This article first appeared in the NSCAA's Soccer Journal in 2012
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Are Shorter Players on the way Back?
A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about how many small players Barcelona had on their team. I had a hunch that it was a smaller team than most. So I decided to start researching their size in comparison to other teams. Trying to figure it all out and convert centimetres to feet and inches to research this point seemed very time consuming. I had practically given up on the idea of writing this article until I was watching a baseball game and the announcer said that the next batter up was only 5’10” and was rather small in comparison to the rest of the players in Major League Baseball. I thought that baseball was one sport where height was not such a big factor. Shortly after that I was watching the Barcelona/Real Madrid Super Cup and once again noticed that Barcelona seemed much smaller than their counterparts from Real Madrid. Once again, they ended up winning another trophy. My curiosity helped me get back to my research but it helped that the announcer nicely laid out the facts for me. Barcelona was the smallest team by height in La Liga and one of the shortest teams if not the shortest team in all of Europe as well.
Over the past twenty years or so, athletes in general that make it to the top levels, have been getting taller. Basketball and volleyball players of today would make the tallest players way back look tiny. The same goes for hockey players. Even tennis players today are taller than their predecessors. Sprinters in track and field also are taller than their predecessors.
Baseball players tend to be taller but I did not feel that the short player was unable to compete at the pro level. So I researched the two teams (Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays) that played each other in the game I was watching. Of the 55 players on both rosters, the shortest player was 5’9”. There was one player who was 5’10” tall, 2 players at 5’11”, and the remaining 51 players were all 6 feet or taller. Nine of those 55 players were 6’4” or taller. I was totally surprised that short players that were below 6 feet tall are practically not playing professional baseball.
Needless to say rugby players and American football players are very big and tall. Except for basketball, where players are close to 7 feet tall, other sports have many athletes who are over 6’4”. No longer considered big and un-coordinated, these players are very athletic and in control of their bodies. This leads one to believe that if the genes do not have height in the cards of an aspiring young athlete, then they may as well hang them up if they are trying to make it to the pro ranks.
It seems like the smaller players no longer have much of a chance to make it to the top in most sports.
And for a while, soccer seemed to be heading in the same direction, albeit not as dramatically. That of course, took a thunderous turn when Barcelona won the Champions League last season and proved that big is not necessarily better. Here are the statistics for Barcelona. Of the 20 players on their roster, give or take a half inch, 2 are about 5’6” tall, 3 are 5’7”, 3 are 5’8”, 4 are 5’9”, 2 are 5’10”, 1 is 5’11”, 1 is 6 feet, 2 are 6’1”, 1 is 6’3”, and only 1 is almost 6’4”.
I have always felt that the game of soccer is judged first and foremost by technique, skill, fitness, and knowledge of the game and not by brute force, which often comes from being bigger than the other guy. Although some positions could use taller players, (goalkeepers and defenders), in essence, anyone can play the game at the world’s highest levels regardless of size. Everyone is on a level playing field and that is just another reason why, as we all know, soccer is the beautiful game.
And for all those kids who enjoy playing soccer and want to see how far they can go in the sport, it’s nice to know that for one to be a good soccer player and have the possibility of making it to the highest levels, it’s not about heredity in terms of how tall or strong they will be; it’s about skill.
Thanks for reading,
Monday, November 11, 2013
The Last 9 Seconds
The Secrets to Scoring Goals on The Last Touch
As you can tell, it's been a while since I've blogged and now that I have completed my book, The Last 9 Seconds, it's time to get back to sending information out to all.
As you may know, the book is based on my course called the Golden Goal Scoring Course.
Why do players not score more goals?Have you ever wondered why so many great goal scoring opportunities are not converted into goals? In The Last 9 Seconds, I provide coaches with solutions to this problem tackling it from a psychological perspective. How can a player who can kick, pass, shoot, or head a ball correctly, often miss a golden opportunity?
This book stresses how to coach the players on an in-depth individual basis on how to prepare to score when an opportunity develops. And for the most part, I look at only 9 seconds before that chance comes. What's going on in the mind of the player during those crucial seconds?The book, The Last 9 Seconds is a reference book for coaches to use when their team or players are having problems scoring goals. I tackle the subject with passion because having played as a goalkeeper, I felt that not enough players scored on me when they should have. I figured that either I really fooled the player into missing and I was a great goalkeeper with special mental powers, or players just made poor decisions. I figure the latter is the case.
Not enough players scored on me when they should have.
