I Pledge to “Stop Hitting Kids in the Head”

November 14, 2022

Let me explain.

I was born January 25, 1966. So was Jay Wilkerson, a former Fresno State Bulldog football player and member of the U.S. National Rugby “Eagles” team, who passed away in May 2022. He also happened to be the former husband of my fiancé, Carrie Beckstrom.

Also born on this day was Bruce Murray, a former U.S. National Team soccer player and member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. He was featured and spoke at the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) annual fundraising dinner on November 3, 2022.

Carrie and I were watching this event online because Jay was being recognized ‘In Memoriam’ by CLF. When Jay died, Carrie donated his brain to the Foundation. Their findings confirmed what we suspected–Jay passed away from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

When Carrie learned of my birthday, she took that as a sign and gave me a ‘few more’ chances to prove myself. After learning of Bruce’s birthday, I’ll take that as a sign, as well. As the Founder of Instepper, I pledge to use my platform to bring attention to the negative effects of heading, particularly at the youth level. I will also encourage Instepper Mentors to do the same.

To be fair, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) has done a lot in recent years to address the harmful effects of heading. In 2015, USSF banned players U11 from heading balls during practice and games (scroll down). This was a great first step! But more can and should be done.

A common misconception is that the negative side effects of concussions, head trauma, and CTE mostly affect star athletes at the end of their careers. As the “Stop Hitting Kids in the Head” page points out, concussions and repetitive head impacts to young athletes can have deadly consequences.

Whatever sport you are involved in, join me in doing our part to “Stop Hitting Kids in the Head!”


Eyes in the Back of your Head

March 29, 2022

Karl Dewazien (www.fundamentalsoccer.com) recently asked his “Kontributors and followers what are some of the best attributes for youth coaches. My response to his inquiry was, “Coaches must be goofy and memorable.” One of my favorites lessons that embodies these traits is teaching the importance of having eyes in the back of your head (this is a shorter version of the earlier “4 Eyes are Better than 2” post).

At your next practice, ask one of your players to stand behind you and hold up 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 fingers. Make sure all the other players and coaches sitting in front you can see how many fingers are being held up. Have fun with it. Clear the hair away from your ‘back’ eyes, try to see the number of fingers in the player’s shadow. Be goofy. Make the lesson memorable.

Also make sure that you are in kahoots with an assistant coach or team parent so that they can tip you off. For example, a scratch of the scalp = 1, nose = 2, chin = 3, shoulder = 4, stomach = 5.
After your players have figured out your trick or you are forced to give up your secret, emphasize the importance of the developing those eyes in the back of your head by:

  • Playing with your head up.
  • Having your head constantly on a swivel so the entire field and all players can be seen.
  • Most importantly, communicating with one another, just like you did with your accomplice.

Your players will remember your goofy interactions with them for many, many years. As for your pre and halftime speeches, or lectures during practice, not so much.

January is National Mentor Month

December 27, 2021

In honor of National Mentor Month, I’d like to introduce Instepper, an innovative and fun mentoring program that use teenage players to mentor younger players to develop and reinforce the most important fundamental skill in soccer—the first-touch (FT) using the inside-of-the-foot (IOTF).

Why Mentoring?

It works! Mentoring has been around since antiquity as is evidenced by the character Mentor in the ancient Greek epic, The Odyssey. Today, mentoring programs can be found in companies and academia throughout the world. The benefits that both the mentee and mentor derive from such a partnership are well documented. Instepper brings these mentoring benefits to soccer.

Why Teenage Players?

  • Many teenage soccer players have accumulated 1,000-4,000+ hours of soccer experience (practice, games, and unstructured play) in their careers. They possess more than enough knowledge and expertise to become excellent Instepper mentors.
  • Mentoring will give teenage players unique and ample opportunities to develop important soft skills that they can take with them to college, the workforce, and use throughout life.
  • Younger mentees will from a strong bond/friendship with their mentors. This will make it easier for mentors to mentor, reinforce, and motivate younger players to improve their FT with the IOTF.

Why the First-Touch?

