Simple solutions to stop the spread

I’m a sucker for simple and effective solutions.

Social distancing and hand washing are good examples.

Another solution is to over test and isolate the infected, and those they have been in contact with, as early as possible, as S. Korea did.

We missed the boat on this one. Hopefully, this will be a lesson learned for the next go around.

Because we missed that boat, we shut down large gatherings, which was the best move in the absence of other measures, but not quite as simple.

Treating with a malaria drug may prove to be another simple solution.

Another potentially effective simple solution that Arnold Kling advocates, and is part of S. Korea’s containment package, is wearing a mask or scarf to cover your nose and mouth.

Some are skeptical of the effectiveness of this solution. But, I think it’s compelling that S. Korea was able to get better results than areas that instituted shutdowns, without  shutdowns. At least that’s my understanding. Let me know if that’s wrong.

Some have pointed out that S. Korea figured these tactics out out with the SARS virus, so hopefully we’ll learn our lessons on this one so we don’t have to repeat this mess.

A commenter on Arnold’s blog suggested that locales exempt people from lockdowns if they wear mask or scarf. I think that would be a good way to get people over the cultural hump we seem to have against masks.

Finally, the other reason I like S. Korea’s efforts is that I read somewhere that they did something we have not. They prioritized solutions that were compatible with their high regard for freedom.

I have not heard our officials even acknowledge that.

My concern is that busy-bodies might see get the idea from this that it’s okay to yank our freedom whenever they feel there’s a case that they’re doing it for our own safety.

The sidelines reflect of what is valued in soccer cultures

In my town, we have several areas where soccer players are children of first generation immigrants from countries with strong soccer playing cultures.

I’ve played against adult teams from these areas and have coached youth teams that have played against their kids.

The differences in what is cheered for from the sidelines highlights the differences between soccer cultures.

With mostly American sidelines, the cheers tend to be for hustle, long balls, getting to teh ball first, knocking people off the ball and scoring with rocket shots. Slop shots get the same level of celebration as intentional goals.

Mistakes are often covered up with phrases like “unlucky” or “good try.” When mistakes are pointed out, players lose confidence and tighten up.

On the sidelines from stronger soccer cultures, they cheer for quality of touch, deception, how well they do on either side of a 1v1, good balls played, attempting to make smart and unexpected plays (even if unsuccessful), intentional and unconventional goals.

Slop goals are acknowledged, but celebrations are more muted than intentional goals. Just like how we call slop shots in basketball, we’ll take them, but we also want the goal scorer to not to get a big head about a slop goal and that they will need to score intentionally to earn respect.

When their own player gets burned by an opponent, they will cheer the opponent and tease their own player.

Players don’t get called on their mistakes as much, because they usually acknowledge their mistakes before anyone else can. Often, with a smile and raised hand to say “he got me.” If they fail do this this quickly, they will get called on it.

Players don’t seem to tighten up from this. Rather, they seem to have fun with it and seem to have more freedom to make mistakes, as long as they are learning from them.

I think this is also a feature in our basketball culture, but has not made it fully to our soccer culture, yet.

How about a separate soccer federation for the women?

Since FIFA grants an exemption to its bylaws for professional league structure to the U.S, maybe it could also grant an exemption for recognizing only one soccer federation per country and allow the women to have their own organization.

That way female players can form their separate soccer federation to govern women’s soccer, organize the US Women’s National Team and sanction women’s leagues.

That way they can elect whomever they wish to run their organization, decide for themselves what they will get paid and be able to plow any extra money into growing the women’s game.

Just a thought.

Will U.S. Soccer change?

The volunteer U.S. Soccer President resigned this week because of the legal arguments U.S. Soccer soccer made to defend against the USWNT’s equal pay lawsuit.

Former Women’s National Team’er Cindy Parlow Cone now takes over.

Many people wonder…is the beginning of change at U.S. Soccer?

I refer back to this post on vested interests. Here’s a key quote from Terry Moe from that post:

Every institution in every policy area generates vested interests. And these are interests of people who get the services of those institutions but also who get the jobs that those institutions generate or the business contracts that those institutions generate. All institutions generate vested interests, and those vested interests have a stake in protecting their institutions from change because those institutions are the source of their benefits. And in many cases, those benefits, like jobs and profits, have absolutely nothing to do with whether the institutions are performing well.

And so these vested interests, which have a stake in investing in political power, will use their political power in order to stop reforms even when the institutions are performing very badly.

The vested interests of U.S. Soccer are the folks in power, the folks who own SUM and the folks who own MLS teams. All these folks use U.S. Soccer’s governing status of soccer in the U.S. to keep out competition.

I don’t expect that to change.

Given the backlash of the legal arguments against the USWNT, I expect to see a quick settlement and the women players will gain some of what they want.

Unfortunately, that will just bring them back into the fold as vested interests that will block further reforms that could help the game in the U.S.

 

3Four3’s “Follow the Leaders” podcast

I like the framework of five spheres of influence of player development that John Pranjic lays out in his latest podcast, Follow the Leaders.

The influences are:

  • Household/family/parent
  • Playing on your own
  • Pickup game
  • Structured club training
  • Personal training

In my opinion, it’s tough to reach the top-level of the game without some pretty strong influences from at least one, if not more, of the first three.

In the podcast, he examines Landon Donovan’s and Clint Dempsey’s experience with these influences.

Both had some family influence from older brothers that played. They got in on a Latino pickup culture. I presume that pickup culture inspired some playing on their own to be able to hang with the competition and earn respect.

