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Ca$h Cow$ Official Rules


Ca$h Cow$ Sweepstakes





HOW TO ENTER: Between January 20, 2013 and May 20, 2013, (the “Entry Period”) all U9-U16 teams participating in the 2013 SPORTS AUTHORITY STATE CUP- CAL SOUTH or 2013 CAL SOUTH NATIONAL CUP will be automatically entered into the sweepstakes.


ELIGIBILITY: Sweepstakes only open to Cal South U9-U16 soccer teams that are actively participating in the 2013 Sports Authority State Cup- Cal South or 2013 Cal South National Cup.  Limit one entry per team.  Employees (and their immediate families (parent, child, spouse or sibling and their respective spouses, regardless of where they reside) and those living in their same households, whether or not related) of Stremicks Heritage Foods (“Sponsor”), its wholesalers and distributors, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, Sweepstakes Administrator, and any other entity involved in the development or execution of the Sweepstakes, are not eligible to enter or win.  By participating, entrants (or, if eligible minors, their parents or legal guardians) agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of the judges and/or Sponsor, which are binding and final on matters relating to this sweepstakes. Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws. Void where prohibited by law.


DRAWING:  Twenty (20) Grand Prize winners will be randomly selected at 2013 Sports Authority State Cup- Cal South or 2013 Cal South National Cup events throughout the Sweepstakes Period. Teams will be randomly selected from the published tournament brackets based on field location and game times throughout the tournaments.  At least one boys and girls team in each age group (U9-U16) will be randomly selected to win.  The Team Manager on-site (or representative who registered the team at the tournament) will be awarded the prize on-site on behalf of the team. In the event that the field location or schedule changes, alternate winners will be selected. The odds of winning depend on the number of participating teams during the Sweepstakes Period.  Potential winner will be notified on-site at the state tournament. If Sponsor is unable to make contact a potential winner on-site during the selected window, or a potential winner is not in compliance with these rules, prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner selected.


PRIZES: GRAND PRIZE (20): A $500 Cash Card, to be utilized toward the winning team’s tournament fees. Approximate Retail Value (ARV): five hundred dollars ($500).  The team prize will be awarded in the name of the Team Manager on-site (or representative who registered the team at the tournament).  The prize is non-transferable and no substitutions or cash redemptions will be permitted.  All taxes on the Prize are the sole responsibility of the Winner.


GENERAL CONDITIONS: Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, or communications line failure which may occur during the Sweepstakes.  By accepting the Prize, Winner agrees to allow the use of his or her name, address, photograph, statements, likeness and/or voice, in perpetuity, in all media now known and hereinafter developed (including without limitation print, broadcast and Internet) for all legitimate business purposes including without limitation advertising, promotional activities, and publicity without additional compensation, unless prohibited by law.  Winner will execute any and all documents reasonably requested to evidence such consent.  By accepting Prize, Winner agrees to release and hold Sponsor, its wholesalers, distributors, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, agents, employees, advertising and promotion agencies, and Sweepstakes Administrator harmless from any and all damages, costs, liabilities or claims, with respect to, or in any way arising from the Sweepstakes or the acceptance and/or use/misuse of the Prize.  Under no circumstances will any entrant be permitted to obtain awards for, and entrants waive all rights to claim, punitive, incidental, consequential, or any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses.  All causes of action arising out of or connected with this Sweepstakes, or any prize awarded, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action.  Sponsor reserves the right to prohibit the participation of an entrant if fraud or tampering is suspected or if the entrant fails to comply with any provision in these Official Sweepstakes Rules.  Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel or suspend the online Sweepstakes and award Prize in a random drawing from all eligible entries received prior to such action, should causes beyond the control of Sponsor corrupt the administration, security or proper play of the Sweepstakes.  This Sweepstakes is being administered by X! PROMOS, LLC (Administrator), an independent judging organization, whose decision in all matters shall be final.  This Sweepstakes is subject to applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. This Sweepstakes will be governed by the laws of the state of California without regard to conflict of law principles, and by entering you consent to jurisdiction and venue in the courts of the state of California.