Every single play in soccer begins with a player receiving and controlling the ball. EVERY. SINGLE. PLAY. Players MUST have a confident FT in order to reach their full playing potential. This can only be achieved using the proper technique and lots of hard work.

Why the Inside-of-the-Foot?

This one is simple; it’s what professionals use.

  • Two-third of all first-touches are with the IOTF.
  • Three-quarters of all passes are with the IOTF.
  • Two-third of all goals scored with the feet are scored with the IOTF

Why Instepper?

The Instepper mission is to:

  1. Help young players reach their full playing potential by developing a sound and confident FT with the IOTF.
  2. Develop tomorrow’s leaders by giving mentors the opportunity to capitalize on their ‘expertise’ to grow and thrive both on and off the field.

The Instepper curriculum and program is innovative, flexible, stress-free, easy to implement, and most importantly–FUN! Visit www.instepper.com to learn more about Instepper and the many benefits it affords mentees, mentors, parents, coaches, teams, schools, and clubs.

Get in step with Instepper today!

DIY Tether Soccer Ball

April 3, 2020

The text accompanying my recent Facebook video post says it best.

I hope this post finds everyone faring well during these unprecedented times. My heart goes out to all families, especially those with kids stuck at home. Hopefully this DIY video I made helps break up the monotony and boredom and gives parents a small respite. If you like the video, please share it with your friends and family. Stay healthy!

The text accompanying the follow-up video is pretty self-explanatory.

How awesome would it be if we got every kid in the U.S. and around the world using this device during these challenging times? I have so much adhesive Velcro at home that I am happy to mail to players or parents if you cover shipping and promise you distribute it to teammates or club members.

Won’t you join me? Like and Share my DIY Tether Soccer Ball Facebook page and let’s get the whole world tethering!


World Cup History: Bora Bora Bora … What Could Have Been?

June 6, 2010

My favorite World Cup moment just so happens to be my most disappointing moment as well. I’m purposely not doing any research or corroboration of this article to see just how accurate my recollection is after 16 years.

Let me set the stage:

  • Date: July 4, 1994.
  • Place: Sold out Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA.
  • Weather: Sunny, high 80s at game time.
  • Game: U.S. vs. Brazil; 2nd round of the 1994 World Cup.
  • Seats: My group was sitting right behind the north goal about halfway up.

All I could think to myself that day was what if the U.S. actually beat Brazil. Sure it was a tall order but the feeling was that given the date and conditions, it could happen.

Then things got interesting. Near the end of the first half, Brazil’s Leonardo intentionally elbowed Tab Ramos in the head, earning an immediate red card. The halftime score was still 0-0! Sure the U.S. had been completely outplayed but now being a man up, an upset definitely seemed possible. I could not believe my good fortune. I was going to be witness to one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history. Incredible!

What happened next (or shall I say what did not happen next) resulted in my greatest World Cup disappointment.

Instead of taking advantage of this good fortune, Bora Mulitinovic, the U.S. head coach, was content to continue playing a defense-oriented game and hope for either a counter-attack or for the game to go to penalty kicks. Eventually, this strategy failed when Bebeto scored with about 15 minutes to go in the game (at our end of the field). By this time, the U.S. was incapable of attacking and the game ended in a disappointing 1-0 loss.

It did not help that Ramos, arguably America’s best player, broke his jaw from Leonardo’s elbow and was not able to play. Had he, the U.S. may have been able to control the game more than it did. Unfortunately, and perhaps because it was daytime, Bora did not see that all the planets were perfectly aligned as well. Had he, and had he changed his strategy and just ‘Gone For Broke’, who knows what would have happened.

All I can say is, “Bora, Bora, Bora!?”

World Cup ‘Towers’ Worth Watching: Fernando and José Torres

June 2, 2010

Had you asked me two years ago who my favorite player was, it would have been Fernando Torres of Liverpool and Spain. Similar to Italy’s Luca Toni in height, size, and a nose for the goal, every time Fernando touched the ball inside the opponent’s penalty area, he seemed to give himself a chance to score.

