The Game Planners Blog

Our team has spent over one hundred years contributing to different areas of soccer both nationally and internationally. Those areas are, but not limited to, player development, organizational development, and business development. Our team realized that there was a need for an integrated and data-driven approach to soccer organization development. This blog will feed into those areas and bring light to a myriad of topics in this arena.

What Tom Marcis Says About The Game Planners

Tom Marcis, president of the North Dakota Soccer Association gives us high marks for what we have done for his group.

"North Dakota Soccer has partnered with The Game Planners to support our efforts while reestablishing the state soccer association.  The company works with soccer organizations of all sizes.  The company states, “Our mission is to provide soccer organizations with affordable expertise, tools, and resources to enhance the experience of all members through effective organizational development and management practices.”  The Game Planners have been committed professional partners with us, helping not only with an organization restructure but also to grow the game across the state.  The board of directors of North Dakota Soccer is pleased with our relationship with The Game Planners.  We recommend them to any soccer organization looking to transform their business."

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Action Plan

Last night a friend and coaching colleague of mine called to talk about his first Over-40 match.  He said the match was going well and becoming more competitive as the minutes ticked by.  In the middle of the second half, one of his teammates collapsed on the pitch.  Everyone stopped and went to help him, a 911 call was made, and people looked for aspirin but couldn’t find any.  Does anyone know CPR?  All hesitated but finally did act.  Before the ambulance could arrive he died of a heart attack.

Needless to say this greatly upset my friend.  Seeing a teammate die on the field in front of you has quite an impact.  The men in their forties who moments before heatedly contested a soccer game turned in an instant into a collective group working to save a comrade's life.  Sports and the win-at-all-costs mentality disappeared and life came into perspective for those adults playing in and watching this match.  No matter how deep our passion for soccer maybe it is after all just a game.  What’s most important in soccer are the people in soccer.

As our conversation went on last night my friend said that the man who is his assistant coach with the U14 team they coach was also playing in this match.  The situation caused them to talk to each other about what they would do if something catastrophic happened during one of their training sessions or matches.  So we discussed having an action plan.  Every coach MUST have an action plan for injuries and emergencies.  This is both risk management and first aid in nature.

Most coaches are quite good about having a first aid kit at practice and games.  Is it checked regularly to be sure it is stocked correctly?  Is it always with the coach’s equipment?  Everyone today has a cell phone and the coach must have his or hers near the first aid kit.  It may not be a long run back to the car to use your phone in an emergency, but by having the phone with you on the field you can make the 911 call sooner and you can stay with the players to manage the situation.  So the coaches must have a plan.  If a serious injury or an emergency occurs who will call and direct emergency services?  Who will be the first aid giver?  Who will supervise the rest of the players?  Do you have an emergency contact for the injured person?  Do the players, coaches, parents, team manager or anyone with the team have ICE (In Case of Emergency contact) in their phone?  Where do we go in case of a sudden thunderstorm?  What is our plan in case of heat stroke?  Obviously, there can be more questions to ask and answer in your action plan.  The coaches and team manager need to have this discussion and make a plan.  Part of the plan is a survey of the skills of the parents of a youth team.  Who has medical qualifications of any sort?  How might the other adults be able to assist the coaches in a real emergency?

One other thing that came up in our conversation last night is that coaches taking coaching courses may tune out a bit when the presentation is made on the prevention and care of injuries and risk management.  The thought goes through the head of many candidates yes, yes that’s fine now can we get on with going to the field to work on tactics?  The coach is not fully in the moment during the course when crucial information is being presented that will assist the coach when an emergency occurs.  So not only should a coach take coaching courses to learn more about soccer but also attend a first aid and CPR course.  When that person collapses on the field with a heart attack is not the time to lament not having gone to the course.

