country, so why do we not see pickup games at every turn?
There can be many reasons why so few pickup games happen in youth soccer. They include a sedentary lifestyle, the vacant lot doesn't exist any longer, even the design of neighborhoods nowadays means there is little or no yard on which to play, parents are reluctant to let their kids play away from home without adult supervision, soccer facilities are closed except for scheduled events, or the kids simply don't know how to organize a game.
There can be more reasons and some of the ones I've noted are beyond the direct control of most soccer coaches. But the one that is the most disturbing to me is that kids don't know how to organize their own games. How has it come to pass that kids can't throw down something to mark goals, pick teams and play?
Well part of the answer is that we coaches have taken the game away from the youngsters. We over-coach and we over-organize. Coaches, parents and administrators need to take a step back and give the game back to the players.
In the 1970s and the 1980s, coaches had to be a focal point of most soccer experiences since so many of the kids were just then being introduced to the game. Unlike today, there were very few televised soccer matches, and in many communities none at all.
Professional and college team were not nearly as prevalent as today, so a chance for a kid to go watch adults play the game was few and far between.
Even to watch a World Cup match you had to go to a theater for closed-circuit TV to see a game. Consequently the coach had to demonstrate all of the ball skills, show players how to position themselves on the field and teach the rules.
While that's still true to an extent today, the models of how to play the game for a child to see are many. The coach no longer needs to be at the center of a novice's soccer experience. Now keep in mind that coaches are not alone in the need to give the game back to the players.
Our organization has been a double-edged sword for American soccer. The ability to organize has created teams, clubs and leagues. It has created from nothing soccer complexes that dot the land and in some cases are of quite high quality.
The organization has provided for coaching and referee education that is very good. The game has grown tremendously over the last 35 years on the backs of volunteers for the most part.
But the organization has a down side too. We adults meddle too much in the kids' soccer world. We plan everything! From uniforms for U6 players to select teams at U10, the adults are too involved. The kids don't know how to organize a pickup game because we have never let them.
OK, so good organization is an American trait. But what might be driving the compulsion to infiltrate adult organization into child's play?
As a sports nation we suffer from the "too much too soon" syndrome. Many adults involved in youth soccer want so badly to achieve success (superficially measured by the won/loss record and number of trophies collected) that they are bound to treat children as miniature adults. Unfortunately it is the adults who lack the patience to let the game grow within the child at its own pace.
In the National Youth License coaching course of the National Coaching Schools the idea of street soccer is presented. This is a way for the club to begin to give the game back to its rightful owners, the players.
The club provides the fields and supervision for safety (but no coaching) to let the kids show up and play pick up games. Granted it's not as spontaneous as a neighborhood game, but it does provide a chance to play without referees, without coaches and without spectators.
This means the kids are free to learn how to organize themselves, solve disputes, become leaders, rule their own game, experiment with new skills, make new friends and play without the burden of results.
If the club wants to provide an even better fun-filled learning environment, then put out different types of balls to use in some of the games, encourage the kids to set up fields of different sizes, allow mixed age groups to play together and even co-ed games.
The kids have a lot they can learn from each other. After all, players learning from players has produced Michele Akers, Pele, Johan Cruyff and many other world-class players. That same unencumbered environment has produced the multitudes who support the game.
When we adults give the game back to the players, in some small measure we are most likely to keep more players in the game for all of their lives and then the odds improve for the USA to produce its share of world class players.
Youth soccer now lives in the culture it created over the last 30 years. Will we evolve?
(Sam Snow is US Youth Soccer's Director of Coaching Education.)