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The Soccer Sidelines

The Soccer Sidelines

Author: David Dejewski

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The Soccer Sidelines podcast is about bringing parents, players, and coaches together around the most important aspects of the youth sports experience – and we don’t mean winning games.

Youth sports empowers us to create thousands of teachable moments in the context of a 15-year development window. Kids are open to learning and development in a youth sports environment – physically, mentally, emotionally, and in terms of core character - between the ages of 3 and 18 years old.

The goal of this podcast is to promote enjoyment of the game (and youth sports in general) and to make the most of the gift that Youth Sports gives our families. We hope to help parents, players, and coaches to make the most of the time we have together, and to build a solid platform from which our kids will launch into the world of adulthood.
106 Episodes
In this episode, we continue the dialog about bad apple officials, introduce some practical ways we can be intentional about coaching character, and share a warning story about a lawsuit against a JV baseball coach that dragged on for 7 years and cost $75,000 for telling a player to slide into third base.More Bad ApplesA continuation fro last week's discussion, a listener writes in about his experience as a coach with a bad referee, an assistant coach's bad behavior, and parents that ultimately threatened the refs in the parking lot. This story serves to highlight the need for higher quality communication between parents, coaches, and players. When communication breaks down, assumptions get made, and feelings get hurt. Let's keep the dialog going! Share these shows with your community and help the rest of us keep the dialog going.  Please: support the show and join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageRewarding DevelopmentHere are a couple of ideas you can use to help make coaching character intentional: 3x5 cards with development goals written on them. In this case, we pass out cards to parents on the sidelines and ask them to help us track stuff that actually matters (beyond the scoreboard). Listen to the show to see where I got the idea from and how we might use it. Ages 3-18Have-a-Ball. In this idea, we purchase game balls for every game in the season. We segment the season into weekly themes. Each week, we publish the theme of the week to coaches and parents. At the end of each game, we bring coaches and players together and give the game ball to the player(s) who best represent the character subject for the week: respect week, sportsmanship week, teamwork week, empathy week, etc. Ages 9 and above. Suing Coaches for CoachingThe article in the resources section below is a must read. Imagine coaching as every other coach does. A player gets hurt during a game, and you spend the next 5 years + $75,000 in legal fees to ultimately secure an innocent verdict. Your crime? As a 3rd-base coach, you told a player to slide into 3rd base. The player took a bad slide and broke their ankle. That break turned bad so parents sued. What might this mean for youth sports in general? What might it have meant if the coach was found guilty? How manny more lawsuits would end up in court - tying up coaches and clubs for years - simply for making a call as a coach that parents didn't agree with? What can we do to improve communication and discourse around youth sports? ResourcesPoliti, Steve. “He Told a Kid to Slide. Then He Got Sued.” He Told a Kid to Slide. Then He Got Sued., 12 Nov. 2019,
Good Eggs and Bad Apples