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The Importance of Club Development (Part 3 Final)


The Importance of Club Development (Part 3)



Partner, The Game Planners, LLC

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The Importance of Club Development (Part 2)


The Importance of Club Development (Part 2)



Partner, The Game Planners, LLC

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The Importance of Club Development (Part 1)

BY AHMET GUVENER Partner, The Game Planners, LLC


About a month ago, I wrote an article about the current roster of the USMNT and its implications to our elite player development. To narrow the gap between the leading MNTs on the planet and to play a semi-final in the World Cup 2026, I suggested the following based on my analysis of the recent USMNT roster.

  1. Enhance our professional leagues and our system of professional leagues so that we have more players choosing local clubs for their elite development.
  2. Nurture local youth clubs so that they can develop more talented elite players within the confines of our pay-to-play system and its lack of training compensation and solidarity payment for player development.
  3. Integrate talented but underprivileged players coming from a strong soccer culture into the system so that we have more players coming from families with a deep soccer culture who are eligible for the USMNT.

While the first two points above reflect the current nature of the top and bottom of our soccer development pyramid, for this article, I will concentrate specifically on youth soccer clubs - the bottom tier of our soccer landscape.

Let us have a look at our youth soccer club scene:

  1. There are about 6,000 youth soccer clubs in the country registered with U.S. Soccer. There are also a good number of unaffiliated clubs – it is difficult to quantify them exactly but, anecdotally, we know that these represent a very large number – many whose players fly under the radar of scouts. This is a problem U.S. Soccer recently promised to rectify.
  2. Very few of them are multiple sports youth clubs if you exclude YMCA and church sports organizations.
  3. They range from recreation clubs with less than one hundred players to ‘super’ clubs with thousands of players.
  4. They can be roughly categorized into rec/community clubs, travel clubs, and elite clubs.
  5. They are all pay-to-play clubs with the exception being MLS Next teams which are affiliated to MLS teams.
  6. There is no training compensation and/or solidarity payments to clubs for players they developed that eventually rise to the professional ranks.
  7. There is very little interaction between clubs and school soccer – which is free to play. In fact, Development Academy (or DA) players, in the past, were prohibited, almost without exception, from playing soccer for their high schools. 
  8. Most youth clubs are non-profit organizations formed as a 501 (c) (3)s.


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Switch the Field: Focus on the Right Data

It is all about applying some perspective to youth soccer …. and helping today’s youth players reach their full potential.

YSCindex provides data, insights, and expertise to help youth soccer clubs differentiate themselves from the competition. Developed by Dr. Michael Warech, a behavioral scientist and the CEO of Warech Associates, LLC, the YSCindex is an innovative online survey management tool that was created to improve the game.

Based on hundreds of interviews with youth club sports leaders and research in behavioral science, the YSCindex measures six critical dimensions of club success:

  • Club philosophy, direction and brand
  • Club administration and resources
  • Player development
  • Coaching
  • Professional development (for coaches)
  • Player experience


What inspired Warech and what is his perspective on youth soccer in America?

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English Richie and Sam Snow discuss the state of youth soccer and share a few ideas on a way forward

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Sam Snow on teaching proper heading technique

U.S. Soccer has recommended to its youth members to eliminate the skill of heading the ball in training sessions and games for children 10 years old and younger. Children 11 to 13 years old may head the ball in games, but are limited in how often the skill can be practiced in a training session. US Youth Soccer will follow that recommendation. The recommendation from U.S. Soccer is a part of a larger player safety campaign, called Recognize to Recover. I urge all coaches to review all of the information available here.

Previously published by the U.S. Soccer Sports Medicine Committee:

“At present, there are many gaps and inconsistencies within the medical literature regarding the safety of heading in soccer. The impact of purposeful heading is linear which is less severe than rotational impact. … Head injuries during soccer are more likely to be from accidental contacts such as head-ground, head-opponent, or the rare head-goalpost. …. At this point in time, it is premature to conclude that purposeful heading of a modern soccer ball is a dangerous activity.”

