Dealing with a season postponed by COVID 19
Tom Mura- "Well, I can safely say that it’s been the weirdest week I’ve ever had during a spring season. Things seemed to be changing by the hour not just by the day. At the end of my intro last week I said that I hoped to be back on the field in two weeks. Now it’s looking more like two months would be a more realistic time frame.
The local league, and also our club, have canceled everything through April 30. There’s at least a chance that May will end up being canceled as well. Our health, and the health of the community at large are much more important than a soccer season but that doesn’t mean that all of this is still not massively disappointing to everyone involved.
It’s easy to see these kinds of events only from one’s own perspective: kids just want to play, parents don’t want to pay for what they’re not getting, coaches, who rely on coaching fees as a part, or all, of their income what to be paid and clubs can’t afford to pay coaches and refund parents at the same time. There are no completely right answers here. The best we can do is keep an eye on what’s in everyone’s best interest and get through this time together."
Myth: We have to play more matches year round or we will lose our edge.
Truth: We need to give them a break for a period of time.
Too many matches
At the ages of 11-14, we really need to start practicing the right number of matches for our players.
The book A Nation of Wimps offers this statistic: In 2003, the latest year for which national data are available, more than 3.5 million overuse injuries in children were treated in the United States, out of approximately 35 million children from six to twenty-one who participate in team sports. It later goes on to state, “It’s not enough that they play on a school team, two travel teams, and go to four camps for their sport in the summer,” said one family sports medicine expert. “They have private instructors for that one sport that they see twice a week. Then their parents get them out to practice in the backyard at night”
College coaches are not looking for U8 champions or elite teams ranked in the top five of an online soccer database. Instead, they are looking for players who developed in a supportive, creative and healthy environment that fosters skill and love for the game. For example, College coaches will asks recruits if they play another sport. There are valuable lessons to be learned by playing and trying different sports and not specializing in just one.
There is a saying that the game is the best teacher, but if kids don’t get a chance to learn from their mistakes and practice technically and tactically, they will not get better from just playing match after match. It would be like a teacher giving his/her students test after test without teaching them in between. We need to embrace the idea of less tournament games to limit the number of matches and have more training sessions in between. US Soccer’s best practices document suggestion is to have 2-3 trainings per one match. The maximum number of matches should be no more than 30 in a calendar year. “French children typically play no more than one game a week, and the seasons aren’t endless. Even as high as the U13 level, most club teams play 30 or 35 games a year, max.
In the book Game On, the author tells the story of Thierry Henry from France who trained at Clairefontaine (their national training center) at age 13. During that time, there was little emphasis on building speed, strength, and other physical traits but technique, technique, technique. If he tried something new, he wasn’t punished. He was encouraged to experiment with the ball and perfect his technique. There were no matches during his two-year residency.
Tournaments were originally created to provide outside competition in an environment where travel soccer teams were the exception, rather than a rule. More and more clubs are offering tournaments to help raise money for their organization. An unintended consequence of the increased availability of tournament play is that teams are participating in more tournaments which means players are playing more games in a shorter amount of time.
Our very own State Cup format is one that needs to be reviewed. Our current format places teams in a tournament style game series where the winner goes on to play into the State Cup Finals weekend. With three games in a very short time frame, this format encourages a “fitness contest” winner instead of being a measure of soccer skill.
Now that we've had two weeks to reflect on out busy lives it's important to remember when we do get back on the field that we are considerate of children and we continue to fight the urge to over play and over use our athletes. It's been super nice being home these past two weeks and enjoying family time. It seems the world has slowed down a bit and I'm ok with this moving forward. As we eventually make our way back to the field let's try to think about what's important. Looking back- what seems important was the random after game pizza party for the team. What's not important is how the kids played that day. Because nobody remembers the game or how a kid played.