view:  full / summary

The Culture of Winning hurts player development

Posted by Roddy on March 20, 2017 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I would like to talk some of the important problems facing youth soccer (between the ages of about 5-13).

When it comes to youth soccer clubs, ask yourself this question:

Is the primary focus on what the club can do for the young player, or what the young player can do for the club?

Unfortunately in the U.S., our cultural beliefs idealize winning as the sole marker of success. Many clubs are driven by an insatiable appetite for winning, instantaneous gratification, and a premature focus on what is best for the team instead of focusing on the development of each individual player.

Take quick look at the majority of local clubs’ websites and social media accounts — plastered with photos of their teams holding trophies, boasting of goals totals for elementary school kids — will confirm this observation.

Believing these clubs must be doing a good job, parents are happy to drive their children great distances and freely open their wallets to provide the best opportunities possible. What they fail to realize is this culture of winning can have a significant negative impact not only on their children’s enjoyment of the sport, but ultimately on their development as well. It is a vicious cycle pushing clubs to advertise their trophies rather than their retention and improvement of players’ abilities.

Critical factors contributing to early withdraw from sports are a lack of enjoyment, excessive pressure and an overemphasis on winning. In fact, if you ask young soccer players for reasons why they enjoy playing soccer, “winning” isn’t even in the top 5 most common answers. As adults, we hijack their experience to satisfy our purposes.

All too frequently, games represent the “big stage” and are overhyped by parents and coaches. For instance, listen to pre match team talks (pep-talks) and you’ll too often hear coaches saying things like: “This team is really good; you guys are going to have to bring your A-game if you want to beat them.” Or, “Remember, if we don’t play smart out there, they’re going to punish us.” Or, “If you don’t work hard, I’m going to sub you out.” Or, “Last time we played them, they beat us on a bad on a bad (referee) call. We owe them this time!”

The great majority of young soccer players already want to do their best; they don’t take the field with the plan of playing poorly. The research is clear: these types of pregame talks actually inhibit young players’ performances by pushing them beyond their “sweet spot” level of enjoyment.

The optimum environment for learning occurs when the brain is pushed just beyond its comfort zone. However, in an overly pressured, competitive environment, tension and anxiety build to the point that performance, fun and learning suffer. In soccer, children need to have the freedom to be courageous and try new skills they have not yet mastered. They need to exercise their circuits that allow them to think creatively and develop their on-field problem solving. Instead, the pressure placed on them by adults to produce a win shapes their play into avoidance of mistakes as the primary goal rather than accomplishing difficult feats.


The pressure doesn’t end with the final whistle. Many coaches sit players down for extended periods to go over their individual mistakes and what they could have done to win the game. Further, parents continue this dissection in the parking lot and car ride home (the dreaded car ride home). Children are clear that these postgame assessments do nothing but suck the last drops of fun from their experience.

What do players like Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar have in common with each other and so many other soccer greats? During their early soccer careers, they all regarded a soccer ball as a toy, rather than a tool. The street ball environment of mixed ages and abilities, without coaches, parents and trophies, allowed these youngsters the freedom to be creative. By having fun, they were happy to play for hours and hours without getting burned out. Research on elite athletes confirms these champions only began to approach competition from a more serious perspective in their later stages of development (often as teenagers).

I’m sure you’re asking: What is the purpose of games then, if not winning?

Games at this stage of development should be used primarily for learning. It is supported by elite soccer clubs and coaches throughout the world. Well-informed coaches realize success is not equivalent to winning. Studies on top-level youth academies in England showed, “Despite the elite nature of the programs, winning was de-emphasized; no scores or league positions were kept. The focus was on improving and developing individual players rather than the team’s win/loss record.”

I believe it is crucial that everyone understands that games should be utilized for learning, and players feel that they have the freedom to express themselves. Kids need to realize that the final score is not as important as learning. If young players are pressured to win every time they step on the field, they will not receive the opportunities that are vital to their development, nor will they feel confident about practicing and implementing new skills or ideas.

We can’t approach games like an English Premier league or La Liga Manager. This is how elite youth coaches approach games. Their egos are tough enough to accept a losing record in favor of a win for their players’ development. Even though many coaches in the U.S. understand this sentiment, the cultural pressure to perform is too great, and they resort to quick fixes for short-term results.