Good Eggs and Bad Apples


We have good eggs in every community and bad apples that ruin it for everyone. In this episode, we talk about listener-provided examples - one of each.We have stories like this going on all over the world. I would love it if you sent me one or two that I can use on the show. This stories inspire people or serve as warnings, and they keep the focus on the stuff that really matters in youth sports!A positive example of a coach strengthening 5-year-old players with encouragement Bad ApplesOur first story came from a tweet earlier this week. A listener of this show wrote me:"I’d love your thoughts on this. Today, I experienced a broken child because a referee was saying negative things about him during the game; one statement in particular that he was trash. What would be your response? How should this be handled?Dr. Timeka Cline​​ - Principal of an Elementary School in GeorgiaHow ridiculous is it for a referee to call a player "trash" in a game.  I know many referees who would find this a violation of trust and respect. I can't imagine any adult considering this acceptable behavior. This referee need to be reported to their Assignor and to league officials. In the episode, I describe my full advice to Dr. Cline.  Please: support the show and join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageGood EggsEvery community is full of good eggs. There are many more good eggs than bad apples. In this case, a soccer parent from my own club wrote me with the following:"David,A few weeks ago, our 5-year-old son Christian, had a rough game day. He felt like he couldn’t get to the ball, thought nobody wanted to play with him, he kept saying “I can’t do this”. My husband, Christian’s older sister, and I kept cheering him on, asking him to keep trying, to help his teammates because they needed him, to no result. He looked really sad, he cried, it was just a bad day. His coach was incredibly patient and observed, tried to engage him as much as he could. Christian wasn’t responding to it. That coach never gave up on him even for a second. He showed compassion, encouragement and understanding, and finished that day still showing Christian that he was an important person there. It just wasn’t a good day after all, but we thanked him so much for trying so hard to help.We know kids are resilient, but nobody wants to see their kid having a sad day. The following weekend, it looked like that same coach was ready for Christian. We noticed he put some strategies into practice that were really engaging. He had Christian (and all other players) doing designated tasks such as kick starting a few different times. He was fun, funny and also addressed the players by their names. They loved their goal celebrations, and there was Christian, at this time running, passing, and scoring, with a smile on his face. He looked confident, happy, and all because that coach, that volunteer coach, put a lot of energy into helping him, and was able to bring him out of his little limbo. We naturally thanked him again, to which he responded “See? Much better, right? I knew he would”.I wanted to bring to your attention how much our family appreciates that volunteer coach. Each family has their our stories, the behind the scenes, the challenges, and having that one person, a volunteer, who legitimately believes in your child, will always have a major impact. Not only on a Saturday 5-year-old soccer game, but as he grows and builds his character based on the impression that coaches like his coach left that day. (See attached picture - the coach with the team - Christian is on the far right) (See photo above)With gratitude,Ty"
This episode is about winning more youth soccer games. Everybody wants to win, right? So how specifically do Clubs, coaches, and teams ensure the wins? Continue on with me as we explore several ways in which you can win more games. These are tips and techniques that I have personally witnessed and are widely in use, but rarely talked about for the gotta-win club, gotta-win coach, and gotta-win youth soccer parent. Go Team!What is Winning? Winning youth sports games and in life is top of a lot of American agendas. And why wouldn't it be? If we have to spend all of the crazy money we spend to get on a youth sports team, to pay for our coach, on all the gear - and let's not forget about all the time we've invested in driving to practices and games, team parties, and sometimes messing up the car with other people's sweaty, dirty kids when it's our turn to car pool. The investment we make better pay off. Do you agree? We better see some wins on the scoreboard or we as well have saved our money and played in some Rec program or not played at all.In this episode, I'm going to share a number of ways that you can win - starting next season or even next game. If winning is your thing, then this episode is for you. These are practical tips. This is not pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. Let's jump into the stuff we need to know and do right now.  Please: support the show and join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageFirst Things FirstThe first thing we need to do to win more games is to set our sights firmly on winning. Having a bigger number on the scoreboard than our opponent needs to be front and center. There are multiple ways to accomplish that larger number, so we have to forget about this Kumbaya campfire marshmallow development nonsense. It's a numbers game. We have only so many kids in our community. We need to find the best ones, get them on the field, teach them how to win, and take our show on the road to bring some butt kicking to anyone who tries to stand in our way.Go the extra mile.  