Do your homework

I’m looking forward to reading a new book, The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

Here’s the first part of the description on Amazon:

The generation now coming of age has been taught three Great Untruths: their feelings are always right; they should avoid pain and discomfort; and they should look for faults in others and not themselves.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the generation coming of age now.

This describes well the attitude of the person I wrote about in my previous post and he came of age quite a while back.

I think it started about 30 years ago when schools and MTV encouraged people to To Get Out the Vote and Rock the Vote, instead of encouraging those of us coming of age then to Do Your Homework, Think About, Discuss it with Others, Come to a Reasoned Conclusion, Then Vote.

But, then again, they may not be able to control your vote if you did all that.


Sorry state of discussion

A few times lately, I’ve been reminded of the first part of this post from 2010. Especially this part (some slight edits):

I often find that the other side doesn’t mind being incendiary.  They often drop bombs [like a personal attack], not based on reason or fact, and they want to be able to get away with that without a response.  When I start to respond, usually by simply asking them the reasons or facts behind their statement, they shut down the conversation (with a rude interruption and raising their voice more) with something like,  “Oh, I don’t feel like talking about that,” “I just know,” or “that’s just how I feel and you aren’t going to change that.”

Today, it was “you’re closed-minded. It’s not worth discussing anything with you. You won’t change your mind.”

Any attempt of a response from me was met with hostility to shut my response.

These recent unproductive discussions reminded me of why I started this blog — to try to have productive conversations — and reminded me to review these discussion tips that are always accessible from the top menu on the page for anyone to have to be able to help facilitate that.

In today’s discussion, when I asked someone to provide facts to back up a claim they made, it resulted in three ad hominem (personal attacks) and one red herring (change the subject) fallacies.

While I was being flamed with informal fallacies I searched the Nets to discover that the claim being made was not accurate, at least not as reported by four media sources and all of the media sources were mainstream.

It’s possible that there are other accounts that I didn’t see, but in the sources I checked, the stories lined up with each other and didn’t support his claim.

I don’t think this person was trying to intentionally mislead me.

I know from my own experience that I have a difficult enough time keeping all the information out there straight, which is one reason I like to start with the facts. I’ve been trapped in too many discussions where all of us — including me — were arguing about fiction, because none of us had our facts straight.

Added: But, I simply don’t think it’s productive that when someone challenges your claim to spin-off into fallacy land, either.

But, that pretty much sums up political discussions.

When discussing this event with my 7th grade son, he said it sounds like the sports arguments he has with his friends about whose favorite soccer team is better.


“Soccer Starts at Home” II and my home soccer practice tips

I read Tom Byer’s book, Soccer Starts at Home. It’s short and easy to read. I recommend it and agree with it.

U.S. Soccer is piloting ‘his revolutionary programs.’ Good.

What are those revolutionary programs? According to his book, it’s as simple as getting kids working with the ball at home, in their home, as soon as they can walk, or sooner.

He bought 16 small soccer balls (I’m assuming size 1 or 3 or toy balls) and put 2 or 3 in each room of his house for his two sons to play with.

He discouraged simply kicking the ball (what many Americans think soccer is all about).

He encouraged and demonstrated moving with the ball at their feet — forward, backward, side-to-side, 360 degrees and pulling back using the soles of his feet.

He has videos posted on Youtube of his boys through the years as they learned to control the ball. By the time they were 4, they were more advanced than 10-12year-old soccer players in the U.S.

Tom’s key insight: Kids in soccer-playing countries get a lot of reps through culture (i.e. pickup and unorganized play) that develops their technical abilities starting at young ages, just like kids in our culture get the same type of skill development for our sports — basketball (e.g. “OUT”) and baseball (e.g. ‘catch’).

Last June, I posted about a similar observation of my own here.

Further, Tom correctly observes, if kids aren’t getting enough reps through a culture of unorganized pickup play, then they need to get those reps somehow. One or two hours a week at a camp or training session is not enough.

Just to put numbers on it, kids should be getting 5,000 – 20,000 touches per week on the ball to improve. At training, they may get a few hundred. Even on technical-focused session might only getting them 2,000-3,000 touches. They still need to get a few thousand more on their own.

His solution: work with the ball at home, in the home, from ages 1 or 2 on up.

I second that.

I got into soccer 6 years ago (well past age 2). I had less ball control than a wall. I started practicing in the backyard to improve.

I quickly realized there were too many thing to keep me from practicing outdoors: heat, cold, humidity, mosquitos, darkness, long grass, mud, rain, snow, ice, and so on.

So, I cleared space in my rec room and vastly improved how much and how consistently I practiced and I began improving quicker (and I have only broken one thing, so far, in 3-4 years).

