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Building and Managing a High School Soccer Program

The following interview is with Coach Bill Bratton, who was my Soccer Coach at Cross Keys High School in Atlanta, Georgia for the school year 1989-1990. I asked him for an interview to share his thoughts on Soccer. He has been involved with Soccer for over 25 years so I wanted to pick his brain on the subject.

Stafford:

Hello Coach, you have been coaching high school soccer for over 25 years. How did you first get involved in the sport?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Hi Stafford and thank you. Well I started coaching soccer in 1982 in DeKalb County in my first year teaching at Sequoyah High. The previous coach had left and the school needed someone to coach. The principal offered me the opportunity to take over the program.

Stafford:

How was that experience for you and how did you prepare for this new role as a High School Soccer Coach?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I will admit I had never played or coached soccer before. In the off season I spent time preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics. I will also admit that the players knew more about the skills, the formations and what it took to play the game than I did but it was the coaching organization of putting a team together to play as a team that was my strength. I really enjoyed coaching soccer once I mastered the knowledge I needed.

Stafford:

How long did you coach at Sequoyah and how did you end up at Cross Keys?

Coach Bill Bratton:

I coached Sequoyah for 4 years before DeKalb began a consolidation program and I transferred to Cross Keys in 1986. I had the privilege of coaching the Keys program for the next 20 years. I earned my Georgia class D coaching license as well as a Class C level National Coaching license from the USSF. The situation at Cross Keys was much like Sequoyah, they needed a new soccer coach and the AP who would become the principal offered me the position.

Stafford:

How was the situation at Cross Keys, and what did it take to build the program?

Coach Bill Bratton:

It took hard work and discipline to build the program. My job involved rebuilding a program. It had lost its organization, discipline was amuck, and the program wasn’t winning, just 2 years from finishing 3rd in the state. I had to incorporate discipline into the program and to teach players what playing on a school competitive team meant and was needed to win. This progress was going to take many years to complete.

Players would tell me «Coach we just want to play». Cross Keys was a highly transient school. It was a constant rebuilding progress every year. They had no understanding of playing as a team, that they had to come to practice, to commit, and to be successful they had to play as a team. As I look back that took 2-3 years to get across. Once we reached the point of players returning consistently, I started instilling in the players that we were playing to win. They were playing in a competitive environment. If they just wanted to play there were rec teams, club teams, and other leagues they could go and «just play».

There were teams that we could beat just based on talent and skill alone so we had to start winning those games. Slowly players started to understand, but they had no knowledge of what playing for a State Championship» was or meant. But we started to win games we should of and it was time to go to the next level, winning games that were 50-50. Again this level took 3-4 years to develop. I constantly had to preach to the teams what we were out there to accomplish. We wanted to win games and develop. After getting to the point of winning 50-50 games, we needed to win games that we were not expected to win. Our goal was to make the region playoffs to go to the state playoffs. The final step in the development was to defeat teams no one expected us to. It was always my belief that we had the ability, the skills to play with anyone and defeat anyone on any given day. In my last 5 years at the Keys we had two teams to reach the 2nd round (sweet 16) level of the state playoffs.

Stafford:

Awesome! I see a pattern here and a valuable lesson to be learned. An opportunity was presented; Rather than turn it down because you had no prior experience in soccer at that time, you made the effort to learn about the subject by spending time » preparing and learning by reading books and going to clinics», etc. You mentioned it took work and discipline and eventually you mastered the knowledge that was needed to coach high school soccer, which I saw when my old high school merged with Cross Keys and I ended up playing for you in my senior year. You seemed to have had a passion for soccer and knowledge of the game and the know-how to get players excited for the game and team unity. But all of that was accomplished through your own hard work and effort. How important is «discipline» for the aspiring soccer player and anyone in general?

Coach Bill Bratton:

Let me start out by saying that I believe discipline is an important attribute for anyone to have. To achieve individual or team goals one must have self-discipline. Discipline can have many different meaning to each person. It can be a commitment to attending practices, to going beyond what is asked of one to do to prepare. Discipline comes from having goals and achieving goals come from being disciplined. Some say that my teams were disciplined. On a team there can be only one chief who must lead and lead by setting the discipline of what is expected from others. The others must be willing to accept the standards and work together to achieve for the benefit of the whole and not the individual. If the team has discipline many other honors will come their way.

