More apps (and more women) in the crowded soccer-skills marketplace

From the mailbox today:

English Premier League soccer team Manchester City has launched SkillCity, presented by Nexen, a new interactive app that will help develop the talents of young soccer players across the US. The City squad is currently in the United States for its pre-season tour, visiting Houston, Los Angeles and Nashville.

SkillCity will see young players compete across a series of challenges that have been exclusively developed by the Club’s City Football Schools coaches. The four challenges will allow boys and girls aged 5–14 years old to test their speed of movement, ball mastery, finishing and passing — ranking themselves against their friends and Manchester City players. Manchester City player Kevin De Bruyne and former Manchester City Women’s player, and Tour Ambassador, Carli Lloyd have already tested the app and users can watch these videos to help develop their skills.

U.S. women’s soccer is already well-represented in this app genre. Former WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci was on iSoccer’s board of directors. Kristine Lilly’s long association with Coerver carried over to apps.

And last week’s Ranting Soccer Dad podcast guest, Yael Averbuch, teaches skills through her Techne Futbol app.

Check out the podcast.

Maybe coaches DON’T need a new practice plan for every practice

I’ve got a healthy skepticism of coaches who imply they’d be able to develop the next Messi while few other coaches could handle it. This quote puts it best:

But there’s no doubt Brian Kleiban, the subject of RSD podcast guest Mike Woitalla’s latest Q-and-A, has a lot of good things to say about coaching. And here’s one:

In my opinion, less is more. Figure out your core exercises to teach the basic fundamentals and team style of play. Work them over and over and over again. Demand perfection and execution in training. Once it becomes clear on consistent basis that they have mastered it individually and collectively, you can add layers of complexity. Until then, stick to the same things. Most coaches just jump around, all over the place with new content to fool everyone that they can run different sessions each and every day. The players never improve in any facets of their games this way.

Note that this runs directly counter to what we’re all told in the USSF license sequence. We’re supposed to plan out a curriculum, like we’re science teachers or something. Teach a new topic each time, reinforcing it with every step from warmups to scrimmage.

And for most coaches, that’s a royal (and wholly unnecessary) pain. For one thing, coaches end up spending half the practice explaining a bunch of new drills. For another — when was the last time you mastered something in 15 minutes?

Icing the kicker, or why coaches are sometimes wrong

Journalists (and fans) love to second-guess coaches. Honestly, they’re rarely on solid ground. We don’t see everything in practice and team meetings. Coaching staffs sometimes spend 80 hours a week going over game plans in minute detail, and journalists (and fans) simply can’t match that depth of knowledge.

Asking about a particular decision is one thing. That’s illuminating. We can learn more about the game that way — if the coach’s reasons can be made public. Armchair coaching, on the other hand, is usually ridiculous.

But sometimes, those of us in the pressbox or the stands can see the forest for the trees. Or we can see a blind spot or bias that forces a bad move. One example: In retrospect, D.C. United’s handling of Freddy Adu was far from ideal, particularly when Peter Nowak pulled him out of a playoff game in which he was supplying plenty of creativity that replacement Matias Donnet did not.

And coaches are often playing hunches that just don’t add up. I’m convinced NFL coaches are doing just that when they call time out to “ice” the kicker.

The problems with icing:

A. Without the timeout, kickers may be rushed to get their kicks away. So many things can go wrong with the snap, the hold or the kick. Calling timeout gives everyone a chance to get in place.

B. The timeout sometimes comes so late that the kicker gets a practice kick. Then he has a chance to check the wind, check his footing and make any other correction.

C. That’s one timeout gone. Suppose the kicker puts his team ahead, and you have to come back and drive the length of the field? That timeout would’ve been useful, right?

I’m going to keep an eye out for the rest of the season — I’m sure I’ll find several really bad icing calls. (Yes, I must be overcompensating for the lack of hockey this season.)

Example #1: Giants-Eagles, Sept. 30. New York kicker Lawrence Tynes misses a 54-yard field goal for the win, but Philly coach Andy Reid had called a late timeout. See Problem B above. Tynes corrected the flight of the ball on his second attempt, but he came up a yard short to bail out Reid. Three more feet on that kick, and Reid is being vilified this morning.

Chaos, coaching and sports (or, “things I can’t do with my youth soccer teams”)

The Anson Dorrance biography The Man Watching describes the constant chaos in the North Carolina women’s soccer program. Dorrance has piles of papers on his desk — sometimes, he finds big checks he has yet to deposit. And his team regularly shows up late to the airport, something I couldn’t handle at all.

Ironically, it’s a Duke guy writing this post about the benefits of chaos in coaching:

Before meets, Bowman hid goggles, so that Phelps had to swim without them; he deliberately arranged late pickups, so that Phelps would miss meals and swim with hunger; he cracked goggles, so they would fill up with water and obstruct Phelps’ vision in the pool. We don’t know how Phelps did in those earlier meets, but we know that Bowman created uncertainties for him in lower-risk situations so that when it really mattered he had familiarity with the unexpected and a mental adaptability that gave him the best shot at winning.

So, parents on my soccer team — if I’m late for practice or a drill goes horribly wrong, it’s all part of the plan.

via You Can Only Win in Sports, or Anywhere Else, if Youre Ready for Chaos – Forbes.