I know how a player can score on me and it is with this perspective that I studied why players didn't score more goals. I studied the psychological factors that players in scoring positions encounter as well as physical and perception factors. After piecing all these factors together and using my experience coaching players, I put together a program that can help players score more goals in a very short amount of time. Here is the problem. Once I gave my first 3-day course with 5 players, my students scored too many goals immediately after the course. This caused a problem because my program worked too good but could it have been a coincidence? A year later, I ran another course to see if I had an exceptional first sample. After 3 days, the players who took my second course did even better than those from the first year and blew my socks off. At that point I knew I had something special so I stopped running courses to write my book to claim the material.
They scored too many goals!
In 2009, I figured that my book would be ready and therefore I could run another course, which I did in Edmonton with the Edmonton Juventus Soccer Club. Unfortunately, I had problems getting the book out because of layout issues, gaining rights to photo issues, and general design issues. For that reason, the first book prototype did not come out for another year and a half. By this time, another World Cup had been played and I wanted to update the information. Hence another few years had gone by. Once again, I stopped running the course but the Edmonton team I had worked on ended up winning the Canadian Championship and broke the record for the most goals scored in the finals. The president of Edmonton Juventus said that "even the subs were scoring"!
"Even the subs were Scoring!
So here we are in 2013, and the book officially came out this spring. I ran 3 courses this season and once again the results have been impressive. You can read up on the players who have informed me of their success at www.goldengoalscoring.com Players from the Pickering Soccer Club and from FC Frederick have done exceptional. And at Shepherd University, although the team struggled to score goals in their new division this season, most players who took the course scored more goals than they did in their previous season.
Numerous Scoring records were set by Students
Two girls from my very first course finished their college career's in 2012 and Lisa Watson broke the all-time goal scoring record for Laurentien University while Laura Twidle, who played as a midfielder finished her career as the 7th all-time goal scorer for Central Michigan University while having only played 6 games in her third year due to injuries.
And in 2013, William Eskay just broke his high school's all-time goal scoring record in November of 2013. The book gives away many of my coaching secrets on how to coach players from a psychological perspective, to score more goals. What can I say, the results have been amazing. In fact, since they seem so powerful, I'm even thinking that once I run out of books, I won't print any more. Why? Well, maybe revealing the secrets to scoring goals should be kept to a minimum.
Thanks for reading,
Note:To purchase my book go to www.thelast9seconds.com
Friday, September 2, 2011
One of the most common injuries in soccer is the ankle sprain. This often occurs when the player goes over on the ankle and tears the ligaments on the outside of the ankle. If the injury is bad, the ligaments on the inside of the ankle also get damaged as they get scrunched together during the injury.
Recovering from a sprained ankle will be based on the degree of the injury and how well the athlete treats the injury. Many athletes re-injure the ankle if they come back to play too early. Just because the pain and swelling may have gone down does not mean the injury has properly healed for game action.
The injury can be caused in many ways including contact with an opponent and falling awkwardly or by stepping in a rut on an uneven patch of grass. But the strength of the supporting muscles and shape of the foot and the footwear can also be a factor in causing sprained ankles. For example, if a player has a wide foot but the supporting studs under his shoes are close together and narrow, then there is a possibility that it may be easier for that player to go over on his or her ankle and sprain it.
Players who have had previous ankle injuries and may be prone to more injuries should look at the width of the stud pattern when deciding which shoes are best for them.
“Unfortunately, we often get customers who come in and want a particular shoe or shoe colour because they have seen a big name player wear it or a teammate recommend it”, says Norm Tsolakis of JMT METROSPORT- The Soccer Store. The problem with that is that, not everyone’s feet are the same. Pros often get their shoes custom made and this will take into consideration their width, arch, heal, height of their instep and so-forth.
Tsolakis says, “Although we do our best to advise our customers, sometimes our customers are adamant about wearing a certain shoe based on marketing instead of their foot and history of their previous injuries.”
One player on my team, (a goalkeeper) recently sprained his ankle after punting the ball downfield. As the game went on, he went down as he landed and went over on his ankle. A few minutes later the referee was notified that the keeper was down so he stopped the play and I attended to him. He really did himself in and was out of action for 3 weeks, being forced to miss the first 3 games of our season. When I looked at his shoes, I noticed that he had a popular Adidas shoe that has a standard width, but he has a wide foot. Those shoes were not the best for his foot and probably contributed to the injury.
Please do not base your purchase of soccer shoes on looks or the marketing efforts of brands. Since your shoes are the most important piece of equipment for a soccer player, make sure they fit comfortably and take into account any issues you may have had especially as it pertains to injuries. If you have weak ankles, try and find a shoe with a wider base and that have studs that are a bit shorter. If you have had knee injuries, you may want to give up the side to side traction that a bladed sole gives and go with a rounded stud pattern so that you do not re-injure your knee.
