Add This to Your Coaching “To-Do” List  By Greg Bach

Good sportsmanship is one of the most important values that coaches at all levels can instill in their players.  Is it on your to-do list this season?

“It's your team, these are your players, and it's your opportunity to teach your lessons and your values,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS). “You're not beholden to what they see on TV. Find the good stuff and throw away the bad stuff. Make sure they understand that being a good teammate and being a good sportsman is as important as anything you do in life. And down the road when they are competing for a job or competing for a sale they will understand how important that is.”

Keep these tips in mind to help your young athletes embrace – and model – good sportsmanship at all times:

Talk up the importance of being a good sport during practice: During the warm-up period of your practices is a great time to casually discuss recent games they have watched on television and both the good and bad displays of sportsmanship they saw. It’s a great opportunity to talk about what athletes did both right and wrong in these instances. Ask the players what they thought of these actions and what they would have done differently in the same situation.

Set a positive tone on Game Day: Before you tackle all of your pre-game responsibilities make sure heading over to shake hands with the opposing coach is at the top of your to-do list. All the players, fans and opposing coaches will notice your gesture of sportsmanship, and it’ll send a positive reminder that the game is for the kids.

Be calm and composed: That means no yelling at officials or arguing calls that you’re sure should have gone your team’s way. Your players take their cues from you, so if you rant and rave at officials, then expecting your players to show respect toward the refs is hardly realistic. “Understand one thing, the kids are really smart and they don’t miss anything,” Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, said “They will notice your good body language, your bad body language and your minor angry moment that you thought had maybe been  overlooked that just may impact them way more than you ever thought it would.”

Recognize your good sports: During your post-game talk be sure to spend time highlighting and congratulating those players who displayed good sportsmanship. Maybe one of your players went out of his way after the game to congratulate an opposing player who made a great interception or a running back who had a really good game. Continually recognizing these displays reinforces that how players behave during and after games really is important.

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For Kids Only ...This column is for the kids. Adults can stop reading now-By Mike Woitalla

Dear Soccer-Playing Children of America,

The fall season is underway and I'm hoping you're having a great time. I'm hoping that you're playing soccer more than you have to stand in line and do drills.

I hope you're falling in love with the soccer ball and keep it with you as much as you can. Juggling it. Kicking it against a wall. Dribbling it around in your backyard.

And I especially hope that your parents aren't screaming at you during your soccer games.

I worry that you probably do get yelled at, because that's what I see at almost all the youth soccer games I go to. Hopefully you just ignore it. But I don't blame you if it bothers you.

No one enjoys getting screamed at. Sure, if you start crossing the street on a red light or throw a toy at your little sister or brother, your parents are justified in raising their voices. But they shouldn't scream at you while you're playing a game.

If they do, it doesn't mean they're bad people. But, unfortunately, sports does something to adults that makes them behave in ways they usually wouldn't.

You may have noticed this if you've watched sports on TV. A coach, for example, dresses up in a fancy suit and throws tantrums like a 3-year-old.

Get adults around sports and all of a sudden they forget the same manners they try to teach you. In a way, sports are like driving. A grown-up gets behind the wheel and all of a sudden forgets you're not supposed to pick your nose in public.

And when grown-ups go watch their children play soccer, they, for some reason, think it's OK to scream like maniacs. Perhaps they don't realize what they're doing. Like the nose-pickers on the freeway who think they've suddenly gone invisible.

I hope you're able to block out all the sideline noise. But maybe you do hear their shouts. Telling you when to shoot the ball, when to pass it. Ignore all that!

You need to dribble the ball. Try to dribble past players. If you're dribbling too much, your teammates will let you know. And they'll help you make the decision of when to pass and when to dribble.

You decide when to shoot. When you're dribbling toward the goal and the goalkeeper is 20 yards away, and the adults are screaming at you to shoot, don't pay attention. Because if you get closer to the goal, it will be harder for the goalkeeper to stop your shot.

One of the really cool things about my job is that I get to interview the best coaches in America. And you know what the national team coaches tell me? They say young players are far more likely to become great players if they're allowed to make their own decisions when they play soccer.

They say that coaches should coach at practice, and when it's game time, it's time for the children to figure things out on their own. It's like at school. The teachers help you learn. Your parents may help you with homework. But when you get a test, you're on your own.

That's just an analogy. I'm not saying soccer is school! Soccer is your playtime.

I hope you have lots of playtime, on the soccer field and elsewhere. But I bet that you don't have as much time playing without adults around as we did when we were children.

When we were kids we had summer days when we would leave the house in the morning, be only with other children all day, then see our parents when we got back in the late afternoon.

Things have changed. The reasons adults are much more involved in your activities than they were when they were children are complicated, and a result of your parents' good intentions.

But sometimes we adults forget how important it is for you to play without us interfering. We love watching you play, especially on the soccer field, because it is such a wonderful sport. But we need to be reminded that it's your playtime.

You should decide. Ignore the shouts if you can. But don't be afraid to say, "I'm trying my best. Please, don't scream at me."

Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for Bay Oaks/East Bay United SC in Oakland, Calif and is a Grade * referee. He is the co-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper, and More Than Goals with Claudio Reyna. Woitalla's youth soccer articles are archived at

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Station Wagon Syndrome With Sam Snow, US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching

For some kids playing soccer, their biggest battle doesn’t occur on the field, but rather in the backseat of the car on the way home, as one or both parents give their minute-by-minute recap of the game. They cover why Johnny has no business starting at forward and how Jason playing on the right as opposed to the left is a travesty.

This situation was identified as “station wagon syndrome” by University of Missouri School of Law professor Douglas Abrams, and the name alone should suggest that this isn’t a new revelation, but rather an issue that has been around for a couple of decades. Abrams describes station wagon syndrome occurring when “The youngsters are a captive audience in the back seat on the way home, but they deserve to ride in peace without being unwilling victims of their parents” (Abrams 2002).

For US Youth Soccer Director of Coaching, Sam Snow, the conversation after a match or training session should be short and sweet.

“The only things parents need to say is, ‘I love watching you play,’ end of story,” Snow said. “I know it sounds overly simple, and it is harder to actually carry out.”

Coaches can have enough issues trying to portray a consistent message to their players while parents attempt to coach from the sidelines — a situation in which coaches have at least some control. However, their jurisdiction ends when the kids enter the car.

“Parents want to be sure that they are not coaching, whether it is on the sideline or afterward in the car,” Snow said. “If you do that then you could intentionally or unintentionally contradict what the coach is saying, and that is only going to confuse the player.”

Snow explains that this is prevalent on the entire spectrum of youth soccer ranging from 5-year-old recreational players to 17-year-old's playing in the most competitive environment. The range of soccer knowledge a parent has is also vast, but both of these should be irrelevant in regards to a parent coaching a player.

“Parents have to keep it in the forefront of their minds that this is their child’s game and not theirs, whether the parents are a former player or not,” Snow said. “While there happens to be spectators at the match, this isn’t for the spectators. It is for the kids.”

At some point, it is inevitable that a parent is going to disagree with what a coach is doing, and in this situation, Snow simply recommends the parent makes an appointment as opposed to voicing concerns right after a match or training session.

“You don’t want to voice your concerns right after a match or training session because emotions are going to be high. You wouldn’t go complain to your child’s teacher immediately after the exam in the middle of the day, would you?” Snow said. “It is the same thing with a soccer coach, and if you wait 24 hours to schedule an appointment then a discussion can occur.”

While Snow is a strong advocate of parents not contradicting their child’s coach with or without the coach present, he insists it is imperative that parents represent a support system, especially if the player begins to play in more competitive environments.

“If a player gets older and decides to commit more effort to start playing at a higher level, he or she is going to need more of a commitment from the entire family,” Snow said. “There are going to be a lot of highs and lows associated with playing at a higher level, and it is very important for a player to have an emotional safety net.”

Ultimately, it comes down to the mindset parents have in approaching their child playing soccer, and for that Snow references a friend and colleague Andy Coutts, Director of Education for Minnesota Youth Soccer Association.

“You ask the parents if they are looking at their child playing soccer as an investment or a gift. If it is an investment, then you are looking for a return on investment whether it is a college scholarship or pro contract, but I tell them that will only end in heartache and you are better off putting that money into a financial service to pay for college,” Snow said. “However, if you look at it as a gift and you don’t expect anything in return like a birthday present, then the world is open for them, and both the kids and parent can enjoy it for as long as they want.”

Coaching Corner

Learn or At Least Listen y Sal Blanco

I was the center referee in a game, a while ago, and told all the coaches before the game started (first warning) that they were not to talk to any of the officials unless it was:

·         To make an allowed substitution.

·         To draw the attention to an injured player.

Well, I think you know where this is going.

An infringement occurred and required an indirect free kick. I held my arm straight up in the air as required by the Laws of the Game. The coach from the team taking the signaled ‘direct-free-kick’ started yelling at me to let him know if it is direct or indirect. I was forced to stop play and approached him and reminded him of the admonishment about talking to us. His response was “I was just asking what kind of kick.” I told him that I was serious about talking to us and that this was his (second warning). I added that it was up to him to learn the basic Laws of the Game as modified for his age group. 

You might think that was hard on the coach.

However, my objective is to prevent issues from escalating on other situations and to try and make better coaches in all facets of the game. For example, many coaches want to tell me how many wins ‘they’ have. It is rare or non-existent for them to tell me how he or she saw an improvement on some facet of technique development for their team. That is not important to them. In that regard, I think that many coaches are so caught up on winning that they aren’t willing to take even a few minutes to learn & understand the Laws of the Game and specifically for their age group!

Coaches please take the time to at least read the Laws of the Game as they pertain to your age group and help prevent possible misunderstanding and potential confrontations! 

   For the Rules of the Game for Modified Fields please click here.
Sal Blanco

Cal-N D7 Coaching Director
NSCAA National Diploma
NSCAA Advance GK Diploma

  • The course takes approxim

Referee Corner

Judging Tackles From Behind by Pat Ferre

Some time ago, FIFA and other groups decided to take a stronger stand on dealing with “tackles from behind which endanger the safety of an opponent”.