Here are tips and tricks I’ve learned since I started practicing inside:

Have ‘inside’ balls, like Tom says. These balls stay inside, so they don’t track in dirt and grime. And they are always available, so you don’t have to go to the garage and get it.  I use a couple of my son’s old size 4 balls, tennis balls and a toy rubber ball.

Having them lying around means that I will sometimes work with the ball for 2-3 minutes here and there in addition the regular sessions — which increases my touch count.

Deflate the soccer balls to about 80%. Most of my in-home ball work is done with socks and no shoes. The deflated ball is easier on the feet, keeps the the ball’s bounce low and the feel transfers well to a fully inflated ball with shoes.

Like Tom suggests, most of my indoor ball work is about keeping the ball at my feet and being able to move around with it. You don’t need a lot of space for this.

The base of my couches and ottoman in my rec room are perfect rebounding surfaces to work on passing and 1st touch.

I try to get in 2-3 one hour long sessions each week. I look forward to these sessions as much as playing games.

I’m always looking for things to add in to my routine.

YouTube is a great resource to find things to work on. For example, this video gave me a simple tweak to the way I approach juggling practice. Prior to that, I just did the old ‘how many juggles in a row’ method. This video caused me to tweak that to just getting in a certain number of juggles, not worrying about whether I dropped it or not. Since I started this approach, my juggling high score as improved from about 60 to 160 (but it took time). I didn’t do the 1,000 juggles like in the video. I usually do somewhere between 300 and 600.

I am also a member of Renegade Soccer Training, which has a large selection of training videos to choose from. I like these for a few reasons. It gets me through 1000s of touches on basics that I wouldn’t do on my own. I can pull them up on computer or phone anywhere. And, I think Coach JR offers some great form and technique coaching as a part of the videos that reminds you to correct simple form issues that can up your game. I often use about 10 minutes of a video as part of my warm-up for games.

Evolve your routines. I constantly evolve my routines as I learn more. For example, once I learned the new approach to juggling practice from above, I soon added a timed element to it. So, instead of just getting 100 juggles on my right foot, I see how long it takes to get 100 juggles so I can track my performance over time (it’s about 1 minute on my right, 1:10 on my left).

Another recent evolution in my juggling is that I restart balls from the floor, instead of picking them up with my hands. So, I have to pop the ball up with my feet.

Which gets me to my next point: Use performance measures. The previous two paragraphs give you some ideas of performance measures I use. Keep the measures simple. It usually involves a ‘how many’ and/or a time element (e.g. how many can I do in a minute or how long does it take be to get to 100?).

A dribbling ‘time trial’ through cones, like this one or this one from Yael Averbuch are good examples of performance measures and activities that you can build into your routine.

Listen to music. I like to put on some tunes while I practice. It helps me stay focused. Sometimes I use the songs to measure time. For example, I’ll work on right foot chops through cones for one song and left foot chops for the next song.

Share your ideas with teammates and friends so you guys can compete on the measures. My son and I have a friendly competition of juggling. He is currently in the lead.

I use a Soccer Sidekick to also work on passing, shooting and shoelace, thigh, chest and head 1st touch.

These sessions also have a big fitness component. I’m usually drenched in sweat and have had plenty of high-intensity intervals throughout the ball work. I consider these sessions to be a part of my overall fitness routine, which includes running, biking, weightlifting and playing soccer.

Very easy to slip in 30 minutes to an hour. On a busy night, where I get home from activities at 8 or 9, who wants to go to backyard to practice? But, I don’t mind going to the rec room from 9-10 pm to turn on some tunes and do some ball work. It’s relaxing.

The fun part is to see all this work come through in my games. Improving my technical skills has shifted the game from chasing the ball and being a step behind the other team to where now I’m thinking steps ahead, winning balls and just thinking about where I want to put the ball — and my body makes it happen.

The key points to all of this is that getting better at soccer takes hundreds of thousands of reps if not millions of ball touches.

The earlier those reps start in life, the better.

The more barriers you can remove to getting these touches, the better (e.g. having the balls already inside).

The more fun you can make getting these touches, the better.

Needs more work

This article on is disingenuous and not persuasive. It’s headline: The Republican tax bill punishes American families who use public schools.


Under both the GOP Senate’s nearly 500-page bill (pdf) and the House version, the amount that US households pay in state income taxes (which can be as high as 13% in states like California) and local taxes is no longer deductible on federal income tax forms, with the exception of property taxes up to $10,000.

Making state and local taxes no longer deductible from federal income taxes essentially subjects US households to “double taxation,” by taxing them twice on the income they earn, according to a report (pdf) from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), a non-partisan group of state and local finance professionals from the US and Canada.

