Small-sided games have been a part of our soccer history in the United States for generations. In the past it was not uncommon for small-sided games to be played in the streets and in vacant lots with uneven numbers and mixed ages. Now our streets are too busy and the vacant lot we used to play on no longer exists. Thus, it has become the responsibilities of youth organizations to recreate the small-sided environment. The “Small-Sided” environment is a developmentally appropriate environment for our young soccer players. It’s a FUN environment that focuses on the player!

This devastatingly unique Between The Posts pod-cast offers some unconventional ‘Small-Sided Practice Game’ ideas That Really Work!


From Fresno Soccer to Hollywood Acting

Being the youngest of three I was thrust into the Ramirez family soccer world.  I couldn’t escape it.  Soccer was always on the TV at home.  “But Gabriel?  What if you weren’t at home?”  Games.  My brother’s games.  My sister’s games.  My dad’s games.  If my dad wasn’t playing Sunday league, he was coaching the Fresno Pacific University men’s soccer team.  FPU was my second home,

Gabriel M Ramirez

the men’s team my second family.  When my dad helped form the FPU women’s team in 1998 that family grew even bigger.  I was always at FPU training sessions and went to almost every game.  Even my mom got into coaching for a while!  She didn’t know anything about soccer before meeting my dad.  It was contagious.

My passion for the game was fueled on the fields of Southeast Fresno.  I joined my first team—The Ayer Elementary Bears—when I was five years old.  When I was nine I joined Roosevelt Revolution and spent most of my club career there.  After graduating from Roosevelt High School I went on to play at Fresno Pacific University.  Between practices and games you could often find me striking the ball in the FPU racquet ball courts, juggling in my backyard, or kicking around with my friends anywhere we could.  Simply put…I played a lot.  Soccer, to this day, is what I know best.

In order to have booked my acting jobs which included a national commercial for Sprint with David Beckham; I needed the fundamental skills expected of a soccer player.

Click here to read my whole story!

Field Players

Skill Tutorial #3 – Peanut Butter and Jelly – Also known as the Pull Back Behind the Leg!

Welcome to this month’s article, where did we leave off? If you missed last month’s article on juggling techniques you can catch up here in the January Komments! Also, in January’s SISM Winter Training Program we put the two juggling teaching methods to the test to find out which one worked best for various skill levels:

  • Players start with the ball in the hands and drop the ball so it bounces first, then they make their first touch, and then either catch it or try for additional touches.
  • Players also start with the ball in the hands and then drop the ball and make their first touch, then catch, all without touching the ground/bouncing first.

Which was the best method??? Let’s begin with the age and skill level of our group: Our players ranged from 8 years old up to 11 years old and most were not yet comfortable juggling. So we created two group based on similar ages. Although I expected all age groups to benefit from dropping the ball directly to the foot, our younger aged players appeared to benefit more from Method A with a bounce first. Our older group progressed well with or without the bounce. The verdict? If you have a solid surface you can take advantage of the bounce method, especially for your newest players! Try out both methods with a group of your players and let us know which technique you liked best for your players.
So let’s move on to this month’s skill and get right to it. The video shows everything you need to be able to teach it. It’s a skill that looks relatively simple but has some subtleties that make it really effective. The pull back move is a very practical move done in 3 touches, yet I find that many players underestimate the precision with which it can be done.
A simple example: Touch #3 should be in front of us for the most options. If touch #3 is behind us we cannot attack forward immediately.

Watch the video and check out the skill in use in game play at the end.

One of my favorite benefits to this skill is that we are in a shielding position and protecting the ball when it is behind us! My second favorite benefit is that we have many options as we exit this move and transition into the next based on what the situation presents us.
That’s it for this month’s skill! So off you go!

Happy 2019 everyone!
Louie and the SISM team


Keep it positive.

It’s all too tempting when you are 2-0 down and the final whistle is fast approaching to get frustrated and start losing your cool with the other players. It is extremely important that you do not do this! This will get you nowhere and you will only serve to pass on that frustration to the other players. Remember that a game isn’t over until it’s actually over and anything can happen in the final minutes of a game. It’s your job to help keep everyone’s spirits high because that can make all the difference, especially when you get to the changing room.

Talking to officials.

We all see the professionals shouting at and surrounding the referees whenever a bad call is made or they miss something, but it doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, talking to the officials can often help you, especially if you are a nice, well-mannered person to deal with. Screaming will often get you nowhere, but if you can talk to the referee and ask him to keep an eye on a certain problem player on the opposition team, he might have a better chance of doing his job better next time.

Learn from the Pros


What’s happened to the back players that used to mark a post come corner kicks?

This World Cup has seen a number of games where the defending team has left either post exposed. Either they have tremendous confidence in their ‘keeper or their marking is that good.

However there are a number of teams gambling by leaving their posts exposed. Time will tell.


