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Copa America 2016

copa america

USA! USA! USA! USA!

That is the chant that you have all heard from those "crazed" soccer fans during the FIFA World Cup every four years. Maybe you have even been one of them yourself? Well, the good thing is that if you have been that fan or have ever wondered what the hype was all about you don't have to wait another four years to support your team or your favorite player, because a soccer tournament of nearly the same magnitude is taking over the month of June.

One of the hardest things for coaches to instill in young players is passion for the game. Think back to how you discovered something you are passionate about in your life. Was it because of playing pick-up games in the yard next door? Was it because of a teacher or coach that was so enthusiastic about a subject or sport that it rubbed off on you? Was it watching an iconic moment unfold while cheering on your favorite team? Or was it watching your childhood hero pull off the impossible with seconds left to spare in the game? We all can probably relate to at least one or more of those moments.

As it turns out one of the most prolific soccer tournaments, Copa America, is set to kick-off June 3rd on U.S. soil for the first time ever. Copa America is the perfect event for excitement, drama and passion that usually only a World Cup can provide. Watching these types of events as a group is one of the easiest ways to show young kids why a sport is so magical. It also gives you the time to explain things like sportsmanship and teamwork in a real-time situation that isn't so personal. So grab your team, your kids and your family and be one of those "crazed" fans. Follow your favorite team(s) or player(s) through the tournament and help instill that passion for the game in a young player you know this month.

If that wasn't enough to get you interested even Kobe Bryant is going to be watching and in the video below he tells you why you should be as well. The full T.V. schedule for Copa America is below.

Copa America Schedule:(in Eastern Standard Time)

Fri., 6/3 USA vs. Columbia - Santa Clara, CA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/4 Costa Rica vs. Paraguay - Orlando, FL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
               Haiti vs. Peru - Seattle, WA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
               Brazil vs. Ecuador - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sun., 6/5 Jamaica vs. Venezuela - Chicago, IL - 5:00 p.m. FOX
                Mexico vs. Uruguay - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/6 Panama vs. Bolivia - Orlando, FL - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Chile - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/7 USA vs. Costa Rica - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Colombia vs. Paraguay - Pasadena, CA - 10:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/8 Brazil vs. Haiti - Orlando, FL- 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Ecuador vs. Peru - Glendale, AZ - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Thu., 6/9 Uruguay vs. Venezuela - Philadelphia, PA - 7:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                Mexico vs. Jamaica - Pasadena, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/10 Chile vs. Bolivia - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FOX
                Argentina vs. Panama - Chicago, IL - 9:30 p.m. FOX

Sat., 6/11 USA vs. Paraguay - Philadelphia, PA - 7:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
               Colombia vs. Costa Rica - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 2

Sun., 6/12 Ecuador vs. Haiti - East Rutherford, NJ - 6:30 p.m. FOX Sports 2
                 Brazil vs. Peru - Foxborough, MA - 8:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Mon., 6/13 Mexico vs. Venezuela - Houston, TX - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                  Uruguay vs. Jamaica - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tue., 6/14 Chile vs. Panama - Philadelphia, PA - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1
                 Argentina vs. Bolivia - Seattle, WA - 10:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Thu., 6/16 Copa America 1A vs. 2B - Seattle, WA - 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Fri., 6/17 Copa America 1B vs. 2A - East Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/18 Copa America 1D vs. 2C - Foxborough, MA - 7:00 p.m. FX
                Copa America 1C vs. 2D - Santa Clara, CA - 10:00 p.m. FX

Tue., 6/21 Copa America W25 vs. W27 - Houston, TX - 9:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wed., 6/22 Copa America W26 vs. W28 - Chicago, IL - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Sat., 6/25 Copa America L29 vs. L30 - Glendale, AZ - 8:00 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26 Copa America final East - Rutherford, NJ - 8:00 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Viva la Copa America Centenario

Chris Arndt
Director
Second Nature Sports

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The New Dimension in Youth Soccer: Navigating U.S. Soccer’s New Age Groupings

Age change.jpg

No one likes change, and this is a sizable change for the millions of soccer families in our country. The soon to be “old” system of determining age groups, where the calendar year began on August 1st, will now become “Birth Year” groupings with a January 1st start. All of this becomes a harsh reality in the next few weeks, and parents are scrambling with the question: where should my child play?

Terminology Lesson: It will no longer be called U8, or Under 8. The new term for this
age group is now 8 & Under. Get used to it.