For many years as the coach I would tell the teams our goals, the purpose of what we will be trying to achieve, and that to reach these ideals we must all be on the same page. Some years I would have players who as the season would progress would disagree with the discipline and feel that certain things were unfair. They would question the purpose, the lineup, and the style of play or other team discipline. Of course I would try to talk with them, explain what was being done and why, listen to their side of the picture. I always had an open door if a player wanted to talk or discuss issues but not in public or at practice or during a game. I recall one instance where 5 players who I had taken out of a game and disagreed with my decision that they left the team bench and set in the stands. These players were removed from the team immediately after the game. On another team years later the players felt the formation we were playing and the players in those positions was wrong. This time I gave that team the chance to play the players and the formation they felt we needed to be playing. I said you have a half to show me that I am wrong and if it doesn’t work it will be done my way and there will be no more discussion and if you cannot agree with my decisions you have a decision that only you can make. Well the team’s way didn’t work so at halftime I told the team I gave you your opportunity now it will be done my way.

I always in my 26 years of coaching have told every team that I coach (you might recall this)… I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how good you are (even if you are the best player), or who you know… If you have to be disciplined you will be disciplined. No matter how much it might hurt the team, you know the rules and you know if you break the rules you will be disciplined and I will discipline you.

Stafford:

Thanks Coach. Have you had any experience with Club Soccer (soccer outside of the school system)? What is your thought on Club Soccer and its impact on High School Soccer? For example, some players who play high school soccer in the Spring may have Club teams that they play for that trains Summer, Fall and even Winter!

Coach Bill Bratton:

My experience on coaching Club has been limited as I coached one year with a U-14 boys’ team with Roswell Santos club league. We won the Fall and Spring season championship. A few years later I worked with Concorde Soccer coaching a U-12 boys team for a year.

If a player is looking to be seen and has the dream of playing at the college level then the club system is the way to go. But keep in mind that this is for elite level players. If they are good enough there is a program that they can go through to reach a higher level of play if they have the talent. First is to be selected on a top level team, to try out for the State select teams, to reach Regional recognition, etc. In the summer they should attend a quality soccer camp to improve their skills and to be seen by college coaches. In high school some club coaches look down at the high school programs and encourage players not to play on their school teams for a lack of quality coaching, getting injured, lack of talent, and low level of play from many schools.

I encourage my players to find a club team to play on in the off seasons as it can only help to make them better. In the Fall if they are not playing on a club team, I encourage players to practice Cross Country to start developing their stamina and if possible to go out for wrestling in the Winter. Some club players come into the High School level and will tell me they can only play a midfield or an outside wing position. I try to teach my players that even though they played center midfield on their club team they are a great fit in the defense on the school team. Players need to keep an open mind and be willing to play the position that will give the team they are on the opportunity to be competitive and a chance to win.

Stafford:

Thanks Coach! Having been a club coach for several years, I can relate to the statement «some club coaches look down at the high school program and encourage players not to play on their school teams from a lack of quality coaching, getting injured, lack of talent, level of play from many schools.» Not that I have ever made that statement. However, that statement may have had some validity in the past, but do you see this changing as new generation of teachers who may be coaching high school or middle school presently are actually former soccer players who are also teachers, but may want to use the high school experience as a career path for some form of College/Professional coaching? This may be the case for some private schools.

Coach Bill Bratton:

Yes I see this getting better. The coaching at the high school level has shown major improvement in the coaches’ knowledge of the game. High schools teams now, like club teams can hire community coaches to help coach teams now and pay a stipend. These individuals must take the state required courses to become a community coach and follow the rules of the school, the county and state as they coach. So high school coaches who might lack in the skills and able to find someone willing to coach to teach/work coaching the players the skills or to work on the strategies and tactical aspects of the game. This is what many club teams do now. They have a person to run the run but pay hundreds of dollars a month for a named/quality individual who was a former player, etc to actual do the coaching.

Stafford:

****Coach Bratton retired in 2006, but after 7 years he wanted to get back into coaching and took over the varsity boys position at a High School in Fulton County (Georgia) as a community coach. It was great speaking to him again after so many years. ****

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Considerations to Be Kept in Mind While Buying Soccer Cleats

All sorts of players, whether they are experienced ones, the young ones, the adult ones or the pro everyone needs a hand while picking up the perfect cleats for playing soccer. This article is dedicated towards making the right choice and selecting the cleats which are perfect for your feet. Let us start.

Cleats are Cleats!

This point becomes the first guide to buying cleats to illustrate that it is only the technique of the player which matters. The cleats can only accentuate the game. And hence no player should think that purchasing high quality ones would mean a drastic change in the game as it is going to be the endless practice which will make all the difference.