Norm from JMT METROSPORT says, “The reason we try and carry as many different models and varieties of shoes, is that every soccer player has a different foot and have different issues. We are finding that today’s consumers, especially the young ones, are more concerned with looks than with comfort. Unless you want to risk injury, blisters and other problems, make sure you find a comfortable shoe that gives you the features for your foot, not what someone else wants you to wear. After all, they are your feet!”
“And one last thing”, says Norm, “I hate to hear when a customer comes in and says that they want a cheaper pair of shoes because they don’t play at a high level. We carry all price ranges but the criteria should not be based on the level that one plays. Does that mean that the amateur player’s feet are not as important as the pro players? I know that my feet are important to me regardless of what level that I play. After all, they are my feet and I’m more likely to play on lousy fields compared to the higher level players. I want my shoes to keep me as comfortable as possible.
Sometimes, I find that a less expensive shoe actually feels more comfortable for me than an expensive shoe for whatever reason. That’s what I have to go by. My feet must tell me what to buy, not some advertising campaign or Messi or anyone else.”
Thanks for reading,John DeBenedictis
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Another World Cup has come to an end and the number of goals scored in the competition is down again. Since 1998, when they allowed 32 teams in the finals, the number of goals scored has dropped steadily. In 1998 there were 171 goals scored in 64 games. In 2002, it went down to 161 goals and in 2006 it dropped even further to 147. And just when we figured that the new Adidas Jabulani ball was going to give the keepers nightmares and result in more goals being scored, the opposite happened. In the 2010 World Cup, total goals scored dropped down to only 145. What has gone wrong?
Those who have been to any of my “Psychology of Goal Scoring” or “Secrets to Goal Scoring” (www.goldengoalscoring.com) lectures or courses would be looking for me to explain the drop in goal scoring, but they also know that I would probably come up with a most unique and thought provoking explanation. So, not to disappoint, let me give you something to ponder on the subject of why goals were down at this year’s World Cup.
First of all, let me state some of the obvious reasons as to why goals are down. To start with, athletes today are fitter than ever. Players are able to run at top speeds longer and faster than before. Advances in physiology, nutrition, and training methodology have allowed players to get fitter meaning that coaches can demand players to get back to defend in numbers more often and faster than ever before. No doubt this will have an affect on the number of goals teams give up over time. For example, trying to get past 7 players to get an attempt at goal is a lot easier than trying to get past 10 players to get a chance to score. The math is simple.
Another reason may be that soccer’s third-world soccer countries are no longer easy to beat.
For example, who would have thought that New Zealand would be the only team not to lose a game at the World Cup? When teams are fit, organized, and can defend well, they can upset any of the top nations or reduce the number of goals that they give up so that they do not have to go home feeling embarrassed. These two factors are probably the main reason why goals are down.
But on the other hand, one would assume that the new ball would have increased the number of goals scored at the World Cup. Goalkeepers have complained about the ball and in this World Cup I saw an unusual amount of goalkeeping errors that resulted in goals. Had those errors not occurred there would have been even less goals scored. Having said all that, I want to look at one other factor that may be affecting goals scored and that is the new shoes that the players are wearing today. Yes, the shoes! I think, they add to the equation a little bit.
I think that they are too flashy, colorful, and noticeable. The bright oranges and yellows that we see in a lot of the shoes that the players are wearing are easy to spot on the pitch. The eye can locate these colors quickly when there is motion involved. That can be motion of the player wearing the shoes or motion by a defending player. In fact, yellow has been shown to be one of the most noticeable colors in the color spectrum when motion is involved. Bright orange is not far behind. This is simple to test. Next time you are in a vehicle, notice how quickly the eye can spot a yellow car, van, or truck. Also notice that the construction pylons are usually orange. This is not done by accident. When a car is moving, the driver can spot the bright orange pylons very quickly. These colors are picked so that drivers in motion avoid running over construction workers.
I believe that defenders are quick to find players that they need to cover when their opponents wear bright orange or yellow shoes. It’s harder for an attacking player to disappear from the field of vision of a marking player because they can quickly pick out where they are in their peripheral vision because of their shoes!
Coaches talk to their strikers about getting on the “blind side” of defenders so that they can elude them. Getting on the “blind side” of a defender means getting to a position where they can’t be seen. Coaches ask players to make “blind side runs” all the time meaning that they want their players to run behind defenders so that they can’t be spotted until it’s too late. Well that’s all fine and dandy, but when players show up with bright colored shoes that can be spotted a mile away, what’s the point of this whole coaching point? Wearing bright colored shoes will make it even easier for the defender to find his man.
