Dr. Jay Martin to Study Athlete Hazing

Dr. Jay Martin - Hazing

Dr. Jay Martin, the winningest collegiate men’s soccer coach is now a part of a much needed research program. Martin will be working with Simon Clements who is director of behavioral training and tools for the Chicago-based EXACT Sports research group. The research team has been awarded $10,000 from the 2015 NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant to study hazing. This program will focus on the psychosocial well-being and mental health of college athletes. This is a great opportunity for to help athletes learn more about pressures and team culture. Learn more about this project

Posted in Coaching, College Soccer

Dr. Jay Martin Speaks to NCAA Champion Magazine

Dr. Jay Martin - WinningSee what the Winningest Soccer Coach in NCAA tells NCAA Champion Magazine. Where he started coaching, his strongest sports, weakest sports, lessons learned and more. He says he is NOT a good soccer player and never was.

Follow the link below to view the article.
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Posted in Coaching, College Soccer, Dr. Jay Martin

Leadership by Connecting at Otterbein University

Ross Leadership Institute series at Otterbein University (5/19/15)

Jay Martin speaking about Leadership.

Posted in Dr. Jay Martin, Leadership, Speaking

The Key to Coaching Credibility


by Dr Jay Martin

Coaching credibility…so important and yet so difficult to define. Thanks to the US Olympic Committee and the US Olympic e-zine, Dr. Sean McCann and Dr. Gregory Dale talk about credibility at length in the Spring 2007 issue of Soccer Journal.  Credibility may be the single most important factor in coaching success. But, what is it?   We have all heard the phrase “a players coach”. ..or “be yourself” when talking about coaching. That sounds credible…and it is. But, what is it?   How does it apply to you?

Thirty years ago there was no problem. A coach was a coach. By virtue of his/her position, there were no problems, no question of authority and no question about who was boss.  But today?  Parents and players, both, question the coach…every day…every decision.  So what is important for a coach today? How can he/she become credible in the eyes of peers, players and parents of the players? The two aforementioned articles offer great advice for gaining and maintaining credibility. But, they miss one important factor. Every good coach…”is what he/she is”.

There is no shortage of coaching material that suggests that all coaches remain within their own personality…do what they do best….do it how they do it…don’t try to be Alex Ferguson…be yourself. But, it is not easy. Staying true to your personality, as a coach, is the most difficult part of coaching.    Many coaches, once in a position of leadership, change. They change into what they think a coach should behow they think a coach should act.   This is a big mistake and leads to loss of credibility.

Defining Leadership

In the late 1990’s the Gallup Foundation engaged in a study of leadership. The Disney Corporation asked Gallup to define leadership. What is leadership?   Who are leaders? What do they do? How do they do it?   Can we create leaders?   Since all coaches are in a position of leadership, the results are important and significant to all who coach.

The results were very interesting. In summary Gallup found that the best leaders:

  • Have a firm belief in their talent
  • Study other successful leaders 
  • Focus on excellence
  • Move (accentuate) from their strengths
  • Measure performance improvement
  • Build team synergy; partnerships to share strengths

There is really not much new there. We have all read about leaders. We talk about leadership all the time. But, the key component suggested by Gallup is …outstanding leaders are not all alike…Each leads from his/her individual set of talents and strengths.

Remember Who You Are

When you assume a position of leadership, you do so because of who you are and because of the strengths you possess and because of what you have done. So why change? Yet many people change when they get into leadership positions. You have seen it happen many times. The AD, who after his/her promotion, totally changes his/her behavior. The new head coach who exhibits none of the positive qualities displayed as an assistant. The new boss who has a total personality transplant after being promoted to the corner office! It happens every day. In every single case the new leader does not understand leadership. They all were promoted because of who they are and what they have done…not because of what we think they will become!

That AD changes and behaves like he/she thinks an AD should act…maybe like their high school AD! The new coach acts like he/she thinks Alex Ferguson acts…not accentuating their strengths but looking to mimic his strengths! And the new boss changes his/her personality to that of Jack Welch. In all three examples, these people have made a big mistake.

Over the last few years I have talked to many MLS players who comment on how the head coach has “changed” since the player had him in high school or club. Many college players agree and talk about the transformation of the recently promoted assistant coach. And many coaches have talked about the personality change of “their AD” since taking office. The transformation or change is usually negative. When a leader or coach tries to be a different person and does not accentuate his/her strengths they lose credibility in the eyes of the players or subordinates!

Once credibility is lost the job is lost.

We all know this. We all know that a coach should coach and act within his/her personality. All of us should rely on our strengths and manage our weaknesses. No one wants to put up with a fake.

So remember, be yourself, and never forget that a good coach is what he/she is!   

Posted in Coaching, Dr. Jay Martin, Leadership Tagged with: , , ,

How To Coach Soccer Players For Game Intensity


Have you ever wondered how to coach soccer players for game level intensity?