Injuries slowed him down this season and with it, Liverpool’s season. The good news (bad news for opponents) is that it looks like he is recovered and rested and will be ready to play for Spain in South Africa. How affective he will be is anyone’s guess. But if he is near 100%, it may be the year of “El Niño.”

But this year’s World Cup may also be the year of “El Gringo!” American José Francisco Torres who plays for Pachuca in the Mexican professional league (that’s how he got his nickname) may also be poised to do great things in South Africa. Unlike Spain’s Torres, José Torres is a midfielder and a very good one at that. A midfielder is a team’s quarterback and normally dictates the action on the field.

I have not seen José Torres play much but what I saw in the U.S. game against Turkey was impressive.

  • He has great ball control. His dribbling in tight quarters is superb.
  • He receives the ball so well. The ball settles so softly onto his feet.
  • He is always running to the open space and asking for the ball. This is the telltale signs of a natural midfielder.
  • Though it appears he favors his left foot, he is equally adept with both feet.
  • His head is always up. He is constantly surveying the field, looking for his teammates, knows where the nearest opponents are, and you can tell he is always thinking two or three moves ahead.

This year’s World Cup is going to be exciting. Hopefully both Torres’ do well. If “El Gringo” does well, look for the U.S. to be very successful.

U.S. Men’s International Soccer Has Come a Long Way

May 30, 2010

My first World Cup memory was in 1974 when my family lived in West Germany (West Germany not only hosted but also won the 1974 World Cup). To this day, I recall that Zaire and Haiti were two teams in that World Cup.

To nobody’s surprise, both teams lost big. Zaire, which is today called Congo, lost 2-0 to Scotland, 9-0 to Yugoslavia, and 3-0 to Brazil. (I did not realize until now that Zaire was the first African country ever to participate in a World Cup.) Haiti lost 3-1 to Italy, 7-0 to Poland, and 4-1 to Argentina. At least Haiti scored two goals!

Only much later did I learn that Haiti was part of CONCACAF and was the only country from the North or Central American region to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Not bad for a small island country that had to compete against the U.S. and Mexico to qualify.

The U.S. had competed in past World Cups and actually came in third place in the 1930 World Cup. However, back then there was not the rigorous qualifying process that exists today and many teams were invited simply if they could afford the trip (the 1930 World Cup was held in Uruguay). However, it was not until Paul Caligiuri’s miracle goal against Trinidad & Tobago that qualified the U.S. for the 1990 World Cup that the U.S. started to establish itself as a regular on the World Cup scene.

The United States’ best World Cup performance was in 2002 when it beat Portugal and Poland and tied host South Korea in the group stage. Then they beat Mexico 2-0 in the second round but lost 1-0 to eventual runner-up Germany in the quarterfinal match.

The biggest disappointment was in 2006 when five minutes into their first game against the Czech Republic, the U.S. gave up the first of three goals, essentially ending their World Cup before it ever started. They did, however, manage a 1-1 tie against eventual-champions Italy in a game they really should have won. It was also the only game the Italians failed to win that year.

Who knows what 2010 will have in store for the U.S. team? The chances are good that they will advance out of Group C despite having to play England in its first match. If they don’t advance, 2010 will be considered a huge disappointment. Should they advance, the best potential second-round opponent–Germany–will be without their captain, Michael Ballack. If last year’s Confederation Cup is any indication, when the U.S. beat Spain and lost in the finals to Brazil 3-2 after being up 2-0 at halftime, the U.S. will do very good.

Good luck. U-S-A! U-S-A!

World Cup Flags

May 26, 2010

I’m not sure if this article falls under ‘Improving Soccer in the United States’. However, it definitely falls under ‘Improving Geography in the United States’. The way I see it, any type of improvement is a good thing.

With that said, what is going on with the Serbian, Slovakian, and Slovenian flags? They all look the same. When I first started collecting flag images for the 32 countries in this year’s World Cup for my World Cup East Bay 2010 event, I wasted a good deal of time because I kept thinking I had used some flags twice. But when I deleted one of the ‘duplicates’, I only had 31 flags. Finally I figured out that these countries’ flags do look very similar. See for yourself.




Good thing Russia did not make this year’s World Cup. That really would have made things confusing.