There is one gender issue at play, and let me address it up front. Generally speaking, girls have a greater pull towards playing with friends than do boys. This factor will be one that many parents will grapple with when trying to decide where to place their child. I will talk about the “friend” card in more detail as I delve into this topic.

So your 9 year old has been playing with his team for three years, and now we are dealing with the fact that half the team was born in 2006 and the other half was born in 2007. (Those with 2006 birth dates will jump all the way to 11 & Under. Those with 2007 birth dates will play at 10 & Under.) Your child was born in June of 2007, but two of his best friends have 2006 birth dates. What to do?

Let me make one critically important fact very clear: The coach of your child is the single most important factor in all of this. Which club you play for, and which league you are in matter less. Your child MUST enjoy their coach, or they will be out of the game in no time. It doesn’t matter how many friends they have on their new team, they will make new friends quickly.

A good coach will make the experience fun and they will continue the developmental process for your child and progress them with their skills, their understanding of the game, and most importantly, the continued implementation of life’s most important lessons.

When considering an age group, especially playing “up” an age group, here are some considerations that you, as a parent, must be ready to deal with: (Please know that the more honestly that you make this assessment, the better the experience that your child will have.)

Speed: At what level will your child’s foot speed and speed of play (decision making) allow for the most success. If you over estimate your child’s ability, you are setting them up for failure.

Physicality: Like speed, this has to be the appropriate fit.

Emotional (& Psychological) Maturity: Given this stage of your child’s development, where will they find the most success and the best chance of developing into a team leader?

Ball Skills: Is your child’s mastery of controlling the ball in line with the older players that you may be considering having your child join?

The Friend Card: The longer that a team has been together, the more challenging it is to break up those friendships. Because high school players compete against many different age groups in high school, they are more likely to be successful at playing “up” in order to stay with friends. As we examine the younger age groups (8-14 years), I believe that it is more important to keep these children within their ages. There are always going to be exceptions, and as long as a child can meet with success when playing against older kids, then that child can be a reasonable candidate for playing “up”. Please keep this fact in mind: kids make friends in the time that it takes you to check out at the grocery store! They are more resilient than we think.

When we look at all of these factors in regards to our children, our ability to determine the best fit is critical. It will make the difference between your child meeting success or struggling with fitting in. In these formative years, the more success that they have, the longer that they will play.

Let’s keep our kids playing, keep the process positive, and support them in their journey to make new friends. Isn’t that what sports is all about anyway?

- Steve Locker

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Take A Whiff Of Perspective

Perspective

Whether it’s a parent trying to figure out which travel team to place their 8 year old child, or a country attempting to navigate a complex health care system, the mass exodus of children from organized sports is causing a crisis that is so devastating that most of us can’t fully grasp its impact.

Bill Dietz, director of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University laments, “They should be as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof about the tsunami of diabetes that’s coming their way. The cost of this rise in the prevalence of obesity is going to be staggering.”

So what do those costs look like? The Aspen Institute has a program called Project Play, Reimagining Youth Sports in America. Below is a paragraph that highlights some of their findings related to this growing crisis:

Levels of physical activity inadequate to meet current guidelines are associated with a significant financial burden for the U.S. health care system, as much as $131 billion a year (CDC, 2015). Direct and indirect medical costs related to obesity are estimated at $147 billion a year, twice the size of the budget for the U.S. Department of Education. Direct costs are expected to more than double by 2030. Adults who are obese will face decreased earning potential, and employers will pay in the form increased health care costs. (Designed to Move, 2012). In total, lifetime societal costs are $92,235 greater for a person with obesity, and if all 12.7 million U.S. youth with obesity became obese adults, the societal costs over their lifetimes may exceed $1.1 trillion. (Brookings Institute, 2015)

Much like our youth sports crisis where so many children are quitting, and none of us parents are willing to admit that it could happen to our kid, this problem keeps snowballing. At what point is that slap upside the head going to kick in and get us thinking about this in a more serious manner? Unlike a pick-up game of whiffle ball, when it comes to our children’s development, we don’t get a “do over”.

Having spent the past twelve years intimately engaged in youth sports and child development, I have seen and heard almost everything. Parents justify their decisions to push their children into highly competitive programs at unbelievably young ages and say things like, “Joey just loves soccer.” Guess what, Joey’s 7 years old and the only thing he truly loves is his parents, his siblings, his dog and an ice cream cone. The minute Joey encounters some coach screaming and yelling at him during a soccer game, he’s done!