PRIVACY:  Sponsor and/or Administrator may collect the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of entrants, including the Prize Winner and Guest.  Sponsor and/or Administrator may use this information to administer participation in the Sweepstakes.  Upon entry, Sponsor and/or Administrator may ask an entrant permission to send future marketing information.  


TERMS OF USE, DISCLAIMERS & PRIVACY POLICIES: Entrants will review and agree to comply with the Terms of Use, Disclaimers & Privacy Policies (“Terms”) found on http://www.stremicksheritageorganic.com before entering the Sweepstakes and when participating in the Sweepstakes.


WINNERS LIST: For the names of the Winners, visit StremicksHeritageOrganic on Facebook between January 20, 2013 and May 31, 2013.


Sponsor: STREMICKS HERITAGE FOODS, 4002 Westminster Ave, Santa Ana, CA92703.


Administrator: X! PROMOS LLC, 15375 Barranca Pkwy, #I-103, Irvine, CA 92618.




College Soccer: What to expect when you get there

What to expect when you get there?

So now what? You have finished your club career, graduated from high school and are leaving home. Summer workout complete, bags are packed but what should you expect when you arrive for pre-season? Well the best advice that I can give is to expect the unexpected and expect stress. You are about to be challenged mentally and physically beyond what you could have imagined all the while away from the comforts of home.

Not only do you have to adjust to college life, but as a soccer athlete you are put through grueling practices, fitness tests, and battles with your teammates. You may even be battling for playing time against your roommate. Sound fun?  Well for a soccer junkie who thrives on competition it is fun, but you have to be able to withstand the torture.

Most schools start pre-season with a physical and fitness tests. You should have been practicing these tests all summer to be prepared but there is nothing like running them on campus, running for your life is more like it. If you don’t make the fitness tests there are usually consequences like the “Breakfast Club”, which usually entails running at 6:00am with an assistant coach and the rest of the lot that didn’t pass the fitness.  I still have the memory of my coach shouting on the track 11:50, 11:51, 11:52 as I came across the finish line for the Cooper Test. Never ran so fast those last few steps in my life! So again I can’t stress enough how important your summer workout sessions are for your success.

You probably will also encounter the Beep Test at pre-season. This test is a coaches’ favorite. It’s a shuttle run type test that has to be completed on a pattern of beeps. And you will swear that your coach has a faster version of it than yours that you practiced during the summer. Again, get a copy of it and practice it multiple times so you know what to expect.

One of the hardest things about going into college soccer is encountering the “SHARKS” which is what I call the older players on the team. This group would rather eat you for lunch when you least expect it; then relinquish playing time to a freshman! Encountering the team dynamic, making friends and proving yourself all are scary situations. You probably won’t like everyone on your team, but make sure to prove yourself on the field with your play and not with your mouth. Sometimes novice players make the mistake about bragging about where they played club or what they did in high school. Your new teammates all have the same things on their resumes, so they really could care less. All they want to know is can you hang on the field?

Mental mind games. Your coaches have a crazy plan for everything. They want to test match-ups, see who plays well together, or who may be mentally weak. They may try to stress you out to see how you react. They may ask you to play a new position. Or they may not even talk to you much. Don’t worry about it. Don’t waste time or energy worrying about why you got put on the “blue team” for a scrimmage. Focus on what you can control; which is how you play, your attitude and your self-confidence. Your first season is a tough mentally grueling experience. It will teach you a lot about you as a person. Choose to control your attitude and work rate. You can’t control anything else outside of that.


Time management. Be prepared to have a lot on your plate, especially once classes start. You have a strict soccer schedule, and classes to attend. You must learn to factor in study time even when the temptation of going out socially seems much more fun. Your non athlete friends won’t understand why you can’t hang out with them a lot but they aren’t the ones that have to leave on a road trip and have to get an assignment done ahead of time! You will need to learn to tell your friends, “No” a lot. That’s ok; those same friends will be the ones that are on the sideline cheering the loudest for you when you become a starter.

