From the Readers – Responses to January’s Soccer California

Dear Editor,

I've been involved in youth soccer and CYSA since 1989. The interview in the latest Soccer California with Bob Bigelow is absolutely the best thing I have ever read about youth soccer. He is 100-percent right on every single point. He describes the dynamic with competitive soccer and competitive parents in our league exactly. I would only add that not only is selecting kids at young ages bad for their development, it also inflicts a cost on the recreational program. The level of recreational play in our league at U10 has declined so precipitously over the last five years, that the kids left behind have no chance whatsoever to progress. A strong team that wisely eschews traveling and competitive play has nobody to play.

So I have a question: When are the state and national soccer organizations, which know that Bigelow is exactly right, going to put an end to all competitive soccer before U14? (You don't really need to answer this one; I know the answer.)

Bruce Greenlee
Registrar, Richmond United Soccer Club
Alameda Contra Costa Youth Soccer League
(Dist. 4)

Dear Editor,

I hate to write this but our State Directors’ article in the last issue of Soccer California was right on. We all know that when your team is relaxed and focused, they play better — the shots on goal are more accurate and more solid. Why are they better? It is because techniques learned correctly come through as natural acts. You have played and I have played and you know that when you are in the zone, you see everything early make decisions early, so you can make the pass shot, etc., with perfection.

But the big problem in all this is to make a perfect pass — for example, a pass that needs to go down the sideline to a forward needs sometimes to be played by the inside of the foot with a sweep round and through the ball, with just the right amount of power. Whoa! If done right, the ball moves towards the side line, curves round a defender, continues to curve back down to the forward, landing just in front of the feet.

But this takes practice to get the technique right. What, practice? Yes, practice!

John Hodgson
D-7 Commissioner

Editor’s Note: Want to learn about how to make a perfect pass? We will teach you how at a CYSA Coaching School Course held in your community. For a schedule of courses go to our web site,

Dear Editor,

I found the article “Hog the Ball, Kid,” by Sasha Issenberg to be very interesting to read and possibly disturbing. I was not sure if some parts were supposed to be humorous, what points were intentionally exaggerated for effect or if the author was actually defending the idea of encouraging children to focus on developing their own skills at the expense of their teammates.

I think that the individual attack is one of a set of tools that each player can and should master. However, like any of the others, if it is overused, it will lose its effectiveness.

I disagree with the idea that the reason that the U.S. does not develop a preponderance of the world’s best soccer players is due to the fact that the players are not encouraged to make individual effort. I think that soccer is just not as much a part of the culture here as it is elsewhere.

I remember a game when my son was U10 against a team that had a predominantly Hispanic population for its draw. The score was 10-0. It was the last game of the day and one of the fathers on my son’s team broke out a football and started throwing it around with some of the players. I glanced down toward the other end of the field and there was a group of dads kicking the soccer ball around with the kids. I said to the assistant coach, there is the reason that we are unable to compete.

I have watched, coached and refereed soccer games for a number of years and it is my estimation that the best teams — the teams that score — use the whole team. In a good game, goals are not scored by individuals but by a series of well-executed plays. Many times a goal is set up at the defensive end of the field by a steal and a well-placed pass to an open player, which is followed by a series good passes terminating in a good finish. Soccer is so much more than "run and gun".

I play pick-up soccer on the weekends and there are many players that play like they own the ball when they get it. These players make the game a lot less fun for everyone else. When they get the ball, their teammates stop moving and wait for them to lose the ball. Sometimes they beat a player or two, or one out of 10 times they might score. I suppose that they are using the pick-up game to develop their personal skills at the expense of the enjoyment of the rest of us, much like the recommendations entertained in the article. These people are not the best players. I have noticed that some of them cannot even complete a decent pass on the rare occasion when that choice is selected.

I have never seen a case where a great soccer player was lost to soccer due to the fact that their creative initiative was repressed by a coach. I hope that the author is exaggerating about the direction of coaching in youth soccer. It would be a shame for all of those who could enjoy the game to give up on teaching teams to play as teams in favor of developing a narrow set of skills for some of the players.

But if the point is merely that individual effort should be encouraged as a tool to develop, I would support that, but I have not seen a deficiency in that direction in my experience.

I think that it is a good idea, however, to ask a player if they think that they made a good choice if they chose to drive when they had a player open on the far side of the goal.

Regards and thanks for all that CYSA does for the children playing this wonderful game.

Justus Wunderle
Bobcats U14G Coach
El Cerrito Futbol Club Coach

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