After a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy in a US Open Cup game, Columbus Crew coach Sigi Schmid suggested to the press that some of the younger Crew players need to learn that soccer is played hard for ninety minutes.  He was upset because the younger players, who had a chance to “show” in a Cup game, seemed to “go through the motions” during the second half.  The work rate disappeared.  This is in our professional league.

Diminishing Work Rate

The Blue Chip Showcase was played in Cincinnati the same year.  Thirty two of the best club teams in the country attended.  Based on the number of college coaches there it must have been thirty two of the best teams in the country.  Yet watching these games was like watching underwater soccer.  There was no change of pace, no defending, no running and no movement off the ball.  This is our best U17’s.

A very unofficial and unscientific e-mail survey by the author suggests that the number one problem with the incoming college freshmen each year is that the players don’t know how to work hard over a period of time.  The main cause is a lack of fitness.

They don’t have any idea about the definition of intensity.  This is from the coaches of college soccer at all NCAA divisions and NAIA!

We have a problem.

The young players in this country do not understand the demands of the game of soccer.  Or, if they do, they can not translate that understanding on to the field.

Soccer Is Meant To Be Played Full Out

Soccer is game that is meant to be played when you are uncomfortable; when you are tired and when you are in pain.  Good soccer players understand this and keep on playing.  Bad soccer players stop playing…there are more bad soccer players than good ones!

But who is to blame for this uniquely American dilemma?  The players?  The coaches?  Maybe both, but the real problem lies in the American soccer system.

Problems Within The System

  • There are too many games in too short a period of time at all levels of soccer in this country.  Youth, high school and college soccer all play two or three games (sometimes more) every week.  Soccer is not meant to be played that often.  Too many games means players “save themselves” for the next game; it means there is not enough time to prepare to play physically or mentally and it means that there is limited recovery time between these games.  So, when the players get tired in these games they stop running
  • There are too many tournaments in youth soccer.  Playing four, five or six games in a thirty six to forty eight hour period is a huge problem.  By subjecting players to this type of schedule we are condoning and, in fact, teaching our young players that it is acceptable to “conserve your energy”; “rest on defense” or “play underwater soccer”.  After playing in these tournaments over a period of time we train the players to play in an unrealistic manner.
  • We have too many substitutions.  When we play many games in a short period of time, substitutions are necessary.  We should have limited substitution IF we can reduce the frequency of our games.  By limiting games each week; or mandating a recovery period between games we can put fitness back into the game.  The founders of the game limited substitutions to make fitness a part of the game.  Fitness is one of the “four pillars” of soccer that we all know from the coaching schools.  Right now if a player gets tired he/she either stops running or puts the hand up to come out!  No need to work hard!
  • There is a lack in fitness and conditioning training in youth soccer (sports).  There may have been a time when the players came to training sessions with some level of fitness.  In those days young boys and girls actually played outside after school.  They ran, jumped and played with peers on the streets.  Times have changed.  Those days are gone…long gone.  Today kids don’t play UNTIL they arrive at training.  They don’t engage in any physical activity unless it is organized.  Coaches only have a little time for each training session.  Having fitness training will take away from technique and tactics.  The fact is youth players are not fit and don’t get fit.  That means they stop running when they are tired…and they get tired very quickly
  • Special youth players receive special treatment.  The exceptional young soccer player is not required to defend, or run, or maybe even train.  They are allowed to rest until they get the ball…then they work…and then they rest again.   When they reach a level where players are compatible and they are no longer a stand out, they struggle because they are not fit!  How good would these talented players be if they were fit?  If they ran?  If they defended?  But these players never learn to play through pain or discomfort.  They never learn how to play soccer.

So the fault lies not only with the players and coaches but with our system.  This problem does exist.  Sigi Schmid sees this problem at the highest level.  Each of you see the problem every day.

We, as coaches, know the demands of the game.  It is our responsibility to teach our players what the demands of the game are, and more importantly, show players in training how to cope with these demands.  Coaches must expect more from their players in training and in games.  Coaches must insist that the players continue to play when they are tired and sore.  Coaches must train players technically and tactically AFTER fitness training so the player understands how to play when tired…how to perform when tired.

We, as coaches, must address this issue now.

There is a lot more in this issue.  World Cup and Champions League winner Marcello Lippi is interviewed by Andy Roxburgh of UEFA and Frank Dunne and Soccercoaching International.  There is great insight and comment from a great coach.  Lynn Patuosco is back with some information that will help all coaches of women and girls prevent the dreaded ACL injury.

From the USOC Sean McCann discusses the role of personality and coaching.  Does your personality affect how you coach or affect how effective you are as a coach?

Have you ever wondered about the FIFA world rankings?  How can the US be number four one week and number thirty the next?  Richard Pollard and Raymond Stefani help us wade through the calculations.

Is the cross making a comeback?  Were there really true wingers playing in Germany 2006?  Director of Coaching Development Jeff Tipping offers information about the return of the cross and how you can train your team to utilize this very important attacking weapon.

Soccer is a game best played with passion.

Passion translates into having fun.  Having fun means loving the game.   Maureen Weiss of the University of Virginia suggests ways and means to teach the children how to love the game.

