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Blue’s Clues Will MakeYou a Better Youth Coach!(Theme 1)

By Brendan Donahue

One of the most critical aspects of being a successful coach isunderstanding whom it is you’re coaching, and how they best learn.  Thissounds straightforward enough, but adults often fail to recognize that childrenview the world differently and what we, adults, may find boring and monotonousmay be novel and engaging to them, and in turn, vital to their learningprocess.

In, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell shares several observations regarding children’s development in a segment that delves into the creation of the show Blue’s Clues. Blue’s Clues drew upon the most successful elements of Sesame Street, but there was a major difference between the shows.  Sesame Street was intended to appeal to both children and adults, whereas Blue’s Clues had a specific target audience.  Blue’s Clues target audience is pre-schoolchildren.  Acknowledging that, many of the steps the show uses can still be applied to both classroom education and on the playing fields for children of all ages, if we apply some minor modifications.  

“If you think about the world of a preschooler, they are surrounded by stuff that they don’t understand-things that are novel.  So the driving force for a preschooler is not a search for novelty, like it is with older kids, it’s a search for understanding and predictability,” says Daniel Anderson (a pioneering television education researcher & Blue’s Clues designer).  “For younger kids, repetition is really valuable. They demand it.  When they see a show over and over again, they are not only understanding it better, which is a form of power, but just by predicting what is going to happen, I think they feel a real sense of affirmation andself-worth.  And Blue’s Clues doubles that feeling because they also feel like they are participating in something.  They feel like they are helpingSteve.” The Tipping Point, p. 126

Each episode of Blue’s Clues follows the same pattern with the host, Steve, presenting the audience a series of clues (written or drawn on paw prints) that will help lead them to solve a puzzle involving theshow’s main character a puppy named Blue.  The clues begin simple and increase in complexity over the course of the episode.  Steve asks questions throughout the show as he engages the audience and guides them to the solutions.  The show concludes with Steve rehashing the clues in a slow and deliberate manner where he uses long extended pauses that adults can find awkward, but are in line with a preschooler’s thought process.  Perhaps, the most interesting dynamic of Blue’s Clues isn’t the episode itself, but in the decision of the programming directors.  The same Blue’s Clues episode that airs on a Monday will play each day throughout the week.

“Blue’s Clues succeeds as a story of discovery only if the clues are in proper order.  The show has to start easy-to give the viewer’s confidence-and then get progressively harder and harder, challenging the preschoolers more and more, drawing them into the narrative. . . . The layering of the show is what makes it possible for a child to watch the show four or five times: on each successive watching they master more and more, guessing correctly deeper into the program, until, by the end, they can anticipate every answer.” 

How can we apply the lessons of Blue’s Clues to our coaching?  I believe that if coaches can incorporate four major themes from the show to our coaching we’ll be doing our players a great service both from an enjoyment and developmental standpoint.

1. Construct your practice in the same manner day to day, week to week.  Consistent structure will help the players establish a comfort level on what is expected of them and how the session will flow.  Being consistent is a very important dynamic for a coach at any level, but even more so with the younger age groups.  Once the players gain a familiarity with the practice format, it should also put an end to the question, “when are we going to scrimmage”.  If you always finish each practice with a game, they’ll know that the scrimmage is coming and can remain focused on the exercise at hand.  On a personal note, I would recommend beginning each practice with a street soccer game as an arrival activity. This helps address the same question listed above as well as giving the players an opportunity to express themselves.   

Note: Look for “Theme #2” in the next issue of Komments

Coaching Articles

Top Item on To-DoList as Spring Season Kicks off

By Dev K. Mishra, M.D.

With the spring season kicking off,this is the perfect time to make sure you've got the first-aid kit in order.

Every youth coach should have a very basic sideline first-aid kit. You shouldhave this at each training session and game. Remember that this is not meant tobe used for comprehensive treatment, but only for immediate sideline first aid.The supplies below should get you through almost any minor to moderatesituation and are easily obtained from your local drug store.

One of the most essential items is your cellular phone. If you have any doubtsabout the severity of the medical situation, use your phone to call the localemergency medical personnel for help. If you are with a travel team or oftenplay outside of your local region, it is advisable to enter the emergency phonenumber of the away location into your cell phone in advance. Local emergency numbersare best since calling 911 may result in a delay.

