Tag Archives: education

Lessons from National D Course

US Youth SoccerI recently finished the National D Course.  As the instructors noted, the course material has changed in recent years.  Each license is progressively more difficult to obtain than in the past.  I received my “E” license in 2008 so I was unfamiliar with the “E” buildup to this course.  Several of the members of the class were recent graduates of the new “E” license and there seemed to be some transition.  Last spring, I completed the National Youth License.  In all, I have enjoyed each course and find that the participants are, generally speaking, engaging and interested in improvement.  Also, it is nice to be in courses with people as tilted on soccer as I am.  So, to the D…

The D course description says “The course combines field and classroom instruction relevant for coaches working with 13 and older players. This is the most comprehensive course offered and is preparatory for national licensing.”  Having completed the National Youth License in the last 12 months, there was a sharp difference in the material and focus of the two courses.  The National D is focused on 11 a side soccer.  Everything that is being done is, the sessions that are requested, represent a tighter blend of tactical with technical work.  To me, the NYL focused more on the technical (even though there needs to be some practical applications even then).  In any event, as a trainer, the D emphasizes an important principle:  your session plan should lead up to expanded small-sided game that “looks like soccer.”  Whatever portion of the game your are emphasizing needs to be done in a manner that, in the end, looks like a soccer match (7v7 on a shortened field or whatever you have).  This is a valuable nugget I walked away from the class with.  (It is also true for U10 sessions, it just seems to me that in the older kid sessions, the blend between technical and tactical is different — truth be told, that blend, in my opinion, should not necessarily be based on age but on the ability (mental and physical) of the players in your session).

For example, if you are working on zonal defending, your expanded small-sided activity should be numbers up for the defenders — and your defensive line should look like how it is played.  If it is 4 in the back, it should be 4 in the back in the expanded small-sided game.  If you are working on overlapping runs, you should structure your expanded small-sided game where there are opportunities to run from a position that looks like your left or right back.  The best way I saw this in the course was through the instructor-lead sessions, as well as the sessions of some of the participants.  If you are working on building up from the back, your expanded small-sided game should have all the parts you would use to build up in a match (keeper, back 4, midfield, etc.) I absolutely loved being a part of the instructor led sessions (high quality) as well as a bunch of 12 minute sessions with the participants.  There is so much to learn from other people in this game.

The course continues the concept of “guided discovery” as a teaching device.  This is a focus in all the courses and is a wonderful teaching tool.  Rather than micro-manage our teams, we need to guide them with questions and allow them to solve problems.  For example, if your fullback is having a hard time seeing when to overlap, you might ask the player: “Given the pressure on the outside mid, where can you go to alleviate the pressure on the outside mid? (easier question) or “….., what can you do to alleviate pressure on the outside mid?”  Or, even easier, “can you see how you can improve numbers on offense in the wide channel to assist the winger in attacking?”  There are lots of ways to ask, the main idea is to do it in the flow of the session and at a level that your players can understand.    If you have to freeze the session, be quick, ask the question or demo the point, and get out.  Knowing how to ask the right question requires preparation.  Trainers and coaches should take time to prepare questions as they do small-sided games.

The D has very little classroom work.  That is good and bad for participants.  For participants enjoying practical experience, it is a wonderful course.  And tiring.  Participants will have opportunities to be involved in all the practical sessions.  I find that it is best to volunteer as much as possible — it is a good way to understand the concepts and ideas that instructors are using in their sessions as well as the other participants.  While there will be some extremely talented players in your courses, do not be intimidated.  Participate.  I have found that the players fresh from college or professional soccer still enjoy the game and playing it during the course.  And, I have yet to see a “great” player-participant in the course be anything other than encouraging to coaches who aren’t at their level.  Plus, you get to play soccer! (And, if you are like me, I have been running sessions since 2006, it is nice to be a participant of the session rather than the coach!)   There is real value in being a “player” to understand what a session looks like from a player’s perspective — is it too confusing, too hard to succeed, too easy???  No better way to answer those questions than being in the sessions!

The D is a wonderful course for anyone interested in coaching soccer.  The course material is great, the practical components of the session are wonderful, and the opportunity to meet other great people in soccer, learn from them, share ideas, is priceless!

US Youth Soccer VISION Statement

US Youth Soccer VISION Statement

I recently attended the National Youth License course.  It was an incredible experience.  The quality of the instruction was superb and the curriculum outstanding.  I can write more about it later, but I wanted to share a document that was passed by Sam Snow, the US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching Education.  It is called a Vision Statement and covers the idea behind the training model directed by US Youth Soccer.  It is called the Vision document.  The basis of the document is the role of “player development” philosophy in youth sports.  Some times, player development is sacrificed for results.  Here are some good quotes from the document (from the introduction):

Indeed how do we measure player development? Too often in America a professional sport model is used in measuring youth sports success. Youth soccer is not immune to this misapplied standard. For soccer the situation is made worse by a desire of many adults to use measuring tools from other sports. In fact it is maddening to many adults that soccer is not as black and white as with some sports in judging successful play. Many team sports played in our nation are statistically driven and coach centered. Soccer is neither of those! Indeed just like the Laws of the Game our sport has many shades of grey within it. As a player centered sport some coaches become disillusioned as they learn that they are the ‘guide on the side’ and not the ‘sage on the stage’. Too many soccer coaches bring a “Pattonesque” attitude to the youth sport environment. This coach-centered perspective has been handed down to us from other sports and coaching styles of past generations.

In many sports the coach makes crucial decisions during the competition. In soccer players make the primary decisions during the match. The coach’s decisions are of secondary importance. The ego-centric personality will find coaching soccer troublesome. The other significant group of adults at a youth soccer match is parents. They too often have their view of the match colored by the professional model and by a view of “coaching” that is portrayed in the media. Although it is changing, the majority of parents watching their kids play soccer have never played the game. In fact the statistics show that most of today’s parents never played any team sport. So their only exposure on how to measure sporting success is gleaned from the sports media. The sports media predominately report on adult teams at the college and professional levels. These adult measurements of team performance should not and cannot be applied to youth sports.

The analogy can be made to a youngster’s academic development in preparation for work in the adult business world. While the child is in primary and secondary school the corporate world measurements of success are not applied. Those business assessments are not yet appropriate because the school-aged student does not yet have the tools to compete in the adult business environment. The knowledge and skills to be a competitor in business are still being taught and learned. This holds true in soccer as well!

Soccer is an adult game designed by adults for adults to play. Adults enjoy the game so much that we have shared it with our children. Yet adults err when we bring our adult performance and outcome based thinking into the developing player’s world.

The document is fantastic and I would encourage everyone to read it, whether your child is involved in youth football, baseball, or basketball, the ideas carry over.   There is also a section titled “What Parents Can Do” that I would recommend for parents who are looking for ways to support their little athletes but are not involved in coaching them.   Here are some of the excerpts under “What Parents Can Do”:

1.  Talk positively with their children before and after activity;

2.  Supply transport;

3.  Assist with supervision;

4.  Officiate games;

5.  Help with administrations;

6.  Assist with the organization of special events.

For some reason, I cannot attach it to the blog.  So, email me if you would like a copy of the document.  My email is clint@brasherattorney.com.  Source for the document is US Youth Soccer Technical Department.