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.

Switch the Field: Focus on the Right Data

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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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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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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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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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