Why is football called “soccer”?

The word “soccer” actually comes from England, where the modern version of the game originated.

In England, there were two types of football: rugby football and association football.

The slang term for rugby football was “rugger,” and the slang for association football was “assoc.” The word “assoc” gradually evolved into “soccer,” which was much easier to say.

When association football was introduced to North America, gridiron football (the type played by the NFL and in the Super Bowl) was already well established. To avoid confusion, Americans adopted the British nickname “soccer” for the new sport.

What is soccer?

Soccer is a game. The children are involved in an activity that pits them against an opponent. It is, in most cases, about winning and losing, competition and cooperation. It is also a leisure activity. The children are there because they want to be there. They want to play a game.

children playing footballTo play a game of soccer you first need a ball. Then an opponent. Add a field, a couple of goals across from each other, mix in a few soccer rules and you have a game of 1v1. But this is hard work and you can’t play it for very long. So you get some teammates, and to keep it fair, a few more opponents. With these elements you can play soccer all day.

These are the elements of soccer. They make the game what it is. If you remove a key element such as the ball or opponent it can’t be soccer. Likewise, to change an element too much you can move too far from the game. Playing with two balls or three teams might be fun and a game, but is it soccer? To pass a ball across a grid and run to a corner involves kicking techniques, but is it soccer?

Soccer also involves the element “chaos.” Opponents, team mates and the ball are all moving in different directions. Players, parents and coaches are shouting different instructions and information. Bringing “order out of chaos” is an important skill in learning how to play the game.

A soccer coach coaches soccer, not something else.

When winning is the only thing…

…violence is not far away.

The acceptance of body contact and borderline violence seems to be based on the idea that sports is an area of life in which it is permissible to suspend usual moral standards.

Studies show that athletes commonly distinguish between game morality and the morality of everyday life. A college basketball player says, “In sports you can do what you want. In life it is more restricted”. A football player says “The football field is the wrong place to think about ethics”.

Experts express concern about the social implications of this lower moral standard in such an important and influential area. Sports gives us a wealth of metaphors in other activities: the language of sports is often used in discussions of business, politics and war. The influence of this double standard begins at an early age.

Athletes as Role Models

We know from research in psychology that young children tend to model their behaviour and attitudes on those of adults, particularly adults they admire. Athletes (and fathers watching/ playing sports) are role models. Even Presidents admire them. Children watch ice hockey on television. We all know the stale joke “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”. But how many children, or adults, are aware that a majority of hockey players want to abolish this violence? At annual meetings of the National Hockey Players Association violence has been a major issue, with players asking owners to impose much stiffer penalties (including expulsion).

But Club Owners (sponsors and the media) refuse to discourage the violence, because it attracts spectators who come to see “red ice”. Players who do not participate in the violence endanger their jobs. Most players do not want to see a game where their lives (or others) are in jeopardy. That pressure ultimately comes from owners (sponsors and the media) “who are into making profits”.

But to children it all seems natural. Little does he or she know that the extreme violence he sees often grows more out of the owners’ commercial interests than players’ inclinations.

A child who watches acts of violence committed by thieves, murderers, or sadists in films or on TV knows that society disapproves of these acts. The child who watches sports knows that athletes’ acts of violence are approved of. It makes sense that sports violence would serve as an important role model for children who tend to be well adjusted socially, while illegal violence on the screen would tend to have a greater influence on the behaviour of children who are more psychologically damaged and/or feel more alienated from society.

Sports plays a major role in reinforcing the concern with success, winning, and dominance. On the sports field these goals alone justify illegal and violent acts.

Violence in the Stands

Sports Illustrated took an “unscientific poll of fans” and reported in its August 8, 1988 issue that “everyone who had ever been a spectator at a sporting event of any kind had, at one time or another, experienced the bellowing of obscenities, racial or religious epithets … abusive sexual remarks to women in the vicinity, fistfights between strangers and fistfights between friends”. Increased spectator violence is one more manifestation of the escalation of violence which has taken place in our society in the last 20 years. Violence between athletes can only serve to encourage it.

Youth Sports: “Just Like the Game of Life”

30,000,000 children are involved in youth sports in North America, under the direction of 4.5 million coaches and 1.5 million administrators. When these programs place inordinate emphasis on competition and winning they become detrimental. Most youth sport coaches lack even rudimentary knowledge of the emotional, psychological, social and physical needs of children.

Many athletes report the enormous importance of the coach to a young boy or girl. Players look to their coaches as figures of wisdom and authority. This deep emotional relationship and respect for the coach’s authority facilitates players’ transference of moral responsibility from themselves to the coach. A core idea transmitted by coaches (and fathers) is that “playing the game is just like the game of life. The rules you learn will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.”

Some of the rules that are emphasized sound good – teamwork, sacrifice for the common good, never giving up, giving 110 percent of yourself – and in the hands of sensitive, knowledgeable, well-trained coaches they can be used to teach youth valuable habits. But such coaches are far from the rule. Examples abound of coaches teaching youth the wrong things, in many cases (most?) without even knowing it, to the point of being a serious social problem.

When “60 Minutes” did a program on youth football they found that the emphasis was very much on winning – to the point that it is no longer fun. The emphasis of winning deprives youth of the pleasure of playing the game. The findings of academic researchers confirm “the obsession with winning is far from infrequent in youth sports”. Eventually, integrity takes a backseat to the pragmatic concern of winning games. Players learn that integrity is a rhetorical strategy one should raise only in certain times and places. The adults involved with Little League tend to be oriented toward winning, losing and competition.

Ironically, instead of focusing on enjoying sports, reaping physical benefits, and instilling a lifelong involvement in athletics, too many of our sports programs are geared exclusively toward winning (and coincidentally destroying bodies and missing out on the fun). The obsession with competitiveness and winning is far more pronounced among managers and coaches (and parents) than players. Many coaches think it is correct to use techniques of pushing, yelling, dehumanizing the opposing team, etc. Many coaches also teach players to sacrifice their bodies unnecessarily, hide all feelings of fear and vulnerability (however warranted they may be), to sacrifice the bodies of others, and use sexual slurs .. often to provoke boys to prove their manhood.

What Sports is About

True courage involves taking risks at the right time, in the right place, for the right reason. It is the competitive spirit tempered by empathy, moral concern, and a sense of social responsibility that causes long-lasting excellence and brings benefits to the community at large.