What an interesting concept!


Posted in Coaching, Mindset & Stragegy Tagged with: ,

The Difference Between Coaching And Training

If you practice badl

 by Dr. Jay Martin

Johan Cruyff once said that England is a land of trainers and not coaches.  Which are you?  A trainer or a coach?

There is a difference.

Although Mr. Cruyff suggests that England has trainers and few coaches, the same could be said of the United States.

What is the difference between coaching and training?

After over thirty years of coaching in college and watching youth soccer from afar, I made the step into youth soccer about one year ago.  I am the technical director for a local soccer club. In that role I work with our coaches and try to support them in their efforts. As a result,  I spent a lot of time during the last year observing youth training sessions.  These sessions were not only from the club I am affiliated with, but many other clubs in the Central Ohio area.

If my observations of coaching in Central Ohio can be used as a sample for all youth soccer coaching in the country, then we are in trouble.

It was disturbing to watch the USA v Holland game in Amsterdam in March.  The score was only 2-1, but the difference in how the teams played was enormous.  It was the little things in that game.  The Dutch did everything right and the USA didn’t – timing of runs, body position to receive the ball, possession of the ball, passes to teammates instead of knocking the ball up field, numbers around the ball, composure and the list goes on.  The players were the best we have, but they demonstrated a lack of understanding of the subtleties of the game.

So which are you a coach or trainer?

A trainer can be male or female.  A trainer plans a session (or maybe not) and describes a drill or activity to the players.  The players then perform the activity for the prescribed time with the trainer offering nothing except the occasional, “Nice shot” or “Good work”.  If the players are executing the activity properly they may get better.  If not, they are getting better at playing badly.

A coach can also be male or female. The coach sets up the same activity after taking some time to plan the session.  He or she watches the players execute the activity BUT the coach stops the play to make “coaching points” to the team.  Coaching points can be translated into explanations of the subtleties of the game:  timing of runs, weight of the pass, type of service required, etc.  A coach puts players in the position to learn how to play the game correctly.  Players improve with coaching!  Not with training!

Soccer Illustration

Let’s look at this practice activity.  There is a lot going on here.  Player A plays the ball into the coach and takes a shot.  Player A then shows to player B and executes a one- two to send player B down the line.  Player A and player C then run into the box to receive the serve from player B.  The players then rotate lines.  The activity is performed on the right and on the left.

The trainer sets this up and watches for 15 or 17 minutes.  The verbal communication is minimal and consists of motivating expressions.  The trainer does not stop the activity to make coaching points.

And there are many opportunities in this type of activity to make coaching points.  How about: the angle of the pass(es); the weight of the pass, the type of serve, the first touch of player B, the runs of players A and C into the box, the type of serve, to name a few.   A coach ensures the players are getting a chance to learn to play the game – correctly!

How can you change from being a trainer to being a coach?  First, you can take a NSCAA course.  Most NSCAA courses will address the planning of a session and give you some information that will help you become a coach.

But until you can do that, allow me to make some suggestions.  Coaching points are the difference between the trainer and the coach.

Some thoughts:

Think:  Give some thought to the training session before you make the plan.  It would be best if you could think about training the night or day before the session as opposed to the drive to the practice session.  The day or night before allows you too change your mind and/or refine the session.

Set an Objective:  Each session should have a goal or objective.  Every activity in the session should address the goal and the end game should be conditioned to emphasize the goal.  One objective for each session should work.  The objective should reflect what happened in the last game or two, the time of the season and the strengths and weaknesses of the team.  If your team gets better at one thing in each training session they will be pretty good at the end of the season.

Plan it and Write it Down

I am amazed at how many soccer coaches do not make a session plan.  Many walk on the field after little or no forethought about the session.  Some may read a book that offers practice sessions or activities and take them to the field.  Some may keep those “practice cards” in the car and pick three or four for training.  But most trainers/coaches do not give any thought to the sessions.  They may know about warm up, technical work and an end game, but to what end?  Why have these activities been chosen?  What is the goal of the session??

You have thought about the session and you have decided upon a goal, now is the time to plan the session.  There should be a good warm up and then a progression of activities that will (hopefully) address the goal.  The session should end with a game.  Now is the time to write down the training plan!!

The best coaches in the world write down their session plan and bring it on to the field so they don’t forget anything.  It is easy to forget in the heat of the battle or when you get old!  So, write it down.

Coaching Points

As mentioned earlier, the real difference between the trainer and the coach is found in coaching points.  Coaching points are the areas in an activity that should be emphasized to help the player learn the proper way to execute the activity or skill or technique.  The good coach writes down the coaching points for each activity in the session!!  He or she writes the coaching points on the session plan and brings it on the field.  This ensures that the coach offers everything possible to the player and does not forget anything.

