Archive for March, 2010

What Every Team Needs: A Reporter

March 6, 2010

Joining a soccer team should be more than just learning to trap a ball, scoring a goal, or making nice passes. It should also be more than learning about sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork, and discipline. It should also be about giving players unique opportunities that they otherwise would not have.

I’m a big fan of youth soccer players becoming referees. I can’t think of a better way for young soccer players to learn more about the sport of soccer, learn to appreciate and understand that refereeing is not as simple as it looks, give back to the sport that has given them so much, and also earn some extra money.

In today’s Communication and Internet Era, more and more teams have websites. On these sites, rosters, schedules, scores, photos, and videos are shared with friends and family. Yet rarely have I seen written game summaries. I usually only see them when they appear in our local newspaper. I think each team needs a correspondent or reporter who writes game previews and summaries or special features about each player. Who better to have or play this role than an actual player (or players)?

There are a number of benefits associated with having a player be the team reporter.

  • The perspective of a game is vastly different coming from a player than from a coach or parent. The player’s perspective is much more interesting and refreshing.
  • Many teams seek donations from friends, family members, and businesses to support their soccer endeavors. As a show of appreciation, these donors should be given regular updates throughout the season.
  • At the end of the season, players, families, and donors will be able to look back at the memorable season.
  • It gives a player an opportunity to learn a new skill. An injured player would make a great correspondent because he/she would be making a very important contribution to the team.
  • Local newspapers can be given permission to use these updates and articles. Which kid would not like to see his/her work appear in a newspaper?
  • Perhaps an arrangement can be made with the player’s English teacher to get extra credit.
  • A player is never too young to benefit from having ‘reporter’ on his/her resume.

In order for the reporter to be successful and for the content to be embraced and appreciated, certain guidelines need to be followed and a support structure needs to be in place.

  • Each team member needs equal ‘print time’. While each team will have a few outstanding players, a team is made up of all players.
  • Assign a parent to review all content before it is published. Check for good grammar, typos, and inappropriate language. This parent should mentor the reporter and give suggestions on how the player can improve his/her writing skills.

USA vs. Netherlands (1:2) — Statistics Show it Could Have Been Worse

March 4, 2010

I watched the USA vs. Netherlands game today. The U.S. did not do too well (granted several likely World Cup starters did not play and the U.S. was playing the team ranked third in the world). Though the scoring chances did not reflect it, the first half was dominated by the Dutch. Jonathan Bornstein gave up a silly penalty and was lucky not to be called for a second one when he unintentionally handled the ball in the penalty area. The 0-1 was a just half-time score although if you look at the statistics I compiled (more on those shortly), the U.S. was lucky to be down only one goal.

In the second half, the U.S. showed more urgency but so too did the Dutch. The U.S. was very unlucky in conceding the second goal but made up for it with a beautiful header by Carlos Bocanegra. 23-year-old Dutchman Eljero Elia sure is a good player. He was all over the field today. The U.S. was fortunate to lose by only one goal.

The statistics I referred to earlier are shown below. They are the same type of touch-statistics I compiled for the 2010 MVP tournament for which the inside-of-the-foot was crowned champion (MVP stands for most-value-part).

The Dutch completely dominated the first half in terms of touches (see below). They more than doubled the number of U.S. touches: 769 (71%) – 317 (29%). When looking strictly at feet touches, the percentages are even higher (see yellow cells). I contend that controlling the ball with the feet gives players more control than with other parts of the body.

I also contend that using the inside-of-the-foot to control a ball, whether it is to receive, pass, or shoot, gives players far more control of the ball than other parts-of-the-foot. While both the U.S. and Dutch used the inside-of-the-foot a majority of the time (see yellow cells), the Dutch did so with much more frequency.

  • Dutch: receiving-73%, passing-76%, shooting-100%
  • Dutch: receiving-60%, passing-62%, shooting-33%

I’m not sure if these statistics prove anything (I did not compile statistics for the 2nd half because it takes a long time to do so and I wanted to get this post published in a timely manner). However, today the Dutch were the dominant team and they did exhibit very good ball control.

Author’s Notes:

I believe that poor ball control and a lack of emphasis placed on using the inside-of-the foot are the biggest problems facing U.S. youth soccer. If you concur and believe that the inside-of-the-foot is soccer’s MVP, please join the “Inside-of-the-Foot Soccer Fan Club” on Facebook.

I compiled these statistics as follows:

  • I watched the game on ESPN2.
  • I only counted touches that were televised.
  • If I could not tell which body part or surface was used, I did not count the touch (this included when more than one player was playing the ball).
  • If there was a one-touch pass, it was counted only as a pass, not a reception (under receiving).
  • Headers were counted as passes when the intention was there. Otherwise, headers fell under ‘receiving’.

2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Popularity Among Professionals

March 3, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is one in a series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how ‘Inside’ was crowned champion. What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.

There is an old  expression that goes, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Today people usually use this expression when asked how one should be behave when visiting a foreign country or visiting someone’s house. Basically, you won’t go wrong if you follow the lead of the locals or homeowner, respectively.