Then there’s the conversation that I have heard far too often between two moms. It goes like this:

Mom 1: “How’s Jenny doing in soccer?”

Mom 2: “Oh, Jenny quit soccer last season.”

Mom 1: “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Mom 2: “Actually, it’s pretty nice now. We have our weekends back and it’s fun to do stuff as a family again.”

Mom 2 is the one who used to argue that Jenny loved soccer. She made the “A” team as a 9 year old, but by age 13 she had enough. Burned out! I often hear parents of teenagers lamenting, “I wish we hadn’t pushed so hard.” Sorry folks, no “do overs”.

As parents, we all get so caught up in the micromanagement of our children’s sports participation. Why.....because that’s what everyone else is doing. We are so afraid that our kid will get left behind if we don’t do everything possible to help him or her keep up. This fear is so incredibly powerful.

Here are three wonderful solutions to the aforementioned problems facing the health of our society:

  1. Help inform, educate and support parents in efforts to return sports participation to the children. Get adults out of the way and focus on the happiness and well-being of our kids. Let them play under their terms....not ours.
     
  2. Our health care organizations are spending billions on new hospitals. They see the tsunami coming and they want to be prepared. Why not earmark some of this money towards initiatives that get kids moving and attack our burgeoning obesity problem at the front lines?
     
  3. Record numbers of children are being cut from middle and high school sports teams. The model of Intramural Sports offered at colleges and universities across the country serves as a perfect solution at these younger levels. Let’s get the 75% of the kids who are quitting by age 13 back into the game at the intramural level where they can truly have fun again.

Schools complain that they don’t have enough money to fund these programs. Maybe this would be a nice place for the health care organizations to begin sharing the wealth!

- Steve Locker

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Psychology and the Game of Soccer

emotion

Quite often when I am coaching youth players I notice many of them with very vivid reactions to mistakes. Whether it’s their use of words, facial expressions, or the frozen stance some seem to take on from dwelling on their “imperfections.”

What are the causes these reactions? Why do we all do it? (Yes, I am absolutely sure I did this as a player too) As an athlete I learned somewhere along the line to let things go. Quite honestly, I can’t recall an exact moment that influenced me but most likely a series of events, coaches, or teammates that led me down that path. And those of you, who knew me as a player, know this wasn’t easy nor was it ever complete.

If you coach young players I encourage you to take notice of this and to create an environment where “mistakes” are accepted and in fact encouraged. College coaches are constantly asked what they look for when they are recruiting a player and I can guarantee most coaches keep a keen eye on players’ responses to mistakes. I know I do. We all want the player who keeps going and works through issues on the field.

The fact of the matter is to become truly great at anything you are going to fail more times than you succeed. We’ve all heard the millions of quotes out there. When I work with attacking players I’m constantly talking to them about letting go of missed shots and opportunities. Move on to the next and do it quickly. As a goal scorer you must be relentless. There’s no other way to play. Soccer is a game of mistakes, many of them.

My point is this applies not only in sport but even more so in life. Can we build persistence at an early age on the field through encouragement and acceptance of mistakes? Can we instill in athletes that failure is going to happen and its okay?

A great way to look at this is having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. When your athletes/children react by saying they “can’t” do something, I encourage you to take that opportunity as a teachable moment. Having a growth mindset opens doors for not only our own personal development but with our relationships with others as well.

- Christie Welsh

Additional Resources for parents and coaches is a book called Mindset by Carl S. Dweck, Ph.D.


Christie Welsh'sBio:
Welsh is a former assistant coach at the University of Oregon from 2013-2015 and Saint Joseph’s University in 2012, while also holding volunteer assistant coaching positions at Penn State and The University of Wisconsin.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2000 until 2008. Welsh scored 20 goals over 39 international contests. During her time with the USWNT she remarkably scored 10 goals faster than any other player in American soccer history. She served as an alternate for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she was part of the 2004, 2006, and 2007 Olympic and World Cup training residencies. Christie is also, a former Hermann Trophy winner and former professional soccer player for multiple teams.

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Write a Blog

Write a blog. These aren’t words I have said in my head much, or maybe at all. What to write about, who would my audience be, what would I add to the conversation? I guess the question has always been why? And here, today, I answer with a why not?

About a month ago I made contact with Steve Locker through a Penn State connection. We sat down and so began our back and forth banter about the state of soccer, sports, and all that those two things encompass. That conversation turned into a bunch more and before I know it I’m introduced to Second Nature Sports and I’m on board.