In this post, I took a similar look at McKennie, Pulisic and Sargent. Let me recast that in Pranjic’s framework:

Household/family/parent — I know Pulisic and Sargent both have parents that played soccer college/pro soccer. They likely had a ball of some sort at their feet from early ages. I don’t know much about McKennie’s family background.

Playing on your own influence — Pulisic’s and Sargent’s Dad’s are both on record stating how their sons worked incredibly hard on their own to become what they are.

I will also say that Pulisic’s father said that they did the typical 2 practices a week and a game on weekend and didn’t get too caught up in the club culture.

Pickup game influence — Pulisic experienced some of this when he was young when his parents spent a year in England. I don’t know about Sargent. McKennie spent 3 years in Germany from ages 6 to 9, where he played for a club and presumably experienced some pickup culture there.

Structured training influence — Pulisic had some training experience with top European clubs as his parents traveled to Europe. McKennie had 3 years at a German club at a young age. I’m unsure if Sargent experienced anything other than his youth club, Scott Gallagher.

I don’t know much about any of their personal training influences, though for Pulisic and Sargent, it doesn’t hurt to have former college players who are well over the hump of understanding what’s important to work on and helping guide that.

This shows that this group of up-and-comers checks most of Pranjic’s boxes.

I can attest as a relative soccer newbie, that it took me 2-3 years, with lots of trial-and-error and lots of observing and researching strong soccer cultures just for me to understand what basics were important and how to effectively work on those — and I was into it.

I see people who aren’t as into it who still haven’t figure it out.

I’m still learning, but had I been able to skip past those 3 years and jump right into it by having people and pickup that could have helped guide me on what to work on, I’d be 3 years better than I am today.

Interesting podcast on youth soccer in Spain vs. U.S.

In this episode of Coaching Soccer Weekly, host Tom Mura speaks with coach Mario Zuniga about a range of topics, including the difference between youth soccer in the U.S. and Spain.

I recommend listening to it. Here are some of differences that I can remember…

Simplicity

According to Mario, youth soccer in Spain is much simpler. Mario said it took him two years to learn about all the different organizations and associations in the U.S. and how to navigate them.

In Spain, everything is under one FIFA umbrella and all teams, at all age levels, are connected through the pyramid. You could be a small club in Barcelona and if your U16 team is good enough, it will play Barcelona’s U16 team. There isn’t a separate league or association for them.

Mura characterized this as “more centralized” than the U.S. I think a better term is more competitively connected.

I don’t get a sense that the umbrella Mario refers to makes heavy handed, politically-based decisions like a centralized authority (though maybe they do) so much as it acts like a central bank ensuring the currency used by its citizens has credibility. But, in this case its citizens are clubs and players and the currency is on-the-field results.

Maybe those in-charge of such a system are open to the idea that they don’t have all the answers to what is a good team and what is a good player and the absolute best test, by a long shot, for getting those answers is opening up the competition, rather than carving it off. You just never know what coach, club or player is going to break through, so they maintain a system that lets them.

Cost

It’s a lot cheaper for kids to join a club. But, it’s not a big money maker for coaches, which is one reason Mario came to the U.S., where he could make more money coaching.

A follow-up question I wish Tom had asked, what motivates so many coaches to do it, then? Is it purely love for the game? Are there other incentives, like hoping to move up the ladder to more responsibility?

Futsal

Mario says that there isn’t a person playing soccer in Spain who hasn’t played futsal. For him, futsal was interchangeable with pickup soccer.

I may have over interpreted, but it sounds like futsal is a key developer of skill through pickup games at young ages, but clubs also start kids in futsal before they make it onto a soccer team to develop their skills.

Mario mentioned a couple times, “I just played futsal with my friends,” but we don’t really call it futsal. It’s football. It’s about the same. We just can’t always get 22. There are some differences, but those differences help you get better. Learning the control the ball on a different surface is good.

Part of that reminds me of something I told a parent once. Her son was practicing on their driveway. She was worried he’d get used to that and wouldn’t be any good in grass. I pointed out that any practice is good and multiple surfaces is good. We play basketball on several different types of surfaces, too. The ball bounces a little different, our shoes grip a little different, but we learn to adjust and that’s good.

The season and pace

Mario said the season runs from September through May and kids have one game each weekend. The weather helps, as they play outside the whole year in most parts of Spain.

I have a hunch that that more consistent and steady pace leads better learning and less burnout and maybe even more desire for kids to play pickup on their own.

A good start for Houston Dynamo and Tom Byer, but it could be better

I finally got around to taking a look at the Houston Dynamo’s and Tom Byer’s Soccer Starts at Home info on the Dynamo’s website.

For those unfamiliar with Tom Byer, I’ve written a fair amount about him and his effort on this blog. You can see my other posts about him here.

I’m a fan, because I went through a similar discovery process that he did and came to the same conclusions and I think he has done a great job explaining what he learned in his book, Soccer Starts at Home.

His basic premise is that the largest contributor to a child’s success in soccer is what they do at home and how early they start.

I like the start that the Dynamo has made. But, I think it could use some more “why”. If I were a parent new to soccer and stumbled across the page, it probably wouldn’t persuade me to start working with my child at home.

I think one thing that could be persuasive would be to provide links of Byer’s own kids. He has videos of them working with the ball in the house from a young age and you can see the progression and how their ball mastery helps them in games as they got older.