High School Football Motivation for a Friday

It’s not an incredible play, or a fire-and-brimstone locker room speech – it’s better. Read the Los Angeles Times’ varsity beat writer Eric Sondheimer’s article about some youth high school football players who will be making a positive contribution to society in the years to come.

More on Mandatory Play

Yesterday we posted some comments about the Little League Mandatory Play rule which stipulates that a player must play a minimum of two innings in the field and get at least one at bat. Below are more comments from the Little League Facebook post. What do you think about the rule?:

I believe it’s a fair rule. The kids who work hard at practice and put in extra work at home to improve should be rewarded with more playing time. The parents who complain about play time may need to take a look at how their kid practices and ask themselves if your kid puts in any extra work to improve. And if little league didn’t want any emphasis put on winning and losing and the fact some kids are better then others, there would be no score kept and no all stars, which is the best players in the division.


Comments on Mandatory Play

Little League recently posted on their Facebook page their rules for “Mandatory Play.” This rule, that a player in Little League must play a minimum of two innings in the field and get a minimum of one at-bat is in place to ensure no coach sits a child on the bench an entire game. Is this rule fair? Is it enough, or is it too much? Here is a comment posted by a parent. What do you think?”

Mandatory play is a joke when last I knew. I remember fighting that battle the first year my kids played, they put 1 twin in 3 outs 1 @bat then swapped him out for his twin brother,not once all season were both my kids on the field together. I do think that the mandatory play time should be 50/50 of the game for substitutions. Also the sub’s can’t be the same every game and must change every game and at no point during the season can you use the same set of sub’s. That’s the most fair and accurate way to ensure fair playing time for all. Because as a parent I’ve seen coaches pick a lots of favorites and that’s that. So I got involved in LL baseball and coached both my boys and made a point of always picking them last. They understood. And we’re fine with it.

Make sure you read this month’s OnDeck Newsletter

If you are a parent, coach, league administrator or fan of youth sports you’ll want to check out this month’s issues of OnDeck for both soccer and baseball. Happy reading!

OnDeck Newsletter for March out tomorrow

You’ll love the articles and offers you’ll find on tomorrow’s OnDeck Newsletter. If you’re not signed up to received it, you can take care of that right now!

Make Them Want to Come Back

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Over the past ten years I’ve written many articles on youth sports. One of my original and most often repeated comments is that your first goal as a coach should be that every player wants to come back and play again next season. Regardless of wins, losses, or anything else, if you accomplish this, you’ve succeeded. But how do you do this?

The first thing to realize is that you are the conduit between the player and the sport you are coaching. You represent the sport to the player. It will be difficult for a young player to like the sport, but not like the coach. One of the main reasons youngsters quit sports at an early age is not that they didn’t enjoy the game itself – but rather, they did not like the person managing the team.

So make them like you. The easiest and most obvious way to do that is to smile. Doesn’t mean you can’t ever be stern or serious, but when the players are showing up at the field, make each one feel like you’re glad to see them. Set the tone by joking around a little with them during warm-ups. I used to try to make a nickname for every player at the beginning of the season. Some didn’t stick, but a few did and the kids loved it. You can be serious once practice starts, and it’s OK to bring some intensity based on the age level you’re coaching. But be sure that every criticism is balanced by something else the player did well, (e.g. “You’ve got to watch that ball all the way in. But I like the way you used two hands.”)

Part of making them like you is running fun practices. A serious practice that teaches fundamentals and pushes players to perform can still be fun. I’ve recently seen several drill videos put out by national organizations designed to help their volunteer coaches. In them a professional coach demonstrates how to perform a particular skill, then proceeds to have 2-3 players mimic his actions. Not only is the drill boring, but when have you ever run a practice for just two or three players? Apparently the other ten kids are standing off-camera just watching. Each drill should be made into a game involving every player. All of the drills in our deck of cards have a “Make it a Game” feature that turns an ordinary drill into a competition the entire team will love.

What about being competitive and trying to win? Much of what is written about the “ills” of youth sports blames coaches who only care about stroking their own egos with victories, even if it is at the expense of some of the kids. And much of that is legitimate. Clearly, it is important to judge your audience. I’ve written many articles about when it is OK to get more serious about winning and how far it should be taken – I don’t intend to get into that here.

But when I coached in the Majors Division of Little League, (ages 10-12) we wanted to win. And just about every other coach in the league did too. The kids wanted to win also. Skeptics will say we were over-the-top, that it shouldn’t be about winning at that age. It wasn’t only about winning, but we did try our best to win. One might say that philosophy is bad for the players who aren’t stars on the team, but I disagree. Because we made it a point after every game to go player-by-player and highlight something each individual did to help the team. In fact, we worked even harder to give recognition to the players who didn’t usually contribute as much. If we weren’t all trying to win, that praise wouldn’t have been as significant. And when a youngster with just average ability rose up and did something great and made a huge, positive difference in a game, the thrill he got, the adulation from his teammates, that one moment might be enough to make him want to come back again next season. And when it’s all said and done, that’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com


By Tom Turner

Given the paucity of goals in soccer, restart situations often present some of the best scoring opportunities in close games. Accordingly, it is almost standard for the top teams to utilize live and still image technology in their scouting to prepare for upcoming opponents. Nothing is left to chance, particularly at the club level, where time will be appropriated to restarts prior to each game.

There are five formal restart situations and three special situations that must take into account. The five formal restarts are goal kicks; corner kicks; indirect free kicks in the defensive, middle and attacking thirds; direct free kicks in the defensive, middle and attacking thirds; and throw-ins. The three special situations are drop balls; “ceremonial” restarts, following an injury or other non-foul stoppage; and the goalkeeper’s punt or kick from open play when a quick release is not desired or possible. Obviously, each situation requires more or less training time, with restarts inside and around the penalty requiring considerably more preparation than, for example, drop balls, which may never feature in a formal training session.

In Closing…

The purpose of this article was to explain soccer in terms of its tactical phases, or parts. It is hoped that the descriptions can impact both spectators and coaches.

For the casual parent-spectator, the intent is to help cultivate a more mature youth soccer crowd that can better-appreciate the developmental value of “good” soccer. In striving to replace “kickball mania” with an appreciation for Pele’s “Beautiful Game,” the “better” teams may still lose a few contests to tactically limited opposition, but the overall quality of the soccer spectacle, and the passion of the participants will surely be elevated above today’s average fare.

For coaches, the natural extension of this article relates to team preparation and the degree to which their players are capable of understanding and executing a sophisticated tactical approach to soccer. By helping each player understand their positional role and responsibilities within a system during each phase of play, the obligation to think and act under pressure can be transferred from the coach to the players… Ultimately, if coaches work towards developing independent thinkers who understand the game, we will all enjoy some relieve from the prescription coaching that is a demotivating plague on our youth.

One final thought. As Rinus Michels pointed out in Teambuilding, the process of molding a competent team starts with the preparation of young players many years earlier. Good technical players who can solve small-group tactical problems will always be capable of playing different styles of soccer, as we can observe from the global nature of the top professional leagues. It remains a truism that the goal of youth soccer is to produce generations of passionate, insightful players with a comfort level for the ball in the hope that a few special players with exceptional individual qualities will emerge. As Jay Hoffman would take pains to remind us, talking tactics is important, but the three most important cornerstones of any tactical discussion will always be technique, technique, and technique!

Tom Turner is a U.S. Soccer National Staff Coach, Region II Boys ODP Coach, Ohio North State Director of Coaching. He can be reached at coaching@oysan.org.