Games are good to win. In fact, we MUST win, but winning games is not enough. We have to remember the big picture. It's about winning consistently. We need to string wins together to make our winning track record. We need to climb over the corpses of any other team in our way as we climb the standings ladder. At the end of the season, our names will be on the trophy. If Johnny, Sam, or Jane can't cut it, bench them. Let's face it, I don't drive the kind of car that I drive to the parking lot every Saturday so we can go home a loser. We come from a winning family. We drive a winner's car. We pay winner's prices to play.  We play on winner's fields. Have you see our uniforms? Those are winner's uniforms, baby. Race car stripes down the sleeve because we're fast like race cars. If you don't know me and have never heard this show before, then hopefully, you're shaking your head, getting ready to turn off this bonehead, and go listen to something else. But you know this story is real. It's happening every day across America in youth sports. And if I want to attract parents to pay obscene amounts of money, I'm going to dangle the golden carrot in front of you. I'm going to convince you that your kid is a winner when he or she is on one of my teams. We're awesome together - especially when you pay a few thousand dollars to buy awesome stickers for the back of your car. Yeah, I may be acting out the worst among us, but there is truth between my sarcasm. The truth is: if we want to win games, we need to put winning over development. As a coach, there are plenty of games I could have won. I know how to win games. It's not hard. I don't even have to have good players. I just have to play against teams that have players who are worse than mine. It's all relative, right? Let's talk about a few other ways that I can win youth soccer games. I hope you can appreciate sarcasm. Gotta Look Good!
Twice this week, I was asked by parents - each from opposite sides of the country - about how to improve the competitive mindset of their children. One dad is father and coach of a 7-year old in California. The other is a mother of a 9-year-old in Maryland. In this episode, I will share the questions and their context and do my best - with the help of a couple of friends of mine - to address these listener questions. There is a lot of stuff in this episode, so make yourself comfortable while we explore the question of aggression, confidence,and the competitive mindset. Self Confidence word cloud hand sphere concept on white background.Setting the Stage with The QuestionsFirst of all, shout out to listeners of this show! You always inspire the best episodes with your questions and comments, so thank you for sharing! Don't sleep on the SpeakPipe integration I have with my Website at SpeakPipe a cool tool that I pay for that gives you a simple press-to-talk button on your mobile device or computer where you can leave me voice feedback, ask questions, etc. I can't think of an easier way to communicate. My first question came last Sunday at 10:30 PM Eastern from Paras. Paras writes from California:Hi,I am a dad of soccer kid who will be 7(born Nov 2012) years old next month.. I played lot of soccer and other sports in Asia during my school days. I today train my son and is also in U8 academy at local club in California.. My son skills, strength and pace is good for his age.. Besides U8 ,I enrolled him for a rec program for 2011/2012 , which was for two months at local club just to get games exposure . I noticed in these games that he was not aggressive (positive aggression) which may be because his cognitive is in developing phase ... He has a feeling that older kids will be hard on him and do something negative.. The club should have conducted the games for U8 only rather than 2011/2012..  His games with U8 kids are good.. Can you please share your experience on how can kids develop the mindset to overcome this? I am using strategy like watching with him European soccer leagues and talking /discussing with him about how players are being strong with the ball, soccer drills, motivation.Paras Tiwari The Soccer Sidelines Listener CommunityMy second question came to me in person during one of my Culture Walks this weekend. Culture Walks, you may recall from very early episodes back in 2017, is what I do as Club Officer to walk the sidelines of my games every weekend, evaluate coaches, connect with parents, and in general support and maintain our club culture. Conversations from my Culture Walks inspired this show. This soccer mom in this case is wife to one of our assistant coaches, very involved with multiple sports with her kids, and generally active in the youth sports community. She asked about her 9-year-old & was wondering what she or her husband can do to improve their child's "aggression" on the pitch. Her child plays in a recreation league, in an age band that included 9 and 10-year olds, and has played for a few years in our Academy program for younger players, ages 3-8. Please: support the show and join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageUnpacking the IssuesParas' question is actually several great questions, relevant statements and assumptions rolled up. They deserve some unpacking as we dig into what's going on here. First for context, we're talking about a 6-year-old player. Per United Soccer Coach standards, this is a Stage 2 player. Next, we're talking about a child born in the 4th quarter of the year. See last week's episode #102 about Relative Age Effect ( to understand more about why this is important. His son will son be 7. His player has a mixture of academy and recreation games experience and Dad noticed that his son is not as aggressive in the game environment as he...
Relative Age Effect in Youth Soccer is a bias that highlights the attention we give towards winning vs development. At its worst, it can be cheating
Travel tournaments can be full of excitement and fun. What are the pros and cons of travel tournaments for our players and families?
Varsity Soccer Mixed Bag