Issues with Corner Kicks

At all levels of the game corner kicks create issues for the referee.  Upon signaling that a corner kick will be used to restart the match, referees must be aware of all the activities that will take place both before and during the taking of the kick.

Even before the ball is put into play, players will work to give themselves an advantage.  They will jostle for position, they will hold, push and grab to secure the best position they can to gain control of the ball.

While referees are usually focusing on the activities taking place directly in front of the goal they must also be aware of any assistant referee’s signals prior to the kick and while the ball is in flight.  Having to divide his/her attention in two directions at such a tense moment of the match occurs at every corner kick.

 What can happen?

When kicked, the ball while in the air may bend over the goal line (leaving the field) and returning to the field.  The only official who can judge whether the ball clearly and entirely left the field is the assistant referee who is standing behind the corner flag.  The flag may go up immediately and because the referee’s attention is in front of the goal, the signal may be missed.

If a goal is scored and the flag signal is missed the referee will have to deal with two issues.  One being embarrassment, the second being complaints from the players and both can lead to game control.

Upon realizing that he/she missed the flag signal the referee must disallow the goal and restart with a goal kick.  An unpopular decision, probably, but the correct one.  Because of the delay in making the call, the referee may have to deal with dissent and may have to issue cautions.

Another more awkward situation will surface if the ball has left the field on its flight to the goal area, returns to the field and play continues while the raised flag signal is not noticed.  During a counterattack, with the referee now running away from the assistant with the flag up, stopping play way up the field once the flag signal is finally recognized will undoubtedly be very unpopular, lead to more dissent and create some game control issues for the referee.

Overlooking the missed call or waving the flag down (as can be legally done in other situations) is not an option in these cases.   Once the ball has legally left the field, it is out of play.  The only and proper way to handle the situation is to stop play and restart with a goal kick.

 To avoid these situations:

Discuss possible corner kick scenarios with the assistants during the pregame.  Be aware of and prepared for what can happen during corner kicks.  Select the best position that will give you the best line of sight and allow you to simultaneously watch the players and your assistant.  Be quick on the whistle when the flag goes up in these situations.

No Calls

This year the Super Bowl plays out the first weekend of February. While watching the playoff’s leading up to this years game, like many others, I was taken aback by a significant no-call. As I explained to one of my son’s, yeah, the no-call was kind of a big deal, but unfortunately human error will be part of the game. A champion has to let that go and make up for the difference.

As such, we know there are many life skills that are learned in youth sports. Responsible social behaviors; teamwork; leadership; self-confidence; coping skills; appreciation of personal health/fitness, and fun to name a few.

Not all of the calls will be accurate or go our own way. With the human influence, that is to be expected. In turn, those “no-calls” or “bad calls” can be turned into something positive.

As parents or coaches, we can affirm the players’ feelings of frustration and unfairness, but we can also redirect them to learning that life itself will present challenges that are frustrating and unfair. Our best response is to learn from it and to bring ourselves into a healthy way of coping that will overcome those challenges. We eventually emerge a better person.

As parents and coaches, we are the primary teachers for everything our kids will learn. So we must set the example. Rather than harping on the official for a mistake (Lord knows I’ve come up short a few times), we should take the opportunity to encourage our young ones to overcome it, play through it, and play better for it. When we can provide encouragement and praise of effort despite the odds against us, we’ve won something that will last much longer than the final score of the game.

Granted, much easier said than done, but then again as parents and coaches, we signed up for this.

Play hard, play safe.

Approaching Spring League

To All Coaches as we approach Spring League here are some observations:

  1. We took Coaching courses and we learned how to make the game both challenging and fun for the players.
  2. We have been graded on our wins and losses but have we been graded on the fun aspect?
  3. We have placed on ourselves high levels of stress and might have forgotten how to coach to have FUN.

Let us observe the professional game taking the English Premier League as an example, at the start of the season:

A few teams came out of the blocks playing entertaining soccer, the players and the manager looked like they were having fun.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Wolves, Chelsea and Arsenal are prime examples, driven by the coaches but executed by the players.

Who was not having fun? Well, Manchester United is a prime example. As the season progressed, Chelsea and Arsenal are showing stress.

Liverpool and Wolves are still having fun. City lost it but looks like they are back in and Manchester United looks like they are having fun.

Players having fun seem to win games. All the coaches do is pick the team – and the players do the rest. Does it work all the time…. No.

Can we learn from watching others? I think we can bring the fun back, win or lose. It’s time for Spring League and for the players to have FUN!

Know Your Role!

Coaches coach.
Officials officiate.
Administrators administrate.
Spectators spectate.
There should be very little, if any, overlap between them.

“The outcome of our children is infinitely more important
Than the outcome of any game they will ever play!”

– Koach Karl Dewazien –