Here is what I learned from a sports psychologist regarding what they look for in an excellent athlete –

  1. competitiveness – not in the sense of having to win the game at all costs, but in having to win each move or action they make. In other words, a type of striving for continuous improvement – to always do the best you can and doing even better next time. Coincidentally, the sum of a lot of small wins, will probably add up to the big win.
  2. being a task master – the self discipline to organize and carry on the necessary tasks to get any job done, however long it takes, whatever it takes. This keeps you going, on track, or getting back on track. It means having a goal and not taking your eyes off it until you have obtained it.
  3. self esteem – having the confidence in yourself that you can do anything you want to. It helps you when you miss a goal because you know you will get it next time, and it keeps you coming back.


We have reached a crisis point today. Contributing to this crisis is TV, which introduces violent athletes as role models to very young children and often focuses attention on the violence in sports. Also, the commercialization of youth sports introduces children to inappropriately competitive sports at an early age. Both as players and as spectators, children are learning all the wrong lessons. What can we do in youth and high school sports to curtail violence, excessive concerns with winning and dominance, and the denigration of women and homosexuals?

  1. Day care centres and nursery schools are licensed (not to mention the regular school system). There is a problem of accountability of youth sports organizations. It is time for sports organizations, which involve large numbers of school-age children and affect their physical and mental health, to be licensed as well.
  2. All coaches (and parents) should have training in child development and physiology, and sports philosophy and how to deal with violence in sports. All coaches should have background checks (similar to Block Parents).
  3. All players, parents and coaches should sign a “contract” agreeing to a code of conduct, what is expected of coaches, players and parents.
  4. All attempts at injuring other players in order to “take them out” of the game and all borderline violence should be forbidden. Any attempt by a coach to encourage youth to behave in this way should be met with a severe penalty and eventual removal if repeated. There should be no difference between game morality and the morality of everyday life.
  5. Players who are problematic (i.e. offenders) should not be allowed to play on a team (for suitable time periods). For example, a ‘3 strikes and you are out’ rule.
  6. All violent, insulting language on the part of the coach and the players, including slurs against women and homosexuals, should be forbidden.
  7. Friendly, civil relations between teams should be encouraged. All games should start and end with handshakes.
  8. League injury rates should be provided to players and parents.
  9. Professional sports organizations must curtail violence. Otherwise, if society has seen fit to regulate cock fights and dog fights to protect animals and the public, so must violence in professional sports be regulated. Employers (Club Owners) should not be allowed to endanger (or bully) employees (players), even if they are paying them millions of dollars, because there is a very large social cost to which they are not contributing.


A major justification for our nation’s enormous investment in competitive sports is that ‘sports build character, teach team effort, and encourage sportsmanship and fair play’. Studies indicate that youth involved in organized sports show less sportsmanship than those who are not involved. One study found that as the children grew older they moved away from placing high value on fairness and fun in participation and began to emphasize skill and victory as the major goals of sport. In several other studies it was found that youth who participated in organized sports valued victory more than non-participants, who placed more emphasis on fairness.

Instead of learning fair play and teamwork, too many of our children are learning winning is everything. It is time to regulate children’s sports so that youth will really learn the pro-social attitudes and values that they are supposed to learn from sports, instead of the obsessive competitiveness, emotional callousness, and disdain for moral scruples that are so often precursors to violence.


The trials and tribulations of a footy ref

By Christopher White


This is my first season as a ‘roped-in’ parent acting as assistant to our U7s manager for training sessions. As the manager is required to marshal the players on matchdays, I get the plum job of refereeing the home games. I have no experience of reffing whatsoever, and precious little football playing experience – just lots of watching. I guess that plenty of us ‘assistant managers’ who end up refereeing are in a similar position. We’re not official refs and get no training as such, we’re just left to get on with it as best we can.

I am having fun learning the ropes (4 home games so far and still alive), but it’s quite a steep curve and I gain at least one Invaluable Golden Rule every week – some from watching other refs, some from helpful analysis of my own ‘performances’ offered by courteous members of the public. Some of these may seem obvious to experienced ex-players, but I am the original lowest common denominator and my greenness may prove useful in establishing a base level for an advice section for amateur reffing dads.

I know the basic rules, but I would love to find out the basic responsibilities of a ref at this level, plus it seems there’s even more to it than that…..

Things I’ve learned already:

Get the team to club together for a stopwatch with nice big controls that work for cold fingers. NEVER trust your wristwatch. (Yes, I ended up giving a game-levelling home pen in the second minute of unintentional extra time. The away manager had TWO stopwatches going. Great.)

Brief the managers on EXACTLY on what you expect from them (e.g.. ‘You guys call the touch decisions but leave the fouls to me’, or “I don’t usually give a foul for a backpass to the goalie at this level, is that OK with you?’ etc.

MAKE A POINT of introducing yourself to the away manager as early as possible. Ask if he has any tearaways on his team that need watching. He’ll say “All of ’em”. (Correct).

It’s polite to the visitors to stay away from your team huddle at half-time. Find something else to do. Watch the birds or try a few car doors or something.

NEVER discuss decisions. ALWAYS thank the away management afterwards. BIG smiles all the time for the kids.

CHECK the pitch carefully before the game for dog mess (have some nappy bags or a shovel handy) or anything else that might hurt the kids. This also gives you something to do that’s a polite distance away from your home team while the pre-match chat and warm-up is on.

FOULS: As far as I can tell, at U7/ U9 level, fouls are usually down to poor technique or over-enthusiasm, not nastiness. So don’t just whistle/yell at offenders from a distance. If a player does something daft, like leaping into a tackle backwards (very common it seems), nip over, bend down to their eye level to get their attention and quickly and quietly explain exactly what they did wrong. Then tell them they’re a good lad/girl – big thumbs-up and a big smile. This takes about ten seconds and they’re much less likely to repeat dangerous play.

Refs run backwards a lot on the telly – park refs check their mirrors first to make sure there isn’t a kid in the way.

Oh yeah and finally, ask the away manager if any of the kids on their team are called Rhett, or anything else that sounds like ‘Ref’ or you’ll be driven up the wall thinking it’s you being screamed at to GET BACK or WAKE UP or KEEP MOVING or whatever if little Rhett’s having a mare…..

The McDonaldization of American soccer

Extract: …let the game do the teaching. The kids are here to PLAY and not to WORK. They worked enough in school, where they’ve been helped enough to solve problems that they might only be mildly interested in. Why subject them to more adult supervised instruction towards a goal that they probably don’t share or agree with? “Do I really have to throw the ball in the air and trap it with my thigh? If I do that in a game, wouldn’t it be a hand ball?”