Then there is Australia and New Zealand. Can you tell the difference?


New Zealand

Check out how similar the flags are for the two African countries of Cameroon and Ghana.



The Dutch (Netherlands) and Paraguayan flags are also very similar.



Though they did not make this year’s World Cup, I want to thank Nepal for their flag. Its design will never be mistaken for another country.


World Cup East Bay 2010

May 23, 2010

I am pleased to announce that I am partnering with the owner of an Indoor Sports Center in Antioch, CA to bring this year’s World Cup to San Francisco’s East Bay. The event is called World Cup East Bay 2010 (WCEB2010).

The theme of the event is, “Watch, Play, Experience, Enjoy!” Soccer fans of all ages will have the opportunity to:

  • Watch all 64 World Cup matches.
  • Play in youth and adult World Cup tournament games.
  • Experience the excitement, culture, and fervor of the World Cup.
  • Enjoy the World Cup with other soccer fans under one roof.

I am always looking for help. If you would like to or if you know of someone who would be interested in being a corporate sponsor, a team sponsor to help those families in need of financial aid, a product/service sponsor, or can donate items for daily raffles, I would certainly appreciate it.

If you live in the Bay Area, I hope to see you this summer. Any promotion of this event on your part would be fantastic. Enjoy the World Cup wherever you will be. Go U-S-A!

Follow-up to the Reporter Article

May 19, 2010

Two months ago I approached my youngest son’s (U12) coaches with the idea of having a team reporter. They embraced the idea and I was off and running.

Before I share with you the reports that have been written so far, I’m including an overview of the program.

  • Attached is the score sheet (Game Summary ISUS) I fill out for each game. I include the date, time, location, and opponent of the game. I also track goalkeepers and the number of saves they made, goal scorers, and those who assisted on the goals. The score sheet also includes the report guidelines along with some notes that I write during a game that a player may or may not choose to use in the report. Notice I emphasize creativity.
  • On the score sheet, I list the player’s names that appeared in the last three reports. Some players will naturally appear more than others. These names help the report determine who has not been included in a while.
  • At the end of each game, I review the stats with the reporter so he understands what I have written and we go over the guidelines.
  • During the last game, a younger brother of one of the players was curious about what I was tracking. After a few instructions, he happily kept the stats for the rest of the game.
  • Since we have many Spanish-speaking families on our team, I get a mom to translate the reports into Spanish before I email out the report.

So far the reporter program has been a big hit. I have had a number of boys volunteer. Once I run out of new reporters, I will use this group of reporters again. It turns out these boys are just as creative with their pens as they are with their feet. Great job boys!

Game 1: Dylan

On March 28th 2010 Impact 98 had a victory in their opening spring game against DYSL Barcelona. The Impact U12 boys defeated Barcelona 5-2.

The two teams met at Cypress Park in Oakley and kick off was at 9:00. When Impact took the field they felt pumped up and ready to play. The first goal was scored by Jorge with an assist going to Grant.  Grant dribbled down the right half and crossed it to Jorge and he controlled the ball and chipped it over the goalie.  Grant and Jorge did great at hustling and timing. Grant scored a goal and then assisted Jorge again for the 3rd goal of the game. Daniel’s goal was next and it was great because he beat 4 guys and then shot. The team felt confident that they were going to win. Even though Delta squeezed one in, Ethan still had a great game saving 7 shots. He made a good save when a Delta player shot the ball fast and hard to the bottom left corner. Derek had a great defensive play because a Delta player shot it and Ethan was just getting up when Derek came and bombed it out.  It was an intense first half.

During the second half Delta Barcelona scored a ripping shot.  Oscar came back and assisted Jorge in scoring the last goal.  The communication was better than it usually is.  All the shots were right on target and hard.  The game was outstanding throughout both halves.  The defense was great from Zachary K, Andrew, Derek, Jose, and Zachary J.  In the second half Zachary K. took over in the goal and saved 3 shots.  The final score of the game was 5-2.  Impact 98 dominated the whole entire soccer game.  It will be a great season if Impact 98 keeps up the hard work.