Get to know your style

Whether you are a goalkeeper, or a forward, defender, midfielder or winger, all this is going to impact on the type that you are going to buy. This is because all these styles are different and require a different set of grip on the ground. After identifying the style, go on for choosing the one which fits you best.

What is the type of your pitch?

The sort of playground you will be playing upon also makes a lot of difference in choosing your soccer cleats. If the land on which you are going to play is muddy and wet then you should go for HG ones. If you need one for a year, then turf should be your choice. Go for firm ground (FG) in case of grassy ground. Soft ground (SG) is apt for surfaces which are soft enough to allow the studs to penetrate the ground. If the surface is solid as a rock, then Indoor ones should be your choice.

The material used matters!

There are a number of materials which are used in making them. It can be K-Leather, Natural leather, synthetic leather, synthetic, mesh or knit. The K leather quality allows your feet to get molded properly and it also provides durability. Made up of the skin of a calf or goat, these are very good at the balls. Some companies are working in the direction of using synthetic leather that gives the same effect as that of natural leather. Mesh is a trendy and lightweight upper covering which sometimes allows moisture to reach the skin of the player. Companies are working on the waterproofing technology of mesh.

Weight

The weight also matters a lot. On an average cleats with the weight of 8oz is considered to be perfect as it keeps the things balanced and the player does not feel the heaviness. However, there are some extra light weight which also weigh between 5oz to 6oz.

Budget your cleat

The most important aspect of purchasing is the budget. How much can you spend on it? Usually $150 or above is the elite level where you can purchase the top companies cleats. But to see a minimum of budget, it should be $10 at least which you are willing to spend on.

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The Nitty Gritty to Soccer Safety

As soccer is one of the most well loved sports on Earth, many children and adults are lured into participating in playing on a daily basis. Due to this wide spread popularity, soccer injuries are very common.

With over 80,000 adults and children going to emergency rooms every year as a result of soccer, knowing the safety rules is vital. When playing and watching, there are certain things that you should always be aware of so that you and your teammates or family members are not among those hurt through either playing or watching. There are several categories of safety rules that you should be aware of. These consist of the following:

  • On Field Safety
  • Goal Safety
  • Stadium Safety
  • Equipment
  • Weather Safety
  • Miscellaneous Accessories

On Field Safety

Of all of the categories, on field safety is the one that players are constantly aware of. This is where most children and adults are injured. Whether it is a sprained ankle from tripping over the ball, collisions, and other accidents, there are several things that you can do to prevent injury. Sprained ankles are one of the most common soccer injuries, as there is a great deal of foot work involved.

These injuries can be avoided by using a slight amount of caution when passing or receiving the ball, as well as taking care when running down the field. Proper foot position when handling the ball is one of the most effective ways at preventing this type of injury. Unfortunately, accidents will happen, regardless of how careful you are. By being diligent, you can make certain whatever injuries you sustain are minor and should not interfere with future game play. The key rule to preventing injuries on the field is to always be observant. Know where the ball is and know who is around you.

Goal Safety

Whether you are the goalie, or a player on defense, the goal can occasionally become a safety hazard. In most instances, collisions with goal or goalie are caused by lack of observation. Whether you trip and fall into the goal posts, or hit the goalie by accident, you need to make certain that you are always watching where you going when moving in to score. Not only can this action cause injury, it can also get you carded which could potentially have you removed from the game.

Another point to consider when shopping for 8 x 24 soccer goals, is to consider goals with rounded posts instead of square posts. When colliding with a post, you’re more likely to skip off a rounded one and avoid serious injury.

Stadium Safety

For parents, guardians and friends, there are a few stadium safety tips that tend to be neglected when the subject of soccer safety comes up. Occasionally a player can lose control of the soccer ball, and it enter the stands where you are observing the game. Injuries due to being hit with the ball, or any other piece of equipment that flies your way, can be easily prevented by making certain you pay attention at all times.

Running through the stands, or through the player’s area can be dangerous to you and others. As a rule, common sense is the best safety precaution you have. If it involves doing something that could harm yourself or others, such as walking over the back of the bleachers, climbing over people and tall benches, it should be avoided for your sake and others.

Equipment

Without soccer safety equipment, all of the in game rules would be ineffective. Shin guards, cleats, jerseys and proper fitting shorts and socks all work together to ensure that every player can enjoy the game without being at high risk of injury. Shin guards are used to prevent bruising or breaking of the lower portion of the leg, where cleats and soccer balls are highly likely to hit you. Without these, such as lotto shin guards, you put yourself at high risk.

