What Truly Matters in Youth Sports? Hint: It's Not the Sport By Bethany & Daniel Henderson

We adults tend to think we have all the answers when it comes to youth sports. More free play. Forget the free play; enroll your kids in organized sports, quick.  Specialize from an early age. Don't specialize; play a variety of sports year-round. We adults can pontificate all we want, but the thing that should matter most in youth sports isn't the sport, it's the youth. So what do kids think?   Last month at their Project Play Summit, The Aspen Institute posed that very question to kids, including 13-year-old Madalin. 

Madalin grew up cheering on male soccer stars on TV, but never even considered she could play soccer until DC SCORES, a sport for social change nonprofit that runs free soccer leagues for low-income D.C. kids, recruited at her elementary school. Even then, Madalin was a reluctant soccer player. She described herself as "terrible," the kid who everyone would look at and thinks "oh man she doesn't know how to play; she's going to make us lose the game, right?" Her friends were "scared to join the team because they [thought] they'll be made fun of because how they play." Much to her surprise, Madalin's DC SCORES coach patiently helped her learn the sport, and her DC SCORES teammates encouraged her to stay, despite her being a liability on the field.

The benefits of kids playing sports are well-documented -- from improving physical fitness to learning how to be part of a team to developing resilience, persistence and leadership skills. Yet, youth participation in sports is on the decline. According to The Aspen Institute's Project Play, regular sports participation by kids ages 6-12 declined from 44.5 percent to 40 percent between 2008 and 2013. That's 2.6 million fewer kids playing sports in just five years! 

Introducing sports to kids like Madalin -- kids for whom sport is new; kids who have little access to sports; kids whose parents may see little or no value in them playing sports -- is a fragile exercise. A coach with the wrong priorities or disrespecting peers can quickly kill a kid's motivation or demolish their self-worth, so much so that a kid may never play a sport again.

That is why coaches trained in positive youth development and a team culture that emphasizes sportsmanship as much as winning is so important when introducing kids to sports. At DC SCORES, we don't just talk that talk, we walk that walk. Our soccer curriculum is built on positive youth development principles. The mandatory training we provide our nearly 200 coaches is built on a framework of teamwork, leadership, and commitment . We also require all of our staff to go through positive youth development training, so they can effectively support our coaches and bolster on-field efforts. (Editor’s Note: The D-7 Recreation Program & Instructional Staff –likewise-- Does not just talk that talk, We also walk that walk..!) We have developed a Curriculum & Trained a Staff of Instructors who can help you become a successful youth coach. For details write to: cysakarl@comcast.net

We reinforce that culture on-field. Every DC SCORES soccer game, regardless of age of kids or level of competition, starts and ends the same way. Each game kicks off with a DC SCORES staffer, referee, or alum pulling both teams together, center field, for a fun, quick sportsmanship quiz and joint cheer. Games end by players and coach’s high-fiving the other team. We schedule games and buses so that each school's boys' team can and does cheer on its girls' team every week and vice-versa. Sure, the kids pay close attention to goals during the game and keep track of their team's win/loss record, but they also learn that winning and losing without good sportsmanship simply isn't enough.

Now in her sixth DC SCORES soccer season, Madalin has no qualms about being on a soccer team. When Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix asked Madalin during the Project Play Summit how she shows people that she can play soccer as a girl, Madalin said simply: "I think my game talks for that." 

Whether or not Madalin becomes a star soccer player in high school or beyond, one thing is clear -- because of her inclusion-oriented, sportsmanship-first youth soccer team, Madalin developed both a love of sport and the self-confidence to keep playing. And at the core, isn't that what youth sports is really about?

Article by State Recreation Coach of the Year


You have volunteered to coach a soccer team, and that in itself is a precious gift to our children.  Before you know it, the roster and equipment have been issued and by means of phone calls, emails, and text messages to parents, you have scheduled your first training session with your new team.  Where do you begin and what will this first session consist of?  And what about the next training session?  How about the one after that?  If these are questions you are asking yourself, then consider that a positive because we have answers for you.

From coaching brand new Under-6 teams to very competitive Under-12 teams, I have learned it is essential to equip players with basic technical skills, no matter what age or skill level they are at.  Sometimes we can get too caught up in conditioning, or stacking the training agendas with a number of activities that we might not even get to. 

Of course we want our players to be conditioned, but they are going to need a break during the matches regardless, and that’s why we have substitutions.  Plus, the conditioning is sure to come in time after a few weeks of training.  And yes, it would be ideal for our players to possess a diverse repertoire of moves and plays, but that can be achieved later when they advance further in their soccer careers.  But even those older, fascinatingly skilled players need to possess the basic technical skills.