 “Generally speaking, there are only a few natural (top) talents! Youth trainers work more often with players of limited talent who are able to learn to become good players in a specific position. These players will from here on be called the ‘work talent’!
Rinus Michels, TeamBuilding, p. 182.

“If you get the strategy right, you can get the tactics wrong, and eventually you’ll get the tactics right. If you get the strategy wrong and the tactics right at the start, you can refine the tactics forever, but you still lose the war.” Col. Robert Killebrew

The two comments above may appear unrelated to youth soccer but they are not. The methods that we choose to train the children play a role in the finished product that they become. (Product, how long they stay in the game and their level of proficiency.) Those methods are the tactical means to reach a strategic objective. When you’re faced with two distinct groups, natural talents and work talents you’ll need a flexible tactical approach. A one-size fits all mentality will be sure to leave one group or the other shortchanged.  Developing natural talents and work talents are two different strategic objectives.

First, we have a hard time accepting that the vast majority of children are simply work talent. Natural talents are very rare. Making that mistake sets you up for the next one, choosing the wrong strategy. It’s the belief that the majority of players can get to the top and play any position. That real talent can be taught, that skill can be mandated, that hard work alone is all that’s required for success. This has consequences for how the team trains which we’ll look at next.

The term McDonaldization was coined by University of Maryland Sociology Professor George Ritzer as a means to reinvigorate the Weberian critique of the nature of modern society through the present-day fast-food industry, which is also seen as a model for an increasing number of sectors of American society.  First written in 1993, The McDonaldization of Society looks at ‘the processes by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world’ (Ritzer, 2000: 1).  The term he uses is an amplification and an extension of Weber’s theory of rationalization.  Ritzer writes: ‘McDonaldization affects not only the restaurant business, but also education, work, health care, travel, leisure, dieting, politics, the family, and virtually every other aspect of society.  McDonaldization has shown every sign of being an inexorable process, sweeping through seemingly impervious institutions and regions of the world’ (Ritzer, 2000: 10).  As with Weber’s system of formal rationalization, the McDonaldization process is characterized by efficient, calculable, predictable, and increasingly controllable means of human beings…

There is no question that greater efficiency brings many advantages, but it is quite important to remember that the methods used to increase efficiency are typically organized and operated by organizations to further their own interests and they are not always the same of the customers. (The emphasis is on the coach’s problems and not on the player’s problem). Note though, the more we encounter efficiency, the more of it we crave, and as a result, we often end up clamoring for that which may not be in our best interests…

The stress on calculability brings with it many advantages, such as the ability to obtain large numbers and sizes of things at a relatively low cost.  On the other hand though, the fact that in a society that emphasizes quantity, goods and services tend to be increasingly mediocre, which can be a negative in the long term…(Compare a burger from 5 Guys and McDonalds. We accept poorer quality in the name of efficiency.)

As a result, the world in which we live has become increasingly predictable.  And for the most part, most of the population comes to expect, and even to a certain degree, demand predictability.  However, many have found that a predictable world can easily become a boring world, and something sterile… (Do 9-14 year olds want to be bored?)

Weber would argue that contemporary recreational activities have become highly rationalized, even though recreation can be thought of as a way to escape the rationalization of daily routines.  George Ritzer points out that once sought after escape routes have themselves become highly rationalized, embodying the same principles of a bureaucratic system.  He writes:

‘Among the many examples of the rationalization of recreation are ClubMed, (Curves, Strip Mall Karate shops) chains of campgrounds, and package tours.  Take, for example, a thirty-day tour of Europe.  Buses hurtle through only the major cities in Europe, allowing tourists to glimpse the maximum number of sites in the time allowed.  At particularly interesting or important sights, the buses may slow down or even stop to permit some picture taking.  At the most important locales, a brief stopover is planned so visitors can hurry through the site, take a few pictures, buy a souvenir, then hop back on the bus to head to the next attraction’ (Ritzer, 2000: 25-6).

With the rationalization of even their recreational activities, people do live to a large extent in an iron cage of rationalization.

‘Efficient systems have no room for anything smacking of enchantment and systematically seek to root it out of all aspects of their operation.  Anything that is magical, mysterious, fantastic, dreamy, and so on is apt to be inefficient.  Enchanted systems typically involve highly convoluted means to whatever end is involved.  Furthermore, enchanted worlds (Passionate hobbies) may well exist without any obvious goals at all.  Efficient systems, also by definition, do not permit such meanderings, and designers and implementers will do whatever is necessary to eliminate them…With regard to calculability, enchantment has far more to do with quality than quantity.  Magic, fantasies, dreams, and the like relate more to the inherent nature of an experience and the qualitative aspects of that experience, than, for example, to the number of such experiences one has.  (In the end, quality remains while quantity fades.) An emphasis on producing and participating in a large number of experiences tends to diminish the magical quality of each of them. Put another way, it is difficult to imagine the mass production of magic, fantasy, and dreams.  The mass production of such things is virtually guaranteed to undermine their enchanted qualities…No characteristic of rationalization is more inimical to enchantment than predictability.  Magical, fantastic, or dream-like experiences are almost by definition unpredictable. As a general rule, fantasy, magic, and dreams cannot be subjected to external controls; indeed, autonomy (Player centered and owned) is much of what gives them their enchanted quality.  Fantastic experiences can go anywhere; anything can happen.  Such unpredictability clearly is not possible in a tightly controlled environment (Coach dominated).  It is possible that tight and total control can be a fantasy, but for many it would more a nightmare than a dream. (Top players, like George Best and Cruyff chaff under a coach’s control. In fact, both of them saw themselves as entertainers first and sportsmen second. They valued play over work.) Such cold, mechanical systems are usually the antithesis of the dream worlds associated with enchantment’ (Ritzer, 1999: 96-9).

Without doubt we are a nation on the move. Time has been compressed through technology and the idea of multi-tasking. We have also given up our freedom to determine our own future by relying on experts to tell us how we should do things as opposed to how we can do things.

When these factors come into play in youth soccer adults become impatient with the rate of growth that children demonstrate. Parents want more and sooner. This means a greater reliance on experts and even more efficient means to reach some smaller end. We encourage Foot skills sessions to learn an endless number of tricks, Velocity Sports to improve an ever growing number of physical needs, i.e. speed, quickness, jumping, turning, stopping, starting, flying starts and on ad infinitum.

