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The Cheer Don't Steer Parent Behavior Program

Bottom Line? Cheer like crazy, don't tell them what to do.

For years, I observed this interesting phenomenon with our youngest players, when a goal was scored, everyone cheered except the kids playing the game. They would look around at all the adults shouting and have little idea why they were all shouting. Because they hadn't grown up watching soccer and many have never even touched a ball before their parents took them to the first practice or game, they had no idea what to do. Through my practices and coaching education courses and coaches meetings, I tried to emphasize teaching the kids how to celebrate after they scored a goal so that they would begin to understand why all the parents were cheering.

Finally, one season, there was a U6 player who had watched soccer on TV and played with his family. He knew exactly what to do and was able to emulate multiple soccer stars goal celebrations. He was so good that he even helped his teammates celebrate their goals as well. One …
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Why do we sweat?

One of the challenges I give my students early in the year is to describe how a molecule of water moves from the mouth to a muscle cell in the arm. The goal of this exercise is for the students to be able to demonstrate their understanding of the three fluid compartments in the body: plasma (the non-living part of the blood), interstitial fluid (the fluid that surrounds cells) and intracellular fluid (the fluid inside cells). Students can reliably get the water to the stomach, but then struggle to complete the process.

We know that fluid moves throughout our body and that some of the fluid stays in our body and some is lost through sweat, urine, feces and breathing.  The precise mechanisms by which this happens are a little tricky and exposing students to this process enables them to gain a greater understanding of how difficult it is to maintain homeostasis generally. 
One of our common experiences is that we sweat when we exercise or are in hot weather. We all know that the sweat ha…

The game is the test

As both a coach and an educator, I see lots of parallels between my two jobs. For almost 20 years, I have been promoting a set of coaching behaviors that include having the coach take a reduced role during the game. While I have been saying for years that "the game is the test," I have never articulated how a coach's behavior can affect the players performance on that test. So let me give you an example.

Imagine you are a teacher and you have completed a unit of instruction. You prepare a summative test for your students. You know the level of your students and the difficulty of the material. As a teacher, you will be validated if you give them a challenging test and they are successful. On the day of the test, you hand it out. Once they start taking the test, you immediately begin yelling at them, giving advice to one student about choosing letter C on question 2. You tell another student to read all of question 10 before answering it. Then you tell a third student that…

Falling in love with the game

I offer group training sessions once a week during the season for U6-U12 age groups in my club. The sessions are open to all players in each of those age groups. Because these are my target age groups and comprise the bulk of the club, it offers me a chance to implement my philosophy more consistently than other approaches I have used in the past. This is the fourth season I have had the pleasure to work with these age groups in this format. I have learned a lot about how to manage a training session for a diverse group of players and keep it fresh for those who have been in attendance for each of the four seasons worth of sessions. For me, it has been a tremendous growth experience and I have had the chance to see players grow in confidence and love of the sport. A couple of weeks ago, I got this hand drawn picture from one of the U6 players and a hug. That experience reinforced my subjective opinion of the program and complemented the objective improvement in skills that I have been…

Taking a snapshot

I have written previously in "the freeze technique" and "separating the signal from the noise" about finding the right time to stop an activity and being able to identify whether players are executing the skills you are working on in your training sessions. Since I work with novice coaches both in my coaching courses and in my regular role as director of coaches, I see a lot of behaviors that are counterproductive to the development of players.

In this post, I wanted to look more closely at one aspect of coaching that will help improve the practice of coaches possibly more than any other, the snapshot. The snapshot used to be called a "Kodak moment" for those of us of a certain age. The idea is very simple. If you know EXACTLY what you are looking for, it is a lot easier to find it than if you only sort of have an idea. In his book, Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey describes habit 2 as "begin with the end in mind." T…

Turning a bad exercise into a great training session

I recently watched a practice where a coach had the players passing back and forth in pairs up and down the field. Once they completed this task, they waited for another group to go before repeating the same activity. I watched for a few minutes without interrupting the coach. One reason I didn't interrupt the coach is that he has not reacted positively to me in the past, so I figured I would let him do his thing just in case he had a similar response.

What struck me later was that this activity failed to do the two things we most want our activities to do: improve skill and solve problems.

The coach was obviously trying to improve the passing skills of the players, but in the time I watched the activity there wasn't a single pass that showed any real attempt by the player to make a skillful, accurate pass. There were defects in body position, foot position and contact point on all of the players involved in the activity. All of the passes were made to players who were less th…


In the basketball movie "Hoosiers" Gene Hackman plays the coach. During the season, he decides that they don't share the ball enough, so he sets up a race from one end of the court to the other. The players select the fastest player to dribble down the court. Coach Dale starts the race and then throws the ball to the other end of the court, easily beating the dribbler down the court. His point was that passing is more effective at moving the ball around the field than dribbling. Now you know that I prefer you to focus on dribbling first and there is an important reason for that which I have shared with you often enough, but that doesn't mean you should ignore passing/moving/receiving the ball as part of your player development. It is just that you need to do it at the right time.

While I emphasize three core skills (dribbling, controlling the ball, shield and turn) during my group sessions, I do also work on passing with my U10 and older players starting during the m…