So how do we teach these important FUNdamentals mentioned in my previous article?  The simple answer is “repetition.” However, as you know, that is easier said than done when trying to maintain the attention span of a group of 10-year-olds.  My advice is to establish a set-routine for your training sessions, and then ensure that it is implemented at every training session from the first one to the final one.  

By all means, spend the first 5-7 minutes stretching as that is vital in any sport.  But instead of sending your team off on laps around the track or wind sprints to the opposite goal, start off with a dribbling or passing activities. 

Then progress to your next activity that enhances FUNdamentals. (Look for more ideas in the next issue of Komments)

MICHAEL CALVILLO, District 7 Recreation Coach of the Year (2015). State CYSA-North Recreation Coach of the Year (2015)

Editor’s Note: The “D-7 Recreation Program” has developed a Curriculum & trained a Staff of Instructors who can help you become a successful youth coach. For details write to: cysakarl@comcast.net

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Exciting NEWS!

31st Annual Wine Tasting 

Sunday, May 3, 2015


In Fresno on the beautiful San Joaquin River

Wine Sampling From Over 40 Vintners,

Live Music by Blu J’z, Silent Auction & Raffle!

Tickets $75 per person Available at kvpr.org

This is an event for adults over the age of 21.  Complimentary lunch and roundtrip bus transportation is available from Bakersfield and Visalia.  Reserve a spot by calling 800-275-0764

You can learn a lot more about VPR on their website at:   http://kvpr.org/  

Coaching Corner

Dear Parents, Players and Coaches:

As we start getting closer to our first game, I want to remind you of a few items regarding our games.Game Policies:

Please no coaching from the sideline: This confuses players; especially if the coaches have told the players to do the opposite of what the parent is saying. For example, many times when a parent says “pass” we may want them to “dribble” or hold the ball by shielding and vice versa or a parents says “never to the middle or never back to the keeper.” There is no “never” in soccer.

Coaching Style: Some of you do not know our coaching style. We are generally quiet at the sidelines. We take note of mistakes for future corrections, but do not point them out. There is not much you can do in a game setting.

Cheer: Cheer all you want (no electronic or mechanical devices); and always in good taste, and never to criticize. This is developmental soccer. Also, with respect to our opponents, we do not want to hear things like: “hit them”, “push them back”, “you are faster”, “you are better” etc.. 

Referees:  Please do not criticize the officials. Some of them may only be 2-4 years older than your own children. I am sure you would not like it if a grown man or woman was telling off your son or daughter, therefore do not say a word to the officials. 

Sideline Team Location: The home team sets up, depending on the orientation of the field, on a north touchline or a west touchline. Our team area should be 2-3 yards from the touch line and the parents should be behind or even with that area. Our coaches should not go past 10 yards on either side of the halfway line. No parents behind the Goal area.  

Entry on to the Field: Please do not enter the field for any reason during the game. Even if your own daughter is injured. Soccer is a contact sport. If a player is injured, the referee is trained to not immediately stop play if in his or her opinion the injury is not serious and most injuries are not serious. The referee will wait for the ball to go out and then address an injury. 

After the Game is Over: Please pick up trash after game is over and quickly move off field for the next teams. Let’s leave the fields cleaner than when we arrived.           

Sal Blanco, Cal-N D7 Coaching Director , USSF “C”, NSCAA National Diploma, NSCAA Advance GK Diploma

Editor’s Note: Please send you comments on this & other Coaching matters to: cysakarl@comcast.net

Referee Corner

Improvement & Retention of Officials by Pat Ferre

In every organization, keeping officials, especially new ones, is a common problem.  Without some help and solutions, an organization may be losing many officials who may have the potential to become quality officials. 

Here are a few ideas to help with the improvement and retention of officials.

MENTOR PROGRAM:  When accepted and supported by an organization, this program has been proven to be very successful.  The key to its success is to make sure that the mentor is a seasoned official, a dedicated member who supports the program and really wants to be a mentor. Continuity is a very important part of mentoring.  If several people are telling different ways to do things, it tends to confuse and frustrate the officials, which can never be good. Keeping with the same mentor as much as possible, especially in the beginning, helps build continuity in the training. 

Another big advantage to having a mentor is that there is a seasoned official present who knows how to deal with coaches and fans.  That is an invaluable aid in keeping coaches and fans off the official’s back.  Too often, officials with little or no experience are assigned to matches where they are subject to criticism or verbal abuse and there is no help for dealing with coaches and fans. 

Eventually, working with different mentors or partners will broaden the horizon of the officials and is very beneficial to their education and improvement.

GAME ASSIGNMENTS:  Assigning new and struggling individuals, with better more experienced officials, will help with their training and development.  It is important to choose seasoned officials who have shown that they can work well with, and will provide a positive experience for, the less experienced ones.  Although they may not be assigned with the same experienced official each game, working with better officials always benefits the new and struggling officials who are looking to move up.