Why do I think the article is disingenuous? For a few reasons.

First, they don’t tell us how many people will be affected. Only about 30% even claim this deduction.

Second, they don’t mention that what people lose from this deduction, they will gain some, all or more back in the changes in the standard deduction and tax rates.

Third, they don’t mention how many taxpayers will still get to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes.

When you take the above into account, I suspect that the impact of the change is minimal.

The authors also claim that the removal of this deduction will pressure citizens to lower their taxes, which could be devastating to school district budgets.

That made me LOL.

First, because I highly doubt that would happen. By the time you take the factors I mentioned above into account, it wouldn’t be worth enough people’s time to do that.

Second, if they did pressure local school districts to lower taxes, good for them. They should hold their school districts accountable. This is how the world should work.

Finally, the authors don’t even mention that one of the 2nd or 3rd order consequences of this deduction is already offset in higher home prices, which is a pretty well-known and accepted fact in the economics world.

So, if you do pay more taxes because of losing this deduction you will likely gain it back in home affordability.

Overall, I suspect the individual impact of this change in the tax code will have a minimal financial impact on most folks.

I could be convinced otherwise. But, this article falls well short of making that case. This article is a good example of the type of paper my high school composition teacher would have handed back with “Needs More Work” written on it. Unfortunately, the standard teachers used to hold students to, don’t seem to apply in journalism these days.

Two thoughts on the sex scandals


Folks like Matt Lauer and Al Franken say they’re “embarrassed and ashamed.” They’re narcissists. They’re saying what they think we want to hear so they can have a chance of holding onto their public personas their egos so desperately need.


These scandals are good examples of why power corrupts, which I wrote about back in 2010 (lack of consequences/feedback).


Wall ball

John Townsend recently tweeted (re: soccer):

The more I coach U10-12s (boys and girls) the more I am convinced that each player needs to spend a significant amount of time with a ball and a wall.

The ability to pass and receive cleanly should not be a problem.


“Soccer Starts at Home”

according to Tom Byer (HT: Jon Townsend). I could not agree more.

From the article on Byer:

To Byer, it shouldn’t be rocket science that a soccer education would be like a school education: Kids who come from a culture at home that values education will usually be the ones who excel in school.

Bingo! In 2015, I wrote about how not valuing education is THE key problem with education and drew a parallel to my soccer coaching experience — kids from families who don’t value soccer don’t progress as fast.

Here’s more from Byer:

If you go out to many parks throughout the U.S. on any given weekend, you’ll see them filled, usually with parents, and they’re basically kicking the ball back and forth with their 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-year-old. So they’re conditioning them from a young age that it’s a kicking game.

“What I say as a challenge is: Kicking shouldn’t be the first technique you teach a kid,” he continued. “In fact, it’s detrimental to them. If you take a soccer ball and give it to a little Latin kid and try to dispossess the kid by lunging at him to try and take it away, he’ll either pull the ball back or he or she will try to beat you. Now you give that ball to a typical American kid or Canadian kid or Chinese kid and challenge them for the ball, and they’ll either bend over and pick it up or they’ll kick it and chase after it and freeze.”

Or…kick the ball right into the shins of the defender, where it then bounces randomly  until it winds up in a goal and everybody on one side of the field or the other cheers as if something good actually happened.

More from Byer (emphasis added):

…the reality is the majority of kids that play the sport, they’re technically incompetent. Not good enough. They’ve never mastered the skills of a player. Then you’ve got some crazy coach trying to get the kids to play some systemic tactical formation. But they can’t do the math. It’s tantamount to taking a kid and throwing them into geometry or trigonometry or algebra when you’ve never offered the class for adding and subtracting.”

I find this frustrating, too.

That’s why I recommended that kids stick with 5-a-side soccer (or futsal) until they are technically competent. Other countries do this naturally, as 5-a-side is baked into their culture as pickup.

I will add that many families in the U.S. do value soccer, but have no idea what to do at home because they don’t know soccer and don’t know what technical competency looks like.

Actually, ‘technical competency’ makes it sound more sophisticated that it really is. It’s otherwise known as ‘ball control’. How well can you deliberately keep the ball with your team.

If parents actually understood just how bad their kids’ ball control is, they would be mortified. It’s like having a kid on a baseball team who can’t catch. The only saving grace in soccer is that there are plenty of other Bad News Bears teams out there who don’t realize how bad they are either, so there’s still plenty of opportunities for technically incompetent teams to win trophies and think all is well.

It will be interesting to see how the programs Tom Byer has developed in Japan might help that situation in the U.S.