100 Days!

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CLICK to go to the FIFA Women’s World Cup website.

The Women’s World Cup is happening this summer in Canada. It promises to be one of the most competitive women’s soccer competitions in the history of the sport. So many teams have quality players, and the gap between the best teams in the world and the next best teams continues to shrink.

To prepare for the World Cup, the US Women are currently in Portugal getting ready to compete in the Algarve cup. Known for it’s competitive matches, the Algarve Cup will take place from March 4-11.  The US are matched in a group with Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland. If they win the group, the have a chance to play in the championship match on March 11th. Here’s a great video about the preparations the United States are making for the World Cup in June!

I can’t wait for the World Cup opening match on June 6th! 100 Days to go!

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Injuries in Soccer: The Female Player

Most research about injuries in soccer has been done on male players. This report from FIFA acknowledges that fact, and pretty much compiles all the scientific articles that have been done about injuries in female players.  It’s great to see excellent female-specific information out there! This guide in health and fitness includes sections on “how to prevent ankle injuries”, “how to prevent ACL tears”, etc. Prevention is key! Strengthening core muscles (abdomen and back), and large and small leg muscles helps reduce the chances of injury significantly. There’s also a section on proper nutrition!

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health and fitness for the female football player: a guide for players and coaches

US Soccer YouTube Channel

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Can’t get enough soccer? Relive the highlights from every recent US National Team game, from the Full National Team all the way down to our U-16s! Kind of fun to watch some of our best battle it out against other countries (and listen to the sometimes suspect commentary). Below is the most recent highlight video that was posted…U-17 US Women’s National Team vs. Japan. Click through the US Soccer graphic above to go to the US Soccer YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Early Specialization in American Sports

We all see it…kids are choosing to focus on a specific sport younger and younger. Training times are long, and more frequent. There no longer is an off-season.

I will agree that soccer is a sport where exposure to it early is helpful. Foot-eye coordination is harder and harder to pick up when you get above a certain age. BUT, I think that playing multiple sports, participating in different clubs or activities is incredibly helpful. What if you have a career ending injury? Or no longer have a desire to play? What do you fall back on if your sport is what defines you?

I had the opportunity to play many sports growing up, and also participate in a bunch of different non-athletic activities. The first time I “specialized” in soccer was when I went to play at Wake Forest, and even then I played intramural basketball, softball, kickball, and dodgeball. I relished the time I had away from soccer doing other things, and whenever I came back to the game I found I loved it even more. Time off, and time doing other things in between seasons can be beneficial developmentally for all players, particularly younger players. John O’Sullivan from the Changing the Game Project has more to say on that through the link below.

John O’sullivan: is it wise to specialize?

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How early is too early?

10 Habits of Highly Successful Leaders

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There are many different parts of life where you can be a leader. You don’t have to hold a title to be a leader; you can be a leader simply by how you carry yourself while pursuing your goals and your passions.  So many traits have been highlighted surrounding leadership. I particularly like this article from Inc. Magazine because it highlights traits and habits that help to bring all of your teammates along with you, and gives opportunities for others to become leaders too…because if nobody is following, then who are you leading?

inc magazine: 10 Habits of highly successful leaders

Shannon Macmillan: A World Champion’s View on Coaching Kids

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1999 World Cup Champions, Macmillan to the right of Brianna Scurry. If you don’t know who Brianna Scurry is…

I can remember watching the 1999 World Cup Final on TV. The overtimes. The start of penalty kicks. The iconic image of Brandi Chastain ripping off her jersey in celebration, falling to her knees after hitting the winning PK. It was amazing to watch, and was an incredible springboard for women’s soccer in the United States. There are several players from that team still involved in the game, few of them more so than Shannon Macmillan. Shannon is now the Director of Operations for a large club out in San Diego, California. She sat down with Soccer America in August of 2014 and had some great advice to share about player development. Well worth the read!

Soccer America: A World Champion’s View on Coaching Kids
 

Coach Shannon with one of her teams

Kat’s Contemplation: What made me love soccer?

As a 3 sport-athlete most of my life, I had numerous experiences with my parents watching games and sometimes even training sessions. I made “the ride home” after practice and games more times than I can count. Thousands of times. As I reflect back, I get a clearer picture of why soccer was my favorite sport, and what made me continue to pursue it.

There are the obvious reasons. I was good at it. Fast, strong, athletic. I liked the fast pace of the game; no stoppages, no time-outs for instruction. My teammates and I had to figure it out on the field, and win or lose as a result. I love the team aspect of the sport. You can form bonds that last a lifetime. Teammates and coaches push you to be better every day; you suffer through the physical training together.

Then there are reasons that are there, but are under the surface. The other two sports I played (baseball/softball and basketball) my father also played. My mom had knowledge of how they worked. My dad was always there with a pointer about how I could do this better, or that better. He coached my baseball team for 5-6 years until I was 12 years old (He also coached my soccer team). I can’t be sure, but I want to say that I liked knowing a sport better than he did, I had something to call my own, and when I left his rec team at U11, I was “above his pay-grade” in what I was learning and doing in the sport. In middle school and high school, I can remember hearing him from the sidelines on the baseball field, and the basketball court. But I can’t remember him saying anything from the soccer sideline.

I’m not a parent. I don’t know exactly what it is like to watch the child you raised play a sport you love. But I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t involve stress. This should be enjoyable. Soccer is a fun activity, where kids can play freely and shouldn’t feel any pressure except for the expectations of their teammates and coaches, and the standards they set for themselves. As a parent (and often I find myself as a coach applying this rule), the most important thing you can say to your child is “I love watching you play, that was fun!” Regardless of the outcome.

And leave it at that. Because at the end of the day, they just want to go home and be your kid, not your soccer player.

Fields of proper size, for proper play!

The English FA published this video in 2013, but I’ve just come across it. It does a fantastic job of illustrating just how big a 11 v 11 field can seem to younger players. Often times we forget how different adults and children are in how fast they can run, how far they can strike a ball, and how much ground they can cover in general! On a big field, younger players often feel lost, and that they can’t show off their best skills in such a large space.

When I was a U9 player in Pennsylvania, my “elite” team played in an 11 v 11 league. As an outside midfielder, I can remember games where I might have only touched the ball once. I remember that my team went 13-0 that season, but I didn’t really enjoy it because I hardly touched the ball. The following year I went back to recreation soccer because I got to touch the ball more…more fun! Enjoy the humor in the video, and be thankful that most places at U9 we’re playing 6 v 6, and U11-12 is 8 v 8 before making the jump to a full sized pitch.

-Coach Kat