Silent Saturdays Make Better Players

Why Sideline Screaming Can Stifle Your Child’s Game

Imagine you’re undertaking a fairly difficult task: assembling a piece of furniture with hieroglyphic instructions, filling out IRS Form 4562 on April 14, or standing on the highest rungs of a ladder painting the crown molding in your living room with 14-foot ceilings. Think it would help if someone yelled at you during the process? Of course not.

Yet when a child tries to control a bouncing ball in a crowd of other kids, adults often believe it’s perfectly acceptable to scream “advice.” The shouting at America’s soccer fields is so epidemic one wonders if adults ever reflect on their behavior. Adults, who would never shout at children while they’re enjoying the playground, drawing in a coloring book, or rearranging their dollhouse, loudly instruct from the sidelines without hesitation.

When adults scream from the sidelines they’re not just invading the children’s playtime, they’re preventing children from learning the game of soccer in a natural manner. The shouting is detrimental to children’s development as soccer players and at worst can turn them off to the sport entirely.

If parents want to help their children become better soccer players, they can offer to kick the ball around with them in the backyard. But sideline instructions deny children a chance to make their own decisions, it stifles their creative instincts, and all too often the instructions are misguided.

When a player has the ball there are generally three options: dribble, pass or shoot. In the long-term, the great players are the ones who choose wisely most of the time. But if, when they’re first learning the sport, that decision is being made for them with a scream from the sideline, how can we expect them to develop the soccer instincts they’ll need to make the split-second decisions that are so much a part of the game?

“We don’t want to turn the children into parrots waiting for someone to tell them what to do,” says John Ouellette, AYSO National Coach. “Soccer is a free-flowing game for children to enjoy and learn from playing. As an organization, we discourage sideline instruction not just from parents but also from coaches.”

When adults scream from the sidelines they’re not just invading the children’s playtime, they’re preventing children from learning the game of soccer in a natural manner.

During the first stage of soccer development it is essential that the children are allowed to discover the game on their own terms. High-level coaches constantly complain that players come through the ranks dependent on instructions because they’ve been bossed around in the early stages — being told where to run and when to pass. They also cite a dearth of truly creative players — the ones with the ability to make the unpredictable moves-blaming the lack of freedom children are afforded during their early years.

Much of the sideline screaming comes from ignorance about the stages of development. While most parents would know that addition and subtraction must be mastered before algebra is introduced, at the soccer field they often expect children to perform maneuvers they are simply not capable of. AYSO Hall of Famer Sigi Schmid is a former youth coach who coached UCLA to an NCAA title before entering the MLS ranks and winning a crown with the Los Angeles Galaxy. He stresses that coaches and parents must appreciate how young players learn the game.

Schmid says, “The first thing is, ‘It’s me and the ball.’ The second is, ‘It’s me and the ball and where’s the opponent?’ Then it’s, ‘It’s me and the ball, and where’s the opponent, where’s my teammate?’ He’s taking on more information. That’s how he develops.”

The screams from the sideline interfere with this process — besides often being misguided and counterproductive. To take a few examples:

“PASS IT! PASS IT!” Discouraging dribbling in the early years is like telling toddlers to shut up when they’re learning to speak. Young players should be encouraged to dribble-because dribbling is the first step to mastering all ball skills-and there are far better ways to introduce a passing game when children are ready to comprehend teamwork. The passing game enters soccer at the later stages and one will notice that the children themselves will ask each other for the ball.

SPREAD OUT! Just because the first years of youth soccer look chaotic doesn’t mean the children aren’t learning In fact, it’s perfectly fine that they all chase the ball in a swarm. Sooner or later they’ll figure out how to take advantage of time and space. They’ll comprehend positioning by exploring the field, not by being treated like chess pieces.

SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! This usually comes from an ear-piercing parent-coach chorus as a child dribbles toward the goal and I have little doubt that were it eliminated from the soccer fields of America we’d see more goals in the youth game.

Even the youngest, most novice player knows they are supposed to shoot the ball to score. And can it possibly help a child perform the difficult task of striking the ball while running as fast as they can by being screamed at during the process?

Moreover, the “shoot” scream encourages players to pull the trigger earlier than they should. How do great players score on breakaways? They usually wait until they get close to the goalkeeper. It’s much harder for the keeper to save a shot from four yards away than from 15. There’s also the option of rounding the keeper, especially when a patient attacker forces the keeper to commit.

Shooting advice I often hear from high-level players is not to rush the shot — that players often have a little more time than they realize. As young players learn to cope with the high-pressure of a scoring chance, they don’t need to be screamed at.

“YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!” For sure, it should be made clear to young players which goal their team is aiming at. But what I’m talking about is the outrage that often greets a smart young player who retreats with the ball to move out of the bunch. Watch a game played by sophisticated players and you’ll find that they’re constantly moving the ball in all directions to find space and time.

Young players taking the ball away from the crowd are the clever ones. Will they sometimes put their team at risk? Maybe. But so what? Giving up a goal in a U-8 game isn’t nearly as important as allowing young players how to figure out how to keep possession.