What cannot be escaped is the opportunity cost. You simply can’t get something for nothing. What you get with an overemphasis on details divorced from ‘soccer’ is the Home Depot version of the sport. Players who have been trained how to use an incredible number of tools but, on the field can’t fix a simple problem. They make knowledgeable sales people but lousy carpenters, plumbers and electricians, soccer’s attackers, defenders and midfielders.

Look at the Coaching Points document. It shows a well thought out program for a single coaching session. It is very organized and provides salient coaching points for each activity. It clearly moves the players through a predictable pattern, on a predictable schedule towards a predictable end. The end of the session. Ironically it’s a series of certain steps towards an uncertain future. Only at the very end of the session are the players confronted by what they came for. Winning, losing and playing. Being soccer players.

Paradoxically sessions like this create a need for more sessions like this. Parents and coaches often view improvement by how well the players appear to master each separate activity. (Although they often mistake the players merely going through the motions as improvement and improvement is measured from the start of the drill to the end. “They really know where to run now!”) The players usually see it differently. They are the “Coaches problems” that the players need to navigate in order to get to the scrimmage. “Doing something to do something for the appearance of doing something.

The U.S. Soccer Federation is trying to get away from this very type of organization. They want players to bring order out of chaos and they cannot do that in this type of session. The players are presented with a completely structured picture, there are no problems to solve, decisions to be made. Their involvement is limited to pleasing the coach by doing what he or she asks. The coach is the sole source of feedback and reinforcement. The game doesn’t exist.

They also want clubs to try to develop creative, quality players. We have more then enough McDonald drones on the field. The best way to do this is FIRST, to “Unlock the game within the child.” Allow them the opportunity to explore the game on their own terms. Because few children have been exposed to a world where the adults trust them enough to do this they’ll be hesitant to take the lead at first. They need to overcome the training that our P.C. culture has ingrained in them up to now. Soccer is a game where the most important people are the players. They need opportunities to step up and take real ownership BEFORE we start to worry about teaching the correct way to do anything.

This doesn’t diminish the importance of developing a good baseline of techniques. But technique is not a strategy, it is a tactical tool. The strategy is to develop soccer players and the best way to do that is by using the small amount of team time that the players have playing soccer.  When the players truly embrace the game they’ll be open to suggestions and assistance. They’ll understand their own limitations and problems in the context of something they enjoy. Until then, mass training is giving them answers to problems they don’t have or care about.

The links at the bottom this page will give you a short look at what Michels calls “Natural Talent.” In these examples it is fully developed. Ask yourself a few questions, can you mass-produce players like this? How many sessions of Coaching Points will it take to produce this type of soccer? Or, would those sessions break the talent that the coach has been presented with?

The chances of producing players like this are very small. The chances of discovering players who have the potential are actually better. The difference is in what happens between the discovery and the end. Natural talent requires room to grow and encouragement to experiment and fail. And the success and failure comes to them on their own terms. It’s through self-discovery that they develop the necessary motivation to improve.

Ironically even the work talent gets more benefit from games then from mass drills. They learn how to play in relation to the natural talents. Everyone learns the hard lesson that there must be piano movers as well as piano players and it soon becomes apparent who is who. This is what Michels means by playing a specific position. Ultimately everyone must make a positive contribution to the team in the objective of winning the game. You can only learn your place in the team by playing in the team in a game. Drills, mass training, provides nothing in this sense.

There is no easy answer of how to help the kids prepare for the game. But there are certainly wrong answers. Assuming that getting enough mass training is beneficial is a fallacy. Every player does not have the same problems, require the same solutions or even brings the same set of expectations at any time. Yet the assumption at the heart of mass training programs is that they do. This belief only benefits the trainer by making his or her job easier. It’s a form of “Soccer in a box!” Standardized pat answers to complex questions where you can coach from a clipboard and a stopwatch.

A better answer, and also the hardest, is to let the game do the teaching. The kids are here to PLAY and not to WORK. They worked enough in school, where they’ve been helped enough to solve problems that they might only be mildly interested in. Why subject them to more adult supervised instruction towards a goal that they probably don’t share or agree with? “Do I really have to throw the ball in the air and trap it with my thigh? If I do that in a game, wouldn’t it be a hand ball?”

Kids need help to learn how to play. They are living in a ‘Play deprived world’ where opportunities for group play are very hard to find. This is the key to US Soccer’s adoption of the Dutch Vision. Help the players play better soccer. Help them to make a greater contribution to the game. Help each as an individual in the context of the game itself. Not in the context of a coach inspired drill. This approach caters to both the natural and work talents. It assumes nothing about the players and allows anything as possible. It is not driven by should and must’s but by can and tries.

No question it is also the hardest way to coach. It requires the greatest insight into the players, the game and the destination. It requires the wisdom to know the difference between what is possible and what is probable. It has a clear destination and only a feeling about the next step. The strategy is clear and the tactics, well we’re working on it. That is why I emphasize, “Get the strategy right first, and organize the game. After that you can develop your tactics, pick the details.”


Winning! How Important Is It in Youth Sports?

By Michael A. Clark, Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University

The answer to this question depends upon who is responding. For the young athletes themselves, the answer evidently is, “Not very.”

When a national sample of youth, aged 10 to 18 years, were asked why they participated in sports, “to win” was not among the top ten reasons for girls and was only seventh on the list for boys.

Moreover, when these same young people were asked what they would change about sports, “less emphasis on winning” made the top ten on the list for both genders. Attitudes about the importance of winning change with the athletes’ ages.

Younger athletes are more interested in the “fairness” of their games, while older athletes become more concerned about winning. But even then, many young athletes say that they would rather play on a losing team than “sit the bench” on a winning team.Administrators and officials often emphasize participation over competition in the rules for contests and the guidelines they prepare for coaches.

Especially for younger players, rules often require equal amounts of playing time for all, while discouraging keeping scores or records. The number of programs taking this approach seems to be growing. Such programs proclaim, “Everyone is a winner!” The administrators mean this sincerely, but they often seem to have little idea of exactly how to turn the slogan into reality.

However, if coaches and parents were asked how important winning is to their child’s success in sports, many of them clearly would respond, “VERY!” Even when program directors refuse to keep game scores or won-lost records, the other adults involved (the coaches and parents) know exactly what the results are.

For them, winning in youth games is important, and so quickly it develops that “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” as legendary football coach Vince Lombardi is supposed to have observed. Adults who believe that an accent on winning is essential to success make much of the best record or leading scorer; they hand out championship trophies and name most valuable players.

