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State DOC Blog

A blog from Jacob Daniel, Georgia Soccer's State Director of Coaching. If you have comments, questions, or topic suggestions, please send them to


Dealing with Lopsided Scores

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

In youth soccer, inevitably, there are games with lopsided scores, where one team is much superior to the other and the game is a mismatch.  This happens most often at the entry-level competitions where there is no history of game results due to newly formed teams.

Youth coaches and administrators have grappled with this issue for a long time.  On the one hand, the spirit of competition pushes coaches and players to forge ahead and score as many goals as possible.  On the other hand, the spirit of sportsmanship causes discomfort to many adults witnessing the onslaught.

There is also an argument to be made that players who are on the wrong end of a shellacking can get sufficiently discouraged to quit playing, especially if their team is clobbered often.  We certainly don’t want to see that!

I suspect that players, for the most part, will get over it if the adults can quickly shift the narrative to other things and find ways to cheer the player with post-game ice cream.  Adults who brood and obsess over game results in front of the kids are more likely to demotivate them from playing the game.  Adults who move on after a losing game and don’t let the game result spoil the rest of the weekend are more likely to keep their child playing the game.

Nevertheless, coaches should try their best to keep the score down when it becomes clear early on that the game is a mismatch.  One way to accomplish that is to look at an easy game as an opportunity to work on some of the seasonal goals for that were hopefully set at the beginning of the season.

For example, if ‘improve switching the point of attack’ was a seasonal goal, the coach could demand that his/her team switch the point of attack from one flank to the other before going to the goal.  If ‘improve speed of play’ was a goal, the coach could impose a one-touch passing restriction on his/her team.   Coach could impose one touch passing on the whole field or just in the attacking half, depending on level of play.  If a goal is to ‘play through the lines’, coach could instruct his/her team to pass the ball from line to line (the keeper to the back line to the midfield line to the forward line) rather than kick it long and chase.

One last thought.  The coach and parents from the winning team could also mitigate the bad feelings of a one-sided game by applauding good play by the other team.  A good pass or a successful tackle to win the ball can be applauded, as long as it is done in a way that does not seem patronizing.


Coaching Education Gets a Facelift

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

US Soccer is restructuring the coaching education pathway from the Grassroots to the elite levels and will launch these significant changes in January 2018.

The old pathway consisted of the F, E, D, C, B, and A courses.  In the new structure, the E course disappears and is replaced by a series of modules tentatively called the Grass Roots Modules which will be age/formation specific.  The modules will cover 4 age/formation levels:  the 4v4, 7v7, 9v9, and 11v11 formations.  In each formation, there will be an online module and an in-person module.

The online modules will be 1-2 hours long and the in-person modules will be 4 hours long.  Coaches who want to take the D course will need to meet the following pre-requisite:  They will have to take at least one grassroots online module and at least two in-person modules, one of which must be the 11v11 module.   Of course, coaches who already have the E license will be eligible for the D course and will not have to go through the grassroots modules.

The objectives of the new structure are to make coaching education more accessible and user-friendly, to provide more age-specific information, and to standardize the pathway and add consistency.

The US Soccer coaching department has also added to the pathway the following changes:  The A license has been redesigned into two parallel licenses:  the A Youth Course and the A Senior Course.  As the names suggest, those who work at the youth level must take the A Youth License and those who work at the adult, professional or Collegiate levels can take the A Senior license.

And above all these levels, at the apex of the coaching pyramid stands the Pro License course, which is designed for coaches of professional teams such as the MLS and for National Team coaches.

For more information on the new structure, please contact the Georgia Soccer Coaching Administrator, Tara Daniel at or the Director of Coaching, Jacob Daniel at



Flashback Friday: Recreational Soccer Thoughts from 1993

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

Coaching at the youth level, especially at the recreational level, can be summed up tongue-in-cheek as a grown-up structure on a collision course with youthful spontaneity.  If you ask many coaches, they will tell you of their constant battle to impose organization on a bunch of exuberant carefree kids.

Let us study the weapons used by both sides in this war on grass.  The coaches arm themselves with whistles.  The kids, who, I am sure, would love to get their hands, or lips, on some of those, tend to rely on their complete range of vocal chords.  The coaches use lineups with boring, repetitive drills.  The kids use peer fighting, tickling, hair pulling, tears and a complete lack of collinear principles.  When the going gets tough, the coaches like to wear out the kids by resorting to long team talks, lectures, and dissertations.  The kids, when cornered by lectures, respond with short attention spans and perpetual motion techniques.  The coaches, in an attempt to convince the kids into believing that everyone is on the same side, initiate goal setting and seasonal objectives.  The kids, once they read through this tactical maneuver, revert to goal climbing and seasonal objections.

Who am I rooting for in this inter-generation conflict? For the kids of course! Call me a traitor, but I am on the side of playful abandon.

Seriously, when one considers the amount of structure disciplined organization inflicted on our kids in school and at home, one appreciates the need to balance it out with periods of play and fun activities without regard for results, provided, of course, that child safety is not sacrificed.  Allow me to relate to you some real-life examples:


In one 3v3 game between two U-6 teams, I witnessed a mother running onto the field to scream at her child and spank him on his derriere for scoring on his own goal (the poor child lost his orientation for a moment, dribbled towards his team’s net and scored a beautiful own goal).


