Greg Martinez (San Rafael, Calif.):
Well put Mr. Snow. It was so refreshing for someone who is involved in youth soccer at a national level to make this point. The game has to come naturally, and be intrinsic to the kid for them to really enjoy it and then become good. I have a dirt lot in my neighborhood. You have inspired me to point the kids in that direction.
Art Watkins (Harrisburg, Pa.):
I can say that if it weren't for pickup games at our local sports complex for five bucks, three hours, my son would not be playing at the level he is now. His development immediately went from good to really great. His play has immensely improved and I don't have to pay a trainer for that kind of education.
Janice Hill (Dayton, Ohio):
I'm trying to do this through my church. I understand, like in any sport, players learn great moves from other players. I want the kids to have fun without pressure. It's also a great way for kids to try a sport without the parents' investment of time, money or energy.
Barry Tuck (Durham, N.C.):
As usual, Sam has hit the nail on the head. As a longtime youth coach, I get to my field early and the players have an understanding, as soon as we have enough to play a pickup game, that's what we play. The players set up the field while I'm setting up my cones for practice (hopefully, I get to join in the game for a little bit, but as a player, not a coach). Only when it's "regular" practice time and we have a quorum do we move into the more structured, progression training. It rewards the kids who get there early, and also solves the problem of kids just standing around and pounding a stationary ball into a goal while waiting for the coach to show up. Pretty soon, the kids are showing up for their own pickup game before the coach even gets there, which is perfect!
Jim Czarnecki (Baltimore, Md.):
That is a theme my wife and I have talked about for years, especially the idea of kids setting up games for themselves and creating rule-changes and adapting to different situations (i.e. uneven teams, strange field shape, flat soccer ball, etc.). Pickup soccer also allows kids to experiment with different ways of handling the ball without some grownup yelling at them. Kids being kids does have its benefits.
Matthew J. Cardillo (Tampa, Fla.):
The coincidence of Sam's article on pickup games and "overcoaching" was amazing as it arrived on the heels of the thrashing that the U.S. women received at the hands of the talented and "pickup-game-trained" Brazilians. Way too many youth coaches, with the support of the parents, are so sickeningly focused on results instead of player development that we have produced robotic players who have had the fun sucked out of them. Perhaps youth coaches will take the first big step of admitting that we have a problem.
Len Oliver (Director of Coaching, DC Stoddert Soccer):
My first two words in all my courses, especially in the F modules, are "DON'T COACH." Boy, do I get questions about that one. "How are they going to learn?" "Who will teach them?" "What do you mean by 'the ball is the teacher!'" And so on. So Sam's piece is a good reminder.
Chuck Elmendorf (Medford, N.J.):
Sam Snow wrote a great article I really wish everyone could read, and more importantly understand what is being said in the article, and what is happening to the game and our kids. Somehow, we've managed to create or succumb to a culture of constantly hovering over our kids, paying thousands of dollars and driving thousands of miles per year so they can play a game. All sports these days suffer many of the same problems -- everything has become year-round and the poor kids now have no choice but to select one sport at way too early an age.This robs them of many opportunities to learn and grow.