Cover your bases academically. Let your professors know right away you are an athlete and make arrangements for missed time for road trips and any subsequent assignments or tests that may need to be turned in early. Some professors are a bit anti-athlete. They may give you grief for missing class due to soccer. No matter how you try to schedule your classes you will miss some class time along the way due to your sport.  It is best to meet with your professor on the first day of class and let them know ahead of time any days you may miss due to your soccer schedule. It will go a long way with your professors.

All of this is a lot of work. It may sound stressful and may not sound like much fun. But somehow it is. Playing college soccer is a special experience, one which you will miss when you are finished. You will be friends with your college teammates forever because of the experiences that you shared during the good, the bad and the ugly. So make sure to enjoy the moment! Being a college soccer player is a special thing. Many people wish they could have your spot on the roster. Make sure to appreciate it. You get extra special experiences that regular students can’t enjoy. Enjoy the travel, enjoy the camaraderie within your team, and enjoy being a role model to young soccer players out there who look up to you. It sounds cheesy but you have attained one of your childhood dreams and you should be proud of your hard work and dedication. Make sure to appreciate the time you have as a college athlete because it goes by fast!



How Do College Coaches Assess Players?

As a former college coach, I have experience assessing players and have often been asked by parents, “What are college coaches looking for in a player?” When thinking about that question, my best answer was summed up fantastically by a long-time friend and colleague, Mr. Roby Stahl. I couldn’t have said it better myself, please enjoy his article below.

BY ROBY STAHL (reprinted with permission Roby Stahl’s Striker School, LLC, Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1731961)

One of the difficulties that players face is realizing how coaches are assessing their talent and potential as a student-athlete. How you perform under game conditions sets the yardstick on how you will be measured. The game demands infinite variety technically, tactically, physically, and psychologically. The game features the excitement and power of two teams trying to score goals on the attacking side and defying that goals will be scored on the defending side.

Coaches will see in this competitive environment which players are totally committed on maintaining or regaining possession of the ball. Under the pressurizing challenge of opponents who are restricting the space and time for players to read and assess a situation and to adapt themselves successfully. Can they collect a ball safely, initiate a pass, a run, a turn, a feint, and carry out some surprising unpredictable moves, in order to help themselves or a teammate score a goal?

Good defenders will be able to read and anticipate attacking methods, pursuing and chasing the ball immediately, closing down the attack in space, smothering the attacker’s reaction time, intercept passes, steal the ball back, and quickly initiate the attack. All successful coaches are looking for those players who have the skill and desire to attack and to defend.

Every good defender in possession knows how to switch from defending to attacking play. Their agility and skill allow them to run forward, dribble at opponents, play one-twos by using up front players, and shield the ball and to have the courage to shoot at goal and score.

Players are complete only when developed in all areas outstanding skill with a weakness in speed, strength, and power makes a player less desirable. The same of players who are physical specimens only to have them have below average technique. And what of the player with good physical prowess and skill, yet who has no idea of the tactical elements of their team’s play? Even less desirable are those players who fall apart psychologically under pressure, “hiding” or lashing out at opponents, teammates, referees, coaches, or parents during the big game.

These elements are developed by exposure to highly challenging daily training sessions and frequent highly combative matches. This will insure development of the following vital components of the highly recruitable player.

Technical Ability

Ball Control: You must be able to bring a ball played to you under control instantly and smoothly. This is the ability to collect and move in a different direction without stopping the ball completely, yet still maintaining it securely. Develop the technique of receiving a pass at top speed. This means not slowing down to collect a ball coming on the ground, bouncing, or in the air. You must be able to protect the ball by shielding it, and developing deception in order to get rid of your opponent.

Passing: You must be able to successfully complete short and long range passes. This incorporates all of your ball skills, including heading, bending, chipping, and the ability to drive the ball to a partner. You will find that at a high level, it is easier to control and make quick decisions with a ball that is driven to you rather than weakly played. Develop the skill of one-touch and two touch passing.

