Posts Tagged ‘sportsmanship’

Simple Tips that will Significantly Impact Games

May 3, 2010

As I approach my one-hundredth post, I have learned the following:

  • Gore sells. Besides the home page, my most popular post was the one about Aaron Ramsey’s broken leg.
  • Initially, I thought I only had ideas for 25 or 30 posts. I now know I have what seems like an endless supply of material to write about.
  • My content must be OK as Soccer America has reprinted five articles to date and Potomac Soccer Wire reprints one of my posts weekly.
  • I have learned that most soccer blogs cover professional games, leagues, and players. Very few blogs are dedicated to improving youth soccer for an audience of youth coaches, players, and parents.

The other day I was looking at the page hits and noticed that a set of very valuable articles I wrote early on has not gotten the love or attention I feel they deserve. I have written 20 articles that start with the title, “2-3 Goal Difference per Game”. These were written primarily for coaches who tend to over-coach, place too much importance on the X’s and O’s, and don’t let their players go out and have fun and make mistakes.

Soccer, especially at the youth level, should be about free play and only a few coaches’ instructions during games. These articles include simple coaching tips that should be easy for players to understand and learn quickly. These tips will dramatically affect the outcome of a game. While player development, and not winning, should be a youth coach’s ultimate goal, increasing a team’s chances of winning without compromising development and fun is not a bad thing either.

You will find the subject matter and respective links to the 20 articles below. Enjoy!

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2-4-6-8 Who Do We Appreciate?

March 29, 2010

Everyone knows the ‘2-4-6-8-Who-Do-We-Appreciate’ cheer that is performed at the end of most youth games. It is a great display of sportsmanship, especially when the cheering team has lost or is upset with the other team. It is important to let things go after a game. This cheer along with the shaking of hands or high-5’s is a good way of achieving this.

When I coached my kids’ teams, I always used this cheer at the end of games. I also used it at the end-of-the-year parties. However, at these parties, I had the players ‘appreciate’ the people who truly needed to be thanked–the parents.

As the last item on the agenda,

  • I gathered all the players around me.
  • I explained to them that they were going to do the cheer once last time. But this time, they were going to thank their parents or their guardians who took them to all the practices and games and who washed their dirty and smelly uniforms.
  • I told them that this had to be the best and most passionate cheer of the year.
  • Finally, I asked the players that at the end of the cheer, they go to the adults they thanked and give them a big hug and kiss.

If you are like me, I will take all the hugs and kisses I can get from my kids.

Players: Be Vocal at Tryouts

March 13, 2010

I was at a U12 tryout the other day and thought for a moment I was in a movie theater watching a 2-star movie. Other than hearing the coach’s instructions, it was very, very quiet. Granted most U12 boys and girls are relatively quiet on the soccer field and they don’t like bringing attention upon themselves. Also when kids are nervous, they tend to clam up. However, the best thing a player can do to improve his/her chances of making a team is to be vocal and communicative.

What players and coaches at all levels need to understand is that soccer is as much about communication as other traditional aspects of the game, if not more. Refer to my other posts entitled, “2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Communication” and “Four Eyes Are Better than Two” that describe terms, benefits, and the importance of communication.

When I evaluate players, as soon as I hear a player who is consistently communicating effectively with his/her teammates, I will rank that player higher even if he/she is not one of the top players. That is how important I believe communication is in soccer.

There are other reasons why I like to have vocal players on my team.

  • More often than not, vocal players understand a lot about the game of soccer. They are usually students of the game. I believe it is easier to teach technical skills to knowledgeable players than it is to teach great athletes the finer points of the game.
  • During the game, the more talking and communicating that takes place on the field between players, the less talking coaches (and parents) will feel compelled to do.
  • Vocal players tend to be more congratulatory which will foster good sportsmanship and more team cohesiveness.

On the other hand, the wrong type of communication can have negative consequences.

  • Don’t voice or show displeasure if you did not receive a pass when you were wide open. The coaches will know that you were open and will see your displeasure.
  • Don’t yell or scream for the ball. An assertive, “I’m open” should be enough to get a player’s and coach’s attention.
  • Just don’t “talk-the-talk”. Make sure to “walk-the-walk”. No one likes a verbose player (talk-the-talk) and that does not back up his/her words with actions (walk-the-walk).