Coaches, parents and spectators who focus on winning in these terms are viewing youth sports as they likely would view adult endeavours. This thinking often results in mistaking the winning or losing of contests with the success or failure of the contestants or even with whether the athletes are good or bad people. Concentrating solely on the final score as the important outcome of games causes people to develop a very narrow definition of winning. The consequences of this are potentially damaging to young athletes.

The way out of this dangerously narrow view of winning in youth sports may lie in what Coach Lombardi actually said: “Winning isn’t everything, but striving to win is.” Vern Seefeldt, director of the Youth Sports Institute, reinforced this point when he observed, “Striving to win is the essence of sports.” By placing the emphasis on the athletes and their effort, winning is redefined in such a way that it comes within the reach of all.But how is effort defined and measured?

In part, the answer lies in observing the athletes at play. It is relatively easy to see whether young athletes are taking the competition seriously or are simply “playing the game.” The former requires a sincere effort, made by athletes who know the skills and strategies of the sport and who execute them as ably as possible within the spirit of the rules; the latter may occur at any level of play and is apparent by in the athletes’ lack of enthusiasm and effort.

Each performance must be evaluated within the context of the sport. Scoring points, lowering times or improving distances are relevant, because they imply something about the effort made. Equally important are knowing what defense the opponents are using, being able to “stick” a dismount or understanding when to ice the puck. Making a kick turn, using a scissors takedown or shooting a left-handed lay-up (and executing these moves correctly while competing) also are expressions of effort and, therefore, success. In short, making an effort to be competitive involves a complex set of tasks, which differ from sport to sport.

Moreover, it is obvious when athletes are failing to put forth the proper effort to make each minute of a contest competitive. “Games” often are referred to as “contests,” and at some time, every coach, player or spectator has been involved in games that have ceased to be contests. When this happens, everyone “loses.” The clues are many and varied: the players appear to be “going through the motions”, coaches cease to worry about strategies, officials make strange decisions or “no-calls”, spectators lose interest and leave or begin socializing. But most importantly, as Seefeldt observed, “playing a game as if you don’t care (with a lethargic effort) takes all the fun out of sports.” When the games are no longer contests, playing them ceases to be fun. The players mock “winning” such games, for they sense how hollow victory is in such situations.The challenge is for the adults associated with youth sports to redefine winning in terms of effort and to restructure play to promote effort. Some potential changes lie in:

Creating balanced competitions so that outcomes are in doubt.
Helping players set achievable, individual goals.
Teaching athletes to measure their success in terms of attaining such goals.
Celebrating with and rewarding players who reach their goals.

The first point focuses on the motivation of young athletes. Generally, young athletes want competitions to be fair and for the outcome to be in question. If these conditions are met, they will make a maximum effort. Otherwise, they are likely to spend their time complaining about how unbalanced the teams are or how unfair the game is. It is adults who “stack” teams and want to win by lopsided scores; young athletes tell researchers that fairness is the essence of the games they play.

Meaningful and attainable goals are essential to success in any activity, but never more so than in youth sports. Children should have clearly defined goals to work for and learn, and they deserve to be intimately involved in establishing these goals. Individual goals are much more effective than group or team goals. They allow each athlete to know exactly what needs to be accomplished.

With individual goals clearly defined, athletes should expect to have their efforts measured against advancement towards these goals. Reaching these goals can only be accomplished through learning and executing the essentials of the sport. Thus, the goals become the means of measuring effort; did the athletes make the kind of effort in each practice and competition that moved them closer to achieving their stated goals, or was the effort inconsistent, weak or lackluster? If a player’s effort was aimed at achieving the goals, then the performance was a success, no matter what the score of the competition.

Finally, when the previously determined goals are reached, the athlete’s achievement should be recognized and honored. In addition to motivating the athlete, this acknowledges the importance of striving to meet the goals, to be competitive, to make the effort.

Making the effort is within the reach of any athlete and is appropriate for all athletes.

Consequently, it constitutes a definition of winning that can be applied to all situations. Adults who use it will go far toward ensuring that young athletes have positive experiences.In this context, the proper questions for adults to ask are not “Did you win?” or “How many points did you score?” Rather coaches and parents should want to know “Did you give your best effort?” or “Did you do something better than you previously could?” Young athletes often can answer “Yes” to these questions, even when the scoreboard stands against them.

This redefinition of winning makes it possible to accommodate a variety of views of youth sports. The most vocal critics of competition in youth sports are the able to see the benefits of making it possible for all athletes to become winners. The staunchest advocates of highly competitive sports generally will recognize the value of setting goals and weighing performance in terms of effort toward reaching the goals.The result of defining “winning” in terms of effort rather than outcome is to make youth sports more humane, meaningful, satisfying and enjoyable.

In this way, the correct answer to the question “How important is winning?” becomes “VERY!” Striving to win and giving one’s best effort are objectives that every coach, player, parent or adult can, and should, support.


Soccer physics

bend the ball

Physics is the branch of science that deals with (surprise!) the physical world and its properties. It attempts to explain in mathematical terms the behaviour of matter as we observe it.

To understand why soccer balls curve, how high they bounce, how the pressure in the ball affects the bounce and even what sort of boots to wear, we need to use things like Newton’s laws of motion, Bernoulli’s discoveries about fluid flow, Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetics, Einstein’s theories of gravitation and relativistic motion, and a lot of other complicated-but-cool stuff.

Why can’t I kick the ball HARD?

You might be taking a long, slow strike at the ball rather than a shorter, sharp strike. This is because a big windup doesn’t necessarily impart sufficient kinetic energy (mass x velocity squared divided by 2). This explains why short, stocky players can generate power on the ball–a short, fast strike contributes to kinetic energy as a square versus the linear increase of weight alone.

Also your head might be coming up on the strike – if you look up as the ball leaves your foot, you impart less mass and velocity, ergo less kinetic energy.

Forces acting on a curving soccer ball

bend the ballThis is a bird’s-eye view of a football spinning about an axis perpendicular to the flow of air across it. The air travels faster relative to the centre of the ball where the periphery of the ball is moving in the same direction as the airflow (left). This reduces the pressure, according to Bernoulli’s principle. The pressure increases on the other side of the ball, where the air travels slower relative to the centre of the ball (right). There is therefore an imbalance in the forces, and the ball deflects in the same sense as the spin – from bottom right to top left. This lift force is also known as the “Magnus force”, after the 19th-century German physicist Gustav Magnus.

Assuming that the velocity of the ball is 25-30 ms-1 (about 70 mph) and that the spin is about 8-10 revolutions per second, then the lift force turns out to be about 3.5 N. The regulations state that a professional football must have a mass of 410-450 g, which means that it accelerates by about 8 ms-2. And since the ball would be in flight for 1 s over its 30 m trajectory, the lift force could make the ball deviate by as much as 4 m from its normal straight-line course. Enough to trouble any goalkeeper!

