An Introduction to Coach Archer
Soccer Background and Youth Soccer Philosophies
If you haven't guessed already, I am from England. I have been living in the United States since 1980. Almost all of that time it has been here on the Connecticut shoreline; four years in Branford, nine years in Clinton and I have been in Madison since 1994.
You can read more about me at my HOME PAGE.
I have been playing soccer (association football) over 42 years since I was a little lad and I'm still playing. I'm very active in the soccer community as a player, coach, administrator and historian. In the latter respect I communicate with other soccer fanatics via e-mail and other resources all over the world on the Internet on a daily basis.
Playing Football and Growing Up in England
I have played football (then why is it called soccer?) all of my life, starting in England, playing as a youth, sometimes for my school, moving upto adult Sunday leagues and then, after I moved over to the United States, playing in the adult Sunday leagues also.
In England when I was a kid, I played morning, afternoon and sometimes at night almost every day depending on whether it was a weekend, a schoolday, the weather, etc., but it was pretty much all the time. Even at school we played at any time there was a break, often with only a tennis ball. There were no organised town leagues called "comp" and "rec," it was almost always a "pick-up" game. We played anywhere there was space, we didn't always have the luxury of having a field, or even grass, to play on. Sometimes we even had a ball! It might have only been a tennis ball, or a cheap plastic one from the local Woolworths, but it didn't matter. Goalposts were often two small piles of "woolly jumpers" ("sweaters" to North Americans)! We also played at school with a real ball and on a real football pitch during "games" lessons. I didn't start playing organised league football until, amazingly enough, when I was about 18-years old, playing in the local Sunday league in Burton-on-Trent.
Besides playing football, I watched it all the time on television too. I follow my old local pro clubs Derby County Football Club of England's FA Premiership League and Gresley Rovers Football Club of the Dr. Martens League, almost religiously, even to this day.
Playing and Administering Adult Soccer in the United States
When I came to the United States, I joined up with Clinton Soccer Club in 1981. The club moved to Madison in 1988 and became known as Madison AFC. The club are the founding members, in 1979, of the Shoreline Adult Soccer League (SASL) for Over-30 players. The league grew from three shoreline teams in 1979 to more than 40 teams from all over Connecticut today. There is now a rapidly growing Over-40 Division we call the SASL Masters League.
I played for Clinton SC/Madison AFC in the SASL Over-30s league since early 1981 and administrated the team from 1986 to 1998 with Kevin Dolan as my assistant. Some of you may know Kevin whose family have been Madison residents for many years and now Kevin owns a business in Madison and coaches in the Youth Soccer Club programme, also.
I am also an Executive Board member for the SASL and have been performing this function since the mid 1980s. It keeps me very busy, particularly as the league continues to grow which creates more work for me as we have more and more teams to administer.
Over-30 and Over-40 soccer in the SASL, especially in the First Division, is not simply recreational. It is highly competitive. Many players are from overseas -- Portugal, Italy, Poland and the U.K. especially -- and many have played professionally or at least at college here in the U.S. There are some players who have played for their national teams too. It is a privilege to still be able to play competitively at my age.
I am friends with many of the High School soccer coaches up and down the shoreline from Bridgeport to Old Saybrook. Indeed, I have played soccer with and against many of them, including Bob Faulkner and Dave Scott (a fellow Englishman) whom coach Daniel Hand High School's boys' and girls' teams, respectively. Bob and Dave used to play for Guilford in the SASL years ago -- but don't tell them I told you that!!!
Owing to having an overly full schedule of administrating adult soccer leagues, adult soccer teams, youth coaching, going to school at night, having a full-time day job and trying to keep up with chores around home(!), I had to give up running the Madison AFC Over-30 team in 1999. I am now playing Over-40 soccer in the SASL, but play for North Branford SC in the SASL Masters League.
Coaching Youth Soccer and My Philosophies
With two young sons, James (born February 1986) and Andrew (born May 1989), I was inaugurated into the world of youth coaching when James was 5-years old. Albeit I have relied on decades of experience and knowledge I am still learning something new about coaching every day. I currently hold two USSF coaching licences but I am eager to progress to the next level.
Having spent so many years in The Game it is an absolute pleasure to put something back into it by coaching youngsters in their formative years. I have coached U6 girls and boys, U7 girls and boys, U9 boys and U11 boys during my years in the Clinton Youth Soccer programme. In Madison I have done Clinic (U7), U8, U9, U10, U11, U12, U14 and U15 boys.
When I coach youth soccer I have to work very hard at curbing my competitiveness. We must remember that these are still only kids and kids must be allowed to be kids and have lots of fun. Whilst we will still try to be successful in our games with other teams we will try to have fun and refrain from putting pressures on them that they may not be able to handle. There will be plenty of time to seek glory and win trophies and medals when they are older.
