11 Tips for Coaching the Little Ones

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11 Tips for Coaching the Little Ones

By Mike Woitalla

“I got recruited to coach my kid’s soccer team. Any advice?” The most recent time I heard this question, it came from a parent of a 6-year-old. It prompted me to put an answer in writing, based on some of the best insight I’ve gotten from coaches and players I’ve interviewed and observed over the years.

11 Tips for Coaching the Little Ones
1. If all you do is set up goals and have them play as much soccer as possible during that hour of practice — you’re doing a good job.

2. Familiarize yourself with the various age-appropriate games/exercises to facilitate individual skills — but don’t use ones that bore the kids. And if it takes more than a minute for 6-year-olds to comprehend the activity — it’s the wrong one. (In other words, plan your practice but be ready to improvise.)

3. No lines, no laps, no lectures.

4. Enjoy yourself! If for some reason you’re grumpy, act like you’re enjoying yourself. Kids pick up on body language and you’ll get the best out of them if they sense you like being their coach.

5. Greet each player when they arrive in a way that lets them know you’re happy to see them.

6. Always end practice on an upbeat, happy note. (Even if they drove you absolutely crazy).

7. See the game through the children’s eyes. This will remind you that your main objective is helping them discover the joys of soccer. And not to expect a 6-year-old to play like a 16-year-old!

8. Do not yell instructions at them! Do not coach from the sidelines during games! This interferes severely in their learning process. It also makes you look rather silly — an adult screaming at 6-year-olds while they’re playing.

9. Sit down during games, instead of prowling the sidelines, which only creates tension that unnerves your players.

10. Always have a first-aid kit (including ice-packs) with you.

11. Keep plastic bags in your coaching bag in case you need to pick up dog poo

Make Sure the Goals are Anchored

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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

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~~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.