This expression holds true in soccer as well. When playing soccer, if a player emulates his/her favorite professional player or team, chances are he/she will become a pretty good soccer player.

With that said, ‘Inside’ is by far and away professional players’ most used surface and easily won the ‘Popularity Among Professionals’ discipline (see table below).

‘Inside’ won both competitions that were used to measure popularity. The first competition counted the number of touches that took place in one half of an English Premium League game. The second competition examined the number of goals that were scored over a month in professional leagues across the world.

Touches

For this competition, I broke down only the first half the Chelsea vs. Arsenal game that was played February 7, 2010. The touches were broken down by the four main disciplines already examined in this competition. They were receiving, dribbling, passing, and shooting. For each discipline I examined which foot surface was used to perform the skill. They are inside, outside (laces), outside, and bottom. The table also includes touches made with the thighs, chest, and head.

When counting touches, I followed these rules and protocols:

  • I only counted the touches that were shown on TV.
  • On 50-50 balls or when the ball ricocheted off player like a pinball , I did not count those touches.
  • It was easy to differentiate between inside touches and all other touches. It was harder to differentiate between a top (laces) and outside touches, especially when dribbling.
  • I categorized all headers under ‘receiving’ unless they were shots on goal.

The results speak for themselves.

  • For both receiving and passing categories, ‘Inside’ had more touches than all other surfaces combines (including the non-foot surfaces). Chelsea’s 55% receiving percentage is a little low because of the number of headers they had (27)
  • Of all the touches in the game, nearly two-thirds of them were made with the inside-of-the-foot (62% and 63%)
  • Even with dribbling, ‘Inside’ was the most popular surface, 41% and 44%, respectively.
  • In this game, ‘Laces’ was the most popular surface. However in the goal-scoring competition below, you will find a surprising but clear winner.

Goal Scoring

For a five-week period, I looked at all the goals shown on the major soccer highlight shows including Fox Sports Report, Gol TV, La Liga, Sky Sports, and Hallo Bundesliga. I usually looked at several shows a week. When the same goal was shown on multiple shows, the goal was only counted once. In addition, if it was not clear what surface was used to score, the goal was not counted.

In what I’m sure will surprise many, ‘Inside’ won every single week, During the week, the percentage was over 50% once and never below 44% for goals scored with the inside-of-the-foot. Those are impressive percentages. (I included headers because they accounted for a good portion of the goals.)

Conclusion

There should now be a new soccer expression that players should follow and coaches and parents should promote. It is, “When on the soccer field, do as the professionals do and use the inside-of-the-foot.”

The other disciplines evaluated in this competition were: structure, receiving, dribbling, passing, shooting, and ease of learning.

Soccer’s Magic Cube

March 1, 2010

A lot of young players today rely on only one foot to do all the work. Oftentimes, I will see young players run around a ball just so they can stop it with their dominant foot. I strongly believe that at a very young age coaches and parents should encourage and work with their players and children to get comfortable using both feet. Much like learning a second language or a musical instrument, it is much easier when a child is young. This can also apply to learning to use both feet.

To help in this endeavor, I have created the ‘Magic Cube’. It is soccer’s equivalent to the ‘Magic 8 Ball’. It helps teach and remind a player which foot to use to stop a ball.

The Magic Cube has three main colors (see below). They are:

  • Light brown represents the side of the body the ball is passed to (pass).
  • Red represents which foot should be used to stop the ball (stop).
  • Blue represents which surface of the foot should be used to stop the ball (side).

The cube also has four letters. They are:

  • L’ for left
  • R’ for right
  • I’ for inside-of-the-foot
  • O’ for outside-of-the-foot

With the help of the Magic Cube, remembering the proper technique for stopping a ball is simple.

  1. When the ball is passed to a player’s left side, he/she should use the inside of the left foot to stop the ball (LIL).
  2. When the ball is passed to a player’s right side, he/she should use the inside of the right foot to stop the ball (RIR).
  3. When the ball is passed to a player’s left side, he/she should use the outside of the right foot to stop the ball (LOR).
  4. When the ball is passed to a player’s right side, he/she should use the outside of the left foot to stop the ball (ROL).

Feel free to download and assemble your own Magic Cube. In other posts, I have mentioned fun practice alternatives. Assembling Magic Cubes would certainly qualify as a fun practice alternative. All you need to bring to practice are some 2-dimensional cubes and a few glue sticks (depending on the age of the kids, the cubes may need to be pre-cut and scored). Once the cubes have been assembled, demonstrate the proper stopping technique. Young players will remember the sage wisdom of the Magic Cube for a long time. During the year, coaches and parents can always refer to the ‘Magic Cube’ when the players need some assistance.

I added dots to each face of the cube so the Magic Cube can also be used as a die. If a player uses the Magic Cube more than once, its message will have a better chance of sinking in. To open and print out the Magic Cube shown above (complete with instructions), click here. To check out Magic Cubes in several color schemes, click here. Choose your favorite. I will also be happy to create a custom-colored Magic Cube. Just let me know.

The sooner a young player feels comfortable using both feet, the better.