Playing soccer on the Moon

soccer on the moonDuring an Apollo 17 Lunar landing mission, the astronauts took time out to play a game of soccer on the surface of the Moon with a 200 lb. moon rock.


The “weight” of an object on the Moon is 1/6th that on Earth. (its mass, of course, remains the same)


bouncing ballSuppose a soccer ball is dropped from rest at a height of 10 feet. And assume, on each successive bounce, the ball reaches half the previous height attained. How long will it take for the ball to finally come to rest?

Surprisingly, most people immediately and incorrectly guess that the time involved would be infinite. But, the time of each bounce shortens quickly, and using the simple expression d=½ × g × t² for the distance (d) travelled from rest during the time (t) under gravity (g=32 feet/sec/sec), an infinite series leads to a finite time of 4.61 seconds for the ball to come to rest.

Soccer academies – stepping stones or exploitation?

“I’ve seen the future and I’m scared”

by Matt Slater – BBC Sport

For the last month or so I have been speaking to people involved in youth football (soccer) development in England and to say that our conversations have been illuminating is an understatement. They have also been equal parts encouraging and depressing.

The starting point for my interest in the subject was Rafa Benitez, or more precisely his pre-Christmas rant that academies, which were set up in 1998, weren’t working.

My initial reaction was to dismiss his comments as a case of getting his excuses in early, or perhaps a not-very coded message to Liverpool academy boss Steve Heighway. That soon, however, gave way to indignant jingoism – “you cheeky Spanish git, how dare you suggest our lads aren’t as good as your lads etc etc”.

But with memories of last summer’s World Cup still fresh, I reconsidered. Rafa could be on to something here. After all, the entire academy system is currently under review. And wouldn’t I be annoyed if the only product of a £3m a year coaching complex was Stephen Warnock?

So I spoke to youth development experts at the Football Association, Football League, Premier League, a few clubs and even a few interested outside observers.

What they told me was that academies have been a great success…and a complete waste of time and money.

The quality of coaching is improving all the time…and no better than before.

Our clubs are producing better athletes with better techniques…and nowhere nearly enough players of Premiership quality.

English kids are coming through the system and the first real batch of the academy years are only now reaching maturity…under-pressure managers are still more likely to prefer a short-term fix from the transfer market than an unproven youngster from the academy.

And so it went on. Numbers of coaches and decent facilities, up. Actual time spent with a ball, down.

Some clubs struggling to turn expensively-nurtured potential into Premiership reality, while others can’t stop turning out first-teamers and internationals.

Some clubs eager to join the academy gang and unearth some Gareth Bales of their own, while others starting to wonder if that youth development money can’t be better spent somewhere else, namely abroad.

But what everybody agreed on was that youth development matters. And it will matter even more if we start to miss international tournaments again. What good is having the world’s most popular league if we can’t actually play the game ourselves?

Two of the most passionate people I spoke to were Football League development manager Graham Hawkins and Brazilian Soccer Schools founder Simon Clifford.

Hawkins is as football establishment as they come. He played for some of this country’s oldest and most storied clubs and went on to manage Wolves. He is now chief cheerleader for the Football League’s academies and centres of excellence.

Clifford is as far removed from the football establishment as it is probably possible to be whilst still making a living from the game in this country. A former teacher who turned to football coaching after meeting Juninho’s dad at Boro, Clifford has been upsetting FA suits for years with his radical plans and outspoken style.

Inside or outside the gang, both agreed on a few core issues that can no longer be brushed under “World’s best league/brand” carpet.

1) The money at the top is not filtering down (the Premier League, which will earn £1.7bn next season, gave Football League clubs just £4.2m to help fund their youth set-ups this season).

2) The top flight’s riches make getting there or staying there all important. This leads to short-termism, particularly in regard to signing players (65% of Premier League signings in January were not English) versus developing them.

3) Talented English youngsters are not playing enough football and the football they are playing is probably not the right kind. Teenagers at Brazilian clubs are practising, mostly on basic technique and conditioning, for 20 hours a week. On the continent, they get 10-12 hours. Our brightest prospects are getting five hours.

4) There is no scientific or social reason why English kids, with the right coaching and sufficient time, cannot be as good as kids from anywhere else. In fact, with the levels of interest, expertise and wealth here, they could be better.

So with that last point in mind here is my very short manifesto for saving English football from becoming English tennis.

1) Implement Uefa’s quotas for home-grown players. If Boro can field a team that has 15 of the 16 players from their own academy (as they did against Fulham at the end of last season) surely the others can field teams that have four of 25 (as Uefa has demanded and the Premier League has ignored). I know it is unrealistic to expect to see another team of local lads win the Champions League (as Celtic did in 1967) but it would be nice if at least one or two of them were more than just short-term contractors at the company.

2) Reduce the academies’ catchment areas. They can currently take under-14s from within a 60-minute travel time radius and older kids from within 90 minutes. Clifford wants to reduce that to 10 minutes. I think he has a point. Access to the players is a huge issue, and our climate, clogged roads and school timetable don’t help. But let’s work around that. Let’s get the kids into their LOCAL club before school. Or perhaps let them have their PE lessons there. Clifford has told Leeds chairman Ken Bates to forget recruiting academy kids in Liverpool and Newcastle. He thinks he could field a Leeds United side of locals in just 10 years. It won’t happen but it wouldn’t be any worse than what they have now and it would be considerably cheaper.

3) Stop competitive 11-a-side games for the youngest players. Most academies spend two thirds of their five-hour allotment with the kids on preparing for the upcoming weekend’s game. That leaves just one third of the time for work on technique, the very building blocks of young player’s career. Less focus on competition, with smaller games and more touches is the way forward. Who cares if their teams under-12s are top of the table if your under-18s can’t trap a ball?

I could go on (to more dangerously communist territory like salary caps) but I won’t.

What I will say is that I am fed up of waiting for England to win an international tournament and I am not convinced that the mega-bucks world league that is the Premiership is going to help that.

Primary school football (soccer) – the rules of the game


Matches shall be played over three unequal periods:  two playtimes and a lunchtime. Each of these periods shall begin shortly after the ringing of a bell, and although a bell is also rung towards the end of these periods, play may continue for up to ten minutes afterwards, depending on the nihilism or “bottle” of the participants with regard to corporal punishment meted out to latecomers back to the classroom.