For example, if the objective of the session is dribbling, the coaching points should look something like this:

  • Lean forward over the ball
  • Keep the knees bent and move on the balls of your feet
  • Relax the body
  • Maintain good balance
  • Keep the ball close, dot “kick and chase”
  • Use all parts of the foot
  • Use body feints
  • Be creative, create your own style
  • Change speed and direction when beating a defender
  • Keep your head up as much as possible
  • Use the body to shield/protect the ball
  • Don’t be afraid to fail.  On average a player will beat a defender only 3 times in 10.  Take risks in the attacking third!

These coaching points should be written on the lesson plan.  The coach should address each point at some time during the session.  Give your players a chance to get better!!


All good coaches evaluate their session after its conclusion.

What worked?  What didn’t work?  Why?  Were the players confused?  Did the activity do what I wanted?   Can I tweak the activity to make it better?  How can I make the session better?  What should we do next session?  If you want your players to improve then you should improve as a coach.  Constant self evaluation will make you and your training sessions better.

Stop being a trainer  – start to become a coach!!!


Posted in Coaching, College Soccer, Dr. Jay Martin Tagged with: ,

Conflict Between Coaches and Officials


by Dr. Jay Martin

The relationship between coaches and officials seems to be getting worse.  After observing the interaction between coaches and officials for over thirty years, it is getting worse.  It is getting worse at all levels.  The relationship between players and officials and coaches and officials in all sports is difficult at best.  Coaches and players just don’t agree with all (any) calls.  Any call made by an official usually brings the wrath of fifty percent of the fans and participants.  And on this level all can agree that will never change.  The participants will never agree on all the calls.  If the disagreements between players/coaches and officials stopped there it could be acceptable.

bear-371352_1280But the relationship between the two parties has become antagonistic and even counter productive.  There is a tension that is apparent even before the game begins between coaches and officials.  Does the culture of each group breed this hostility?  Do the coaches (most of whom are former players) have a deep seated distrust of officials?  Are young officials “brain washed” by their more worldly elders about the evils of the coaching fraternity?

Taking a Survey

As the author has often done in the past, an informal e-mail survey was sent to fifty one coaches.  It was very unscientific and there was a big mistake we will discuss later.  The group included men’s and women’s college coaches from all divisions and NAIA and high school coaches.

The three questions were open-ended and were:

  • How has the officiating been generally this season?
  • How do you best describe the relationship between you as a coach and the officials?  Before, during and after a game.
  • Have you seen any changes in this relationship in your years as a player and/or coach?  Please let me know how many years you have been involved with soccer.

As I said, very unscientific and open ended.  The fact that it was open-ended drew many opinions…some very lengthy.  The answers may not be surprising, but are definitely cause for some concern.

The Results of the Survey

In a general summary:

  • The technical side of officiating has been good overall
  • The relationship between the two parties was described repeatedly as…TENSE!
  • The relationship has become more contentious over the past few years

What was the big mistake?  I didn’t ask officials!  But, I am a coach and it did not occur to me to include the multicolored horde!  But, you will soon see that we took care of that oversight.

This relationship is a problem.  Assuming all of us associated with soccer want the game to improve and “catch on” in America, then working together for the common good is imperative.  So, how do we do that.

The Coaches Perspective

Paul McGinlay, men’s soccer coach at Trinity (Texas) University came up with a document entitled “Coach’s Starting Eleven:   A Perspective of What Referees Should Understand About Coaches”Paul shared this document with NISOA organizations in the Southwest.  He passed it on to me.  I shared it with NISOA groups in the Midwest.  In both cases the response from the NISOA groups was very positive.

Here is the starting IX for the coach:

  1. Arrive at the game site early and physically prepare for your responsibility
  2. Show obvious signs to both teams that the officiating crew is acting together as a team
  3. Work hard to stay as close to the play as possible – it is hard to argue a call if the official is in position!
  4. Help keep the game flowing
  5. Understand the difference between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law”, and always officiate with the spirit of the law in mind
  6. On the occasion of a potentially cautionable offense, speak in a non demanding and non threatening tone first and caution as a last resort
  7. Respect everyone involved, and do your part to keep all participants in the game
  8. Give clear and prompt signals. In the event that a mistake is made, it is okay to reverse the decision.  Players and coaches know that you are human
  9. Keep the game safe and fair for both teams
  10. Show obvious signs that you are enjoying the game and your role in the game
  11. Understand that we should all do our part to leave the game a little better than when we found it

All good stuff and accepted with enthusiasm from the NISOA groups.  It is interesting to note that the focus is on the “professionalism” not on the “calls”.


