Power of Voice and Exit in soccer

We have two powers at our disposal.

  1. The power of voice — If we don’t like something, we can try to convince the powers that be to change it.
  2. The power of exit — If we don’t like something, we can try alternative — often a competitor or substitute.

Having both is important.

If there was just one beer maker, we’d just have the power of voice in the beer market. The chances of getting the beer we wanted would be low.

Thankfully, we have many beer makers that make many different beers — so we have both the powers of voice and exit and a much improved chance of getting beers we like.

In fact, we have so many beer options that we don’t need to exercise our power of voice to convince a beer maker to make the beer we like.

We simply exercise our power of exit. If we don’t like a beer, we choose another. If enough of us do that, it rewards the beer makers who make what we like and punishes the ones who don’t. The latter either changes or goes away.

An election for the president of US Soccer will be held in February (2018).

One group of soccer fans would like to see a pro league structure that includes promotion/relegation, among other changes. So far, their power of voice has been ignored by US Soccer officials.

Promotion/relegation (“pro/rel,” for short) is where the bottom 2-3 teams in the top league (in this case, the MLS) each year would be relegated to a lower league, while the top 2-3 teams in the lower league would be promoted to the top league, hence ‘pro/rel’.

The current US Soccer administration is against it for various reasons. One reason is they think it would make it tough to attract investors in teams if there was a risk of losing their ‘major league’ status.

The “pro/rel” folks are now trying to use their power of voice to influence who wins the election for US Soccer president. They want a president that supports their ideas.

Unfortunately, the power of voice is muted without the power of exit. It sometimes works. But that’s not the norm because getting enough people to agree on something is difficult enough without politics and corruption. Even more so with it.

With US Soccer having a monopolistic say over how soccer is done in the U.S., the power of exit is limited. But, the power of exit is more effective way to get what we want.

Basic question…why does US Soccer have so much say over how soccer is done in the U.S.?

I could be wrong, but I think it’s because FIFA (which organizes international football competitions) recognizes just one soccer federation per country and so US Soccer has a monopoly on dollars from international competitions sanctioned by FIFA, as well as registrations of soccer players that may hope to one day play for clubs and teams in FIFA sanctioned leagues around the world.

That makes it difficult for other soccer associations to emerge to compete with US Soccer.

I will add that soccer federations in other countries seem to view their role in soccer a little different than U.S. Soccer. More on that in the next post.


MiB criticizes soccer in the U.S.

In the last 15-20 minutes of the 12/15 Men in Blazers pod, Rog and Davo have some good and critical words to say about soccer in the U.S. and the MLS, especially about the franchise model of the MLS vs. clubs.

Here’s Rog after visiting Columbus, OH and speaking to the fans who are disappointed about the prospect of losing their MLS team in a move to Austin, TX:

…they’re caught up in the middle of city politics, which they feel is the root cause of their nightmare, compounded by desperate ownership moves and the league’s ultimate sense of the teams as franchises, is what you [Davo] always talk about it, rather than clubs, which are rooted in community. Franchises can be moved and yanked around at will. I don’t think anyone in MLS fully appreciates the panic that Columbus situation is causing, not just for fans in Columbus, but for fans in all teams across the league. Relocation is really permanent relegation. It makes teams sleep with the fishes. And I look at the scarlet letter, worn still in English football, MK Dons, Google them if you don’t know who they are.

Davo responds:

I think you raise an interesting point….There’s something about football, there’s something about all sports, which is about authenticity and the franchise based system, the sort of central league system — [Rog:] Which works in NBA and NFL, [Davo:] And also works Major League Baseball, but those based on a long and massive history of those sports in this country. And so, there is a sense you are watching the NBA, when you’re watching the Cleveland Caveliers, you know, something which has grown through decades and decades and decades of this sports. There is also something about the NBA and the NFL which is very much about the urban makeup of America. About the diversity, about the culture and it reflects that…

I don’t think soccer has got to that place yet. But, what I think is starting to happen organically, which is why I’m so excited about what’s happening in other leagues and other cities [non MLS], it feels like there is an authentic soccer culture which is growing up.

And, I’m not saying that doesn’t exist around many of the MLS franchises, around many of the MLS supporters groups, around many of the MLS teams, but it can sometimes feel a little manufactured — [this says a lot here here –>] — I can just feel Alexi [Lalas, friend of the program and often accused Homer to the MLS] listening to this podcast and saying, ‘you’re not a fan…you are either with us or against us’…I am so with MLS…but I do think what they have at league headquarters, Lord Garber and his friends have to acknowledge that there is a desire among soccer fans, not only to not see what happened in Columbus, but to feel something authentic happening in American soccer culture. That is something Major League Soccer has to address and think about is what they are doing is somehow taking that away.