I am a firm believer in the idea that you can never stop learning. I learn things every day and I aim to constantly put myself in environments that help me grow as a person. But before I dive head first into my beliefs, I’d like to share a bit about me.

A quick Google search and you can find mostly anything you need or want to know about my soccer playing and coaching career. But in an age where human connection is constantly on the back burner because of technology, I’ll ironically share via technology some things you won’t find through a Google search.

I was a very gifted soccer player from an early age. Mostly it just came natural to me, but I loved it. I had wonderful coaches as a youth player and didn’t even recognize this until later in my career. Once I made a commitment to invest more into MY OWN development my game took off to a level I wasn’t even aware existed. I constantly struggled with the idea of “fitting in” versus being myself, but was lucky enough to have a strong sense of confidence from within (a product I believe from my upbringing). Nothing made me happier than playing soccer. Well, maybe food… but that’s a whole other story.

I battled injuries, thankfully not too many major ones, but I have years of experience helping and encouraging teammates through some pretty physically demanding times. I’ve seen first hand what soccer demands on the human body and how with such early specialization players are “burning out” fast. I finally understood later in my career how nutrition, sleep, and recovery are paramount to success. And I can’t even dive into the psychology of it all without wanting to run out onto a field right now. I’ve had ups and downs and experienced a plethora of emotions tied to this beautiful game and through it all managed a pretty long career.

So in the end what does all this mean? A sense of perspective I hope. One that may help you in your coaching career or simply as a parent who wants to support their child play a sport they love.

- Christie Welsh


Christie Welsh's Bio:

Welsh is a former assistant coach at the University of Oregon from 2013-2015 and Saint Joseph’s University in 2012, while also holding volunteer assistant coaching positions at Penn State and The University of Wisconsin.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team from 2000 until 2008. Welsh scored 20 goals over 39 international contests. During her time with the USWNT she remarkably scored 10 goals faster than any other player in American soccer history. She served as an alternate for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she was part of the 2004, 2006, and 2007 Olympic and World Cup training residencies.

In 2005, Welsh helped the U.S. National Team capture the Algarve Cup, scoring a team best five goals, including a massive game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Germany in the finals. She was also named the Golden Boot Award winner as the top scorer of the tournament.

Welsh was the first Penn State player to earn NSCAA All-America honors in each of her four years, while leading her squad to an impressive four-straight Big Ten titles and two Final Four appearances from 1999-2002. She was the first player in conference history to be named Big Ten Player of the Year three consecutive seasons. On the field, Welsh set the Big Ten's record for goals (82), assists (52) and points (216), with her career points mark still a current record. She was recognized as the top collegiate player receiving both the Hermann Trophy and M.A.C. Player of the Year honors.

Following her collegiate career, Welsh was drafted second overall in the 2003 WUSA Draft by the New York Power. In her first season she led her team in scoring and would go on to play internationally for KIF Orebro of Sweden's Top Division in 2004. In 2005 she brought her talents to Olympique Lyonnaise of the French First Division.

Additionally, she helped the Washington Freedom to the 2005 W-League championship, and the NJ Wildcats to the 2007 title, garnering MVP honors along the way. She also played in the Women's Professional Soccer League, competing for both the LA Sol and St. Louis Athletica in 2009 and the Washington Freedom in 2010.

She hails from Massapequa, N.Y. where she led Massapequa High School to the 1997 New York State Championship and earned Parade All-American honors twice. In 1998 she was named the Gatorade Circle of Champions National High School Girls' Soccer Player of the Year and ended her high school career named an NSCAA All-American.

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John O'Sullivan - Seconds Small Sided Games and Weighs-in on Age Groups

fun

Fellow blogger John O'Sullivan and founder of Changing the Game Project weighs-in on U.S. Soccer's small sided game mandate and changes to birth-year age groups, as opposed to the August 1 through July 31 age groups we currently use. He reiterates my post from last week - Coaching is Over-Rated (Why 3 versus 3 is so valuable). He also looks at stats regarding playing small sided games and the evidence is overwhelming. Small sided games yield more experience -- and generally more fun.

In the Man United study, playing 4v4 instead of 8v8 yielded:

  • 135% more passes
  • 260% more Scoring Attempts
  • 500% more Goals Scored
  • 225% more 1v1 Encounters
  • 280% more Dribbling Skills (tricks)

Read John's blog post on Soccerwire.com here.

- Steve Locker

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