Wearing a proper pair of cleats, such as the ones designed by Nike, gives you more grip into the turf. This grip helps to prevent sprains and breaks in the ankles. These shoes also give your feet adequate protection from other pairs of cleats and impact with the soccer ball.

Proper fitting clothing, ranging from the jersey, shorts and socks, contribute to player comfort. This is important, as distractions from the game can lead to injuries to yourself and others. It is always advisable to wear your proper jerseys to practice or to games. Specially designed jerseys and shorts are designed to handle the rigors of soccer. The fabric in particular is designed to stand up against grass stains as well as be comfortable.

Weather

One aspect of soccer safety that is forgotten by many players and parents is weather conditions. Playing in the rain can be a fun, invigorating experience, treasured by players for years to come. Despite this, playing in muddy conditions is dangerous. The slipping and sliding that creates a great deal of the enjoyment taken from playing soccer in the rain leaves room for a wide variety of different injuries. If you choose to play soccer in the rain, make certain you take every precaution possible, from wearing cleats, guards and your protective gear.

When a full fledged storm comes up, complete with thunder and lightning, game play should be ended immediately. A soccer field is the worst place to be in the middle of a lightning storm, and parents as well as players have been killed or maimed by lightning. If lightning is spotted and your referee does not end the game, you should still leave the field as soon as possible.

Miscellaneous Accessories

Before you play soccer, you need to make certain that you are not wearing miscellaneous accessories such as earrings, anklets and other pieces of jewelry that could be broken or cause harm. Earrings in particular are prone to being torn from earlobes when contact is made with a soccer ball. By removing these pieces of jewelry and other items of this nature, you can help prevent injuries to yourself that could be disfiguring. If you are considering getting piercings and you play soccer, you may want to consider planning to have your piercings done when the soccer season is over.

If you keep all of these things in mind while playing or observing soccer games, you should be able to enjoy the sport while being at low risk of injury.

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3 Factors To Consider When Buying Your Desired Soccer Jersey

If you are into soccer, you may be looking to purchase a soccer jersey for your practice sessions. Although buying your own jersey is not rocket science, the wrong type may have a negative impact on your performance. So, make sure that the product you buy comes with all the protective features. Apart from this, it should be flexible and safe enough for you. In this article, we are going to shed some light on three factors to consider before you make a choice.

Before you go ahead and consider the three main factors, make sure you drop the idea of buying cheap products. Cheap jerseys tend to shrink, tear or rip when washed. Therefore, if you want to save your hard-earned money, we suggest that you go for a good product.

Now, let’s take a look at the three factors that you must consider when making this purchase.

1. Fit

Before you go for your desired product, make sure it fits your body properly. Although you can put on the most high-tech jersey, it will be no good to you if it makes you feel uncomfortable on the ground.

In other words, it should be neither too tight nor too loose. Ideally, it must fit you well and allow you to move around without any problem. Although soccer jerseys are form-fitting, make sure you go for one that doesn’t make you feel pinched. It should allow you complete freedom of movement.

2. Material

Typically, high-quality jerseys are made using seamless, lightweight stuff. Some of them have mesh side panels in order to boost airflow. As a result, you don’t sweat a lot while playing. Also, the lightweight fabric should feel soft on your skin. It shouldn’t make you feel itchy or irritated.

Usually, soccer jerseys are made using nylon and polyester. These two elements are very good at absorbing sweat. Therefore, you won’t have to play while wearing a soggy uniform. Apart from this, this fabric is durable and stands the test of time.

3. Protective Features

Apart from feeling comfortable on the pitch, make sure you are safe too. Even if you suffer a minor injury, it may keep you away from the ground for several weeks, if not months. For protection against scrapes and bruises, today’s soccer jerseys feature ergonomic pads. They are designed to absorb impacts and offer protections against contusions, bruises, and cuts.

The good thing is that these pads are quite flexible. Therefore, they have no impact on how you move around while playing. You won’t even feel their presence. And this is one of the main benefits of these jerseys. After all, you can’t compromise on comfort of your outfits.

Long story short, we suggest that you follow these three tips when buying your desired soccer jerseys. Armed with these tips, it will be a lot easier for you to opt for the best jerseys to meet your needs.