The absolute bare minimum supplies:
• Instant cold packs (have several of these!).
• Adhesive bandages of assorted shapes and sizes.
• Blister care.
• ACE bandages (3-inch and 4-inch sizes).
• Disposable non-latex gloves (use when you are looking at a cut or abrasion).
• Alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer (for your own hands).
• Antibiotic ointment (individual packets or a tube of Bacitracin works well).
• Sterile gauze bandages.
• Sterile gauze roll.
• Sterile saline bottle (to gently wash dirt or grass from a cut).
• Saline rinse bottle and Hibiclens bottle (very effective and not painful toclean an abrasion or cut).
• Athletic tape (1-inch and 2-inch sizes).
• Paramedic scissors.
• Hydrogen peroxide -- to get blood off a uniform.
• Plastic bags to dispose of used gauze, etc.

Here are a few extras that are nice to have:
• Foam under wrap.
• Finger splints (popsicle sticks work well).
• CPR instructions and plastic ventilation mask.
• Watertight bags to keep items dry.
Packing it up:
• Keep your supplies in a brightly colored bag (red is a popular color forthis) so that you can find it quickly.

Dr. Dev K. Mishra is thecreator of the injury management program for coaches. Heis a Clinical Assistant Professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University.He is a member of the team physician pool with the U.S. Soccer Federation andis a team physician with the San Jose Earthquakes. Mishra writes about injurymanagement at Blog.

Submitted by… Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, isco-author, with Tim Mulqueen, of The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper andco-author with Claudio Reyna of More Than Goals: The Journey from BackyardGames to World Cup Competition. Woitalla's youth soccer articles arearchived at


Coaches Corner


For the past 30+ years we have urged coaches to be (vs.) Verbally Silent when the player sare in a competitive (vs.) environment. Yet, the ruckus from coaches on the sidelines seems to increase year after year.  

It has been scientifically proven that we (humans) have a very difficult time doing Two Things at the same time.  For example:  Concentrating on the Ebb and Flow of the Game … Listening for instructions … Hearing the instruction …Understanding the instruction … Applying the instruction … Ooops! That’s already more than Two Things Taking Place L

Ask Yourself… What are the odds of a child wanting or even enjoying playing a computergame if you insisted on giving a running commentary (coaching) the action whilethe child was attempting to play the game? Or, how proficient would you be at your job if your boss was constantly givingyou verbal instructions while you were attempting to finish a task?

What would youthink of a baseball coach who yells-out positioning instructions to thecenter-fielder who is attempting to catch a fly ball? A football coach calling-outspecific moves the scrambling quarterback should be making; or, a basketballcoach shouting-out the hand to be used for a player in the process of doing a lay-up?    

Ineffectiveyouth coaches actually need to give play/by/play instructions during thegame because of their inability to run proper training sessions. They are‘drill masters’ with no theme and are satisfied with just keeping the playersactive.  They justify their title ‘coach’by making a comment after every single mistake made in practice.  They…

·        Control the Practice by = Being Verbally Active – ConstantAdvice.

·        Control the Game by = Being Verbally Active – Constant Instructions.

Effective youth coaches, on the other hand, have no need to give play/by/playinstructions during the game because they are able to run proper trainingsessions.  They are ‘game masters’ with aTHEME and are not satisfied unless their players are learning something thatcan be applied in the next game.  Theyjustify their title ‘coach’ by studying and applying rules and regulationsduring the 1vs1; Small-Sided and Scrimmage Games which enforce learning the THEMEof the practice.  They …

·        Teach during Practice by = Being Verbally Active - Commentson THEME.

·        Test at Game by = Observing & Taking Notes on THEME’s Progress.

Effective youth coaches realize that they are coaching and observing children who arelearning to play the game of soccer. The dictionary will tell you that,“Children are young persons of either sex and at any age less than maturity;persons in the process of developing both physically and mentally.” 

This means that… CHILDREN ARE LEARNERS and we need to teach them to create their ownplaying environment.  That is we need toteach in a manner so that they can learn to ‘love to play soccer’ on their own.

CHILDREN LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES they learn from errors made – if the coaching is done correctly both verballyand physically.  It is crucial thatcoaches turn player errors into a positive learning situation.  The player’s self-confidence should not beaffected by mistakes that are made when playing soccer. 

Please save the‘play/by/play’ or any kind of coaching for your Practice Sessions and allow thechildren to just ‘PLAY’ on Game Day. 

Koach Karl (Karl Dewazien) State Director of Coaching -California Youth Soccer Association (1979-2012)

Author of the InternationallyPublished FUNdamental SOCCER Books Series

Producer of the highly acclaimed‘9-Step Practice Routine’ DVD. 

Can be reached at:  or


More Information on Coaching

LETTER to the EDITOR:  Stop With the Tryout Madness.