Photo by Peter Evans

Referee’s Perspective

A NISOA group in Ohio asked if they could submit a “Referee’s Starting Eleven:  A Referee’s Perspective of What Coaches Should Understand About Referees”.  Of course they could.   Dr Jim Ruether, a long time official in Ohio and a NISOA National Assessor and Clinician undertook the charge.  He worked with several NISOA groups and came up with the Starting IX for officials in their expectation of coaches:

  1. Officials feel the match should be decided by the teams playing soccer in a fair, safe and exciting manner with as little need for official intervention as possible
  2. The officials job is to be firm, but fair, and keep “cheating by the teams equal”; which is very difficult
  3. Officials do not care who wins the game. There is no reason to favor one side over another.
  4. Officials will allow the game to flow by giving advantage only when player safety and game control are not compromised.
  5. Officials understand that fouls are not always equal. Some teams foul persistently to offset superior opponent skills or lack of discipline.
  6. Officials understand that players (and coaches) may dissent as much as when a call is correct as when it is incorrect and will be tolerant if the game continues in a positive manner
  7. Officials do not give cards to players; players earn cards for reckless or careless play that has no other purpose than to disrupt play or injure an opponent
  8. Officials have a very difficult decision in when to give the first card. Not all fouls against your team merit cards; not all of your teams’ fouls are immune from cards.
  9. Officials understand that coaches have legitimate arguments. But when picking battles coaches should not dissent trifling stuff.  Who cares about a throw in at midfield with the score 4-0?
  10. Officials have bad days. Objective and respectful feedback, or even silence, is a better way to help the official refocus and get better.
  11. Officials appreciate it if when they do a good job and give an effort, coaches remember their name and understand that the “third team” on the field has also had a good game.

So, there it is.  Both “sides” have spoken.  Will this help?  It is very important that officials and coaches/players not only coexist, but work together to improve the game and make it enjoyable for all players, coaches, fans and, yes, even officials.

Let’s work together.  We should understand that we all have a responsibility to leave the game a little better than when we found it.

Posted in Coaching, Dr. Jay Martin

The Cost of International Soccer in the US


By Dr. Jay Martin

This past summer saw the usual flood of international teams come to the United States to play an assortment of MLS teams.   They came to make money, gain exposure in the States and prepare for their season.  Chelsea played the MLS All Stars and lost.  Barcelona and Real Madrid also made star studded appearances in places like Seattle, LA and Salt Lake City.  Everton played in Columbus against the Crew.  Most of these games filled all the seats in the stadium.  And most of these games generated headlines similar to the headline the day after Real Madrid defeated Real Salt Lake 2-0; US Soccer still has a long way to go!”

It seems that every visit by these international teams exposes the weaknesses of US soccer. Fans and players have come to expect that the MLS team will lose, the “big” team will go home richer and US soccer will remain the same.  There are two concerns here about these trips.

The first is an economic concern; are these trips worth the great expense?  The press corps in Salt Lake uncovered the following costs of the Real Madrid trip for owner David Checketts and the Salt Lake franchise:

  • $2 million dollars and all expenses paid
  • 30 exercise mats and stretching bands, one for each Madrid player
  • 35 medicine balls of different weight(s)
  • 45 adidas soccer balls…it seems Madrid could not use the Salt Lake soccer balls
  • Special flavors of Gatorade
  • Exercise hurdles
  • $100,000 for a grass field in the University stadium

Both games were sold out.  The first in Seattle against DC United drew over 60,000 fans and the game in Salt Lake had 44,000 attend – including Beckham friend Tom Cruise.  The Real Madrid players did make some appearances both for adidas and Real Salt Lake. And Madrid had a training session open to the public that drew thousands. And, maybe more importantly, real Salt Lake used this visit to gain support for a new stadium for the MLS team.  Real Madrid players attended the ceremonial “first shovelful” ceremony with David Beckham leading the way!  So the trip could be viewed as a success.  For one week in Salt Lake City there was “soccer pandemonium”.  Great PR for the MLS and RSL and great visibility for RM…and don’t forget the number of RM shirts sold during the week.



But is a trip like this worth the cost?

With attendance down in the MLS and the teams fighting for every dollar should MLS teams spend this amount of money? Or, is there a better place to put this money?  For one week in all MLS cities visited by international team soccer had its fair share of headlines.  But for the other fifty one weeks the status quo continues.  Soccer continues to struggle for the entertainment dollar. Would that money be better spent at the grassroots level in each MLS city?  One of the problems with a single entity league is the focus on the national sponsors and the international teams at the expense of the local grassroots.  It is true that David Beckham and Co. piqued the grassroots interest in Salt Lake City.   But for how long?  To what end?

Would that money be better spent on player salaries?  How about adding a few games to the developmental league schedule?   How could this expenditure make an immediate impact on US Soccer?  The MLS?  Youth soccer?

All of this raises a second concern that is more germane to the NSCAA.  What do we, as players and coaches, learn from these trips?  The press reminds us that we are not there yet!  How can these trips help the soccer culture in this country?

