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SPRING CLASSES START THIS WEEK

Spring is officially here! At least on our coast. ;)

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That means our spring classes start this week. You’ll find the schedule of classes on our calendar – including our new Soccer X class for those who’ve already played AYSO and are looking for some more skills and scrimmages.

 

 

Spring Break Camp

We will also be offering Spring Break camp for an entire month! March 24 – April 17, Monday-Thursday, 9:30 – Noon at Barrington Park. $45/day or $150/4 day week. 3.5-8 year olds. Our regular class schedule will continue unchanged. Registration for spring break camp is  ready!

 

 

 

A Month of Spring Break…can Summer Camp be far behind?   

Summer Camp will be here before you know it: June 11 – August 7.  Year 14 of Summer of Fun and Rookie Camp.  Still at Brentwood Magnet School.  Still the most creative, most flexible, most fun program in town.  Registration up shortly…

Breaking News!

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Coach Dori Morris accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018 where she will be reuniting with Coach Dani Cohen, Class of 2017!

10 Terms to Leave Off the Soccer Field

Along with strong individual skills, and a vibrant team concept, good communication is one of the hallmarks of a good soccer team.  Teams that talk – “man on,” “turn,” “down the line” – keep everyone aware of opportunities and peril.  The best coaches do their talking in training and at halftime, but in much of youth soccer, there is an incessant din emanating from the sideline.  Coaches and parents shout conflicting commands, confusing the players and robbing them of their autonomy and creativity.  Eliminating this chatter is a worthy, if difficult, goal.  Deleting the list of terms and exhortations below from the vocabulary of coaches, parents and all soccer devotees would be a heckuva start.

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1. Shoot.  Most often bleated by coaches and spectators when a player is within striking distance of the opponent’s goal.  Designed to hasten the decision-making process, the player hearing this often freezes or uncorks a hastily prepared and poorly struck ball right to the goalkeeper.  In a recent game, one parent shouted “Shoot” to his U10 daughter every time she touched the ball – and she was playing defense fifty yards from the goal.  When the urge to shout “Shoot” strikes, stifle it.

2. C’mon, Ref!  (Or any variation…  Probably the phrase uttered most frequently in a match, always pegged to a perceived slight or grievance.  That the protest will compel the recipient to amend or reverse his call is a vain hope that dishonors the game and demeans the yeller.  Good calls and bad calls, like good and bad coaching (and good and bad playing), are an integral part of the game.  Leave the ref alone.

3. Hand ball!  An involuntary, heaven-rattling exclamation erupts from an entire sideline the instant a ball touches, or appears to touch, a player’s hand or arm.  Meant to alert the referee, who is usually only inches from the alleged transgression, and coerce him to assess a foul on the other team.  The charge elicits the equally-aggrieved “no way!” from the opposite sideline. Usually the call is of little consequence, but when flagged in the penalty area, the fate of mankind can hang in the balance.  Best advice?  Breathe.  The sun will come out tomorrow.  This is California.

4. Big Kick.  An alarm raised when the ball is rolling or bouncing towards a defender under pressure, the term encourages a desperate and uncontrolled response.  In soccer we don’t “kick” the ball.  We strike it, pass it, cross it, drive it and shoot it.  We chip it, volley it, curl it and, even occasionally, toe poke it.  All of these terms denote a specific – and directed – response.  Soccer strives for elegance, poise and clarity of action and communication. Keeping one’s head and intelligently playing the ball out of danger, by looking for a smart outlet, is to be preferred over blindly whacking the crap out of it, which by the way, in youth soccer often results in a big whiff.

Yes, there are penalty kicks, corner kicks, direct and indirect kicks but these are nouns, not verbs; they refer to precise, unambiguous actions, not the act of hitting the ball.

5. Send it!  A smarter-sounding cousin of Big Kick, this one also fails the specificity test.  The screamer is demanding that the ball be “sent” upfield, but to where?  Towards the touch line?  Towards the open midfielder on the left?  Towards the forward smothered by two defenders?  Apparently anywhere out of immediate danger is good enough. But for the care and feeding of budding soccer players, it shouldn’t be.

And then there’s the frantic Away!, the soccer version of the Harry Potter disappearing charm, “Expelliarmus.” Panicked keepers and coaches will command their defenders to make the ball disappear.  Banish it to Azkaban or anywhere else away from the goal.

6. Goalie’s out…  He’s scrambled to the edge of the box to make an acrobatic save and is out of position when the ball lands at your player’s feet.  Everyone wants to let this potential hero know he’s got a wide open, if 30 yard, opportunity.  Problem is it takes great self-possession to strike or chip (not kick) a ball over distance or the flailing-to-get-back keeper’s head.  When prompted by a crazed sideline, the task becomes even more difficult. See SHOOT above.  And watch the ball sail over the crossbar.

7. It’s 0-0.  No, it’s not.  One team has just scored.  And they’re leading by one, two or three goals.  As the players trot back to midfield for the kick-off, the coach shouts out, “all right, gang, it’s 0-0!” Designed to prevent a let-down (teams often do get scored upon right after they’ve netted a goal) and urge the troops to focus and recommit, this silly phrase rallies no one but the mathematically challenged.

8. Take a lap.  And with that the coach sends his team or a player on an unsupervised, unfocused trip around the training ground.  Out of touch and usually out of hailing distance, the “lap” gives the players license to goof around, cut corners or even walk.  Less odious when ordered for a warm-up than as a punishment, a lap has little relevance to the game of soccer.  How much long distance jogging does a player do in a game?  Exactly.  Still committed to laps?  Try sticking a ball at your players’ feet.  At least let them get some touches on the tour.