Players! At your next tryout make yourself heard, even if it is only to say, “Good job!” to a teammate. If you do, your vocals will be noticed and appreciated and you will most likely hear Simon Cowell say, “Welcome to Hollywood!”

Soccer Pins: Good for Fundraising, Sportsmanship, and Memories

March 9, 2010

The first two years I coached competitive soccer, I had custom-designed pins made for each team (see below). I got the idea to do this because at many youth soccer tournaments, players receive pins to commemorate the event and the players always seemed to enjoy them. But I also did it for the following reasons: fundraising, sportsmanship, and memories.

Fundraising

I’m sure many of you have seen and participated in the fundraising program where players supply the names of 10 friends and family members who they think would be willing to donate money to their team. Letters are sent to these folks which include the reason(s) for the request and may also include a hand-written note from the player or a collection of player biographies. I found grandparents and aunts/uncles to be the best contributors. That is what my teams did and as a token of our appreciation, we included the team pins to each recipient regardless of whether they donated or not.

Sportsmanship

I really like the professional pre-game ceremony when captains exchange gifts prior to the coin-toss. With the pins, I took that idea one step further. Instead of only our captain(s) presenting the pin to the opposing team, I had the whole team participate. Since the other team did not know they would be receiving our gift during the post-game handshake, I would always tell the opposing coach what we intended to do. It did not matter if we won or lost or that we did not get anything tangible in return. This act taught my players good sportsmanship and the thank yous we received from the opposing players and coaches were very gratifying.

Memories

Each player was given five pins to do with as he/she pleased. Every player put one on his/her soccer bag alongside the other pins they had collected. To this day, I still see the pins adorning some of those players’ bags. Also a few years ago, my daughter’s new BFFs happened to be two girls she played against when her team was handing out the pins. The girls remembered her team and still had the pins.

I’m not sure the fundraising efforts were a complete success. 500 pins per team (which was plenty) cost roughly $550. We recouped that expense but never made the many thousands of dollars I was expecting. However, I strongly believe that today (see the dates on the pins), with the proliferation of team web pages and the ease with which teams can collect donations, I know this type of fundraising effort can and will raise a lot more money. Most importantly, however, it taught the players about good sportsmanship and they were involved in a unique activity that not only created lasting memories for themselves but for their opponents as well.

Pin Companies

If there are any pin company(ies) that would like to sponsor this type of fundraising activity by offering ‘fundraising discounts’, I would be more than happy to include the name of your company, the web site link, and what type of discount you will offer. Simply contact me.

Silver Lining to Aaron Ramsey’s Broken Leg

February 28, 2010

There was an ugly injury in the EPL this Saturday (February 27, 2010). A hard tackle by Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross resulted in a gruesome leg injury for Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey. Aaron, a very promising young midfielder, is certainly done for the season and probably the calendar year. Let’s hope he is able to recover and resume his career at the same high level.

A silver lining you ask?

  • Though the tackle was hard, there was no way Ryan wanted to injure Aaron like he did. He was truly remorseful on the field and after the game. It was a nice gesture that he went to Aaron’s side after being shown the red card. It was also nice to see Ryan accept his red card punishment without argument. Too many players will argue a dismissal even after blatantly and intentionally fouling another player.
  • Referee, Peter Walton, handled the situation very well. He acted swiftly in issuing the red card. It was also great that he read the situation correctly and allowed Ryan to apologize to Aaron on the field.
  • The rest of the players, especially the Arsenal players, could have easily lost their cool. They did not. I think they understood that this was not Ryan’s intention.

No one ever wants to see that type of injury. But at least good sportsmanship and cool heads prevailed. Here’s to a speedy and full recovery Aaron.

All Adults are Teachers

February 24, 2010

I recently attended a diversity program sponsored by the Oakland Teaching Fellows Program which is part of the Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, CA. One of the speakers was a principal who stated that at his school, every adult was considered a teacher. Besides the paid teachers, he saw himself as a teacher. He also saw and expected the lunch and custodial staff to be teachers as well. As he stated, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

On the way home, I started thinking if this same philosophy is being followed by soccer teams and leagues across the U.S.? My answer was, “Yes, but …”

I think soccer has made great strides in the past 30 years.