Fortunately, concussions in soccer are not as common as say, sprained ankles or even the more severe broken bone. Yet they do happen -- usually from head-to-head contact or head-to-ground contact. Head-to-head contact could occur sometimes due to poor technique by one or both players challenging for the ball in the air.

So most head injuries in soccer are from the head impacting something other than the ball. The human skull is surprisingly tough. Head injuries from the ball often occur when the technique is done incorrectly.

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How to take US Soccer to the next level with Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer, Sam Snow.


What will it take for US Soccer to become a World Soccer Power?  How can we continue to grow the game at the youth levels while helping to improve at the highest too? This episode, we sit down with Sam Snow to talk about his role with US Youth Soccer and the plan for getting to the next level.

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Beyond The Pitch PODCAST Interview with Sam Snow

The legendary Sam Snow (formerly of US Youth Soccer) with American Made Soccer Consultants is on the latest episode of the WVSA Beyond The Pitch Podcast. Sam discusses the first steps a new grassroots coach should take and think about before the upcoming season. Listen to it here:

hashtag#podcast hashtag#soccer hashtag#sports hashtag#grassroots hashtag#youthsoccer hashtag#coaching hashtag#grassrootsfootball hashtag#futbol hashtag#ussoccer hashtag#players hashtag#sport hashtag#athletes hashtag#player hashtag#athletics


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Earn the UEFA "C" License

I want to let you know about a continuing education opportunity that will supplement your license with U. S. Soccer and/or your diploma with United Soccer Coaches.

As you may know, US Youth Soccer ODP has a presence in Europe for Americans living there.  For many years now the Program has pulled in players and coaches from numerous countries across Europe.  The centerpiece is in Germany, where the bulk of American soccer players reside.  Through our affiliates there, I have put together a trip for coaches to take the UEFA "C" license coaching course.  The course will be held from March 1 to 16, 2020 near Frankfurt.  The course will be taught in English and we are having all of the materials translated.  Please see below the flyer on the trip.

Coaches would fly into Frankfurt International airport (FRA).  Travel to and from Germany will be on your own.  Our maximum enrollment will be thirty (30) people.  Attached is a sample of the potential course guide.  Here are the links to the host club where the course will be held and to the host hotel: and 

The $3,750.00 per person cost includes room and board, UEFA C-License course, the hospitality of Bundesliga teams and a 24/7 guide.  The DFB requires that coaches taking their courses to be affiliated to a German club.  US Youth Soccer ODP Europe has that affiliation, hence a portion of the cost of the tour includes membership of the American coaches into US Youth Soccer ODP Europe.  Every course candidate will need a first-aid course, background check and must be at least 16 years old.  Finally, each coach makes the declaration that he or she complies with the by-laws of the DFB Education Training Regulations (form will be provided).  I do recommend that coaches also hold, at a minimum, the U. S. Soccer "D" license.

The schedule will be announced at the beginning of 2020 with details for each day of the tour.  In general, during the course, the coaches will have theory lessons from 9:00 A.M. 10:30 A.M. and field sessions from 10:45 A.M. to 12:15 P.M., during which the candidates will participate as players.  From 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. theory-lessons and from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. a field session with youth players.  In the evenings, there will frequently be working groups (very busy).  But, we will make sure that we have time to do hospitality with a Youth Bundesliga Team.  We will also attend a Bundesliga match – T.B.D.  The cost for the match is included in the tour fee.

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Questions About the Soccer Club Environment

Occasionally, I am asked questions about the club environment.  Most of those questions are about problems such as dealing with belligerent coaches or the blind eye that club administrators turn when a team is winning, but deeper life lessons are not being taught.

Sometimes though the question is about how can our club improve what we are doing?  Here’s one such question that came across my desk.

How would you help build and create a culture of excellence? E.g. training, uniforms, standards, expectations?