When you put together a group of kids, at the travellevel, they shouldn’t have to worry from one year to the next if they are onthe team. Now I know there are fringe kids, the top 2 or 3 and the bottom 2 or3 that may move on, but the idea of wholesale changes to a team every year isinsane.

I have known parents who have taken whole teams to different clubs because the team was going to be broken up. A good coach/clubwill discuss the individual strengths and weaknesses of the player, with theplayer and the parent and allow the child to grow in confidence and ability.Now with the fringe kids you should be honest, “your son/daughter is reallyweak in this area and we are concerned that if they continue to play at thislevel their development will be stunted because they aren’t going to get muchgame time.”

It will hurt the child and the parent’s feelings but inthe end if you do what is best for the child (not the club or coach) you willhave a player who is happier and enjoys playing soccer. How many times as acoach have we seen a player struggling at one level, but if they drop to aslightly lower level of competition they thrive.

Keeping the bulk of a team together for several yearswill allow the players to develop in an environment that isn’t as highly pressurized as the current system.

Coach Anonymous

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Suggested Format Guidelines BY Gary Waltz

The OnePlus Format (SoccerBuddy)


Often children with disabilities need assistance. To address this, the special needs program incorporates a new volunteercalled a Soccer Buddy.  This person willassist the child at practice and games.

Without compromising safety, the primary goals is to have the player be as self-reliantas possible.  After all, the overall goalis to see the child participate and grow in their accomplishments.  It is possible that the child may nedassistance with a particular task for a limited time. The program should allowthem to accomplish the task independently when it is safe and they havedemonstrated physical ability and mental comprehension.

Unfortunately,some children have such severe needs the Soccer Buddy will have to perform manyactions for them.  It may include pickingup a ball so the child can touch it, assisting with the mobility device, orholding their hand to provide direction.

The ONE PLUSformat can be adapted to any game or practice situation.  It is not mandatory that every special needschild have a Soccer Buddy on the field with them.  Some children may require this help whileothers will not.  Their individualmedical condition will be the determining factor.  When in doubt it is always best to have aSoccer Buddy.

Note: Lookfor more ‘Format’ ideas in the next issue of Karl’s Komments J

For more informationcontact TOPSoccer program Coordinator Gary Waltz at or theDistrict VII office.    Article Source:“Miles & Miles of Soccer Smiles”Handbook

Co-Authors: Peggy Neason/ Former US Youth SoccerTOPSoccer Chairperson

                    Karl Dewazien/CEO, FUNdamental SOCCER Enterprises


we Need Your InPut

Coaching Is About Emotion

By Meghan Biro

Make a list of the 5 coachesyou most admire. Now ask yourself why you admire them. The chances are highthat your admiration is based on more than their accomplishments, impressive asthose may be. I’ll bet that everyone on your list reaches you on an emotional level.

This ability to reach playersin a way that transcends the intellectual and rational is the mark of a great coach.They all have it. They inspire us. It’s a simple as that. And when we’reinspired we tap into our best selves and deliver amazing work.

So, can this ability totouch and inspire players be learned? No and yes. The truth is that noteveryone can lead, and there is no substitute for natural talent. Honestly, I’mmore convinced of this now – I’m in reality about the world of soccer and playerengagement. But for those who fall somewhat short of being a natural born star(which is pretty much MANY of us), coaching skills can be acquired and honedand perfected.

Let’s Take A Look At Tools That Allow For Talent To Shine:Move up t Move down

Emotional intelligence. Great coachesunderstand empathy, and have the ability to read players’ (sometimesunconscious, often unstated) needs and desires. This allows them to speak tothese needs and, when at all possible, to fulfill them. When players feel theyare understood and empathized something, they respond PERIOD and a bond isformed.

Continuous learning. Show me a know-it-alland I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have a clue about being human. Curiosityand an insatiable desire to always do better is the mark of a great coach. Theyare rarely satisfied with the status quo, and welcome new knowledge and fresh(even if challenging) input. It’s all about investing in yourself.

Contextualize. Great coaches respond toeach challenge with a fresh eye. They know that what worked in one situationmay be useless in another. Before you act, make sure you understand thespecifics of the situation and tailor your actions accordingly.

Let Go. Too many coaches thinkcoaching is about control. In fact, great coaches inspire and then get outof the way. They know that talented players don’t need or want hoveringmanagers. Coaching is about influence, guidance, and support, not control. Lookfor ways to do your job and then get out of the way so that players can dotheirs.