Dribbling: This is the ability to feint, burst past opponents, change directions and speed at will, and break through packed defensive lines. Can you exhibit quick feet, combined with a sense of comfort under pressure, to penetrate into space to open opportunities for yourself or a partner?

Heading: The ability to head at goal after crosses, heading high, wide and deep for defensive clearances, heading balls as a one-touch pass(both into space or to a partner’s feet) in order to create shooting chances. Can you effectively demonstrate the ability to do this under the duress of the game?

Finishing: Nothing makes more of an impression on people than the skill of goal scoring. This aspect takes in the correct technique of striking the ball in various ways: driving low balls, hitting, volleys, half-volleys, half-chances, chipping, bending, heading, etc. Good goal-scorers can also finish with their chest, heel toe and thigh. Coaches are looking for that player who can exhibit composed aggressiveness, swift and secure decision-taking at the opportune times. The successful goal-scorer has the mentality of a great used-car salesman, very aggressive and not afraid of failure.

Tactical Awareness

Tactical insight incorporates the anticipation, reading, and execution of certain clues that happen during possession and not in possession.

In Attack:

  1. Player not in possession:
    1. Makes themselves available for the ball, perhaps by a diagonal run or cross-over run.
    2. Realizes when it is crucial to offer close support and when to stay away.
    3. Recognizes the proper time to execute “take-overs” and “overlaps.”
    4. Player in possession:
      1. Has good peripheral vision, allowing the player to recognize the correct time to switch the ball to the other side of the field.
      2. Has good penetrating vision, allowing the player to see and utilize players who are far down the field.
      3. Recognizes the correct time to play directly, and when it is important to hold the ball (shielding or dribbling) or when to run at top speed past players opening up passing angles for his team.
      4. Sees opportunities to play “one-twos.”

In Defense:

During the immediate pursuit, and desire to regain possession of the ball, the player should recognize:

1. When to race forward to intercept the pass.

2. When to mark the opponent tight in order to discourage the ball from being passed to the player (pressure).

3. When, where and how to tackle.

4. When to jockey the ball carrier and force them away from the goal (patience).

5. The quickest avenue of attack upon regaining the ball.

Physical Aspects:

Physical fitness for the soccer player must condition that person to play better soccer. Too many times fitness take the form of running that has nothing to do with the modern demands of the game. Fitness must be designed to help a player’s self-assertion when controlling the ball against tacking opposing players throughout the duration of the game. All physical elements must be balances in order to become a complete player. Fitness and ball control must grow together.

Endurance: The ability of a player to commit themselves diligently throughout the game in attack and defense with no sign of fatigue and impaired ball control. That player must constantly be running into open spaces demanding the ball or pulling and committing opposing players to create openings. Even though this is also a tactical commitment, it will only be successful if you have the endurance capabilities to run for ninety minutes. The coach will be examining your physical exertion as you are being exposed to tactical problems you are trying to solve in the game.

Speed: The ability to accelerate quickly and maintain that acceleration of the various lengths that player’s position demands. As an example, the forward needs acceleration with changes of speed over three to twenty yards. Elements include:

  1. Pure straight ahead running speed.
  2. Lateral speed (changing direction).
  3. Change of speed (slow to fast, fast to half speed).
  4. Deceleration (stopping on a dime).

After these basics are attained, speed must be practices with the ball.

Agility: The ability to change direction quickly. Twisting, turning while dribbling, readjusting your body to control an awkwardly bouncing ball, and getting up quickly after a tackle are a few examples. This area is enhanced by flexibility exercises such as stretching, ball gymnastics, and skill training with the ball. Conditioning training must be combined with skill and tactical training.

Strength: The ability to effectively use your body to win physical confrontations. Strength is exhibited during tackling (1v1), winning the aerial duel, and changing directions effectively. It is also important to learn how to effectively use that strength to your advantage as it demonstrated in using your arms to hold a player off while running at top speed with the ball or in shooting for power. Much of your strength and power training can be combined with technique training.