In Salt Lake City Real Salt Lake and Real Madrid played before 45,000 fans.  Real Madrid won 2-0 and Real Salt Lake comported themselves well.  But, there were some differences in the way the teams played:

  • The speed of attack whether on the dribble, off the ball running or passing was a huge difference between the teams.  Madrid attacked with speed and after some time simply caused the RSL defenders fatigue.
  • Real Madrid exhibited “possession with purpose”.  They constantly probed the RSL defense and patiently created a 1 v 1 or 2 v 1 and (again) attacked with speed!
  • Real Madrid committed players to the attack.  When RM had control in the attacking third both backs (but primarily Roberto Carlos) attacked and were instrumental in the RM attack.
  • The movement off the ball for RM was fantastic but more importantly the way the players prepared to receive the ball was far better than RSL (see Wayne Harrison’s article in this issue).  The preparation of the RM players allowed for better touches, better vision and better possession.  This is clearly an area that American players and coaches must improve upon!
  • RM exhibited a far greater understanding of the “subtleties of the game” than RSL.  They never turned in midfield, they played the way they face, they let the ball come across the standing leg etc.
  • RM seemed to enjoy the training sessions leading up to the game more than the RSL players.  Part of that may have been the different time in each teams season (i.e. preseason v final stage of the season), but part of that is because of the deep seated passion of the RM players.  They simply love to play!  Read more about the week in my article in this issue.

Why, after all these years are these differences still so apparent?  Why do coaches from other countries continue to question the tactical acumen of the American player?  Why aren’t we learning from these visits?  Why aren’t we getting better?

There is a lot that MLS players and fans (and NSCAA coaches) can take away from these visits by very good international teams.  It is not just that these teams and players are better; it is why and how they are better!

We tend to blame the soccer culture in this country, the distractions for the players, the fact that soccer is not ingrained in the American sport psyche and many other things.  But maybe it’s the way we teach the game…or don’t teach it!!!  Maybe we have to do things differently.  The American athlete is as good as any athlete in the world and better than most.   Some of the RSL players are as good an athlete as any RM player.  So, why can’t the American player play like the Europeans or South Americans?  Can we, as coaches, teach the subtleties of the game?  Or, must our players learn the subtleties for themselves?  And, if they must learn for themselves then we must offer the proper environment for them to learn.  That may start with something as simple as more pressure during training.  That pressure may force our players to do the little things correctly.  The players aren’t doing that now.

So if we continue to invite these teams to the USA let’s at least learn from them.  We don’t need more articles saying that we are still behind in soccer.  We must identify why these teams are better and use it to make the USA teams better!!  Change the way we approach the game.  Drop all the excuses. Change the way we teach.  Understand  what the rest of the world is doing…and do it!

This issue has a variety of different articles.  Lynn Pantuosco Hensch brings us up to date on how the law may affect volunteer coaches.  This is a very important article since the majority of our youth coaches are volunteers!

JP O’Connor offers cures to those of us who choke in part two of his article on choking.  Dr JC Meeroff chronicles the history of South American nutrition and the effect on the players.    Very successful Stanford coach Bret Simon is the SJ interview.  The ‘Five Favorite Practices” comes from Brent Hills, the assistant coach of England’s senior women’s team.

It is becoming apparent to some soccer people that our young players do not know how to work off the ball or even prepare to receive the ball.  Wayne Harrison offers insight into this problem by sharing with us the beginning steps of his Awareness Training Method.


(Note:  This article was re-published from an article written by Dr Jay Martin in 2008.)  

Posted in American Soccer, Major League Soccer

Ignore the Dominant Paradigm in College Soccer


by Dr Jay Martin

It’s October.  The summer is over. That means high school, club and college soccer gear up again.  Every team in the country is undefeated.  The high school teams are looking forward to competing for a league championship and maybe a state championship.  College teams are looking forward to getting an NCAA/NAIA berth and winning the national championship.  No one knows what will happen in November and December…which college team will win the College Cup?  We just don’t know.

What we do know, regardless of who wins, is that Paul Gardner won’t like it at all. We will read his annual rant about college soccer in Soccer America in January.  He will, no doubt, tell us that college soccer (and by extension high school soccer) has no place in the development of the game in this country.  He will compare the Division I finalists with the Brazilian and Italian U20’s and tell us how we, once again, come up short. If this is the future of American soccer then there is no future, he will argue.    The college game lacks the very skills that are necessary to compete at the highest level.  College soccer is over coached…college soccer lacks subtlety…lacks cleverness…college soccer is, well, awful!

Why is college soccer connected to the success of soccer in the US in the first place?  Who suggested that professional players should come from college? Or, not?  Is it assumed that the college model that feeds basketball, football should do the same for soccer?  Do NBA or NFL coaches think the NCAA championship game holds the key to the future of those sports?  I don’t think so.

Then why soccer?  Why are there people in this country who feel that the only solution to US soccer success is some type of Academy program?  Why are there some who insist that the American soccer culture must change to make all things soccer right?  Why do some continue to criticize everything about soccer in the USA?

College soccer has been around for a long time…well before the NASL or the MLS.  It has survived and it continues to grow and get better.  In fact, soccer at all levels in the US is getting better.   This grass roots improvement has helped the MLS on the field by providing players and by providing interested people in the stands.

What the critics of college soccer fail to accept or understand is that college athletics in this country are unique and deeply embedded in our culture.  Very few other countries offer the college experience to such large numbers of their populace.  In most countries young men and women do not get the chance to go to college at all and as a result do not play collegiate athletics.  The combination of academics and athletics in the US is special.  College coaches are teachers who use the soccer field as their classroom.  I don’t know one college coach who has a contract based on the number of professional athletes produced from the program – in any sport!

