Ranting Soccer Dad

Frank but fair conversations and occasional silliness about youth soccer.

August 30th, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 8: Kris Ward

Kris Ward is young, but he has a lot of coaching experience at every level imaginable, starting with rec teams in his teens, then high schools, youth clubs, a small college and ODP. He worked with the Washington Freedom before they relocated to become magicJack, then coached in D.C. United’s academy program and was one of the first assistant coaches with the NWSL’s Washington Spirit. He managed the rec operations of D.C. Stoddert, a large club in the nation’s capital, before moving to California, where he coaches both in high school and youth club soccer.

We covered a few issues in youth soccer at all levels, and then I turned it over to Kris for an extended meditation on the state of women’s soccer ...

4:00 Do the U.S. Soccer mandates apply to rec soccer? Should they?

6:00 How to coach that first rec practice.

8:30 How French coaches set up practice differently. Could a Development Academy coach use the French method?

17:20 What a “curriculum” really means. Is it dictating what you do from week to week?

20:45 The high school-vs.-Development Academy schism (Ward’s resources at his high school compares very favorably with any academy program).

33:05 How do you do “periodization” when you can’t even control what “your” kids are doing in PE class, let alone another sport?

39:15 “Pep Guardiola doesn’t believe in weightlifting.”

40:30 The state of U.S. women’s soccer

August 23rd, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 7: Skye Eddy Bruce

With all due respect to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (now known as Will Smith), sometimes parents DO understand.

Skye Eddy Bruce, an experienced player and coach, is now working to help parents understand youth soccer and then advocate for their kids. Throughout this interview, she and I talk about empowering parents. (And educating them -- the idea isn’t to have ignorant parents berating coaches all over the country.) We don’t need to let coaches push winning over development, and we don’t need to sign up for the league that travels all over creation.

A few highlights:

2:15 About the Soccer Parenting Association - seeking to elevate the game with a focus on educating, engaging, supporting and advocating for youth soccer parents. And Bruce’s bio -- including playing in Italy!

5:15 The stereotype of ignorant parents and how it’s changing. Includes a reference to this video:


12:55 Bringing up Bobby Warshaw’s concern about balancing “being a good person” with “being a good player.”

15:55 Putting too much of an emphasis on winning can drive kids away.

19:45 The true purpose of youth soccer

20:35 The proliferation of “elite leagues.”

28:20 The need to standardize our language -- what does “elite” mean? Or “classic” or anything else?

33:35 Down with specialization! (At least, parents should be able to say that.)


August 16th, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 6: Bobby Warshaw

Can you be a good soccer player and a good person? 

Bobby Warshaw wrestles with that conflict in his bookWhen the Dream Became Reality: The journey of a professional soccer player, and the push for meaning, purpose, and contentment.

We talk about that (around the 4:30 mark). And he responds to Yael Averbuch responding to his comment about learning to hate losing at an early age (10:05). 

Two quotes from the next 20 minutes: 

19:30 In the midst of a discussion on whether U.S. academy kids are coddled: “There’s no human being that came out of that Bradenton academy that was a regular person after that.”

24:50 A few thoughts on pro/rel and what it means to know other people may lose jobs if you mess up on the field. “Anybody who thinks they want to sign their team up for a relegation battle is out of their darn mind.”

Then, of interest to parents and coaches, we ask if youth sports are good for building character (31:00).

From 33:30 to 38:30-ish, we ask whether Americans' competitive drive is ruining the country, and we compare this to the Scandinavian mindset on work, sports and society. Along the way, I mention the book How the Scots Invented the Modern World, though I'm not completely sure it makes the point about guilt that I'm citing. Haven't read it in a while. 

At 38:50, Bobby puts me on the spot about parenting, and I explain why I quit USA TODAY (the year is garbled -- it was 2010). 

Then we talk about anger. Do women yell at each other and coaches in practice? How can Dom Kinnear be so nice to most people and then preside over a meeting in which a whiteboard was apparently broken? And we have to mention the 2007 Women's World Cup.

Apologies for some sound issues. I need to ditch my headset mic. But on the whole, this is some meaningful stuff. Enjoy.


August 9th, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Ep. 5: Promotion/relegation with Peter Wilt

Will promotion/relegation actually happen in U.S. pro soccer? The odds look better now than they ever have. 