Mental/Attitude and Personal Traits:

Regardless of a player’s performance, their skill, tactical, and physical display, other factors heavily influence a coach’s decision to recruit a given athlete. Coaches will look at their mental and psychological make-up, their mental ability to quickly and correctly read and assess situations, their motivational drive and will power, their self-confidence and emotional stability. Competition reveals character!

Each coach loves to identify key players with personalities and qualities that cause them to become team leaders. The following personality traits are the most recognizable:

Drive: Pure will power, eager to achieve goals, a burning desire to achieve success, strong self-motivate, commitment, dedication, determination.

Aggressiveness: “go getter,” strong self-assentation’s, takes risks, wants to dominate opponents, works hard and is ruthless in attack and defense. Stays away from: bad losers, those inclined to retaliation/revenge fouls, those who lose self-control, and anyone with a general lack of discipline.

Determination: Seeks the direct way towards goal, no compromising, doesn’t hesitate when making decisions, willingness, fully concentrated, success oriented.

Responsibility: Intelligent, can read the game tactically (anticipation), conscientious, reliable, wants security, cooperative, ready for compromise, stable, and skillful player.

Leadership: Intelligence, dedication, pride, bears responsibility for the team, influences the environment, anticipation, intuition, independent and spontaneous, convincing and dominating player, hard worker, no surrender, composed, self-controlled, endurable, communicative, respected, and trusting.

Self-Control: Discipline, emotional stability, composure, discretion, defying conflicts.

Self-Confidence: Secure ball control and determined application of skills and tactics under pressure (both external and self-imposed). Danger-these players tend to underrate opposing players, show a lack of willingness to be coached, and can become easily complacent.

Mental Toughness: Persistency, consistency, commitment throughout the game, no surrender, tough self-assertion.

Coachability: Ready to learn and to achieve goals, self-motivated, attentive and receptive, willingness, interested, spontaneous, committing themselves, likes to discuss problems, hard worker, self-disciplined, creative, constructive, progressive.

Conscientiousness: Sensitive, nervous, pre-contest anxiety, diligent, always wants to give their best, modest, reserved, fearful, pondering, self-critical, depends on success, reliable player in solid environment.

Trustfulness: Reliable, self-confident, will be respected and attracts sympathy of teammates, untiring commitments, composed and self-controlled, determined influential and communicative, open-minded and approachable, good team spirit.

In summary, the above article hits on all the key points that college coaches are looking for when recruiting soccer players. It is the best article I have read on the topic and I thank Roby Stahl for his permission for the reprint. As a player, you cannot just be proficient in one area. You must be a total package and be an impact person on and off the field. You never know when a college coach may be watching, so try to always walk the walk. When I was a college coach I use to watch how a player warmed up and interacted with their teammates and coaches, if that wasn’t a positive relationship then I didn’t even care how good that player was on the field.

Self-Training & the 10,000 hour rule

In the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, he mentions that 10,000 hours of practice is the basis for success for many elite performers. Should we also apply this rule to soccer training? My answer would be YES!

If one were to do the math, 10,000 hour would equal 20 hours a week of practice over a 10 year period. Most soccer teams train 2-3 times per week for 1.5-2 hours. So applying the 10,000 hour rule, a club soccer player gets only on the high end 6 hours plus a game, so let’s say 8 hours maximum a week of soccer training. If that player is fortunate enough to live in a climate where you can play 52 weeks out of the year, it would still take 24 years for that player to hit 10,000 hours if all they did was team training! So, how important is self-training you ask? VERY!

Many kids today do not initiate play on their own. They wait for the coach to tell them what to do or wait for practice to come around before picking up a ball. Yes our culture has changed and the streets are not as safe as they were when I was growing up. However, in order to improve, players still need to practice at home on their own in order to master technique. Practice time with a coach is short, and you often find that the best players take some responsibility for their own skill development.