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The Benefits of Playing Soccer

The game of soccer, or the original «football» is one of the most popular sports in the world. Unlike American football or baseball, soccer is a sport that is played all around the world by people of all ages and background. What makes soccer so popular? It could be the easiness of play and set-up, the fact that it can be played anywhere with a large, flat surface and requires minimal equipment, in some cases just a makeshift soccer ball. Besides the fact soccer can be played in nearly any large, flat area, it is also inexpensive.

Soccer has made its way to the U.S. and like in other wealthier countries like those in Europe, the game of soccer has become a great investment of time and money. Kids of all ages play soccer from age five up through high school and college. Adult recreation soccer leagues are also popular.

In the U.S., soccer is a popular game to introduce young athletes to as it’s easy to learn and team camaraderie is established. Soccer is more than an activity for young children to use up all their energy. The act of playing soccer has numerous benefits making it great for people of all ages. If you’re on the fence about participating in soccer, here are the benefits of playing soccer:

Soccer Encourages Social Interaction

One can’t play or even have soccer practice, or at least a fun one, being by one’s self. Sure, you can practice shooting, but without a goalie, the practice won’t be as beneficial. Soccer is a team sport and requires one to effectively listen, communicate with and obey one’s coach and teammates.

Soccer promotes social interaction, which is very important for young children. Verbal, comprehension and decision-making skills are improved while playing soccer which will help kids as they become adults.

Soccer Encourages Teamwork and a Group Attitude

As mentioned earlier, soccer is a team sport, meaning each player is important to the team’s success. Every player must work on the skills needed to be the best player they can be in order to help their team do well. Soccer teaches players discipline and commitment to the team. This ability to think about how one’s attitude and actions affect others and putting others in front of one’s personal concerns and wants groom kids into adults who can better resolve conflict, be good teammates, coworkers and leaders. Being a part of a soccer team will force players to resolve differences, learn compromise and make amends for the betterment of the team.

Soccer Gets People to Stay Active

Soccer is a favorite sport for young athletes to get involved in as it is a good way for them to burn off all their energy. Beginning soccer is also great for small children as the rules are simple to understand and the players can be constantly engaged.

Soccer is a good cardiovascular workout, requiring players to be actively moving. The anticipation of blocking a shot, intercepting a pass or making an amazing shot on goal motivates players to run faster and harder than just going for a regular run. Soccer can indeed distract one from realizing they are getting exercise, which makes the game fun for those who would normally not be active or into fitness.

Both indoor and outdoor soccer require players to also get off the couch and onto the field. The act of «getting out» means less time laying on the couch binge watching TV shows or playing video games. The active lifestyle of soccer ultimately boosts one’s mood and attitude, improves one’s energy levels and mental health and reduces one’s risk of health issues.

Soccer is Good for One’s Health

Research has shown that playing soccer yields multiple physical, sociological and psychological benefits. Soccer involves cardiovascular exercise that strengthens the heart, improves blood flow, lowers stress, strengthens the lungs and tones muscles which improves the functioning and correct alignment of the skeletal system.

The sociological benefits of soccer helps one better interact with others and learn valuable skills like teamwork, dedication, responsibility and conflict resolution. The exercise of soccer lowers stress and improves brain functioning and boosts one’s mood, making one happier.

Soccer Players Are More Likely to Continue Playing

Those who play soccer are more likely to continue living a healthy, active lifestyle by continuing to play soccer. Even as adults, those who grew up playing soccer or who just started playing soccer are more committed to sticking to it than other forms of exercise such as running. There are multiple, possible reasons for this including the «team» aspect of soccer.

Soccer Can Reduce Stress, Especially Among Men

Studies have shown that playing soccer reduces one’s risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and falls. Similar studies have also concluded that playing soccer and running yield similar health benefits and mood enhancements. However, by participating in a soccer match resulted in less stress than by merely running.

Men, in particular experienced more worry when running than playing soccer. Running is an individual sport, with no team responsibility and less camaraderie. By playing soccer, men felt more motivated, involved and happy. Soccer requires participants to think about the next play as well as their teammates, which leaves little room and time for players to think about their personal problems and stressors.

Soccer is a popular world sport for many reasons including its ease of play and minimal equipment needed. Researchers have indicated that there are many other benefits of playing soccer including social interaction, teambuilding, an active lifestyle and improved physical, mental and emotional health.

Regardless of your age or playing abilities, there are soccer clubs and activities available in nearly every community. Simply sign up and stop by your local soccer equipment store to get the ball, cleats and shin guards you need.

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