The problem is that referees will often interpret the meaning of the directive according to their own experiences.  Some experiences are better than others and that leads to referees making different types of decisions and in some cases, mistakes are made.

Some plays from behind are not fouls and do not deserve a caution.  The key element when dealing with tackles from behind is whether the player has put the opponent in danger and safety becomes a major concern.

Some tackles from behind are simple fouls needing only a whistle.  A slide where the defender’s leg barely misses the ball and brings down the opponent is a foul that requires a whistle but very seldom a card.  Sometimes a small difference in the slide may become misconduct and warrants a card to be shown.

A defender who misses the ball by a few feet and brings down the attacker should lead the referee to interpret that foul as deliberately trying to bring down the opponent.  Likewise if the defender’s leg is raised a foot or more above the ball (the diameter of a ball is roughly 10 inches) the referee can interpret that as a deliberate act.
A leg that is swung forcefully at an opponent would become serious foul play and deserve a red card.

Very few players who try to tackle the ball away while coming from directly behind an opponent are able to get the ball without making contact with the legs.  Even if lucky enough to accomplish the steal, it would be deemed dangerous if the players do not normally expect that type of play to occur at that level of play.  If the tackler subsequently trips the opponent, a direct free kick would likely be awarded.  The intent may have been fair but the result is dangerous and can lead to injury and loss of game control as players want to retaliate.

A tackle in the back of the legs is almost always a foul “that endangers the safety of the opponent” and must be dealt with.  Even if completed with reasonable force and cleats down, it is still dangerous and could result in injury.  A caution will discourage more and a send-off should take place if the foul is considered violent.  

Anytime a tackle in the back of the legs comes above the ground with a high level of force, the player is not too concerned about gaining possession of the ball.  The referee should strongly consider a red card.  Failure to punish this foul appropriately will lead to retaliation and loss of game control.  A two-footed tackle, although very uncommon, shows little concern for the opponent safety and is so dangerous (legs, knees and ankles will likely be injured) that it should receive a red card.

The term “tackle from behind” means many things to different people.  A good referee needs to differentiate between what is fair, foul or misconduct.

Pat Ferre
USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus,USSF Referee Instructor, USSF Referee Assessor, USSF Referee Assignor, District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA), Note: Please send you comments on this & other referee matters to:

November NEWS

Tournament Date

Tournament Name, # of Teams

Age Groups

NOV 28/29



U8-U16B  G

U8-10 200

U12-16 225


NOV 28/29          






U6-U14 B/G


Health News

Komments will be…Addressing Soccer Related Health Information

 “Sports Physical”By Carlos Flores RN FCN

Every year, the student athlete should receive a pre-participation physical evaluation (PPE) from his/her own physician. Better known as the “sports physical” this annual exam is crucial to ensure the health and safety of the young athlete and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. While not all underlying conditions can be discovered during this exam, it does help to identify any conditions that may influence the performance or participation in a given sport. The PPE reviews such things as family history, heart, breathing, bone and joint, and over-all medical issues. This exam is best conducted by the student’s own physician, who has prior knowledge and records of the student’s medical history. Medical histories of asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and heart conditions, should be closely monitored. But these conditions don’t necessarily mean the student can’t participate. Your doctor will help in the decisions of how to keep symptoms under control and to allow the student athlete full participation in their sport of choice.

A copy of the PPE form that can be used by your doctor may be found at

Play hard, play safe! Note:  If you would like to connect with Carlos Flores to suggest topics or receive personal feedback, he can reach him at


Ontario Eliminates Soccer Ball from Soccer Games

Troubled by what they see as the overemphasis on winning in sports involving kids even under the age of 10, youth soccer groups in Canada are doing something about it. In at least one community, Midlake, Ontario, kids play in leagues where they no longer keep score or even play the game with a ball.

“This year to address some of the negative effects of competition, we’ve actually removed the ball,” said Helen Dabney-Coyle of Midlake’s Soccer Association. “And the kids are loving it.”

Midlake last year stopped keeping score in soccer games, as did all leagues in the Ontario Soccer Association.

“Unfortunately, when you put an overemphasis on competition, individual skill development regresses, and that’s what’s happened in our game for so long,” said Alex Chiet, technical director of the soccer group.

Soccer officials in Ontario say that removing the score will actually create better soccer players rather than the other way around, by letting the youth players be creative without fear that a mistake will cost their team a defeat.

“You want them to try new things in game settings without the fear of failure,” said Chiet.

But Midlake has gone the rest of Ontario one better.

“The ball-less soccer this year as a challenge from a coaching perspective,” said Keith Schultz, head coach of a Midlake team called the Thundercats, a ball-less team for children under the age of 11. “I have to do a lot of imagining.”

On a CBC Radio documentary about the new Midlake ball-less soccer league, Schultz is heard asking his team, “Okay, now who wants to pretend to have the ball? When I say that Michael has kicked the ball down the field, we all have to imagine it’s down here.”

Note: The show was a satire and they got Punk'd.  

The outcome of our children is Infinitely more important than the outcome of any Game they will ever play!