I recently wrote a tweet on some of my weekend observations on the state of youth soccer here in New York:
"Coaches, are we producing creative individuals or voice activated robots? #LetThemPlay
A day or so later I read this:
'Just let them play!'... said the coach who hadn't written out their session plans lol
Now, I won't say who wrote it and it may have had nothing to do with my tweet – we 'follow' each other so chances are he saw my tweet and may have written this in reply, or he may be commenting on something else. His own thoughts on the subject perhaps. Anyway, his 'tweet' got favorites and 're-tweets' and 'lol's' and it had me scratching my head in disbelief.
#LetThemPlay is important, extremely important in today's youth game. Here are my thoughts, this time, in more than 140 characters.
This 'tweet' got me fired up, as I believe we, as a coaching community need to put up a united front. We are too disjointed, too competitive and pulling in different directions. This coach decided to make #LetThemPlay a negative, referring to the coaches who promote this as lazy, unorganized and unprepared. I completely disagree. I believe coaches who follow this philosophy are educated and in tune with the current culture in youth sports.
I wrote the tweet after a horrifying weekend, I coached two travel games that weekend.
The first travel game I coached, the opposing trainer thought it was their job to commentate and instruct the players on every single moment in the game.
"Pass to Chelsea.... Switch it.... Away from the goal.... Send it.... SHOOT!"
This trainer, in my opinion, is choking his players. Not allowing them to breath and express themselves. There are zero moments of individualism, zero moments of players thinking for themselves and zero moments of pure play.
I wondered how the girls play when he's not there?
Most probably clueless, "To whom am I supposed to pass to if my coach isn't here instructing me?"
What will they do when he is no longer training them?
They will be unable to think for themselves.... They are Robots.
This is the American coach culture that is killing youth sports. American's hold their coaches in the highest esteem and rightly so in their sports. Football (American), Basketball and Baseball all are very much coach driven sports. The coach calls the plays, makes the decisions: run or pass, where to hit, where to pitch. The players follow the instructions. Soccer is different, there are no timeouts, and no set plays, too many open, external variables affecting what is going on.
This isn't an attack on Americans. I LOVE America, I want to become an American citizen eventually and I love American sports. Sports in this country are just geared towards the spectator not the young athlete. And this problem doesn't just reside in America, look at the English National Team. No creativity, no flair. They can pass 10 yards sideways like the worlds best, why? Over coached to pass, pass, pass!!!
Players need to react and they need to think….
Parents coached the second game. Similar to the last game, they we're constantly providing information, except in this case i would define it more like noise than instruction. Actually, it was more along the lines of abuse!
"LISA, I TOLD YOU NOT TO KICK IT THERE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"CLAIRE, YOU WERE GREAT IN PRACTICE, WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?"
"JEESSSUSSS MICHELLE, WHEN WILL YOU LEARN?"
I couldn't believe my eyes or ears. I turned to my parent manager and said, "Poor Michelle will quit soccer in 6 months", She laughed; unfortunately I wasn't joking.
The biggest reason players quit soccer is "it stopped being fun!" Don't believe me read this: (incidently theres a reference to #LetThemPlay in this article)
And can you blame them? Who would want to be verbally abused for 90mins each week? My biggest question was 'how can the parents put up with this?' I would be livid if I heard someone talk to my son that way. Is it simply that their idea of a coach is the drill Sargent type character who screams to get results? Maybe a lack of 'player development' education? It can't be that they simply don't care.
Lets make soccer a positive environment. One that players can look forward to week after week. Much like we did when we played. Day dreaming that we were our heroes, playing in the biggest game ever....
#LetThemPlay has nothing to do with being a lazy trainer. Perhaps the critical person who inspired me to write this was unaware that I was referring to game day rather that practice day but that being said, all my sessions are planned from start to finish, they have progressions, instruction and they have clear goals. They are challenging and fun. But I always leave a few minutes to....