“ATTACK THE BALL!” or “GO GET HIM!” is apparently meant to encourage a defending player to charge an opponent who has the ball at their feet. But in soccer, the defender wants to jockey into a good position to keep the attacker at bay. He wants to avoid over-committing and instead needs to figure out the right time to get a chance at the ball. It’s a matter of positioning and timing that players master by facing the situation over and over again — not by taking cues from the sideline.

Perhaps the inclination to scream instructions comes from a well-intentioned desire to help children “learn.” But when does screaming at children help educate them? When a child wanders toward a busy street, moves too close to a hot oven, or starts beating on little brother-OK, that might warrant a roar.

But does screaming at a child while you’re assisting him with math homework help? Very doubtful. And certainly children should be allowed to play soccer without getting yelled at. Then they’ll be able to pay attention to the best teacher of all: the game itself.

By Mike Woitalla
Playsoccer Fall 2008

NY Times: A Plea to the Daughters of Title IX: Why Don’t More Women Coach?

http://nyti.ms/1kIR7Xe

The Yonkers United Rush Roadrunners U10 Girls after a big win.Jenny Rosenstrach:The Yonkers United Rush Roadrunners U10 Girls after a big win.

When I first registered my daughter, Lily, for soccer five years ago, I made a conscious decision to take a back seat. I wouldn’t volunteer to be the head coach. Instead, I would take a role as an assistant/orange-slice dispenser. The plan was for me to lend support, but not loom too large over my daughter.

Soccer had always been “Mommy’s thing.” I grew up with the sport, was the captain of a Division 1 team in college, and I’d also just finished my first novel, which – surprise, surprise – was about a young soccer player. Named Lily.

Talk about a little pressure on a 6-year-old.

Lily’s coach was a nice, dedicated guy, for sure. But seconds before the first game started, he turned to me and said: “O.K. You take offense, and I’ll take defense.”

We were apparently going to be coaching soccer, N.F.L.-style. This father meant well, but it was clear that he had no idea how to guide this little team.

So I decided to step up (for the sake of the girls, and for my own sanity). After that season, I became Lily’s coach and have shepherded her team from recreational soccer, to travel, and now, to the premier level. It hasn’t always been easy – or, for that matter, fun. It’s a ton of work and a huge commitment. There’s drama. There’s stress. And wow, are there a lot of emails.

But every time I have considered stepping away (I want my weekends to myself, I want to watch my daughter as a parent, not a coach, and how many things is a mother expected to do in this lifetime?) my husband responds with a question that stops me in my tracks: If not you, then who?

To be clear, it’s not as though there aren’t capable coaches out there. Of course there are. But, having paced the sidelines for five years now, I can count on one hand the number of female coaches I’ve seen. It was the same deal for me, as a child. I played soccer from the age of 8, and never had a female head coach. Not in youth soccer, not in high school, not in college, nor post-college. I loved and valued my coaches, and I still seek their counsel. This is not a dig at male coaches. I just want more women in the game.

“Coaching is fundamentally about connecting; making a kid believe in themselves and giving them a path,” Daniel Coyle, author of the best-selling “The Talent Code” told me. “What better combination of signals do you project when you have a former female athlete who is able to say, ‘I know how you feel because I have been there myself’?”

I was 4 years old when Title IX was passed. Playing soccer paved the way for my admission to Harvard. It empowered me in my career as a journalist, it helped me handle stress, and it inspires me today, as a writer of books about the sport.

I know the reason I didn’t have any female coaches is largely because there was not a generation of women who had played before me — and who had the knowledge and experience to teach me.

Now there is. We are the daughters of Title IX, and this is a plea to you.

We played. We won. We lost. We know how those experiences affected and shaped us. And many of us now are mothers. I’m not just talking about soccer, either. I’m talking about softball, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, etc. There is, at last, a generation of women who have the training and experience to teach their own children and others.

I called one of the most over-qualified mothers I know, the soccer icon Brandi Chastain. “I feel like we have a responsibility to share what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced,” she said. “I mean, isn’t this how it’s supposed to work?”

It also matters. Holly Gordon, a founder of Girl Rising: Educate Girls, Change the World, a global movement for girls’ education, has a daughter who also plays on a team in the same club. “Sports is so much about life,” she said. “Resilience, discipline, effort, teamwork. It’s really important that girls are learning those lessons from women who were once girls themselves.”

Maybe it’s just for a season. Maybe it’s just for a session. Maybe like me, it’s for several years. But ladies, my plea to you is to get out there for our girls. Do what you can. Pick them up from the mud, tell them to do their best, and know innately that within them lies more strength than they can imagine.

Because this is the way it’s supposed to work.

And if you have doubts — as I sometimes do, when I’m up at 11 p.m., trying to secure field time for a make-up game an hour away from home — just ask yourself: If not you, then who?

Andrea Montalbano is the author of the middle-grade series,Soccer Sisters. She grew up playing soccer in Miami and was co-captain of her college team. She is the head coach of the Yonkers United Rush U10 Girls and assistant coach of her son’s recreational team. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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NY Times: Sports Should Be Child’s Play

 http://nyti.ms/Us9mqc

Credit: Liam Barrett

THE national furor over concussions misses the primary scourge that is harming kids and damaging youth sports in America.