Varsity Soccer Mixed Bag


I'm hearing some variation of this over and over again: "My kids looked forward to playing varsity soccer in high school, but they (or we) have been disappointed with the experience." Why? In this article, let's explore the downside of the varsity experience and what we can do about it. The Varsity Experience SummaryWhere we live, our Varsity players play 12 games in 6 weeks. After tryouts, selected players get a few weeks of preparation, then a rapid fire schedule of games and practices. There are playoffs at the end and teacher-coaches along the way. Kids play in front of their peers for school pride. Wins are lauded during the school day. Losses lamented. Cheer leaders turn out to fire up the crowds and all manner of fast food is sold, along with $5 tickets to get in. Games are lunchroom, hallway, and even the occasional class time discussion. In other words, varsity sports are very much part of the fabric of the school and everybody knows about them. To get on a varsity team is a big deal. Cultures for each sport evolve each year. Everyone knows the "Lax boys," the "soccer players," the "football players," and the swimmers. Everyone knows how the various teams are doing, and even if a student is not a player on a team, it's often school yard conversation about what happened at the last game, who beats who, and what players are the play makers. To be on a varsity team in high school means a certain amount of celebrity. Youth sports in high school is meant to be "an extension of the classroom" with a focus on developing "the whole child." In our area, this is made clear through pre-gam announcements before every match. Have a listen to this:Listen to this opening announcement from earlier this week.Please: support the show and join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageChallenges Faced By High SchoolsOut of the gate, I have to admit that although I coach and parent kids of High School age, I am not a High School teacher or coach and I am not privy to the internal politics and budget constraints of high schools in general. I have some very specific experience that I am extrapolating to a bigger picture. My experience as the coach of high school players, as a father of high school students, as the host of this show who reads and listens to feedback from listeners, and the weekly reading I've done on the subject (found in the show notes for every episode) informs my opinion. My opinion doesn't represent every situation. Your situation may be different from what I describe here. These issues are in no particular order: Staff ShortagesI spoke with athletic directors, coaches, and teachers from several schools. They are unanimous about the fact that there are not enough people around who are willing to coach. At least not around here."We're lucky to get anyone to take the job. It pays $15/hour. It takes up a lot of time. And it's a thankless job that comes with a lot of parent hassles." said one person who I spoke with two weeks ago. I heard similar comments from several different people in the last two weeks. I got a sense from those discussions that "we'll take anybody. "I want to be clear about something. I'm not saying that if somebody steps up and takes a job that no one else wants, that the person who stepped up is somehow lesser quality than the person who wins a job that has stiff competition. I'm a fan of taking on jobs that nobody else wants. For the right person, these kinds of jobs are pure opportunity gold. When a hard working, creative, visionary type person steps up and takes on a job that nobody else wants, they often have an opportunity to turn it into whatever they want. The right kind of person can break paradigms, overhaul an antiquated system, bring value beyond anyone's imagination...However, when someone takes the job to avoid doing another job, just because they need the $15/hr, because they're not qualified to do anything else,
Physical exercise like playing soccer is preventative for many disease processes. Diseases brought about by obesity, for example, are often prevented or avoided through regular physical exercise. It's ironic, therefore, that physical activity itself can cause injury too. As with all things: too much of a good thing can be bad for us. Being or getting physically fit isn't something we can rush into. It's a process. Staying physically fit means subjecting our bodies to controlled stress over time. If we over do it, we can hurt ourselves. If we do too much too fast, we can hurt ourselves. If we don't learn to maintain a more physically fit body that is subjected to regular controlled stress, we can hurt ourselves. Let's talk about it. JRR007 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]Injury Prevention in Youth Soccer - TypesInjuries in youth soccer come in many forms. If you've been listening to this show for long, you know that I gather a lot of things under the safety umbrella: Physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual predation, physical injury, etc. For this episode, let's narrow the focus to avoiding physical injuries due to overuse, over stress, or subjecting athletes to situations where either their bodies or their support system is not prepared. Further, let's break physical injuries into a few sub categories, including:Too much, too fast (coming up off the couch after a long summer of inactivity)Overload (not maintaining balance between stress and recovery)Internal injuriesEquipment and Environmental situations Overuse injuries brought about by stacking similar body movements from different sports on top of one anotherAs always, I'm not going to merely describe each of these five physical injury hot spots, but I will attempt to provide some solutions that you can use to prevent injuries for your soccer players.  