  • The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) has taken huge strides in teaching coaches to be more positive in their dealings with young players.
  • Parents are more involved in their children’s activity than ever before. Players feel supported and loved by their soccer moms (and dads).
  • Despite the questionable calls that are directed toward referees by coaches and fans alike, referees are supported and respected much more than any at time in the past.

But there is certainly room for improvement.

I always found it amusing when my kids blamed the referee for their losses or accused the referee of cheating. After a while though, their comments soon became old and habitual. But where and from whom did they learn these excuses? When I coached and my team lost, was I blaming the referees for the loss? I don’t think I was. But I know I am like many coaches I see today. While most coaches will say at the end of a game that the referee had nothing to do with a loss, during the game, coaches will constantly question calls and voice their displeasure. So I guess my kids did learn this behavior from me.

Most parents are great. But I still see parents do inappropriate things.

  • Some parents coach their kids from the sidelines. These parents are usually saying one thing and the coach something else. This conflicts the player because who should the child listen to, the parent or the coach? This action also undermines the credibility and authority of a coach.
  • Some parents openly question the calls and competencies of referees, regardless of the referee’s age. Oftentimes, these actions exacerbate and validate frustrations that players may already have on the field.
  • Some parents engage in conversations with opposing players. Rarely are those conversations complimentary. Many times it is with players too young to know how to deal or cope with criticisms from adult strangers. This last action is inexcusable. I know most parents would not like it if their child was being criticized and questioned by the other team’s parents.

Soccer has definitely made great strides in teaching our children about sportsmanship, respecting the other team’s players, coaches, and fans, and even respecting the referees. But we certainly still have a long way to go, including yours truly. If all parents can assume a teaching role this season and accept the responsibilities that go with it, we will be teaching our children to be better players and people.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Good Sportsmanship

September 3, 2009

In many ways, it is disappointing that I am writing about good sportsmanship making a 2-3 goal difference per game. In an ideal world, we–players, coaches, and parents–would all exhibit good sportsmanship. Unfortunately, we know that this is rarely the case. But those teams whose players, coaches, and parents exhibit good sportsmanship will have an advantage over a team of poor sports in the eyes of the most important person/people on the soccer field–the referees.

Referees are just like you and me. They love the sport of soccer, don’t like individuals who complicate their lives, and like all of us, make mistakes. Referees are human. And because they are human, they will see and appreciate good sportsmanship.

These are some examples of good sportsmanship:

  • If a player fouls an opponent, have the player who committed the foul ask the opponent if he is OK. Extend a hand to help him up.
  • Don’t argue or talk back to the referee. If he made a bad call, keep in mind that the referee has made far fewer mistakes than your players.
  • Be respectful.
  • If an opponent is upset at a player and tries to provoke a confrontation, ignore the challenge. Walk away and let the referee handle the confrontational player.
  • Adhere to the referee’s pre- and in-game instructions. If you are supposed to sub at midfield, sub at midfield. If you and your players are supposed to be 4 feet off the touch line, be 4 feet off the touch line.

As a referee, my job is to judge and call a game with complete impartiality and neutrality. To the best of my ability, I always try to live by this principle. But I am human. I notice and appreciate well-mannered players, coaches, and parents. I also notice and don’t appreciate poorly-behaved players, coaches, and parents. Therefore, if I am a referee:

  • Would I withhold issuing a yellow card on a hard foul if the player who committed the foul shows remorse and compassion toward the fouled player? Maybe.
  • Would I only show a yellow card instead of a straight red on an extremely hard foul if the player who committed the foul shows remorse and compassion toward the fouled player? Maybe.
  • Would I not punish a well-mannered coach and team if  he accidentally had too many players on the field? Maybe.
  • Would I call a direct free kick instead of a penalty on a foul committed by a well-mannered and respectful player that took place only a few inches inside the penalty area? Maybe.

As you can see, I have listed four infractions that if called differently, could have had a huge impact on the outcome of a game. Not that good sportsmen and well-behaved players should ever get favorable calls. But I know for a fact that exhibiting this behavior and character can’t hurt. However, good sportsmanship and behavior should always be practiced, PERIOD! It will make the beautiful game that much more beautiful.

Counter Strategy

This one is easy. Show better sportsmanship and behavior than the opponent. Remember, soccer is not just about winning games. It is also about teaching and building character. No one likes a poor sport.