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Fri, 07/03/2015 – 10:23 Dan Abrahams,

You Are Responsible For Your Soccer Improvement. Don’t Blame Anyone Else.

I tell all my players one specific thing when I start working with me. And it doesn’t matter if this player is engaged in a Champions League campaign or is just trying to make his or her way up the College ladder. The truth is the same, no matter the level a player competes at.

The message I give them is one of the most important you can ever hear. You must take it to heart. You must tattoo it on your brain. You must wear it on your sleeve. It’s this:

You are responsible for your soccer improvement every single day. Don’t blame anyone else. Don’t moan or groan. Just take 100% responsibility yourself.

Maybe when you read this it sounds obvious. Maybe it sounds difficult. Maybe you disagree (if you do then go take up another hobby or profession – you won’t get far!) Maybe you’re underwhelmed. You don’t see the big deal. But there is a big deal.

In my 15 years working in British and European soccer I have come across countless ‘talented’ young players who don’t adhere to the principle of taking responsibility. These young players play the blame game. It’s their teammates fault. It’s the coach. It’s mom and dad. They become excuse laden.

I’ve worked with top players who, at first, have shied away from challenges. They haven’t taken responsibility. When they’ve been dropped they’ve said to me that the coach doesn’t understand. That they should be on the team. That it’s not fair. These players tend to demand that their agent find them a new club. What they don’t get is that they’ll find the same problem at another club – it’s inevitable.

When you don’t face your problems full on – when you don’t turn them into positive challenges – when you don’t take responsibility, they never ever go away. They stay stuck to you like a bad smell. They travel with you from club to club. They cause you to underachieve. They cause you to give the game up. My message stays the same:

You are responsible for your soccer improvement every single day. Don’t blame anyone else. Don’t moan or groan. Just take 100% responsibility yourself.

When a top player doesn’t take responsibility, they face an ultimatum from me. Sure we’ll talk about it. Sure, I’ll empathise a little. But ultimately we have to agree that the player will take responsibility or I won’t work with him or her — and trust me, I’ve said this to some pretty big names in professional soccer.

Now, let me tell you something you need to know. It’s always you. You get to choose how to react and respond to 99% of challenging situations that happen in soccer.

If you feel your coach is being unfair, then deal with it. And deal with it quick. Here is a recommendation – Listen to what he or she has to say and strive to look at the world through his or her eyes. Coaches try to help. Sure, there may be some misguided coaches out there (I’m sure none are reading this article) but that’s life. Get the most out of their advice by striving to understand where they’re coming from.

If a coach wants you to play in an unfamiliar position and every part of your body wants to scream “But I don’t know how” and “I should be playing in my favoured position” then STOP. Use the coaches decision as an opportunity to learn. The unfamiliar task will give you the opportunity to sharpen your skills.

For example, if you’re a striker and you’ve been asked to play as a centre midfielder, a helpful suggested reaction would be to say “Fantastic, I get a chance to improve my game. I get a chance to see what a midfielder sees. I get to learn more about being a striker by looking at the position from a midfielder’s point of view. I also get to challenge my tackling ability, my positional awareness, my fitness and my passing.”

In my first soccer book, Soccer Tough, I wrote about the Messi Mindset. It introduced the reader to the incredible mindset of Lionel Messi. Sure, we all know the diminutive Argentinian has some serious skill in his feet. But he’s also mentally very tough. And he takes responsibility. As a kid, growing up at the Barcelona Academy he wasn’t always top dog. With his height and stature he had to be patient. He would be dropped and played down a year. At fourteen he wasn’t the best in his age group. But he took responsibility. He accepted playing on the B team. He accepted playing for a different year group.

If you come across a particular problem like being dropped, or having a series of bad games, or missing out on an important trial… then relax. Take the emotion out of the situation and strive to see things logically. Being dropped is merely feedback for you to get better. So go get better. Missing out on a trial means that you have to improve something with your game – so go find out what and go improve that thing.

Champions are champions because they take responsibility. They yearn for success but understand that it is down to them to find that success. They know there will be roadblocks and speedbumps on their journey – but they find ways to work around them and work over them. That’s why they are champions.