I think some folks would be surprised to hear this criticism from the Men in Blazers, because they are sometimes criticized for being soft on the system since some of their livelihood is depends on it.

I was surprised.

I think it was on point.

I would add on to their comparisons to NFL, MLB and NBA. Those sports and leagues do not have serious international competition. They are American sports that have not caught on in the rest of the world and there’s no international competitions, like the World Cup, that overshadows the importance of the championships of these leagues.

For example, the Super Bowl is the biggest (Am.) football event in the world. It is contested only by American teams. And we call the winners “World Champs,” which I’ve heard many children snicker at because even they recognize that’s a stretch since Am. football isn’t played elsewhere.

If other U.S. pro leagues had international competitions that overshadowed the importance of the domestic league and the U.S. teams had poor showings in those competitions, you can bet that these same types of discussions would take place for those sports.

Another factor that I believe detracts from the authenticity and community grass roots support in the U.S., that Davo gets at, is that sports clubs are structured different here than they are in the other countries.

In the U.S., youth sports are integrated with schools. Elsewhere, sports club provide the sport experience from ages 5 to 65 outside of schools.

I believe that contributes to the authenticity the clubs have in other parts of the world when compared to the pay-for-play club model that co-exists with high school and collegiate sports in the U.S.

Imagine joining sports club at age 5 and growing up with the club’s senior team — the equivalent of the high school or local college team here. That means from age 5, you are coached by members of the senior team, you practice beside them and you go watch them play on the weekends.

This goes back to the observations I made in this post as a missing ingredient in US soccer culture. Our school-based sports programs fragment that experience for young athletes.

It also subjects soccer to the rule-making of governing bodies that don’t have soccer as a priority — like the NCAA and NAIA which oversees all college sports at affiliated schools. So, you get things like short seasons that fit in with the rest of the sports programs schedules and soccer used as a sport to fulfill Title IX requirements.


All the world’s a stage

From Instapundit blog:


Lifezette’s Brendan Kirby, who points out that: “Even as prominent Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) trashed the idea, their extremely blue home states have been cutting corporate tax rates.”

It makes more sense once you understand that just about all public personas are an act.

Because ‘basic corporate finance’

On the Today show, this morning, I saw Savannah interviewing Rep. Paul Ryan about the tax bill.

She pushed hard on the cut in corporate tax rate in the plan.

His response was valid.

We have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. It will be good for the economy to be more competitive, so companies stay here and invest more here.

She pushed again…but Michael Bloomberg, CEO of a large company, says he won’t invest more here. He’ll buy back more stock.

Ryan’s response was valid. That’s one anecdote against studies that show otherwise.

But I think he missed a golden opportunity.

Here’s what my response would have been:

It’s great that Bloomberg supports our position.

I envision Guthrie getting confused look at this point and responding with, But he said he would not invest more. How does that support your position?

He said he’d buy back stock. Basic corporate finance tells us that stock buybacks is one way to return money to owners. Paying dividends is the other. Ask any first year B-school student.

What do investors do with money they receive from their investments?

Often, they invest it elsewhere. 

While Bloomberg’s company might not have good projects to invest in (which may be a problem for Bloomberg), other companies might.

With more money in their pockets, the folks who sold shares to Bloomberg will be able to invest more in companies that have better investment prospects, like Google or Facebook or start-ups building better solar panels, curing cancer or the company that might disrupt Bloomberg’s own business model.

So, the economy still gets the benefit of the reduced corporate tax rate, even if companies, like Bloomberg’s, don’t directly invest their extra cash. Others will be more than happy to.

“Soccer Starts at Home” III

I agree with what Tom Byer says about getting kids started early and in the home to develop their technical soccer skills.


It’s good to keep in mind that doing this won’t turn everyone into World Cup/Premier League players, just like playing catch doesn’t turn all kids into pro baseball players.

But, it will result in a larger pool of players that can make it that level and more and better competition among those players, just like playing catch does for baseball.

Also, I hope Tom’s simple advice won’t be warped into activities for those younger than 5 years old like ‘2- a-week technical training camps led by UEFA licensed coaches’ and ‘elite competitive leagues’.

It doesn’t take a former Yankees coach to play catch with a four year old nor does it take a former Manchester United player to teach a 3 year-old how to pull the ball back. I’ve seen this taught by 5 year-old’s.

Is there more to come?

Initial scans of the odd-shaped interstellar asteroid reveal no signs of alien technology.


Though it may be presumptuous to think that aliens use radio signals. I’d try neutrinos.

I have a follow-up question: Is there more coming?

Maybe whatever catapulted this object toward our sun, flung other objects our way, as well.

Are we looking for more objects coming from the same direction?

And, I hate to bring this up, but wasn’t there a doomsday prediction recently that some planet was going to pop out of nowhere and hit Earth? Quite a coincidence, I’d say.

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 QZ.com 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.