Putting in time outside of the organized practice helps to lay sensory motor memories for the brain which make movements instinctual and automatic. When you watch pro soccer players, they often look fluid, and almost effortless with every touch. They have put in the 10,000+ hours so that they often don’t have to think of the movement they are performing, their brain recognizes what technique is needed and the body follows.

Some suggestions for self-training are listed below:

  1. Find a wall to pass the ball against. A kick-back, tennis hitting wall or a garage door work well. Work on one-touch, and two touch passing with both feet. Set up two cones about 5 yards away from the wall and about 5 yards apart. Your pass has to travel at least 5 yards and cannot go out of the area or the pass doesn’t count. Time yourself for 1 minute. How many right foot only 2 touches you can get? Then repeat with the left foot. Do the same for one touch passing with both feet. You can progress to receiving with the right, and a passing back with the left and then the opposite (receive left, pass right. ) Make competitions with yourself and repeat the sets.
  2. Pass the ball against a wall and work on receiving on the half turn, then dribble out and do a move, dribble back and then play the next pass. Repeat for 1 minute. Work on receiving and dribbling with both feet. And do at least 3 sets per side.
  3. Juggle the ball, then every couple of touches, pop the ball up in the air and collect it with different surfaces (outside of foot, inside of foot, top of foot, thigh, chest, head) and then dribble off into space. Repeat for one minute for each surface and side.
  4. Set up 5-8 cones or markers in an area. Pretend that these markers are defenders. Dribble around for a minute at a time, and work on turns with each foot. Some suggested turns are  outside cut, inside chop, pull back, cut behind. Then work on moves attacking the markers/defenders. Scissors, step overs, inside outs, the V with both feet-each for a minute.

*It is important the 1-4 are done at game speed and on a time limit to simulate pressure*

  1. Find friends, parents, neighbors and play small sided whenever you can. (1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4). Anything can be a goal, use bags, shoes, cans whatever, set up a goal, make your boundaries and play. Small-sided games maximize your touches and will allow you to try things that maybe you would not try in practice. Try moves that you have seen on TV and be creative!

If your soccer player can commit to the self-training suggestions above even just 2 days a week on their own, you should see a steady improvement in their technique over a period of time which will then translate into better play on the field. And your coach will be happy that you are putting in the extra hours of training!


Training like an athlete: healthy living

I was out at a soccer tournament observing this weekend, (yes I am a soccer junkie.) When to my horror I watched as a parent walked over to her daughter’s bench and tried to hand her daughter a breakfast sandwich from a popular fast food chain at halftime! That same player after the game was scarfing down that breakfast sandwich post-game. Come on people, you cannot expect your players to perform at their best when you are feeding them unhealthy food or drinks. The funny thing is that I later ran into that same player at a restaurant literally 15 min after the game and she was eating again and drinking soda! Oh and did I mention this player was a goalkeeper who did not do much running during the match?

Soccer players need good nutrition always. Pre-match, during and post-match. But in today’s rush rush world, nutrition usually takes the hit as parents utilize fast food to feed their hungry players. I could focus on many aspects of a soccer players’ diet but today I will talk about the importance of calcium in a female soccer players’ pre and post-match diet.

For girls and young women, it is important to focus on getting the proper amount of calcium in your diet. If you’re an athlete, you should be concerned about taking in enough calcium.  Improper calcium consumption can weaken your bones, increase your risk of stress fractures, and also can inhibit proper muscle functioning. Under-consumption of calcium can also raise your chances of developing osteoporosis. The recommended daily intake is about 1200mg of calcium. One cup of milk contains approximately 300 mg of calcium. FIFA, the governing body for soccer, has also recommended that female soccer players eat a calcium rich diet in order to reduce a females’ chance of stress fractures and osteoporosis, which develops more in females than males. They also recommend getting enough Vitamin D, which is also found in milk.