In practice there is a sliding scale of nihilism, from those who hasten to stand in line as soon as the bell rings, through those who will hang on until the time they estimate it takes the teachers to down the last of their G &T’s and journey from the staffroom, known as “chancers”, and finally to those who will hang on until a teacher actually has to physically retrieve them, known as “bampots”. This sliding scale is intended to radically alter the logistics of a match in progress, often having dramatic effects on the scoreline as the number of remaining participants drops. It is important, therefore, in picking the sides, to achieve a fair balance of poofs, chancers and bampots in order that the scoreline achieved over a sustained period of play – a lunchtime, for instance – is not totally nullified by a five-minute post-bell onslaught of five bampots against one. The scoreline, to be carried over from the previous period of the match, is in the trust of the last bampots to leave the field of play, and may be the matter of some debate. This must be resolved in one of the approved manners (see Adjudication).

The object is to force the ball between two large, unkempt piles of jackets, in lieu of goalposts. These piles may grow or shrink throughout the match, depending on the number of participants and the prevailing weather. As the number of players increases, so shall the piles. Each jacket added to the pile by a new addition to a side should be placed on the inside, nearest the goalkeeper, thus reducing the target area. It is also important that the sleeve of one of the jackets should jut out across the goalmouth, as it will often be claimed that the ball went “over the post” and it can henceforth be asserted that the outstretched sleeve denotes the innermost part of the pile and thus the inside of the post. The on-going reduction of the size of the goal is the responsibility of any respectable defence and should be undertaken conscientiously with resourcefulness and imagination. In the absence of a crossbar, the upper limit of the target area is observed as being slightly above head height, although when the height at which a ball passed between the jackets is in dispute, judgment shall lie with an arbitrary adjudicator from one of the sides. He is known as the “best fighter”; his decision is final and may be enforced with physical violence if anyone wants to stretch a point.

There are no pitch markings. Instead, physical objects denote the boundaries, ranging from the most common – walls and buildings – to roads or burns. Corners and throw-ins are redundant where bylines or touchlines are denoted by a two-storey building or a six-foot granite wall; instead, a scrum should be instigated to decide possession. This should begin with the ball trapped between the brickwork and two opposing players and should escalate to include as many team members as can get there before the now egg-shaped ball finally emerges, often with a dismembered foot and shin attached. At this point, goalkeepers should look out for the player who takes possession of the escaped ball and begins bearing down on goal, as most of those involved in the scrum will be unaware that the ball is no longer amidst their feet. The goalkeeper should also try not to be distracted by the inevitable fighting that has by this point broken out.

In games on large open spaces, the length of the pitch is obviously denoted by the jacket piles, but the width is a variable. In the absence of roads, water hazards etc, the width is determined by how far out the attacking winger has to meander before the pursuing defender gets fed up and heads back towards where the rest of the players are waiting, often as far as quarter of a mile away.

It is often observed that the playing area is “no’ a full-size pitch”. This can be invoked verbally to justify placing a wall of players eighteen inches from the ball at direct free kicks It is the formal response to “yards”, which the kick-taker will incant meaninglessly as he places the ball.

The Ball

There are a variety of types of ball approved for Primary School Football. The following three notable examples are described.

1. The plastic balloon. An extremely lightweight model, used primarily in the early part of the season and seldom after that due to having burst. Identifiable by blue pentagonal paneling and the names of that year’s Premier League sides printed all over it.

Advantages: low sting factor, low burst-nose probability, cheap, discourages a long-ball game.

Disadvantages:  over-susceptible to influence of the wind, difficult to control, almost magnetically drawn to flat school roofs whence never to return.

2. The rough-finish Mitre. Half football, half Portuguese Man o’ War. On the verge of a ban in the European Court of Human Rights, this model is not for sale to children. Used exclusively by teachers during gym classes as a kind of aversion therapy. Made from highly durable fibre-glass, stuffed with neutron star and coated with dead jellyfish.

Advantages: looks quite grown up, makes for high-scoring matches (keepers won’t even attempt to catch it).

Disadvantages: scars or maims anything it touches.

  1. The “Tubey”. Genuine leather ball, identifiable by brown all-over colouring. Was once black and white, before ravages of games on concrete, but owners can never remember when. Adored by everybody, especially keepers.

Advantages: feels good, easily controlled, makes a satisfying “whump” noise when you kick it.

Disadvantages: turns into medicine ball when wet, smells like a dead dog.


There is no offside, for two reasons: one, “it’s no’ a full-size pitch”, and two, none of the players actually know what offside is.

The lack of an offside rule gives rise to a unique sub-division of strikers. These players hang around the opposing goalmouth while play carries on at the other end, awaiting a long pass forward out of defence which they can help past the keeper before running the entire length of the pitch with their arms in the air to greet utterly imaginary adulation. These are known variously as “poachers”, “gloryhunters” and “fly wee bastards”. These players display a remarkable degree of self-security, seemingly happy in their own appraisals of their achievements, and caring little for their teammates’ failure to appreciate the contribution they have made. They know that it can be for nothing other than their enviable goal tallies that they are so bitterly despised.

The absence of a referee means that disputes must be resolved between the opposing teams rather than decided by an arbiter. There are two accepted ways of doing this.

1.Compromise. An arrangement is devised that is found acceptable by both sides. Sway is usually given to an action that is in accordance with the spirit of competition, ensuring that the game does not turn into “a pure skoosh”. For example, in the event of a dispute as to whether the ball in fact crossed the line, or whether the ball has gone inside or “over” the post, the attacking side may offer the ultimatum: “Penalty or goal.” It is not recorded whether any side has ever opted for the latter. It is on occasions that such arrangements or ultimatum do not prove acceptable to both sides that the second adjudicatory method comes into play.

2. Fighting. Those up on their ancient Hellenic politics will understand that the concept we know as “justice” rests in these circumstances with the hand of the strong. What the winner says, goes, and what the winner says is just, for who shall dispute him? It is by such noble philosophical principles that the supreme adjudicator, or Best Fighter, is effectively elected.

Team Selection

To ensure a fair and balanced contest, teams are selected democratically in a turns-about picking process, with either side beginning as a one-man selection committee and growing from there.