Games provide children powerful opportunities for learning and enjoyment of soccer. If we want players to continue their involvement in soccer and unlock their potential, we must use games for learning. When clubs place an emphasis on winning as the ultimate goal, children bear the burden of adult egos at the cost of their personal development.

Remember this is for the kids. It's my mission to create positive learning enviroments, where kids can foster a love for the game.


Coach Paul Kelshw

HLSC Director of Coaching


How to be prepared

Posted by Paul Kelshaw on June 25, 2015 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (0)


We tend to share different ideas, but i would like to share the following. Please share this with your soccer players and parents. Being prepared takes time, effort, preparation.

1.Drink more water: By now, this one should go without saying. Water is the number one thing your body needs for survival (not soda, or Red Bull!), so how can you possibly expect to perform at a high level if you're not drinking enough? How much is enough?

2.Form is everything!: We talk about proper form and technique to realize athletic goals. That said, we want everyone to take the time to learn the proper form for dribbling, passing, receiving, shooting, heading, attacking and defensive positioning. Once you have the basic mechanics down, then you can gradually start increasing the level of sophistication and complexity in your game.

3.Posture is more important than you realize: Besides looking unattractive, poor posture can adversely affect your breathing, your digestion and increase your injury risk by promoting widespread muscular imbalance. By simply trying to stand and sit up a little bit straighter several times throughout the day, you can help undue some of effects of all that constant texting and gaming.

4.Eat more fruits and vegetables: Here's another area where the average kid's diet falls woefully short. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber that are lacking in many of the other foods you guys tend to favor. They're also a great way to improve immune system function, lowering your risk for developing all sorts of diseases.

5.Want to get faster? Get stronger!: Doing endless speed and agility drills is not always the best way to get faster. If you're not also working to increase strength through the lower body and core, as well develop good ankle and hip mobility, they'll be of limited value. Concentrate on imparting force into the ground through a full range of motion and you'll get fast in a hurry.

6.Don't rely on supplements: Supplements are something you add to an already sound nutritional program; they're not some magic elixir. If you think that something with a nice, shiny label, full of ridiculous claims is going to make up for a steady diet of McDonald's and easy mac and cheese, you're kidding yourself. (this includes energy drinks)

7.Change your internal dialogue: A bit of a change up from my usual advice, but lately I've noticed more and more athletes engaging in negative self-talk. When you constantly say things like "I stink", or "I'm never going to..(insert athletic goal here), how do you ever expect to succeed? Instead of saying "I'm a lousy dribbler", try "I'm getting better and better at using both my right and left foot to change direction". Or, switch out "I'm not fast enough" for, "My speed is improving every day". Even if it isn't true right away, it will start getting you in the proper frame of mind to make those changes a reality. This probably the biggest training point of all "Got to believe in positive thoughts to create positive actions!"

8.If you can't see it in the mirror, train it!: Stop focusing on all of your "mirror muscles" with lots of bench presses, crunches and biceps curls. The real key to athletic success (and longevity) lies in training everything on the back side of your body. Strengthening your upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves will give your body much more balance and stability. Push-ups, Dips, Pull-ups, squats, lunges, wall sits, plyometric jumps will provide balance. (this is only relevent for high school and above)

9.Sweat the small stuff: If you're not making time to warm-up thoroughly, stretch and foam roll on a regular basis, you're making a huge mistake. Now that the boys are getting older warm-ups represent some of the best ways for athletes to improve performance and reduce injury risk. I for one consider them every bit as important (if not more) than strength training, plyomterics, and speed and agility work. We will have a formal warm-up that the team will be responsible for doing. That is why we need the players to be on time for games as much as possible.

10.Choose whole grains whenever possible: Minimize your intake of foods made with white flour such as white breads, bagels, white pasta and even white rice and potatoes. They bring about rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to subsequent energy crashes. Instead, try and opt for whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and sweet potatoes.

11.Be prepared!: Whether it's forgetting to bring enough water along to practice, or not having any healthy snacks on hand, your lack of preparation is no one's fault but your own. Take some time each evening to set up some nutritious meals and snacks for the next day. Set out your own equipment. Be responsible and accoutable.

12.There are no short cuts: That's exactly why all of this is presented to you in list fashion- so that you can chunk things down and make gradual, consistent efforts towards achieving your goals. We know all about the impatience of youth. Like it or not, though, if you really want these changes to stick, it's going to take you some time.

Enjoy your summer and make sure your prepared for pre season!