Game 2: Jose

On April 10, 2010 at 1:30 two good teams played. The away team was Impact 98 and the home team was the Cosmos from Richmond. Impact invited three players from the younger U11 team. Their names were Ethan, Alex and Reynaldo.

The starting lineup for Impact was:

  • Goalie: Zach
  • Defense: Dylan, Andrew, Derek, and Jose
  • Midfield: Carlos, Daniel, and Grant
  • Forward: Oscar, Kyle and Jorge

After the first few minutes of the first half of the game we were down 3-0. Zach saved five shots from the Cosmos. But, Cosmos were able to score again. Close to the end of the first half, Impact substituted Grant for Josh. Then Impact scored one goal when Josh passed the ball to Jorge for the score. The first half ended 4-1.

In the second half, Cosmos scored four more goals. Impact’s goalie for the second half was Kyle. He saved ten shots from the Cosmos. It looked like Impact was going to get another goal when Reynaldo juked out the Cosmo’s goalie and shot it, but the goalie was able come back and save the shot. The final score was 8-1 for the Cosmos. It wasn’t Impact’s best performance but Impact 98 will do better next time we face them.

Game 3: Kyle


On April 17, 2010 IMPACT 98 faced Lamorinda United at Cypress Field in Oakley.  To start off Cohen was our team captain, coming back from an injury.  Cohen didn’t get to play, but it was great having him back with us.   IMPACT 98 beat Lamorinda United 5-0!

The weather was sunny, but got windy in the second half.   IMPACT had one guest player from U11, Adain.   The game started with Kyle and Adain on the sideline.   Derek started in the goal, and then Adain came in to sub.  Our defense was strong. Lamorinda couldn’t get past them and had no shots on goal.  Jorge scored our first goal with a header after a great assist from Dylan.  The score was 1-0 at half-time.

In the second half, it was very windy.  Adain was in the goal and had 3 saves for IMPACT.  Jorge scored a second goal off an assist by Kyle from the center.  Jorge scored a hat-trick with IMPACT’S 3rd goal, assisted by Carlos from the right side!!    Jorge score his 4th goal assisted by Oscar from the left side.  For the final goal, Kyle chipped the ball with his left foot over two defenders to Oscar who score our 5th goal.

We had great communication from our players this game.  Everyone was talking.  We had a lot of passing.   We missed having our goalie, Ethan this game, but Adain did a great job for us!
Our next game is April 24th at 4:00pm at Doherty High School in San Ramon.

GO IMPACT! ! ! ! !

Game 4: Daniel





The journey begins at 3:30 pm. It’s a beautiful day. The weather is cool, sunny and windy. The teams are getting ready on the field warming up.

Meanwhile, the fans start filling the stadium. At 3:55 pm coach Rick assisted from Kim, Luis and Memo called the team and gave them instructions. “The moment of truth has arrived.” Impact 98 expects a defensive Tri Valley but will try to impose its game plans.

The game started at 4:00 pm. We have to control the position of the ball and attack in a better way. We tried to play high-up the field and pressure the defense, but hurried things too much when we had possession that we were wasteful with our final ball. In the 17th minute in the first half Tri Valley took a shot and made the first goal. This was an early goal!!  But Impact wasn’t going to give up, receiving support from fans and not after having dominated possession and taken more shots. We were struggling to get the ball into the net. We were losing 1-0.

Jorge took a shot that barely went out. Then Jose took another shot but the goalkeeper got it. We were playing well but luck wasn’t with us. Tri Valley took 3 more shots. But there was Ethan (our wonderful goalkeeper) getting ready to save all shots. We went to halftime trying to get some rest and receiving more instructions from our coach.

The second half started. “It’s very hard to play against a team that controls the ball so well.” But, we know that we are a better team. Feeling the excitement of the game, we started playing better, having more shots and chances to score. Tri Valley wants to make more goals. They didn’t know we have a great defense and a goalkeeper that was on fire saving 7 more shots. Then, Kyle found more open space and made 3 powerful shots. In the last 5 minutes Derek took a shot, the goalkeeper tried to stop it; then Oscar got the rebound and passed to Daniel who scored and made the final goal. The game ended 1-1. “A great adventure has come to an end tonight, but we want more of this in the future.”