This week's guest, Peter Wilt, is trying to make it happen. The former Chicago Fire/Chicago Red Stars/Indy Eleven/etc. executive is working on a third-division league -- National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) -- that would bridge the gap between the (currently unofficial) fourth division and the second tier. After that, who knows?

A few things you should check out: 

- The NISA site and Twitter feed

- Peter's pro/rel manifesto at Howler

- My survey on pro/rel -- if you coach or run a non-MLS club, please contact me

We discuss: How the Fire’s negotiations to build a stadium in the early 2000s would’ve been affected by pro/rel (5:30), whether anyone at MLS or U.S. Soccer ever talked pro/rel in his time working with them (9:30), the death of the U.S. Soccer anti-pro/rel conspiracy theory, the FIFA statutes (11:45), whether MLS has “outgrown” its original model (14:00), my dog barking at something and whether a more diverse MLS ownership group would be more receptive to pro/rel.

Then we actually argue pro/rel (18:15), with me taking the devil’s advocate role. Topics: Would it really help player development, would MLS clubs have made the investments in academies they’ve made in the last 10 years without the stability of a closed league, do relegation battles really lend themselves to good soccer, and what we do about losing talent soccer staffers when their clubs are relegated. (We both see the positive possibility that a bunch of people with soccer experience could help build pro Ultimate.)

We get into what has or hasn’t changed on the club landscape (31:30). Are lower-division clubs more interested in being promoted even if it forces them to change their business model? Why is Peter now thinking of an idea other than the old notion of having a combined USA-Mexico first division?

Then, at last, we talk about Peter’s NISA proposal (42:00). Are USASA clubs interested? Is U.S. Soccer trying to squash things? (No. But listen to him if you don’t believe me.) Finally, when will we really be ready to do pro/rel, really?

August 2nd, 2017    

Ranting Soccer Dad, Episode 4: Are women’s soccer players role models? With guest Jen Cooper

Charles Barkley said he isn't a role model. Women's soccer players, though, have typically embraced that role. But does being on a pedestal come with inevitable pitfalls? Jen Cooper, keeper of Keeper Notes and the Mixxed Zone podcast, joins the show to talk about it.

Here's the rundown: 

2:33 The Washington Spirit’s old pregame announcement on how these players are role models

4:40 Ballgirl: “They use a lot of dirty words”

6:15 A young fan reacts to a player’s arrest. Jen’s advice: People are multidimensional.

8:40 But fans still put players on pedestal -- how dare you say anything critical about Ali Krieger?!

10:42 Christie Pearce opens up about divorce and therapy.

12:52 The misstatements of collective bargaining -- veteran players gained at others’ expenses

13:55 Abby Wambach’s riveting memoir

15:15 Why at least one player blocked me on Twitter (trust me -- it's relevant to this conversation)

18:15 Suppose we’re more worried about NWSL players quitting the game than we are about the top players making more? “I am not going to promote a GoFundMe for people already making six figures.”

20:25 The advantages of seeing players as fallible. “Lay off Hope Solo because players ARE flesh and blood.”

23:00 Jen grills Julie Foudy about the past and present of collective bargaining

25:00 What did “Equal Pay for Equal Play” mean, anyway? Just the top 20? What about Casey Short or Mallory Pugh? And did the players err by framing it so simply without addressing those details?

26:15 The lack of critical coverage from the women’s soccer media -- unfair in the long run?

28:42 The silver lining of the 2007 World Cup goalkeeper controversy: It made us start thinking about women’s soccer as a sport with decisions and consequences.

30:00 Appreciating the U.S. team more when we see the nuances are realize winning isn’t easy, but the general media don’t see that yet.

32:05 Back to the 99ers and how they were marketed -- girls next door, “heteronormative,” Norman Rockwell painting of America

34:07 With players in a larger spotlight, how much scrutiny do we pay to their relationships? In other words, can a player announce a serious relationship (Rapinoe, Solo) without us all asking, “Hey, what happened to your previous significant other?”

39:10 Compare current atmosphere to the old guard -- Mia Hamm was divorced and remarried with very little publicity.

41:25 Are we sick of the “soccer mom” stories?

42:30 Wrapping it all up -- it’s a different media landscape (especially with social media fooling us into thinking we *know* players)

46:10 We finally mention the Charles Barkley ad.

47:40 The Hope Solo Eurosport ad.

And once again, this is sponsored by my youth soccer book, Single Digit Soccer, with thanks to Audacity, Garage Band, my 30-year-old Ibanez guitar and Peavey amp and listeners like you.