So my message to you as a soccer player is simple and succinct:

You are responsible for your soccer improvement every single day. Don’t blame anyone else. Don’t moan or groan. Just take 100% responsibility yourself.*


The US Youth Soccer Girls Inter-Regional ODP event in Boca Raton, Florida was a huge success for the five Team Chicago players participating.

In the 2000 age group Alyssa Bombacino and Bailee Witt represented Region II in style. Alyssa was one of two Region II players named to the All-Star Team for her contributions in the midfield, and Bailee was stellar in goal.

Below is the entire 2000 All-Star Team:

Taylor Kofton, Region I, MF, Norton, MA

Marykate McGuire, Region I, FWD Portsmouth, RI

Jenna Butler, Region I, DEF, Gainesville, VA

Alyssa Bombacino, Region II, MF, Team Chicago, Plainfield, IL

Maycee Bell, Region II, DEF, Sporting Blue Valley, Wichita, KS

Ashton Smith, Region III, MF, Concorde Fire, Johns Creek, GA

Ashlynn Serepca, Region III, MF, Carolina Rapids, Cornelius, NC

Sarah Piper, Region III, MF,Texas Rush,The Woodlands, TX

Katherine Asman, Region III, GK, Tophat 18, Roswell, GA

Sakura Yoshida, Region IV, MF, Crossfire Premier, Redmond, WA

Katie Duong, Region IV, MF, Crossfire Premier, Portland, OR

In the 2001 age group Natalie Massa helped anchor a back-line that only conceded 1 goal in 3 convincing wins to claim the Inter-Regional title.

In the 2002 age group Katelyn Nardulli and Tara Tesmond helped anchor a defense that only conceded 1 goal in 3 games on the way to the Inter-Regional title. The 2002 Region II team was head coached by Phil Nielsen.

Congrats to all five girls for their outstanding performances representing Region II, Illinois Youth Soccer, and Team Chicago.


Team Chicago Academy Boa captured the league crown Saturday by beating Wisla in the final game of the season. This is the second time Boa beat Wisla this campaign. This marks tremendous improvement for Boa as Wisla defeated Boa twice last season and won the league. Now the tables have turned and we are very proud of Boa!

Matthew Dovalovsky scored the game winning goal in the first five minutes. That goal eventually held the result. Jason Baker made some brilliant saves to keep the clean sheet in goal.

Congrats to Boa on winning the league title!

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Why Parents Should Stay Silent!

Posted by Team Chicago Soccer Club at Nov 5, 2015 12:13PM PST ( 0 Comments )

Here is a great article by IYSA Staff Coach Zac Ludwig from his website about the role of parents in youth sports.

It’s been said by many experts: The parents’ role in youth sports is to support their child in their child’s experience.

What does this actually mean? It means allowing our children to own the experience and doing what we need to do in order to allow them to have the most successful experience possible. To put it even more simply: Don’t interfere.

The more that adults are present while children are playing, the less it becomes about the children, and the more it becomes about the adults. There’s already a coach. It’s the coach’s job to ensure safety and facilitate practices and games. It’s the parents’ job to allow the coach to do this. If we have coaches and parents getting involved while the kids are playing, we now have more adults involved than children, and the experience is no longer in full control of the players.

Why do parents often feel compelled to speak to their children while they play? For the best reason: They love them. It is our natural inclination to step in when we feel that we can help our children. We also love to encourage them and watch them play, so we enjoy cheering for them. But here’s the truth: Our kids don’t need our help.

Kids love to play, and they love to do their best. They don’t need any help doing this. They also know what they are supposed to be doing on the field. And in the case that they forget, there is someone who’s already been designated to remind them: the coach.

As parents, we are very emotionally involved in our children’s experience, which is a great thing. It means we love our kids and want the best for them. Two of the most common emotions we feel are excitement and anxiety. With these emotions comes our need to express them. We get excited, so we cheer and shout for our kids to help get them excited. We get anxious, so we cheer and direct our kids to help them do their best and feel at ease.

These reactions are more damaging than helpful. Children don’t need help getting excited and motivated to play. As parents, simply being there is enough to show them that we love and support them. Anything more than that, and we begin to take over the experience. Children also rarely get nervous. I’ve seen so many parents get nervous when it’s their child’s turn to play goalkeeper. They are afraid of them getting scored on and feeling like they failed. Because of this, many parents will overcompensate and try to “help” their child in that role by giving directions or an overload of encouragement. Kids can sense the anxiety from adults, and it gets transferred to them. 95% of the time, the child playing goalkeeper volunteered for it, is excited about it, and feels no anxiety nor negative feelings when scored on. It’s important that, as adults, we realize that the emotions and thoughts we have are rarely the same emotions and thoughts the kids have.