Game 5: Derek

Impact 98 Remains Undefeated at Home

Impact 98 vs. Pleasanton Ballistic

May 1, 2010 Cypress Park

At Cypress Field, two teams came at 2:00 to warm up for a 2:30 kick off.   Ballistic wearing their lights and Impact looking good in their darks.  A little windy, but a nice sunny day to be on the pitch.  Captains for this game were Miguel and Carlos.  We started off going into the wind.

In the first half Impact was mostly on Ballistic’s side of the field. Impact had some early shots with Miguel and Jorge taking great shots, unfortunately they both hit the crossbar. It took a while, but Impact finally found the net. Oscar (as known as ‘Big O’)crossed from the left, Derek passed it back to Carlos, who ripped it at the post and in. The halftime score was 1-0.

The second half started with the wind to our backs. This half Impact really dominated. To get things started in the second half Miguel took the ball down the line, crossed it to Jorge, and he volleyed straight in the net.  Right after that, Tunde passed it to Miguel and he again crossed it, this time to Zach Kos, who also volleyed into the net.  Unfortunately, a few minutes later Ballistic broke through and made it a 3-1 game.  Seconds after the Ballistic goal Big O dribbled down the line and curved a shot into the far post .  Shortly after his goal, Big O got an assist as he crossed it to Jorge, who flicked the ball over the goalie and into the goal.  The last and final goal came from a booming shot by Oscar, assisted by Daniel which wrapped up the game. At the end of the game, Ethan had a total of 5 saves. The final score was 6 to 1.  Good job Impact 98. Let’s keep up the good work.

Game 6: Tunde

Impact 98 Takes the Win

On Saturday, May 8, 2010, Impact 98 played Bay Oaks in Alameda. The field was very hard to find but in the end everyone was able to find the field. There was a little wind, but it was not too bad. The field was also very hard. For me, the game started very quickly, no warm ups just checked in and we were on our way.

In the first half Kyle started in goal. The ball was a little flat and the referee had to change it. Impact was not really playing as well as normal, but we were trying our hardest. Bay Oaks scored a quick goal to start the first half. Kyle saved six shots but Bay Oaks was able to slip one more goal in before the end of the half. At halftime Coach Rick and Coach Luis told us what we could do better.

In the second half Zach Kos started in goal, he saved two beautiful shots. After that, Oscar kicked a corner kick to Jorge and Jorge scored off the assist. This woke up the team. After the goal, Impact was still pressuring the ball and scored again. This time, it was off an assist from Kyle to Jorge who controlled it with his thigh and scored it with his left foot. Derek known as D-Rock then went in to the goalie position and saved one big goal with the help of Andrew. Carlos scored a beautiful goal off an assist by Oscar to close the game at 3-2 Impact. It was great to go home a winner.

Game 7: Zach K.

Impact 98 Dominates Lamorinda

On Mother’s Day, Impact 98 played in Orinda against Lamorinda United. After a close first half, the score was 2-1 for Impact. In the second half, we dominated the other team. The final score was 7-1.

The first half was kind of difficult. Lamorinda managed to keep the ball on our half of the field for most of the time, but that didn’t mean they were better than us. Oscar managed to slip the ball past their keeper and into the goal for an early 1-0 lead. The second goal scored by D-Rock (Derek) was a beautiful header that was assisted by Jorge. Lamorinda got lucky. They scored one goal against us. The half time score was 2-1.

During the second half, Impact 98 dominated Lamorinda. It started when Carlos assisted Oscar’s first goal of the second half. Kyle scored two goals; the first one assisted by Zach Jenkins and the second one by Daniel. Jorge also scored two goals; one assisted by Oscar and the other assisted by Jose Grimaldo. All of the second-half goals resulted in a 7-1 final score.

Thanks to Ethan’s little brother, Nolan, for keeping stats during the game. Ethan, our star goalie, saved 12 shots, which kept us going in this very important game. Also, thanks to Kim, our coach. She made cards for Mother’s Day. Kim, you rock!