A talented young player that I recently met told me that he was going to buy the new Nike Superfly shoes in bright yellow. After watching him train I told him that he was one of the better attacking players on his team and should lead his team in scoring but I advised him to change his mind and not buy the bright yellow shoes. He didn’t listen and after 13 games he has yet to score a goal for his team. Could it be the shoes? I’m sure there are a number of reasons why he has not scored but maybe it may have a bit to do with the shoes.
At the highest levels, a fraction of a second can be the difference between scoring and not scoring, winning and losing. Why would a striker in particular, want to give away any possible advantage?
So there you have it, my theory on why goal scoring was down at the 2010 World Cup but I expect goal scoring to be up at the next World Cup because this article will make its way to coaches around the World and they will ban their strikers from wearing bright colored shoes. Oh, and the fact that these new shoes are so lightweight, well, that’s a whole other topic.
Thanks for reading,
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Question: I do not score goals, run for touchdowns or make baskets: I do not make passes, receive passes or make errant passes: I do not stop goals, make tackles or cover the opposition: I do not dribble, or stick handle around opponents: and I do not sacrifice my body physically for the team. But I am involved in sports and get the most close ups and individual airtime on Television than anyone else during a sports cast. Who Am I?
Answer. THE COACH
With the NHL and NBA playoffs in progress and the World Cup just ready to begin, sports fans will be watching countless hours of team sports on TV. The camera’s will focus on many sports personalities but it’s the coaches that will literally hog the TV screens with most of the close ups. Although sport has always identified the coach as an important person in the scheme of things, the expectations put on a coach, especially as an entertainment value, has increased substantially in the past decade. It is quite common for cameras to be solely focused on the coach to see what their reaction is in the game. We see close ups of their reactions to goals, touchdowns, penalty calls and now the coaches are practically part of the replays.
If a player has a scoring opportunity, in many cases the coach may have thought out the play to create the chance but ultimately, it is the skill of the player that will decide the fate of that moment. But we still want to see how coaches react, look, cheer, curse or whatever else they do during a game.
The media has certainly helped glorify the coach and his/her importance to the athletic results on the field, floor, ice or diamond. But does the coach actually deserve this attention? TV stations will do what it takes to improve ratings and if fans want to see a coach’s reaction then they will get it. Unfortunately, too many youth coaches think they need to behave as though they are coaching the pros and are on TV. Some youth coaches believe all eyes are on them to produce winning results. In reality, most coaches are strictly volunteers and they are not expected to produce winning results. Some coaches may want to coach at a higher level but while they are coaching kids, they must understand that their role is not to produce winning teams at the expense of the child’s social development and certainly not in an entertainment, ratings grabber sort of way.
What is the role of the youth coach and how important are they in that job?
The coach, regardless of the age group and level he or she is coaching, has a very important role in the relationship with the athletes of the team outside of simply teaching skills and tactics. In fact, this role is probably more important than most coaches themselves understand. Studies have shown over and over that a coach is a very influential person in a child’s life and actually is the second most important person in children’s lives next to the parent. In fact, in cases where there are parental problems or a child has lost a parent, the coach can take on those roles as well. At each age group, the coach influences players in different ways. How a coach interacts with the athletes can either create a positive or negative experience for the athlete.
In other studies that looked at the drop out rates in children’s sports, the coach is very influential. How enjoyable they make the sport, can either increase or decrease the chances of their players playing the sport for a long time or quitting. Their role in the development of the child as a person will be a much more important aspect of their coaching. Players and parents will remember them in how they or their child was treated and not what they won. Unfortunately, coaches themselves are often under the wrong impression that they are there to only teach kids how to play and then to make their team a winning team.
This is the biggest misconception a coach can have about his or her performance as a coach. Most parents don’t care if the team wins or loses. All they care about is how their kids play. Everyone plays to win but the parent is concerned that his/her child plays. Are they enjoying the game, making friends, keeping fit, demonstrating fair play, and learning the values of competition and cooperation? These are life skills that are applicable to the real world. Playing in the NHL, NBA, World Series or the World Cup is not going to be the real world for most kids. Of course, there are parents who actually think their child will be the next superstar but most are reasonable and just want their kids to do their best and use sport as a life learning tool. That can only happen if kids stay in sports. Of course players need a goal that there may be a future in athletics but coaches must realize that young kids will search for that goal on their own. Parents are actually expecting you to get to the other goals. Ultimately, to learn life’s lessons.