The vast majority of collegiate soccer players, past, present and future, will never play professional soccer (or basketball, football, baseball and ice hockey), but they will receive an education with which they can become useful members of our society.  And, every student who plays a sport in college has a special experience.  Not a professional experience perhaps, but they are part of something special.  Very few go on to play professionally, but perhaps the college athletic experience is more important for those who don’t go on to play professionally!

In fact, a year or two in college could help young players like Freddy Adu and Danny  Szetela.  And four years in college would ensure that they have a degree to use after their soccer careers are over.  College is not only about academics and soccer.  College offers a four year window in which students can make some mistakes but grow socially and morally and have a chance to mature.  The U20 players in other countries can’t say that and don’t have that opportunity?  If they are not one of the “few” who make the Manchester United first team, they are left with playing in lower leagues or changing careers!  If this is the case these players have failed by the time they are 20!

Bobby Clark, the head coach of Notre Dame said, “I feel we have got a great thing in this country and we just do not know it.  I had many opportunities to work in the professional game but I was intrigued by the college game.  This allowed me to develop my two passions – soccer and teaching!  Nowhere else in the world offered the opportunity to work with talented athletes in an academic environment.  I don’t think the sole job of a college coach is to produce professional athletes.  We have so many different and wonderful hats to wear, but, like any good teacher it is important that we help all of our students reach their full potential, in some (few) cases that will be making it in the professional league.”

Not long ago at the Notre Dame Coaches clinic Craig Brown (former Scottish National Team coach and Brian McClair (the Manchester United reserve team coach) attended and made a presentation to the assembled coaches.  What struck them immediately was the standard of the college players.   When asked by an attendee how the college players compared to his Manchester United team, Brian McClair replied “…they are every bit as good and in some cases better!”  And he meant it!  McClair went on to point out that most professional clubs are really only looking for one or two players from a youth team of about 18 players.  The rest simply make up the numbers to allow the “special players” to have a team.

But are college players and teams really that bad?  In 2006 the MLS drafted 104 players.  The majority of these players attended college for a period of time and many graduated.  In that same year the NCAA had 19,793 male college soccer players playing on 752 teams.  Assuming for sake of argument that one quarter of these players were seniors, then 4,948 were seniors.  That means that less than 1% were drafted.  These numbers compare favorably to football (61,252 participants and fewer than 300 drafted) and basketball (16,571 and fewer than 200 drafted).  That means that college soccer is holding up its end by providing players for the MLS.  The MLS should appreciate this fact…it doesn’t.

Those are the numbers, what about the quality of ex-college players?  About 17 of the players on the US World Cup squad which reached the quarterfinal game played in college.  The majority of the U20s who played in Holland a year ago played in college. And, can we talk about the quality of some individual players from college?  How about Brian McBride, Claudio Reyna, Simon Elliot, Ryan Nelson, Brad Freidel, David Weir and Carlos Bocanegra to name a few.  The college game has made significant contributions to soccer in many countries and at all levels.  The impact of college soccer should not be judged on the championship game.  That doesn’t happen with any other sport in this country…why soccer?

stadium-Photo by David Mark

College soccer gives the MLS and the national teams many quality players.

The college game has also given us many of today’s MLS coaches and our last two national team coaches.  Both Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley were successful college coaches and successful national team coaches.  In addition to high profile coaches, the college game has given this country many of the leaders of soccer at all levels. Coaches like Sigi Schmid, April Heinrichs, John Ellinger, John Hackworth, Bob Gansler, Steve Sampson, Tony DiCicco and Anson Dorrance have all offered a great deal to the game on the national level and all played and coached in college.

The college game is not perfect.  There are problems.  Budgets, facilities, not enough time for games and training and NCAA restrictions come to mind.  But the truth is that college soccer provides a very competitive environment for talented young men and women.  College soccer is a wonderful and unique system that only the US has to offer.   College soccer can develop players at the highest level and provide an academic, social and moral environment for all the players.

Bobby Clark likes to say, “Ignore the dominant paradigm”.  The dominant paradigm today is that college soccer does not produce players for the professional game.   The dominant paradigm is wrong!

Posted in American Soccer, Coaching, College Soccer

Soccer Scholarships? Don’t make me laugh!


 by Dr Jay Martin

Soccer Scholarships?  Don’t make me laugh!

In early March Bill Pennington wrote a four part series for the New York Times about DI athletics.  With these two articles as an entrée, it seems like a good time to discuss the men’s and women’s soccer scholarship issue.

More and more players (and parents) believe it is worth investing several thousand dollars a year on select clubs, uniforms, showcase tournaments, elite camps, recruitment services and even private trainers to improve the odds of their offspring landing a soccer scholarship.

A recent survey of parents at the Jarosi Tournament in Columbus, Ohio revealed that more than 60 percent of parents view soccer at a “select” level as a means to a college athletic scholarship.

The father of a local U-12 player recently removed his son from a private school he attended for eight years.  He plans to use the money he saves on tuition to pay for private trainers for his son.  He wants to improve the chances of receiving a soccer scholarship.

