When coaches lose perspective and hurt youngsters and the beautiful game

Take a look at the 30-second clip below showing one serious foul and then one reckless foul by the same player during the U13G semifinal at US Futsal Nationals this past weekend in San Jose.

These fouls were about 7 minutes apart during the last 15 minutes of the game and earned the offender two yellow cards and then a red.

The first foul could have been a straight red card, especially in a futsal context where the laws of the game are tighter than for outdoor soccer.

The coach had assigned the offending player to man-mark orange #6 and had berated her repeatedly for not being physical/aggressive enough. This coach got increasingly frustrated as the game unfolded and then channelled that into his players.

I don’t believe that this girl had the intention to hurt orange #6 earlier in the game, but she was eventually pushed too far by her coach. She was under increasing pressure and finally snapped.

Orange #6 could not continue playing and had to be carried off the court. Later she had difficulties walking and her lower back and right hip was very painful. She was lucky to avoid serious injury.

And by way of context, the orange team was winning 6:0 when the first offense occurred. And let’s remember that futsal in particular is about footwork, skills, and creativity. So let’s coach those aspects of the game, win or lose.

This is an example of what can go wrong with youth coaching when coaches lose perspective.

The offending player learned nothing from this kind of coaching and ended up evicted from the game. She didn’t strike me as someone who would wear that with pride. I very much doubt that this experience furthered her interest in soccer.

And the injured player could have sustained career-ending injuries, which would have a been a major blow for her, of course, but also soccer more broadly – orange #6 is very talented and very likely to make the U.S. Soccer national player pool soon.

[Update: turns out, this player did take pride in her red card afterall. Due to some social media sleuthing by an observant parent, we also know that at least two parents on that team congratulated this girl on the red card. So it’s clearly not just a coaching problem as was pointed out in the comments below. Disgraceful in my view.]

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

3 thoughts on “When coaches lose perspective and hurt youngsters and the beautiful game

  1. Rec soccer coach trying his hand at futsal–you see it every year. I guess futsal coaches have to come from somewhere, but the spirit of the game is technical footwork and movement off the ball. Coaches and referees who allow slide tackling and such shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a futsal court.

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  2. Watched the video
    1. it seems the first foul was pretty blatant, and pretty obvious, even when not in slow mo. There didn’t appear to be any attempt to go for the ball, and every attempt to drive the player to the floor.
    2. The second foul was a little more difficult. She appeared to get the ball with her foot, and in the process trip up the orange player. There also appeared to be a left elbow driving the orange player to the floor. But i can see how the second foul could be missed or not deemed a foul.

    Regardless, i think this article and the behaviour of the coach warrants a broader discussion on the state of US soccer and why coaches here are “allowed” to act that way in the first place. There are other “actors” involved here, who have indirectly led to this coaches behaviour and should be taken to task just as much as the coach. To wit:
    1. The parents who insist on winning every game, from the age of U8 and up. And as a result insist on the best players being on the field all the time, and in the forward positions. As in “lets win early and often rather than develop”. The coach quickly realizes that if he doesn’t win, he’ll be the one to blame, and will lose his job or be moved to a “lesser” team
    2. The soccer club board members and DOCs that don’t do a sufficient job “training” parents on the realities of youth sports in general and youth soccer in particular – as in, “for 99.999% of you, your kid ain’t that good and won’t be playing pro”. And in addition to not educating parents, follow it up with setting up their clubs to favor “top” teams, and “top” players and focus on finding the few “top” players and using them as “halo” players (who also won’t play pro) to attract other paying customers.
    3. Referees who don’t do enough, at younger ages, to “punish” fouls and “bad behaviour” on the field. As in, a U8 player trying a slide tackle and almost breaking someones leg is allowed to then repeat that “skill” numerous times over the course of the game. Or a player at U11 who repeatedly trips from behind and isn’t given a yellow until someone finally goes down with a concussion. Or a U10 player who turns their back on a referee in disdain while they are being talked to about their behaviour by that same referee. For a good example of what i’d personally like to see here, go watch a rugby game, even at the pro level. Total obedience and deference to the ref. Because the ref demands it, and punishes those that don’t give it.

    So, while it is easy to blame the coach, and indeed the coach should be blamed, there are in fact numerous other elements of youth soccer that are equally at fault for that coaches behaviour and should look in the mirror and think about changing their behaviour.

    Andrew

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    • Good article, James, good points, Andrew. But what now? Parent, coaches, referees, leagues–all pointing the finger at the others. The only way this evolves organically is if parents demand changes. Otherwise, the leagues have to driver this evolution and they have a reputation as codifying the lowest acceptable standards–not the highest.

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