CRITIQUING is another way to help officials.   One must be careful not to over assess a new or struggling official.  The critique, whether verbal or written, should include those things done well or best and give positive feedback in all evaluations.  For those areas that need improvement some people need things sugar coated, but the critique must still be factual and honest.  If there are a lot of areas needing attention, discuss the 2 or 3 most important ones and give the individuals time to work on them before re-evaluating them.

ENCOURAGE:  Words of encouragement are never wasted.  Seasoned senior officials, as well as all members of an organization, should offer friendly advice and encouraging words to new and struggling officials.  Every organization has and continues to deal with the problem of recruiting, training and keeping officials from season to season.  The above hopefully provides some ideas that may help in solving a recurring problem that plagues all sports organizations at all levels of competition.

Pat Ferre, USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus, USSF Referee Instructor, USSF Referee Assessor, USSF Referee Assignor. District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)

Editor’s Note: Please send you comments on this & other Refereeing matters to: cysakarl@comcast.net



Admirals’ Chief Executive Officer and owner, Paul Hamburger, has put

 together an “Award Points Program” which will allow the D-7 Recreation

 Program to exchange “Points” for Admiral Products to be distributed to

 those in need.  In addition he has adjusted Admiral Prices to provide all D-7

 members up to 65% off of all Admiral Products. 

  Help Us to Help Others by Ordering Your Products via this link

If you would like a tailor made quote for your soccer program feel free to contact Admiral toll free on 888-646-6822, Email Paul on paul@admiral-sports.com and see online: www.admiral-sports.com

District News

“Free” Coaching Courses


Hosting League: Clovis Junior Soccer League

  • Date:  Sunday, April 19, 2015
  • Time:  9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Team #1 (U16+):  9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
  • Team #2 (U16+):  10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Location:  Valley Oak Elementary, 465 East Champlain Drive, Fresno, CA 93730
  • Topic:  Offense---Changing the Point of Attack 
  • Questions?  Contact Sal Blanco, D-7 Coaching Admin. At: sblanco@wctlaw.com

Spring 2015 Competition Schedule for Men’s and Women’s Soccer FPU

Date Gender Opponent Place Time
Sat. 4th Women Fresno Freeze Fresno, CA 5:00pm
Sat. 4th Men Fresno Fuego Fresno, CA 7:00pm
Sat. 11 Women Fresno State Play Day Fresno, CA 10:00am
Sonoma State 3:00pm
Sat. 11th Men West Hills CC Fresno, CA 7:00pm
Fri. 17 Men CSU Stanislaus Turlock, CA 7:00pm
Sat. 18th Women UC Merced Merced, CA 12:00pm
Sat. 25 Men/Women Fresno CC Fresno, CA 5:30 W, 7:30M

Did You Know???

Some swear by the"10,000-hour rule" - meaning it literally takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a success! But others say too much play can actually hurt your chances of success. With every kick and every pass, soccer player Lily Truong is one step closer to her Olympic dreams. "I started when I was 6 and then started club when I was about 12," Lily recalled. 

Teammate Ashley Thomas is right there with her. Along with weekly practices and games, she also does private training. "The more you put in to it, the more you'll get out of it," said Ashley. Broken bones, muscle cramps and fractures haven't stopped these girls. They are serious about their sport, and coach Erin Morse says they have to be. "If you're not putting in the work, someone else is and they're probably, you know, getting better than what you are," said Morse.

The "10,000-hour rule" of sports isn't a long shot for these girls. But David Epstein, author of "The Sports Gene," says the 10,000-hour rule could damage performance and health. "We're sort of pushing athletes to, first of all, pick one sport, to specialize in one sport, and then to train in a way that's more appropriate for adults and professionals," said the former Sports Illustrated writer. Epstein's research showed youth are experiencing adult-style injuries, and these injuries are 36 percent more likely in wealthy kids. Also, playing the same sport for eight months can increase the risk. Experts say "sports sampling" until at least age 12 produces the best athletes. "If you're learning in too professional a style, being sort of explicitly told what to do in doing just the same thing, you're going to inhibit your ultimate athletic development," said Epstein.

Smiles - just for Laughs

Q: Why are players always tired in April? A: Because they just finished a march 
Q: How do bunnies stay healthy? A: They egg-ercise 

Q. What day does an Easter egg hate the most? A. Fry-days. 
Q. Why did the Easter egg hide? A. Because he was a little chicken! 
Q: Why was the little girl sad after the race? A: Because an egg beater! 
Q. Why do we paint Easter eggs? A. Because it's easier than trying to wallpaper them!

The outcome of our children in infinitely more important than the outcome of any Game they will ever play!