PLEASE: support the show and/or join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageToo Much Too FastNot all kids are created equal. As kids get older, their natural flexibility starts to decrease. I'm pretty sure every listener of this show is painfully aware of decreased flexibility that comes with age, but it might not be common knowledge that this decrease in flexibility can start as early as Junior High School. It's true that most kids are still more flexible than most adults, but bones begin to harden, muscles and sinews stretch with the rapid growth of bones and support structures, and additional stress on the body in the form of additional weight all become contributing factors and good reasons for coaches and parents to start paying attention to fitness, stretching, and whole body conditioning early on. I coach high school kids between the ages of 14 and 18. I worry about making sure my players don't get hurt - particularly early in the season before their bodies have a chance to adjust to what amounts to an increased level of activity for most of them. A summer of sitting on the couch seems more and more common these days. It used to be that kids were outside playing street hockey, kick the can, kill-the-guy-with-the-ball (a form of tag), kickball, swimming, frisbee, stick ball, and all manner of creative outdoor games kids use to love. We have a real issue today with kids literally sitting on the couch if they're not being directly instructed to physically play. This makes the Too Much Too Fast problem a real concern. Without adequate pre-season conditioning, players are at risk for stretching, tears, pulls, and even metabolic problems (that I'll talk more about in a minute).  Perhaps equally as important, players who's bodies are not prepared for the rigors of a soccer match won't enjoy the match as much. They won't play as well because they're in their head worrying about being gassed. Or, they find themselves facing an early injury they end up wrestling with the rest of the season, or a season-ending injury that takes them out of the game all together.
The job of being a coach requires men and women who pursue this craft to know the kids they're working with. Different age groups have different needs. They have different communication styles and differing abilities to understand the game, one another, or even instructions given them. Most coach's training programs parse development into physical, mental, emotional, and psycho-social buckets. Today, I'm going to talk with you about age-appropriate mental development. Lest you think this knowledge is just for coaches, I assure you that if you're a parent, you'll benefit as well. I personally believe that every parent would benefit from coaching training & if such a thing as a license to have kids ever became a thing - let's hope it never does - but if it did, I would want parents trained in coaching kids at all ages. The stuff we learn as coaches is stuff that often takes parents years to figure out. We learn the hard way as parents and the stakes are highest with our own kids. A coach works with all types of kids, at all stages of maturity. There are Stages of DevelopmentBefore we start talking about mental development, it helps to be able to frame it in terms of the ages I'm talking about. I base the stages of development in this article on the United Soccer Coaches Player Development Diploma Course. If you're a coach and have a deeper interest in this material, courses taught by United Soccer Coaches het two thumbs up from me. Understanding development across a continuum of 15 years from 3-years-old to 18-years-old not only helps a coach or a parent relate more effectively with kids, but it helps to make the experience more fun. It's frustrating to kids when they are shown material that is too advanced for them. It's boring to kids when they are shown material that is too young for them. Find that goldilocks perfect practice session is a whole lot easier when you understand the development needs of each age group. Please: support the show and join our community as a Patron through my Patreon pageLet's Look At Mental Development in Each of the Five StagesIn the toggle table below, I share some thoughts about each age group within a development stage. My thoughts are by no means exhaustive on the subject. In fact, I'm thinking I could do a separate podcast for each of the elements we consider, but for this one, I'm going to stick as closely as possible with mental development. It's really impossible for me to prevent some bleed over into psychosocial or even physiological aspects of development, because they do affect mental development, but I trust you'll have patience. Stage 1 Kids (3-5-years old)Young players at this stage have short attention spans. They are starting to understand visual instructions, but they tend to do better with concrete demonstrations of what they are expected to do. While many are still "parallel playing" an unaware of team dynamics like passing and group movement, they are starting to become aware of one another and the fact that other people have ideas and emotions. Kids at this age are beginning to become more cautious. They understand there are things in the world that can cause pain and they proceed accordingly. They have wonderful imaginations and can be super spontaneous and creative. In our program, we disguise "lessons" in the form of games. To teach movements like hopping, we might have them pretend they are bunny rabbits escaping from a fox, or we might work on coordination by playing body part tag with a ball (When I say Crumpet, touch the ball with your elbow!). Stage 2 Kids (6-8-years old)Kids in this age group still love games and imagination. Their attention span is becoming a little longer but it is inconsistent. They can focus on one task longer (not as many changes in activities). These kids talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. Their interests change frequently. They learn quickly. They like to try new activities,
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