Honesty.  Not a week goes by thatwe don’t hear about a so-called coach losing credibility because he or she wasdishonest. Often this is because of pressure to try and “measure up” and it’snot coming from a place of being real – often this relates to fear of not beingaccepted for your true self. We live in age of extraordinary transparency,which is reason enough to always be true to your core – your mission will berevealed, your motivations will show by your behaviors. But it goes way beyondthis. It’s an issue that sets an example and elevates an organization. If youhave a reputation for honesty, it will be a lot easier to deliver bad news andface tough challenges. Are you inspiring players from your heart? 

Kindness and respect. Nice coaches (players)don’t finish last. They finish first again and again. Ignorance and arroganceare coaching killers. They’re also a mark of insecurity. Treating everyone witha basic level respect is an absolute must trait of coaches. And kindnessis the gift that keeps on giving back. Of course, there will be players whoprove they don’t deserve respect and they must be dealt with. But that job willbe made much easier, and will have far less impact on your team, if you have areputation for kindness, honesty and respect.

Collaboration.  The more your players become partners intechnical & tactical development, the more they will deliver amazingresults. This means, to the greatest extent possible, communicating your team’sstrategies, goals and challenges. This builds buy-in, and again is a mark ofrespect. Players won’t be blindsided (which is a team culture killer) bysetbacks if they’re in the loop.

Partner with your players. As I said above, players’careers are a big part of their lives. That seems like a no-brainer, but coachesshould have it front and center at all times. Find out what your players’career goals are and then do everything you can to help them reach them. Evenif it means they will eventually leave your team. You will gain happy,productive players who will work with passion and commitment, and tout your teamfar and wide. This is an opportunity to brand your greatness.

Coaching is both an artand a science. These tools are guidelines, not rigid rules. Everyone has todevelop his or her own individual coaching style. Make these tools a part ofyour arsenal and use them well as you strive to reach players on an emotionallevel.

Be Human. This Matters.

Reworded from a Forbes article Submittedby Mike Hodges, CJSLLeague Administrator  

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Referee's Corner

Read The Game, Read The Signs and Show Your Presence By Pat Ferre


When you officiate, you MUST learn to recognize potentialsigns of conflict and prevent them from escalating.  How officials handle these situations separate the averagereferees from the exceptional ones.

Recognizing conflicts. First you must learn to recognizesigns of a potential conflict.  Some areeasy:  two players pushing and grabbingeach other is a clear indication.  Others are more subtle and officials need to learn how torecognize signs of impending conflicts that can be dealt with before thesituation escalates.

Players will showsigns:  In the older age groups, frustratedplayers tend to complain to teammates or the officials or show non-verbalsigns.  Knowing the signs can help theofficial deal with the situation before it escalates.

  • If a player and a team are doing well, there will be few complaints.  A player who is unhappy with his/her own performance or that of his/her team will often show signs of frustration.
  • Players’ facial and body language expressions can give important clues.  Staring or glaring at an opponent is an obvious attempt at intimidation.  Tense facial muscles, tightening of the fists and arms may indicate that a player may be close to becoming physically aggressive.  Players who complain to or at teammates are showing signs of frustration.
  • Always watch for contact away from the ball, after a play is made or when the ball is out of play.  Those are times when players feel that no one is watching and it is time for cheap shots.
  • Be aware of “paybacks or retaliations” by the player who got fouled or embarrassed.  Teammates may also decide to partake in the “payback” as well.  The not-so-smart players will try to retaliate immediately and they are often caught because officials are still in the moment.  The smarter players try to get even at a later, more opportune, time when the referee’s attention is focused elsewhere.

Signs from coaches:  Coaches signs are mostly verbal but can alsobe non-verbal.  Comments toward theofficials are usually a sign that they are trying to “work” the officials orthey are frustrated.  The loudness andrepetitiveness of the comments is a good indicator.

  • The stern way they talk to the players and other bench personnel may eventually carry over to the officials.
  • Body movements such as rolling of the eyes, arms flying and mimicking referee signals are some sure signs that the coach is playing to the crowd in an attempt to intimidate you.

Official’spresence:  The way officials look anddress, the way they move about the field and use appropriate signals goes along way toward managing a game and handling any conflict.  You have to look like you know what you aredoing and look confident doing it.

An official with presence looks like he/she belongsthere.  An official without presencelooks nervous, anxious and unsecure. Coaches and players will sense that presence or lack thereof and may useit to intimidate or influence the official in order to gain an advantage.

Age is one factor that cannot be controlled.  Younger officials should be prepared to dealwith more conflict than older more experienced officials.  Coaches tend to test rookies or new officialsbecause they may be more easily influenced.

Other factors that may affect one’s presence are:  tardiness to a match, less than proper dress,personal grooming, decisiveness of calls and the control of one’s emotions.  Prepare yourself early and work on your presence beforestepping onto the field.

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