Archive for January, 2010

Head Injury Precautions

January 3, 2010

In a recent post entitled, ‘Knee Injury Precautions‘ I wrote about what I did as a coach when one of my players suffered any type of knee injury. After having refereed a high school junior varsity game, I would like to add another practice to my injury protocol. It has to do with concussions or head injuries.

Unfortunately this topic has been in the news lately:

  • Actress Natasha Richardson’s untimely death.
  • The NFL and its continuing rash of concussions.
  • The San Jose high school football player who suffer a skull fracture and had to spend nearly a month in the hospital.

What I witnessed during this particular game started when two players went to head the ball. In the process, their heads hit one another. It was not a hard hit as there was no intention by either player to head the ball a long distance. One player was fine. The other player appeared fine but after five seconds she started to show signs of the hit. She became woozy and had to sit down. She then started rubbing her head in a very unnatural manner that I had never seen before. Her actions frightened me as it did everyone else on the field. After a few minutes, the player was assisted off the field by her coach and another player but not before stumbling several times.

At the end of the game I inquired about the player’s status. The coach informed me that she had a nasty headache but seemed to be OK. He was going to let her parents know what happened.

After having witnessed this injury, I will adopt the following head injury protocol for all players who I coach:

  • The player is finished for the rest of the game or practice, PERIOD!
  • The parents will be contacted immediately (not at the end of the game or practice).
  • I will strongly recommend that the player be seen by a neurologist.

I may also do the same if a player heads the ball improperly and shows signs of pain or disorientation.

One question I like to ask players is, “What is the most important body part in soccer?” I wanted to hear ‘feet’, but after some astute youngsters declared it was the head, I changed my question to, “What is the second most important body part in soccer?” The head is nothing to mess with as is not just the most important body part in soccer but more importantly the most important body part in life.

Author’s note: I’ve never thought of equipping my children with soccer head gear and I don’t know much about it. Perhaps I should.

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Improving Throw-ins: 180 Choices (part 2 of 4)

January 2, 2010

In the first post on improving throw-ins, I wrote about the importance of field players ‘checking-in’ to the thrower. In this post, I write about the 180 choices the thrower should consider when throwing in the ball.

Why 180? That is the number of degrees in a semi-circle and normally the number of choices available to the thrower. However, what I see a lot of teams do on throw-ins is simply throw the ball down the wings. This type of throw only represents about 30 degrees of a semi-circle (Area ‘A’ on the field below), leaving 150 choices unused (Area ‘B’).

There may be several reasons why a team chooses to simply throw it down the wing but I believe the number one reason for this is poor ball control. For example, if a ball is thrown to the center of the field or back to a defender and it is misplayed, a scoring opportunity is likely to develop for the other team. Therefore, it is much safer to throw it down the wing. If the ball is lost, it is lost in a safe part of the field.

Despite the possibility of losing the ball, I strongly believe that much more of the field should be utilized on throw-ins. However, the spot of the throw-in should always be taken into account before the throw.

  • If the throw-in is takes place anywhere between penalty boxes (Line ‘C’), a team should feel comfortable throwing in the ball anywhere on the field.
  • Inside a team’s own defensive area, the ball should be thrown down the wing as far as possible. While the ball can be thrown to the goalie, he/she is not allowed to handle the ball with his/her hands. If it is handled, such an infraction will result in an indirect free kick at the spot of the foul. And if the ball is lost in this area of the field, a team is asking for a lot of problems (Area ‘D’).
  • When a throw-in is to take place inside the opposing team’s penalty area, I’m a very strong proponent of having the best throw-in player throw the ball as far into the penalty as possible. More often than not, this will result in a very good scoring opportunity. If the best thrower is playing on the other side of the field, it is still a good strategy to have him/her take the throw-in (Area ‘E’).

As I stated in the ‘check-in’ post, the best way to teach and condition a player to see all options on a throw-in is to teach him/her with fundamental soccer drills and small sided games. The more the player plays with his/her head up, the more field he/she will see, the more aware he/she will be of teammates, and the more aware he/she will be of the available options. This visibility and awareness will then easily transfer over to the throw-in.