Respect the Referee

Posted by Paul Kelshaw on March 2, 2015 at 11:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The referees on Long Island have various degrees of experience and ability. There are many times when the game is in the hands of a novice referee, possibly handling the game for the first time. Go easy on the referee! He or she has a hard job and they are usually inexperienced teenagers or elderly men (who sometimes referee 4-5 games back to back). Just remember it could be your child out there someday or an even scarier thought is it could be YOU. How would you want to be treated?

Set the example by treating all referees with respect, and insist that your players and parents do the same. Accept their decisions as part of the game. Don’t make calls for them, shout at or argue with them. Teach your players to focus on improving their own play and that of the team, not on criticizing the officials.

Coaches need to be careful not to overreact to some of the inevitable bumping and incidental contact that occurs in soccer. Contrary to some misconception, soccer is a contact sport. Don’t let the referee become a distraction for your team. Over the course of the game or season, the “bad calls” will probably even out. If the referee does a good job, be sure to let them know and thank them after the game.


Coaching Philosophy (what i'm about)

Posted by Paul Kelshaw on February 12, 2015 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I have been involved with HLSC for nearly two years, initially starting as trainer for the winter program and eventually becoming the clubs first Director of Coaching. During this time a have coached well over 500 kids and every travel team in the club. I talk to board members, coaches, trainers and parents on a weekly basis and am constantly talking to the kids on and off the field. Many people who are part of the club are familiar with my training methods but I want to be sure that everyone is on the same page and has a good understanding of why I am here training your kids and trying to improve your club.

Below is my philosophy that is also available on my website along with my vision statement and mission statement. I wrote this philosophy as part of my USSF National youth license that I passed in the summer. I am always looking to further my knowledge and education of the game and coaching youth soccer.

As a youth soccer coach and Director of Coaching, I will ensure I put every effort into fostering an environment where every child has the ability to fulfil their potential. My aim is to create life lessons through soccer develop soccer players and or fans for life.

I encourage constant movement and involvement to maximize time with the ball. I believe that training should replicate the game so I can develop players who are comfortable on the ball, who are not afraid to take on players and are encouraged to keep the ball through possession.

I believe all players should play hard; give 100% but play fair and enjoy the fact soccer is a game. I strive to win on numerous levels but not at the risk of sacrificing fair play and moral development.

I like to bring enjoyment to the game, helping players have fun setting an example through leadership and a love of the game. As a coach I will continually challenge myself and players through constant coach and player education. This can only be achieved with upmost respect for myself, players, parents, coaches, officials and the game itself.

I appreciate your constant support and feedback while I continue to grow the game and improve playing standards.

Paul Kelshaw

HLSC Director of Coaching


HLSC experienced significant growth in 2014

Posted by Paul Kelshaw on January 17, 2015 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Hewlett-Lawrence Soccer Club (HLSC), is the largest youth sports organization in the Five Towns that offers professional training and high quality programs. HLSC saw an increase in participation over the past year — a figure I believe was indicative of the growing interest in soccer across the United States the excitement generated by the 2014 FIFA World Cup in addition to my ever increasing role as director of coaching.

In 2014, HLSC saw its registration grow with significant increases in the summer, fall and winter programs. The growth included new players and players returning to the club. The year featured added awareness of the game through a highly talked about FIFA World Cup, the continued expansion of professional soccer in the area (NY Cosmos and New York City FC) and the re-introduction of the Sunday afternoon league for 1st-4th grade boys. The club was able to add 10 new teams and also saw an increase in volunteer contribution.

Parents are starting to see the game of soccer and HLSC as perfect place for their children to learn teamwork in a fun educational setting, which translates into a more active youth and stronger community. As we start a new calendar year I am obviously delighted with the growth seen by HLSC, which continues to feature improved team play, events, educational programs and opportunities for all children in the Five Towns to have fun playing soccer. As we begin 2015, I expect it will be another exciting year for the club.

HLSC is proud to be the “Club for ALL Kids,” and it offers several programs to meet the needs of any youth player — from beginners to recreational players to competitive players looking to continue their careers at the Middle School, High School, and even college levels.

On behalf of the Hewlett Lawrence Soccer club I thank you for your continued support as we continue to raise the standards of soccer in the area.

I look forward to seeing you on the field. Happy New Year to All HLSC Families and friends.

Paul Kelshaw

HLSC Director of Coaching