Research is now showing that scientists are EVEN recommending drinking chocolate milk after strenuous exercise because:

  • It is ideal 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrate grams to protein grams, which appears to enhance glycogen replenishment into the muscles post workout. Regular milk has a carb to protein ratio of about 2 to 1.
  • It contains whey protein, which is digested and absorbed quickly, getting essential amino acids circulating in the blood stream soon after consumption. Whey protein is thought to enhance the building and repair of muscle.
  • It also contains the protein casein, which is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey protein and sustains amino acids in the circulation many hours after consumption. Casein is thought to reduce the amount of muscle breakdown.

An easy way to get your proper calcium intake is to have a glass of Stremick’s Heritage Organic milk in the morning with breakfast. Maybe grab a yogurt as a snack before training, and to follow up post training and post-game with a Stremick’s Disney Milk Chocolate milk single immediately after heavy training. You would be taking a step towards better nutrition and healthy living, while improving your overall soccer performance.

True soccer players should watch what they eat. Don’t be that player that eats poor but expects results.  Specifically if you are female athlete, one of your main concerns should be proper intake of calcium. And just think, an easy way you can get an advantage over your opponent, is by starting to include Stremick’s Heritage Organic milk products into your daily diet!


Counting Your Calcium: How Much Is Enough?’ The Physician and Sportsmedicine, vol. 23(1), pp. 21- 22, 1995.

Chocolate Milk vs. Recovery Drinks: Which One Comes Out on Top? Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Health and Fitness for Female Football Players, A guide for players and coaches. FIFA WOMEN’s Conference Booklet. pp.52-53, 2012.

Playing time debate: Olders vs Youngers

True story, I was speaking with a U9 club coach who called one of his players and told her not to bother attending a State Cup game because she wouldn’t play. They needed to win, and he knew that she wouldn’t play. He didn’t want to waste the players’ time or her parents. The coach felt he was doing a noble thing, I thought to myself, what type of message are you sending to a player who is 8 years old?

Should there be a minimum amount of playing time for youth soccer players? The debate over playing time in recreational and club sports and whether it is age specific can go on and on. Here are a few key points from US Youth Soccer and its’ new player curriculum as well as my two cents on the issue.

Players that fall into the U6-U12 age group are classified as Zone 1. The emphasis should be on the technical aspects of the game and match outcome is not highlighted over basic player development. The basis of measurement of success in this zone should be focused on improvement of ball skills, understanding the rules, sportsmanship and learning the basic principles of soccer. Players in this zone are still developing their three main domains, the psychomotor (physical), cognitive (learning), and psychosocial(emotional). Players may be ahead in one developmental domain, but lacking behind their age group in others.  They are just starting the basics of their soccer career and are should be learning the FUNdamentals still no matter what the competitive level.

Zone 1 players who are playing in recreational soccer leagues typically get even amounts of playing time based on the league rules. However, if players U6-U12 are playing in a club environment, they may not be getting meaningful minutes based on the club or the coaches’ philosophy. It is important as a coach to communicate to the parents how you deal with playing time. Is it earned? Is it based on practice attendance? Does it differ depending on the opponent or tournament?

It is best for the players for those in Zone 1 get as much game time as possible and learn to apply what they do in training into the game. Not letting players get meaningful minutes is like having a student go to school, but yet not allowing them to take the test on the material taught. College or national team coaches don’t care how many games a player won at the Zone 1 level, so why do we?

Zone 2 involves the U13-U17, coaches should be focusing more on tactics, team formations and game strategies in training. As a coach, you will find that Zone 2 players will physically be going through many changes, learning will increase and emotional development may very well be all over the shop.

As the players age, they begin to realize a hierarchy of skill and their spot within pecking order of the team. They also recognize differences in training habits, and keep track of whether so and so was at training or not. As a coach, in these older age groups you also may get more pressure to win from parents and or your club, so the balance of playing time for winning versus development can be a challenge.