The main purpose of practices will be to touch the ball as much as possible and improve skills. For this reason everyone must bring a ball. Hopefully the "drills" will keep everyone active enough to give the players a good workout along with learning and enhancing skill and technique. When I coach players 10 years or older, practice sessions are used to learn some basic strategy and tactics. For the younger players this is not important since they tend to use their own strategies anyway!
Also, with the older kids I will start to introduce a "system." We will start out with a basic formation, 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, for example, and then teach the players how to play their positions properly and how to support their team-mates during attacking and defending.
For all of my teams I emphasise three basic skills. Kicking, passing and shooting.
It is amazing to me how few youth players can kick a ball properly, even when they have been supposedly coached for several seasons before. This isn't usually the player just being lazy in his technique. Its just that most coaches at the recreational level in the United States have never played The Game themselves and are beginners at the sport, themselves. So, the players never get taught properly in several basic techniques.
The destroyer of all teams are players who dribble too much. Dribbling is fine when it is done at the proper time, often best in front of the opponents goal with only one or two defenders to beat. It is suicide to try to dribble the ball out of defence where players are often stripped of the ball and then see their opponent score an easy goal. So passing is strongly emphasised when I coach.
Shooting is a lost art at all levels, including at professional international level. So, it is best to coach it over and over again when the players are young. Most players have a tendency to dribble all the way to the goal before trying a shot from close range. Unfortunately this allows goalkeepers and defenders to close the player down and the chance is all too often lost. Shooting first time (without taking too long to control the ball) and from long distance gives very few goalkeepers and defenders time to "set up." The goals scored are also more spectacular. So kicking technique, power and accuracy must all be taught correctly.
Most importantly, this is recreational soccer and I shall endeavour to give the players as much playing time as possible -- minimally 50%. It all depends on how many kids show up for games sometimes -- the less number of players, the more playing time.
Players who show an extraordinary amount of energy or skill will earn the right to have more playing time. Players who are unfit or unmotivated to play will see less playing time. How much playing time a player gets is ultimately determined by the player's own attitude to the game, not my favouritism.
I will not tolerate players who do not show any enthusiasm for playing and still expect their 50% playing time. This robs time from players who are generally trying their hearts out or genuinely love playing The Game. Players who "mess around" in practice or games, or have shown no willingness to work hard and improve, or who show evidence of no interest in soccer will find I will have little patience for them. I will suggest to their parents that the player should withdraw from the team.
At the recreational level, it is counter-productive to run the score up on other teams. We don't like to see any team being beaten by five or more goals at this level, since it is destructive to the principles we are trying to teach and to the morale of our opponents. In cases where our team may have taken a three or four goal lead you will see us make changes in formation and positions and perhaps even taking a player off for a while. For example, if a player has scored three goals already and we are winning 3-0 or 4-1, we will either take that player off the field or make him play strictly in defence or goal.
At this level, I don't coach just to win games at any cost, I coach to teach kids new things and encourage them to try their hardest for themselves as well as their team-mates. This will foster a winning attitude in its own way sooner or later. I would hope the values I teach carry over into other sports and other walks of life also.
Parents, please be as encouraging as possible to your player and his team-mates when they are playing. Players of any age respond better to this than to any criticism. If I am heard shouting across the field at the players it will usually be in the form of instructions not to berate them, so I urge you not to send your player conflicting messages. Sometimes I have to scream across the field to get players to move up the field. Often players are afraid to do this because they have been indoctrinated by a previous coach to stay in a defensive position owing to the coach's fear of losing.
I rarely if ever lose my temper with players and officials in youth soccer. Players are still learning and apt to make many mistakes. This is not the World Cup! Any shouting is strictly informational (to be heard across the field) and not abusive or personal. Also, many of the officials (referees and linesmen) are youngsters still learning the game themselves. They all make mistakes and they all miss or make bad calls. Sometimes I may talk to an official in a teaching capacity, not to take their head off if they consistently miss offside calls, for example.
The one thing I could call my "Pet Peeve" with officials, however, is if they call a half too short. I cannot condone referees cutting 5 or 10 minutes off a half or a game. Some referees have told me they do this if the games are running behind schedule. Excuse me, but this is not the players fault who deserve to play the full, allotted game time. The players' time is paramount. We are not there to keep to a referee's schedule. They are there to serve us, first and foremost. This will be the only time you see me berate any youth referee, and it doesn't matter if our team is winning or losing.
This is a great sport played by peoples of all types all across the world. You don't have to be fast, big or skillful but if you are eager and enthusiastic, willing to give 100% or more and want to learn you can play this game and have an enormous amount of fun.
I am looking forward to another fun season and hope I can help your player develop just a little bit more on the road to becoming a great soccer player who will enjoy The Game like millions all over the world.