Make Sure the Goals are Anchored


Make Sure the Goals are Anchored

By Randy Vogt

I keep a short record of every game that I ever officiated so I know that Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, Long Island, is the field complex where I have refereed the most. It was the home to the Long Island Rough Riders and now hosts the New York Cosmos’ training field.

Arguably my most memorable game at Mitchel was not memorable for a good reason, however. At a tournament 15 years ago, a gust of wind during the first half caused the goal to fall onto the field. Thank God nobody was hurt! I had been assigned as the assistant ref for the game and had checked the south goal before we started play and had made sure that it was anchored. The other AR checked the north goal and never checked to see if it was anchored, which it was not. That goal was then anchored after it fell over so the game could continue.

There is no bigger issue than what we do as officials than making sure that the goals are anchored. The “Laws of the Game” state, “Goals must be anchored securely to the ground. Portable goals may only be used if they satisfy this requirement.”

Although I admit that the interpretation of the rules is often not simply black and white, there is absolutely no gray to this issue as all it takes is 22 lbs. of force to bring down a 400-lb. goal. Should the goal not be anchored, the home team or host organization is responsible for placing weights, sand bags, etc. on the back and sides of the goal to make certain that it will not fall over. Should they not do this upon your prompting, do not start the game.

To illustrate how dangerous this could be, pick up one goal post off the ground to demonstrate to all concerned how easily the goal can be dislodged. But be sure that there are no players or others nearby when you do this!

There is no bigger safety concern on a soccer field than falling goals. There were very few fatalities in the 1970s in the United States, just a reported two (although that’s two too many), because of unanchored goals. The number of deaths increased dramatically to nine in the 1980s as more games were being played and more teams were using portable goals instead of permanent goalposts that are anchored into the ground. The 1990s saw 14 deaths and there have been 13 fatalities from 2000 to 2012.

Sadly, unanchored goals remain a problem on all levels of the game. At a recent college game, I checked the goals before the game and saw that one, which the team moved during practice, was unanchored with the weights in a baseball dugout. The college immediately anchored the goal so the game could be played.

For a game at a nationally ranked junior college last fall, I was assigned as an AR. I checked one goal before the game while the other AR checked the other goal and was doing a rudimentary check of the goal, that the other AR checked, just before the game when I noticed it was unanchored.

That team had played a home game a few days before and they were surprised when I insisted the goal be anchored before we start so that match was most likely played with an unanchored goal. So I picked up the back portion of the goal, while the keeper or no other players were near it, to show everyone how easy it was to dislodge the goal.

The home team said it might take up to 15 minutes to find anchors. The ref told me to go to the touchline and we will start the game while they get anchors but I waited at the goal. I was absolutely flabbergasted that he instructed me to do that and that the other AR did not check the goal properly. And these are college referees who have been officiating for many years. It took five minutes to get the goals anchored.

Taking a few minutes for the refs to check that the goals are anchored upon arriving at the field could save a life and a lifetime of regret. This raises a question in my mind how could refs who understand the complexities of the offside rule or the use of the advantage clause not do something much more basic by making certain that the goals are anchored.

Most of the deaths and serious injuries are a result of players getting struck by fallen goals during practice. I believe that this is a result of teams moving goals to scrimmage and not re-anchoring the goals. Coaches need to make sure that the goals are anchored before practicing as well as before games.

Soccer Americans might wonder, if referees and coaches have been told time and time again that the goals must be anchored, why this remains an issue. I wish that I knew but hope this article might reinforce what they have already been told. I will get off of my soapbox now.

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Coaching Boys vs Girls


~~April Heinrichs: Coaching Boys vs. Girls — More Similar than Different


By April Heinrichs

Here's what I know after coaching girls and women for 25 years, and coaching our nation's best female players for the last 15 years:

Like any coach in any sport, to be successful you must have a vision for the way you want to coach, a vision for the way you want your team to play, and a vision for what steps (there are always steps) you must take in partnership with your players. It must be a partnership!

Players grow at different rates and different times in their development, hence the need for patience and being able to coach players differently. No two players are the same and no two players respond the same, thus, you must coach each player individually.

Finally, the key to coaching is being able to communicate your vision, plan and how a player fits into it all. Planning and preparing is a great part of a successful journey, so too is communicating and connecting with your players.

A great coach taps into each player's mind and their heart. A great coach motivates and asks a player to become more self-aware in order to reach the "next level." Ultimately, the most important lesson in coaching — there is no finish line in communicating with a player. It's an on-going process.

I have limited experience coaching boys and men. But what is clear to me — as I have many friends who coach males and of course I'm always watching the men's game — is that in the last 25 years, coaching men and women is becoming more similar than different.

Twenty-five years ago you could make grand statements about the differences. "You can scream and shout at men and they'll respond." … "Men don't care about team chemistry they only care about winning." … "Women are not competitive." … "Women are soft psychologically."

I don't think any of these old statements hold true today. Some of the most amazing competitors are women (athletes and businesswomen).