My recommendations for dealing with playing time for Zone 2 players are as follows:

  • Still try your best to give the players meaningful minutes. The score still does not define you or the players, the quality of soccer should be the measure of success.
  • Communicate your standards to the players and parents. If you reduce playing time for missing training then say so and stick to it.
  • Explain how you balance playing time with results. Do you stick with players who are most capable of getting you a win in close matches? If so, explain it to the team.
  • Cycle your season with league games, scrimmages, tournaments and State Cup. You may want to set up scrimmages and play your substitutes more in those if playing time is an issue for a few players. You may also want to look at how you play people in tournaments. Do you really need to limit playing time in regular tournaments?
  • Give feedback to players about what they can do to get more playing time, if you are not giving them meaningful minutes.
  • Reward hard work. If someone is working really hard in training, give them a go as a starter. They may surprise you!

Overall, it is important for us as youth coaches to remember that it is our job to train our players in practice, teach them what they need them for the game and then allow them to showcase their learning on match day. If we keep in mind that soccer development is more like a marathon and not a sprint, then hopefully we can realize that all our players have something to contribute. And ultimately they need to be given a chance to perform. As the players age, playing time may decrease for some players but it is our challenge as coaches to push and include all the players on our roster giving them meaningful minutes.

After all, as Albert Einstein said, “play is the highest form of research.”

Direct Attacking Soccer versus Indirect Attacking Soccer

When you watch your child’s soccer match do you ever stop and notice how many consecutive passes your team makes before losing possession? Or do you find yourself cheering when a player on your son or daughter’s team makes a big long booming kick to no one?

How many times have you watched a soccer team mindlessly whack a long ball up the field to a kid who is maybe big and strong for his/her age and that player uses their speed or big kick to score? That may work on the lower levels or for a short time.  But what happens when that big, strong, fast player gets caught by the rest of their peers in size and speed? That player, and those around  him/her have also not learned the technical skills in order to learn how to pass to feet, support each other off the ball, or learned how to be comfortable on the ball or how to best utilize dribbling moves. Nor have they learned tactically how to problem solve on the field. All they know is kick it long to Joey/Jane and they will do all the work.

The above mentioned attack is goal oriented and direct, much like our American mentality. Many times it is referred to as counter attacking soccer, winning the ball from the opposition and going route 1 toward the goal as fast as possible. This style is called kickball or boom ball in layman’s terms but as a soccer nation we are slowly starting to move away from that the higher levels. But the trickle-down effect within our youth game needs to happen much faster. There are indeed times to use a more direct style, such as in the last minutes of a game if you are down a goal, or if you are playing against a superior team who presses many players forward and you are looking to catch them off guard. But in general our youth teams need to be moving more towards what our current Men’s National team head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, wants from his players, “We want to start to dictate the pace of the game. We want to challenge our players to improve technically in order to keep the ball.”

Possession(Indirect) based soccer is when a team connects passes to feet systemically attacking space and attempts to string passes together in order to move up vertically and laterally around the field. In this style the defending team chases the ball and if they are not disciplined the defenders will get pulled out of position and then the team with the ball then must recognize its window to attack and go to goal and score.

This more sophisticated style involves not giving away possession, but in order to do this, the coaches must teach the players to be comfortable on the ball. Teaching them how to properly collect a pass, take a quality first touch in the direction of space or where you want to pass and to pass with purpose to a teammate. This style requires that coaches at the youngest ages focus on technique over strength and patience over impulsiveness. It stresses build up, rhythm to the game and that the players must be educated in angles of support, passing to the proper foot, receiving with the proper foot, limiting their touches, playing the way they face, and  knowing when to play long or when to go short. All of this however, cannot happen if you cannot pass or receive accurately.

This possession style soccer will not happen over-night, and as a coach and team you must commit many, many, hours of technical training on passing and receiving. And then progress to introducing how to use that technique to possess the ball within groups of threes and fours.

Teaching possession is a process, it takes time. You may look great against a weaker opponent but you may have to weather a tough patch or two against stronger teams. But in the end your players will be skillful, will be making decisions for themselves and will frustrate and fatigue the opponent by making them chase the ball all over the field. And generally you have a better chance of winning the game if YOUR team has the ball and the opponent doesn’t!