When we speak out too much as parents, we often act as one of two things: A distraction or their brains.

By shouting out to our children while they are trying to play, we can easily distract them. They are already trying to focus on running, controlling a ball, avoiding defenders, and listening/remembering coach’s instructions. That’s a lot to handle. If parents start to shout their names and other words, kids become distracted and lose focus. They have to now focus on running, controlling a ball, avoiding defenders, listening/remembering coach’s instructions, and all the instructions and cheers coming from the 20 parents on the sideline. Talk about overwhelming.

We also can act as our children’s brains. If we are giving them instructions, our children are not making any decisions for themselves. They will never learn this way. Would we give our children the answers to their math test? Of course not. It’s the same thing during a game. The game is the test after practice. It’s the children’s opportunity to show everything they’ve learned and apply practice to a real life situation. If adults are telling them everything to do, they’ll never fully understand how to play. Give them a chance to show what they know. I bet they’ll surprise you.

What’s even worse about this, is that parents don’t know the whole story. We don’t know what the team talked about before the game, at half time, or during practice. We don’t know what specific instructions the coach gave. Maybe to us it seems like Stevie should run to the right side of the field, but coach told him to stand where he is. Maybe to us it seems like Samantha should pass the ball to Suzie instead of losing the ball while attempting a new move, but coach told them to practice the scissors any chance they got, and this was a perfect time to try it. Since we don’t know all the information as parents, we need to silently watch and observe, enjoying our children’s attempts to do their best. If we are truly concerned about the decisions our children are making, we can ask the coach – or better yet, ask our children – what they’ve been learning and focusing on.

Here’s a quick story: Once upon a time, I was coaching a group of 4-year olds. We were playing a spirited game of Sharks and Minnows (“minnows” have a soccer ball and try to get to the opposite side while “sharks” – who don’t have a ball – try to steal the balls). Most parents were on the sideline watching and chatting with one another. At one point, a father notices his son does not have a soccer ball and begins to shout to him to go get his ball! The child ignores him initially and continues to play. As the father continues to insist, his son finally stops right in the middle of his pursuit of a minnow, turns around to face his dad, and begins to cry while shouting “But I’m a shark!” This child knew exactly what he was supposed to do and was doing his best. His father, who was not part of the activity, interferes and gives wrong information. The result: a disgruntled child who no longer wants to play the game and sits out for the next 10 minutes of practice.

Remember: it’s the role of the parent to be the support system for the child. Our children love to tell us all about their experiences. If they did well, they want to tell us all about it. If they struggled, they need us to be the person they can talk to about it. It’s important that they have someone unassociated with the game in whom they can confide. The more parents get involved in the soccer aspect of their child’s experience, the more they become directly associated with it, and the less their children can come to them for support. This is a major reason why being the actual coach of our children is so difficult.

How Parents Can Best Support Their Children
Observe and stay quiet. Allow the kids to own the experience and showcase what they can do. Cheer loudly and proudly after a play happens. Learn what the team is focusing on and cheer for attempts at those things – not just for goals. Speak to your child after the game by simply saying “I love watching you play.” If your child wants to talk about the game or practice, allow them to speak and tell you their point of view – ask questions about their thoughts and feelings; do not tell them yours.

As parents, we can best serve our kids by staying silent more often and only saying a few, powerful words after our kids are finished playing.


Team Chicago Academy-Cruzeiro standout Alyssa Bombacino has accepted a great scholarship to continue her soccer career at Marquette University. Alyssa, who plays her prep soccer for Head Coach Joe Moreau at Neuqua Valley H.S., will be part of Golden Eagles Head Coach Markus Roeders’ 2018 recruiting class.

Marquette is a perennial powerhouse in the Big East Conference and NCAA tournament participant. At Marquette Alyssa will be following in the footsteps of Team Chicago alumnae Ashley Handwork, Liz Bartels, Meegan Johnston, Heather Handwork, Katie Ciesiulka, and Erin Johnston.