The heightened pressure on child athletes to be, essentially, adult athletes has fostered an epidemic of hyperspecialization that is both dangerous and counterproductive.

One New York City soccer club proudly advertises its development pipeline for kids under age 6, known as U6. The coach-picked stars, “poised for elite level soccer,” graduate to the U7 “pre-travel” program. Parents, visions of scholarships dancing in their heads, enable this by paying for private coaching and year-round travel.

Children are playing sports in too structured a manner too early in life on adult-size fields — i.e., too large for optimal skill development — and spending too much time in one sport. It can lead to serious injuries and, a growing body of sports science shows, a lesser ultimate level of athletic success.

We should urge kids to avoid hyperspecialization and instead sample a variety of sports through at least age 12.

Nearly a third of youth athletes in a three-year longitudinal study led by Neeru Jayanthi, director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola University in Chicago, were highly specialized — they had quit multiple sports in order to focus on one for more than eight months a year — and another third weren’t far behind. Even controlling for age and the total number of weekly hours in sports, kids in the study who were highly specialized had a 36 percent increased risk of suffering a serious overuse injury. Dr. Jayanthi saw kids with stress fractures in their backs, arms or legs; damage to elbow ligaments; and cracks in the cartilage in their joints.

Because families with greater financial resources were better able to facilitate the travel and private coaching that specialization requires, socioeconomic status turned up as a positive predictor of serious injury. Some young athletes now face surgeries befitting their grandparents. Young hockey goaltenders repeatedly practice butterfly style — which stresses the developing hip joint when the legs are splayed to block the bottom of the goal. The sports surgeon Marc Philippon, based in Vail, Colo., saw a 25-year-old goalie who already needed a hip replacement.

In the Loyola study, sport diversification had a protective effect. But in case health risks alone aren’t reason enough for parents to ignore the siren call of specialization, diversification also provides performance benefits.

Kids who play multiple “attacking” sports, like basketball or field hockey, transfer learned motor and anticipatory skills — the unconscious ability to read bodies and game situations — to other sports. They take less time to master the sport they ultimately choose.

Several studies on skill acquisition now show that elite athletes generally practiced their sport less through their early teenage years and specialized only in the mid-to-late teenage years, while so-called sub-elites — those who never quite cracked the highest ranks — homed in on a single sport much sooner.

Data presented at the April meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine showed that varsity athletes at U.C.L.A. — many with full scholarships — specialized on average at age 15.4, whereas U.C.L.A. undergrads who played sports in high school, but did not make the intercollegiate level, specialized at 14.2.

We may prize the story of Tiger Woods, who demonstrated his swing at age 2 for Bob Hope. But the path of the two-time N.B.A. M.V.P. Steve Nash (who grew up playing soccer and didn’t own a basketball until age 13) or the tennis star Roger Federer (whose parents encouraged him to play badminton, basketball and soccer) is actually the norm.

A Swedish study of sub-elite and elite tennis players — including five who ranked among the top 15 in the world — found that those who topped out at as sub-elites dropped all other sports by age 11. Eventual elites developed in a “harmonious club environment without greater demands for success,” and played multiple sports until age 14.

The sports science data support a “sampling period” through at least age 12. Mike Joyner, a Mayo Clinic physician and human performance expert, would add general physical literacy-building to the youth sports menu: perhaps using padded gymnastics gyms for parkour, which is essentially running, climbing or vaulting on any obstacle one can find.

In addition to athletic diversity, kids’ sports should be kid-size.

In Brazil, host of this month’s World Cup, kids are weaned on “futsal,” a lightly structured and miniaturized form of soccer. Futsal is played on tiny patches of grass or concrete or on indoor courts and typically by teams of five players.

Players touch the ball up to five times as frequently as they do in traditional soccer, and the tighter playing area forces children to develop foot and decision-making skills under pressure.

A futsalization of youth sports generally would serve engagement, skill development and health.

USA Hockey (which has barred checking in youth games) recently invited adults to play on a 310-by-130-foot ice rink to show them what it’s like for an 8-year-old to play on a regulation rink. The grown-ups’ assessments: “too much time between the action”; “it’s hard to communicate because everyone is spread out so far”; “you end up spending a lot of time in open space.”

Futsal, basketball and … padded parkour? Sounds like a strange three-sport athlete, and a perfect model for kids.

 

 

Memorial Day Parade

Come march behind our banner in the Memorial Day Parade! 

Wear your uniforms and meet on Ridgewood Terrace (off 117) by 10:30am Monday morning. 

We’ll be marching just behind the Chappaqua Elementary Schools Marching Band.

Tell your teammates!

Silent Saturday and Sunday May 17,18

Chappaqua AYSO
Silent Saturday/Sunday · May 17/18
At all AYSO soccer games in Chappaqua on May 17 and 18, the AYSO Board requests that there be no comments from the sidelines audible to players or the referee during games.
 
We are sponsoring this program to allow our players to better develop their game skills by communicating with each other without interference from coaches, parents or other spectators and to learn to make their own decisions in games.
 

Area 3T – Region 139