Therein coaches make grave mistakes and are the prime reason why kids quit sports. In a study of over 11,000 kids, the number one and two factors for why kids quit sports are:
1) It was no longer interesting and
2) It was no longer Fun.
This was the same for boys and girls. Quitting because the coach was a poor teacher was the 6th on the list for reasons why boys quit sports and not even in the top ten list for why girls quit sports.
Who else can be blamed for kids quitting sports based on the top two reasons but the coach? If the coach cannot make playing a sport interesting or fun, than he/she has failed as a coach in being the leader and role model that he or she needs to be. The coach has failed in the player’s eyes and parents also consider the coach a failure. Championships are not what parents care about. Players want to have fun first and foremost. If this is not achieved, the coach has been a poor role model.
The issue of kids quitting sports is huge especially when we are fighting for kids to get active and healthy. Drop out rate hovers above 75% in boys and at 65% in girls by age 12.
Learning skills, tactics and strategies does play a role in keeping players interested and coaches need to understand that learning is important but winning is not. Take a good look at the spectators at a youth sporting event. Most are parents and they are not there to watch the team. They are there for one reason and one reason only. They are there to watch their children and in reality, that’s all they care about. Do they prefer to see their team win the championship at the expense of their son or daughter playing? No way, because parents would rather see their kids play a fair share of the game and risk losing the championship rather than sit out. A victory would be more rewarding if the child played in the game rather than be embarrassed in front of his or her peers for not playing. Parents couldn’t really care less if the team won or lost if it was at the expense of their child not playing. I watched a nine-year old boy cry so hard that he created a crowd after his house league coach barely played him in a playoff game. I also witnessed a coach of a select team act like a monkey on the sidelines and get thrown out of a game.
Whenever I put on coaching sessions I say, “Coaches, you are not on TV! There are no close ups of you and you are not being judged by whether you win or lose.”
Coaches often make that assumption because the one or two parents out of 18 that they coach, are giving them suggestions of what he or she should do to win. Those parents are giving coaches the wrong impression.
They do not represent most of the other parents of the kids they coach. Unfortunately, those type parents are also often the most vocal parents on the team and use language that would make the coach feel that all other parents share his or her views. Rarely is that the case.
Children want to have fun, and they are eager to learn but things need to be kept interesting. The coach occupies a special place in the eyes of a young player. They look to the coach as a role model, leader, problem solver, and someone who will enlighten their lives. Coaches must not turn them off sports by ignoring these psychological cues that children fail to shout out at them.
Ultimately the coach will be judged and remembered by how they treat their athletes, the officials and the opponents. Dr Tom Fleck once said, “the real ‘Coach of the Year’ should be the coach who brings back the most players in the following season, not the coach with the most victories.”
An Important note to coaches:
“You are very important in more ways than you think. It’s time to re-define your real job as a coach of our youth. You are not there just coaching a sport. You are there to help guide kids through life. Those coaching very young kids will have different issues than coaches coaching teenagers. Also, each child is different emotionally, mentally, and coaching is a challenge. Please be proud and honoured of the fact that you have been given a huge task with our youth and learn what you can about dealing with the age bracket you are coaching. Take it professionally and respectfully.”
“Your real job is to keep kids in the game, while teaching values and ethics. Make it fun and interesting to the point that the kids you coach will love what they’re doing so much that they will thrive to repeat what you teach them at home and look forward to coming to games and practices”
“And about losing your players to poachers. Don’t worry. If you accomplish those two goals, no one will want to leave and the parents will not want them to leave. You’re real success as a coach will be judged by how many players you keep in sport and by the impression you left on that child’s life forever. Will the players you coach seek you out 20 years later and thank you for your time and how you treated them as individuals?”
“Strive for those goals everyday as a coach and success will come automatically in more ways than one.”
Coaches! You are glorified because you do make a big difference in a child’s life. Unlike television you are not glorified because the audience wants to see you act immaturely on the sidelines. That’s not your place when you coach kids. Your are not on TV. You are not in the entertainment business of pro sports.
If you coach kids, please be the reason kids stay in sports, not the reason they quit sports.
Enjoy the challenge, have fun, and thanks for reading.
Executive Director (National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada)=
John DeBenedictis received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Physical and Health Education with an advanced certificate of Coaching from York University. He holds a senior amateur-coaching license in Ontario and is the Executive Director of The National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada.. He has studied children’s drop out rates in sports and the psychology and sociological factors in sports for over 35 years in a variety of sports. He has written numerous articles, made films and lectured on these issues. DeBenedictis was the first coach to bring the Weil Coerver ball possession and dribbling techniques to Canada.