I frequently get inquiries from parents who are looking for a trainer for their child as a form of “individual soccer tutoring”. In some cases, getting a trainer is not a bad idea.  But when a parent wants to find out what his/her seven-year-old child’s weaknesses are so that the child can work to improve on these weaknesses, I tell him/her that seven-year-olds have not lived on this planet long enough to develop strengths and weaknesses.  Does the parent of a grade 1 student ask the teacher what weaknesses should he/she work on to enable his/her child to become a lawyer? A seven-year-old child should play soccer for one purpose and one purpose only:  to have fun!

At this point, most of you reading this article are probably saying to yourselves that the above examples are but extreme cases of overzealous parents whose behavior does not resemble yours.  I hope so.  But below this extreme level of unrealistic parental expectations exists a multitude of more subtle examples of misplaced priorities of well-meaning but misguided coaches and parents.  Read on.


Your nine-year-old son plays goalkeeper and has just conceded a soft goal with two minutes left in the game, which caused your team to lose 2:1.  On the drive home, you can’t help yourself and start dissecting the play that led to the goal.  You are extra careful to sound calm, friendly and not accusing.  After all, you are merely trying to help your son learn from the experience, learn from his mistakes.  Your son bursts out crying and says:  “I don’t want to talk about it!”  I am no child psychologist, but the above incident suggests to me that this keeper is under too much pressure to perform and is not enjoying himself.


Some coaches, when they want their teams to work on passing, use drills with lineups similar to this one:  They place their players in two parallel lines about ten yards apart.  The two players in front of the two lines move up the field inter-passing the ball while all the other players watch and wait for their turn.  In one such practice session that I observed, each player touched the ball about once every four minutes.  Suggestion:  Why not give one ball to each pair and let all the pairs simultaneously inter-pass while moving randomly in a large area.  Some coaches do not like this suggestion because it’s too messy – balls flying all over the place, players bumping into each other, balls hitting the wrong players (sounds much like the real game, doesn’t it?)

My point is that at the recreational level, the game is kind of messy and the suggestion mentioned above is a lot more game-like than standing idle in a line waiting for your turn, and then, when your turn comes, passing the ball while running in a straight line.


We have all seen the ‘swarm’. Six-year-olds all bunching up on the ball.  We have all screamed at them:  spread out!  Play your position!!  Now, if I was a six-year-old, I would also go after the ball and disregard my position.  After all, the ball is always up for grabs.  Nobody really has any control over it.  Does anybody really expect me to believe that my six-year-old teammate is going to control the ball, look up to see me on the other side of the field and switch play by placing a 30-40 yard pass to my feet??  There is no point in worrying about positions if your players have not yet mastered the technique of passing the ball under pressure.  Let the swarm be.  You cannot artificially speed up the learning process.  It’s for this reason that modified soccer and 3-a-side soccer exists:  to reduce the size of the swarm because you cannot eliminate it before its time.

In closing, I do believe that the coaches at the recreational level are getting better all the time.  There are many coaches and parents who are in sync with the sensitivities and needs of their kids.  I hope that through the coaching courses and clinics, we can get more coaches to stop and ask themselves:  Are the kids having FUN?




We Have Always Done It This Way

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

First, allow me to philosophize a bit.  In many group or communal settings, some habits are passed on from one generation to the next, with no one questioning the wisdom of the habit.

In soccer, the throw-in is one such moment where the most common play is throwing the ball down the line into a mix of players in a congested area.  If you asked the players why they take a 100% possession and turn it into, at best, a 30% chance of retaining possession, they will likely shrug and say "we have always done it like this".

Goal kicks are another example of such habits, where keepers punt the ball up the field and turn possession into a low percentage play.

On average, teams have 30-40 throw-ins per game and around 20 goal kicks each game.  That's a lot of missed opportunities to do something constructive to possess and penetrate if all you do is throw the ball down the line or punt it.  Considering that teams have between 100-150 possessions per game, throw-ins and goal kicks represent one third to one half of these moments.  Coaches who don't invest the time to prepare their teams to take full advantage of these set plays are giving up a lot of possession for no reason.

We constantly remind our players in ODP practices to use the throw-in to switch the point of attack and we show them how to do that.  We insist that our keepers distribute the ball rather than punt it up the field.

to illustrate how the outcome of these set plays impacts the game, let's use statistics from the recent game between the USA U-17 Women's team versus Japan in the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup.  the USA teamhad 31 throw-ins and 20 goal kicks.  Of the 31 throw-ins, they threw the ball down the line 30 times and only played it back to a defender once.  They lost the ball 24 times from their own 31 throw-ins.  Of the 20 goal kicks, they punted all of them and lost possession in 9 of them (they did score their goal off a long goal kick but we cannot count on that to happen often at the highest level).

Japan, on the other hand, had 36 throw-ins and they played to possess all of them.  They kept the ball 26 times off their 36 throw-ins and only lost possession 10 times.  They had 19 goal kicks, of which they played out of the back 11 times, and kept possession all the times they attempted to play out of the back.  they punted 8 times and lost possession off the punt 3 times.

So, Japan had kept possession 42 times out of 55 throw-ins/goal kicks and the USA kept possession 18 times out of 51 throw-ins/goal kicks.

There is a lesson here for coaches.  Throw-ins and goal kicks can be used to gain an advantage and it will be worth the time invested to prepare the players for these set plays.  Just because we have always done it this way doesn't mean it's the best play.


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