From Our Readers

Response to November 2007 Soccer California article entitled “The NEXT Level”:

Dear Koach Karl,

Rene Miramontes' observation (which I assume you share) that we mask technical deficiencies of our players with tactical organization carries all the way to the top, as shown by the U.S. team in Women's World Cup 2007.

To his two recommended areas of technical development, I would add a third and a pair that marry technical skill to individual tactics. My third is “first touch” or “receiving the ball.” Too often, our players greet the ball like a stranger being introduced for the first time, whereas the ball should be welcomed like a friend.


One of the pairs is the skill to beat a player, coupled with the vision to see the opportunity and the willingness to take the risk of exploiting it, particularly in the attacking penalty area. In the world in which I try to teach coaches to live, two of the three possible outcomes are favorable: you either get a shooting opportunity or you are fouled and a penalty. They are worth the risk of losing the ball.

The other pair is shooting itself. Again, it's a matter of combining the skill with the vision of seeing the opportunity (which, as often as not, opens and closes in twinkling) and the willingness to take the responsibility (instead of giving it up and avoiding the risk of criticism for the shot missing).

A few shots are considered ample shooting practice? Bah, humbug! Think how many Larry Bird would take each practice from just a single spot on the floor. Remember back to the Coca-Cola Pele training videos in the 70s, one of which showed him repeatedly being served a ball at a single location and volleying it into the back of the net.

Interestingly, and perhaps without realizing the implications of the relative space he (and you) used in writing about tactics, after two paragraphs about technique, Miramontes continues by devoting four paragraphs to tactical observations.

Jim Madison, Menlo Park

Thanks for writing, Jim. Having observed some top-level youth players in action, another glaring weakness needs to be addressed. We need to coach the addition of a 'Fake or Feint' before making the first touch. That is, disguising the intention of where the ball will be taken (i.e. faking right to take the ball left, and vice versa). Hundreds of our top players have been observed receiving the ball with a 'delicate touch' but without deception. A smart defender can read/predict the intent of the first attacker after only one or two first touches. When the pass comes to the right foot play continues going right and a pass to the left foot results in play continuing left. Extremely few upper body feints or foot fakes were observed in 2007 :(

Hopefully, at the end of 2008 we will be able to write, “All of our players greet the ball like a welcomed friend with a soft touch and a fake/feint prior to reception to deceive the opponent.”

Response to the January 2008 Soccer California article entitled, “Standing On The Sidelines”:

Dear Coach Maher:

After reading Maher's Message in the January 2008 issue of Soccer California, I wanted to let you know that you are "right on" in everything you described or stated in the article. When I started in Youth Soccer in the Sacramento area in 1978, all of us — Players, Coaches, Administrators, and Parents — began our soccer involvement with the idea of having FUN and seeing the kids develop a love for the "World’s Game." My son played 'Recreation Soccer' from 1978 to 1986 and I worked in various volunteer positions with the club, both coaching and administrative. There were no "paid positions" and those of us involved would never have considered being "paid" for our time and efforts.

After my son stopped playing I continued my involvement at the League, District, and State Board level. While some of my expenses may have been reimbursed, it never even crossed my mind to "expect payment" for volunteering my time. Today there are still a lot of great people in Youth Soccer who continue to give of their time and energy with no thought of compensation for their time. However, the pool of volunteers has been decreasing at a steady rate for several years. Are people too busy to give of their time? Do people just want to write a check or pull out their plastic?

Too often I have seen that the person who is unwilling to volunteer or contribute his or her time, is the individual most likely to complain the loudest. These are the individuals who are taking this "great game" away from the children and turning it into yet another youth sport where "winning at ALL costs" is the driving force. As you are very much aware, when the "Game is no longer FUN" the children will stop playing.

I too would like to see the "old timers and newbies working together to bring back the treasure of our children enjoying to play this wonderful game!!"

Please continue to drive this point home in every issue in Maher's Message.

Yours in Soccer and For ALL of Our Children, Ray Welch, US Youth Soccer - Region IV TOPSoccer Chairperson