The initial selectors are usually the recognised two Best Players of the assembled group. Their first selections will be the two recognised Best Fighters, to ensure a fair balance in the adjudication process, and to ensure that they don’t have their own performances impaired throughout the match by profusely bleeding noses. They will then proceed to pick teammates in a roughly meritocratic order, selecting on grounds of skill and tactical awareness, but not forgetting that while there is a sliding scale of players’ ability, there is also a sliding scale of players’ brutality and propensities towards motiveless violence. A selecting captain might baffle a talented striker by picking the less nimble Big Jazza ahead of him, and may explain, perhaps in the words of Linden B Johnson upon his retention of J. Edgar Hoover as the head of the FBI, that he’d “rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in”.

Special consideration is also given during the selection process to the owner of the ball. It is tacitly knowledged to be “his gemme”, and he must be shown a degree of politeness for fear that he takes the huff at being picked late and withdraws his favours.

Another aspect of team selection that may confuse those only familiar with the game at senior level will be the choice of goalkeepers, who will inevitably be the last players to be picked. Unlike in the senior game, where the goalkeeper is often the tallest member of his team, in the playground, the goalkeeper is usually the smallest. Senior aficionados must appreciate that playground selectors have a different agenda and are looking for altogether different properties in a goalkeeper. These can be listed briefly as: compliance, poor fighting ability, meekness, fear and anything else that makes it easier for their team-mates to banish the wee bugger between the sticks while they go off in search of personal glory up the other end.


Playground football tactics are best explained in terms of team formation. Whereas senior sides tend to choose – according to circumstance – from among a number of standard options (e.g., 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 5-3-2), the playground side is usually more rigid in sticking to the all-purpose 1-1-17 formation. This formation is a sturdy basis for the unique style of play, ball-flow and territorial give-and-take that makes the playground game such a renowned and strategically engrossing spectacle. Just as the 5-3-2 formation is sometimes referred to in practice as “Cattenaccio”, the 1-1-17 formation gives rise to a style of play that is best described as “Nomadic”. All but perhaps four of the participants (see also Offside) migrate en masse from one area of the pitch to another, following the ball, and it is tactically vital that every last one of them remains within a ten-yard radius of it at all times.


Much stoppage time in the senior game is down to injured players requiring treatment on the field of play. The playground game flows freer having adopted the refereeing philosophy of “no Post-Mortem, no free-kick”, and play will continue around and even on top of a participant who has fallen in the course of his endeavours. However, the playground game is nonetheless subject to other interruptions, and some examples are listed below.

Ball on school roof or over school wall. The retrieval time itself is negligible in these cases. The stoppage is most prolonged by the argument to decide which player must risk life, limb or four of the belt to scale the drainpipe or negotiate the barbed wire in order to return the ball to play. Disputes usually arise between the player who actually struck the ball and any others he claims it may have struck before disappearing into forbidden territory. In the case of the Best Fighter having been adjudged responsible for such an incident, a volunteer is often required to go in his stead or the game may be abandoned, as the Best Fighter is entitled to observe that A: “Ye canny make me”; or B: “It’s no’ ma baw anyway”.

Stray dog on pitch. An interruption of unpredictable duration. The dog does not have to make off with the ball, it merely has to run around barking loudly, snarling and occasionally drooling or foaming at the mouth. This will ensure a dramatic reduction in the number of playing staff as 27 of them simultaneously volunteer to go indoors and inform the teacher of the threat. The length of the interruption can sometimes be gauged by the breed of dog. A deranged Irish Setter could take ten minutes to tire itself of running in circles, for instance, while a Jack Russell may take up to fifteen minutes to corner and force out through the gates. An Alsatian means instant abandonment.

Bigger boys steal ball. A highly irritating interruption, the length of which is determined by the players’ experience in dealing with this sort of thing. The intruders will seldom actually steal the ball, but will improvise their own kickabout amongst themselves, occasionally inviting the younger players to attempt to tackle them. Standing around looking bored and unimpressed usually results in a quick restart. Shows of frustration and engaging in attempts to win back the ball can prolong the stoppage indefinitely. Informing the intruders that one of the
players’ older brother is “Mad Chic Murphy” or some other noted local pugilist can also ensure minimum delay.

Menopausal old bag confiscates ball. More of a threat in the street or local green kickabout than within the school walls. Sad, blue-rinsed, ill-tempered, Tory-voting cat-owner transfers her anger about the array of failures that has been her life to nine-year-olds who have committed the heinous crime of letting their ball cross her privet Line of Death. Interruption (loss of ball) is predicted to last “until you learn how to play with it properly”, but instruction on how to achieve this without actually having the bloody thing is not usually forwarded. Tact is required in these circumstances, even when the return of the ball seems highly unlikely, as further irritation of woman may result in the more serious stoppage: Menopausal old bag calls police.


Goal-scorers are entitled to a maximum run of thirty yards with their hands in the air, making crowd noises and saluting imaginary packed terraces. Congratulation by teammates is in the measure appropriate to the importance of the goal in view of the current scoreline (for instance, making it 34-12 does not entitle the player to drop to his knees and make the sign of the cross), and the extent of the scorer’s contribution.

A fabulous solo dismantling of the defence or 25-yard* rocket shot will elicit applause and back-pats from the entire team and the more magnanimous of the opponents. However, a tap-in in the midst of a chaotic scramble will be heralded with the epithet “poachin’ wee bastard” from the opposing defence amidst mild acknowledgment from teammates. NOTE* – Actually eight yards, but calculated as relative distance because “it’s no’ a full-size pitch”.

Applying an unnecessary final touch when a ball is already rolling into the goal will elicit a burst nose from the original striker.

Kneeling down to head the ball over the line when defence and keeper are already beaten will elicit a thoroughly deserved kicking.

As a footnote, however, it should be stressed that any goal scored by the Best Fighter will be met with universal acclaim, even if it falls into any of the latter three categories.


At senior level, each side often has one appointed penalty-taker, who will defer to a team-mate in special circumstances, such as his requiring one more for a hat-trick. The playground side has two appointed penalty-takers: the Best Player and the Best Fighter. The arrangement is simple: the Best Player takes the penalties when his side is a retrievable margin behind, and the Best Fighter at all other times. If the side is comfortably in front, the ball-owner may be invited to take a penalty. Goalkeepers are often the subject of temporary substitutions at penalties, forced to give up their position to the Best Player or Best Fighter, who recognise the kudos attached to the heroic act of saving one of these kicks, and are buggered if “Wee Titch” is going to steal any of it.

Close Season

This is known also as the Summer Holidays, which the players usually spend dabbling briefly in other sports: tennis for a fortnight while Wimbledon is on the telly; pitch-and-putt for four days during the Open; and cricket for about an hour and a half until they discover that it really is as boring to play as it is to watch.

from Ohio Youth Soccer Association North