I think the culture begins with the leaders in the club.  That will be the top administrators and coaches.  Certainly having the full board of directors on board is a major plus.  They most importantly must walk the talk when it comes to the club’s mission statement and philosophy.  The next most important group to get on track to create a culture of excellence is the parents.  This is no doubt challenging and a never-ending aspect of the culture, but in the end, it is the most important.  The parents influence all others in the club; players, coaches, and administrators – in that order.

Working with the parents regarding the sporting experience of children though is an area still largely ignored by clubs.  Most still believe the priority for their efforts in player development.  That once was the case, but not today.  The reality is that the number one priority is the education of the soccer parent.  That education is not necessarily about the tactics of the game or the rules for the age group.  It certainly isn’t about how to raise children.  No, it’s about the environment at matches, either positive or infamous ride home, the understanding of the long-term goals of youth soccer participation and it’s about the management of adult expectations of the return on investment.  It is about being a support group for the youth soccer experience.  Clearly the majority of parents fall into exactly that category as evidenced by the large numbers of young people playing the game all across our nation.  The Parents section of the US Youth Soccer website has quality resources for clubs and parents.  I encourage you to take advantage of the free materials and guidance there.

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Think Tank 2019


Firstly, our team wants to extend a sincere Thank you to all who attended and participated in Think Tank 2019. It was successful beyond our expectations and we cannot wait to bring you Think Tank 2020!

Due to a technical glitch, the Think Tank closed down a day early. We felt the best way to remedy this was to grant you access again and keep it open through Mother's Day as a way of saying we were sorry. You now have access until May 12! Be on the lookout for an email from Kajabi granting you access to Think Tank.

We will also be distilling the sessions into their tracks and creating courses on the tracks in partnership with CoachTube, We are finalizing details and migrating the talks now. Stay tuned!

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Food for Thought for Soccer Leaders

OK after I watched this video the educator in me took over and it strikes me that our decision makers, of every capacity, would benefit from viewing the clip; be those leaders at the national, state or local level.  I am sure that in one fashion or another we all will be involved in the development of the American game.  So here’s the food for thought…

I want to show you a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson.


I am enjoying this one – it helps that Sir Robinson is such an engaging speaker.  I think it is one that we should share not only with our coaches, but our administrators too.  Is not youth soccer in America at a point of needing revolution thus allowing us to evolve?

From what is taught in the National Youth License coaching course he touches on the Flow State Model and on the deleterious effect of drills.  In paraphrasing one of his comments I see how player development is an organic process.  We cannot fully predict the outcome.  You can only create the conditions under which players can flourish.

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The Secrets of Successful Clubs

Contributed by Ruth Nicholson

You have worked hard to build your club – but what are the three simple secrets to making it even better? Learn the three critical elements that make or break an organization’s success on and off the field.

The three secrets to a successful club live within the balance and partnership between

  • High-quality coaching and coaching support,
  • Effective governance and leadership that provides direction and not micro-management of club programs, and
  • Efficient operations that make the best use of staff and volunteers to support players and coaches on the field.

The people who serve in these roles make up the Off-Field Team.


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Dan's Message

For the past six years, it has been a pleasure to serve the Iran National A Team as Assistant Coach, Team Coordinator and Goalkeeper Coach. I am excited to explore new opportunities and share the valuable knowledge and experiences I gained working on this amazing and challenging project.

I am proud that I was a part of the team that qualified for the 2014 Brazil World Cup, 2015 Asian Cup and 2018 Russia World Cup – triumphs for the Iranian people. Our many successes were the result of a hardworking and talented technical staff and administrators. I am honored to have worked alongside them all.

I have admiration for the Team Melli players. Despite the many obstacles, they played with courage, determination and love for their country.

I have enormous gratitude for the fans that offered incredible support during the entire journey. They are amazing passionate soccer fans.

I wish the Iran National Team success as they prepare for the 2018 Russia World Cup. I have no doubt they will represent their country with dignity.

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