Women will really get after it in the competitive arena, and relentlessly so. They can unleash their furor on the field; just watch the U.S. women against any of the top teams in the world. There are fearless tackles, along with tactical adjustments communicated by their coaches.

As for men's teams and coaches today, a good team can beat an average team any day, but if a good team meets another good team that lacks cohesion, inevitably the team without good cohesion/chemistry will collapse under the pressure.

And, we hear today in men's soccer about the coach who has good "man management skills." These are some of the most successful and respected coaches in the men's game.

This sounds a lot like coaches of women's soccer. Coaching women and men is becoming more similar than different. And, one day soon, we will see a female coach coaching men at the highest level.

Don’t get mad at kids for struggling


~~'Don't get mad at kids for struggling' (Q&A with Doug Lemov, )


Interview by Mike Woitalla

Coaching clinics, practice vs. game coaching, communicating with a struggling player, and overcoaching are the topics in Part 3 of our interview with Doug Lemov, the author of highly acclaimed school teaching books "Teach Like a Champion" and “Practice Perfect.” Lemov has been working with the U.S. Soccer Federation to improve coaching through better teaching.

SOCCER AMERICA: I believe that one problem with coaching education is that when adults go to coaching clinics or licensing programs, they watch experienced coaches demonstrate practice sessions with players who are either the adult participants or obedient guest youth players on their best behavior because they’re on stage. When the student-coaches try these exercises with their team — with young children who are understandably rambunctious after a long day at school — the session that ran so smoothly at the clinic becomes chaos in practice. The coaches become frustrated, perhaps angry or insecure. If you agree that this is a likely scenario, is there a solution?

DOUG LEMOV: Agreed. I am a big believer in practice. I actually think it’s useful to practice with compliant adults to get better at the delivery and content. But then you also need practice handling kid situations. And as people who run practice for a living we ought to be pretty good at designing solutions.

You could, for example, play copy-cat. Run a practice with a coach. Say, “The first time you’re going to watch me bring them in and give them feedback. Watch how I set expectations then scan to make sure they’re attentive. Then the next time you do it.”

If the person I’m training struggles I’d have them practice with just me playing the role of a less-than compliant kid, over and over.

You can also practice “skills” like the five skills [outlined in Part 2 of this interview] with adults to get better at them before you use them in front of kids. And when you do, you can get feedback so you know where to improve. In short, getting people to pay attention is a skill that responds to practice before the game.

SA: Do you have any advice on communication with children struggling to master a skill?

DOUG LEMOV: Three thoughts.

1) Normalize struggle and error.

Of course they’re struggling. Who doesn’t? Getting it wrong and then getting it right is the fundamental condition of learning. So don’t get mad at kids for struggling. Encourage them not to be afraid. Remind them that if it was easy everyone would do it.

2) Keep it quietly and relentlessly positive.

“I know you’re going to get this. It’s just a matter of hard work and I know you’re not afraid of that.”

3) Remain emotionally constant.

This applies to a lot of coaching situations including but not limited to struggling to master a skill. When you insert your emotions — your frustration, your anger, your sarcasm — you insert a whole topic of focus and inquiry (Is he mad at me? Why? Does he get mad equally at other players? Do I deserve this? Does he sound like my dad when he’s mad?) That distracts players from the thing they need to focus on: trying to learn. It makes learning inefficient. Be steady at the helm.

SA: All the advice you’ve given us is intended for training sessions. What’s your view on “teaching” during games?

DOUG LEMOV: Well, I offer these comments cautiously. I know more about practice than games, more about learning than performing. So here are some thoughts from an educator but they may not always apply.

Generally, I think it’s hard to teach during a game. It can even be counter-productive sometimes. Generally, if you shout guidance to someone during a game and the thing you’re shouting about isn’t something you have explicitly taught them how to do, you risk causing them to do one of two things: 1) engage consciously in thinking about what you said or 2) practice ignoring you. …

What you can do is help players make small tactical or technical adaptations especially if: 1) they refer back to things you have explicitly learned in practice 2) your language is efficient, and 3) you can time the guidance so it doesn’t come when players’ cognitive load is already maxed out.

SA: As I mentioned at the beginning of this [three-part] interview, I'm a bit uncomfortable comparing coaches to schoolteachers because, besides the other differences, soccer is playtime. And I think that well-intended coaching education often creates coaches who coach too much — not only taking the fun out of it, but denying the children the freedom to explore the game on their own terms. As we know, the world’s greatest players had the luxury to play without adults around. Can you allay my fears that your advice won’t encourage overcoaching?

DOUG LEMOV: I think the game gets more fun when you understand it better and are more successful at it. So I don’t think good teaching is antithetical to fun. But you’re right that overcoaching can be a problem.

I think our conversation a minute ago kind of gets at what that might look like in a game — trying to teach in a game what really needs to be taught in practice probably results in a lot of overcoaching — a kid trying to execute in a game while a shouting adult tries to tell her what to do (and what she might not know how to do) in real time.

In practice, on the other hand, overcoaching might mean an overload of verbal information and not enough “engineered doing.” You want them to play a lot and when you design how they play intentionally you can talk less and just guide their experience with short bursts of feedback.