Advertisements for elite clubs, camps and recruiting services give the impression that signing on with them will increase chances for a scholarship.  They seem to suggest that scholarships are there for the taking.  A flyer from an elite club in Ohio, for instance, makes the claim that 80 percent of the club’s players receive soccer scholarships.

College recruiting services routinely advertise that their service will improve a player’s chance of securing a college soccer scholarship.  Alan Yost of the recruiting service NCSA said, “Every high school player who signs on with us expects a scholarship offer…every player!”

But a look at the facts suggests a far different picture of soccer scholarships.  Critics say that select clubs often inflate the number of players who receive scholarships.  And, many coaches throw away the information from recruiting services.  They prefer to use their own sources and go to many tournaments to watch players.  And, personal trainers have offered no data on the number of scholarship athletes they work with.  So why do parents buy into the “scholarship sales pitch”?

While there is nothing wrong with using soccer to help a high school player get into one of the best schools – and perhaps get a scholarship – everyone involved should be realistic about the situation.

A study in 1996 determined the following facts for the high school age soccer players:

  • There were 8,182 boys and 6,500 girls soccer programs
  • There were more than 283,700 boys and 209,000 girls playing high school soccer
  • There were 51,066 boys and 37,620 girls who were seniors, played soccer and graduated
  • There were 721 college programs for boys and 736 for girls
  • There were 4,326 spots available on college teams for boys; and there were 4416 spots available for the girls
  • There were playing opportunities for fewer than 8% of graduating seniors
  • There were 433 scholarships for boys and 806 for girls
  • Less than 1% of the graduating boys and around 2% of the girls received soccer scholarships.

How’s that for a dose of reality?  But the good news is that in 2008 the situation is much better, right?  Well not really.

There are more scholarships available for both men and women.  But there are many more players playing the game in high school!

In Bill Pennington’s New York Times series, he discussed the scholarship situation for all NCAA sports. Pennington wrote, “Excluding the glamour sports of football and basketball, the average NCAA athletic scholarship is nowhere near full tuition, amounting to $8,707. In sports like baseball and track and field, the number is routinely as low as $2,000.  Even when football and basketball are included, the average is only $10,409.   Tuition and room and board for NCAA institutions often cost between $20,000 and $50,000.’

Although the data compiled from the NCAA for the 2003-2004 academic year dealt with all sports, we will focus on men’s and women’s soccer.  The article determined the following:

  • Only about 2% of all NCAA DI athletes receive a scholarship
  • There is no such thing as a four year scholarship.  All scholarships are renewable annually
  • There were 330,044 boys playing high school soccer and 270,273 girls
  • There were 2,357 scholarships for boys and 3,964 for girls
  • Those scholarships were awarded to 6,047 boys and 9,310 girls
  • The average award was $8,533 for boys and $8,404 for girls – that means the men’s scholarship covered only 39% of costs and the women’s scholarships covered only 43% of costs
  • Only 1.8% of high school soccer playing boys received a soccer scholarship and only 3.4% of the women received a soccer scholarship.

In the NYT article, NCAA President Myles Brand says, “The youth culture is overly aggressive and while the opportunity for an athletic scholarship is not trivial, it’s easy for the opportunity to be exaggerated by parents and advisors.  That can skew behavior and based on numbers, lead to unrealistic expectations.” 

The statistics above suggest that there is one NCAA scholarship for every 145 men who played soccer in college.  Joe Taylor, a scholarship soccer player from Villanova, said, “It is a huge dogfight to get whatever you can.  Everyone is scrambling.  There are so many good players, nobody understands how few get to keep playing after high school! If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped a practice every now and then to go to a concert or a movie with my friends.  I missed out on a lot of things because of soccer.  I wish I could have some of that time back.”

It is important that parents and coaches know these statistics and realize how difficult it is to receive a soccer scholarship.  Although getting a soccer scholarship is a long shot, we do have some good news.  Being a good soccer player may give an athlete an edge when colleges award academic scholarships and need based aid.  In fact, there is much more money available to soccer players for academic prowess than for athletic excellence.  An increased focus on academics will pay greater dividends than soccer excellence in the long run – it may also pay off on the short run.

A recent study by the College Board Association of Princeton, NJ determined that independent colleges in the United States award over $10 billion in financial aid each year.  This includes awards from institutional funds for scholarships, fellowships and trainee stipends.  Add state and federal financial aid funding and there is over $50 billion available for academic and need based aid each year!

The numbers say that soccer scholarships are relatively scarce.  Should your players stop cracking shots and spend Saturdays cracking the books in a library instead?  Of course not.  We know that soccer is a great game.  It has an important place in the life of your players – whether there is a soccer scholarship in the future or not.  Everyone involved with soccer should just keep the scholarship issue in perspective.  Your players should be playing for fun,, fitness, and the challenge of the game.   if your players (and parents) are only playing to earn a soccer scholarship – maybe they should spend more time in the library!

Posted in College Soccer, Scholarship

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