9. Are you kidding me?  What are you thinking?  Or… How did you miss that?  All of these expressions weep with frustration and disbelief.  Yet none of them (or any variants, expletives added or deleted) serves any positive purpose.  A player knows when he’s screwed up.  Putting an exclamation point on it only delays his ability to shake it off and redeem himself.  Substitute the neutral “Unlucky!” and witness the player’s miraculous rebound.

10. Anything uttered by a parent or spectator that is more instructive or critical than “Nice play,” “Great effort,” or “Way to go.”  The game many of them are watching has only one kid in it:  theirs.  Even the most visually expansive, when sending up a cry or a protest, are denigrating the dignity of the game.  Parents don’t coach.  And they don’t criticize.  They cheer.  Try it.  Your kids will thank you.

11. Trash talking.  Mostly a player phenomenon, this can rear its ugly head at any age.  From the U6 high five line, with one team smacking hands, saying, “bad game,” to the older hormone-riddled gangsters of U13 and up. It’s a regular and disturbing part of the game.  My 15 year old, however, learned a valuable lesson this past weekend. Returning to his position he passed the other team’s defender and started to dish out a helping of abuse.  The defender held up his hand.  “I don’t trash talk,” he said.  “I don’t have anything against you or your team.  I just want to play good hard soccer.”  My kid stopped, thought for a moment, then fist-bumped the kid.  “Respect,” he said.

Respect is what it’s all about.  Respecting the players, the officials, and the game itself.  Lose a little of this lingo and you’ll see how much better life on the sidelines can be.

 

Coaches – vs – Refs – An Epiphany

During the summer we hold Don’t Do This At Home Day at camp.  As part of the festivities we stage a whining contest.  The kids step up in front of their peers and each tries to outdo the next in demonstrating how grating and annoying he or she can be.  If one should stumble upon the magic words, “it’s not fair,” indispensable ingredients of every fine whine, promotion to the next round is automatic.

I was reminded of this while reviewing issues that arose during Silent Saturday.  Despite our cautions and admonitions we still received reports of heated reactions to ref calls, coaches violating the spirit of the day and several coach and parent ejections.  Similar incidents occur weekly during the fall, and seasonally in All-Stars and EXTRA.  They erupt in baseball, basketball and flag football, as well as in dance, debate, and almost all activities where kids are coached, trained and judged by adults.  And they can all be reduced to three little words – “it’s not fair.”

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From the age of 4, this is our kids’ response to the injustices or inequalities they perceive in their universe.  A sibling gets an extra cookie or can stay up later.  A friend is allowed to get her ears pierced (but not during the season, of course).  A teammate has a stronger kick.  Kids, expecting a fair and just world, express this protest with a relentlessness that is maddening. Hearing our kids screech “it’s not fair” triggers a frosty resolve that precludes dialogue, compromise or concession.

Yet “it’s not fair” is the mantra we are invoking when we complain about offside calls, late-game penalty kicks, unbalanced teams or perceived advantages that are denied to our kids or our teams.  It is us channeling our inner kid, reacting to a situation we really can’t change.  How often is “it’s not fair” rewarded with an extra cookie, a later bedtime, or a referee reversing his call?  Exactly.

18 top 10There’s a delicious irony here.  In the moments that scream loudest for our maturity, wisdom and patience – in other words, for us to act like adults – we find ourselves behaving like little kids. By our protests, we think we are protecting and supporting our kids, but actually we’re perpetuating an unrealistic and unsustainable view of the world.  We know that life isn’t fair and that no one promised it would be.  We know that things might not go our way this time or next time or any time this season.  But over the long haul, life has a way of getting it close.  These are the lessons we need to teach our kids – sportsmanship, self-discipline, resilience – not that the ref is biased or blew the call or lost us the game.

Ultimately the kids are right.  And we are right too.  It’s not fair.

But it’s fair enough.

News

The Wonder Baby Arrives –

Colt William Cooper (the least surprising name of all time), logging in at 7.9 ozs and 22 inches, arrived at 10:12 pm on August 1st. Mom Mary and dad Coach Cooper are over the moon.  Cooper is considering starting a weekly class for newborns. Patterning it on our Atoms session, this one will be called Nuclei. Stay tuned…

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Maccabiah Heroes –

In other good news, Coast Sports was well represented at the recently concluded Maccabiah games in Israel. With over 8000 athletes representing 75 countries, the two-week long event is the 3rd largest sporting event in the world (behind the Olympics and the World Cup). Coach Steve’s son Griffie, along with Alex Lee and Spencer Howard, played on the Juniors soccer team that took 4th place. Summer of Fun alums Leo and Madeline Kaplan brought home the gold in baseball and softball. And Jody Kasten, mother of Rookie Camp mainstays Coaches Rachel and Emily, managed the USA tennis team. Congratulations to all!

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Pre-Season Tune-Up and Pigskin Preview –

Shake off the rust with our 13th Annual warm-up for the coming soccer and flag football seasons. We’ll keep the spirit of camp alive with arts & crafts, contests, water fights and more. Register Now at www.coastsports.com, click on Summer Camps > Pre-Season Tune-Up…

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Fall Classes –

Our system is up and running for you to register for the best kids sports classes west of the Mississippi. Future All-Stars, Soccer, Baseball, Atoms and more. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, send us a note and we’ll get you in the schedule.

Why Forrest Can’t Run

Fundamental to nearly all sports, especially the land-based variety, is the ability to run. We are born, we learn to crawl, and a fleeting moment later we are teetering on two feet. Once forward momentum has been established, we are off and running. Early efforts are marked by flailing arms, legs striking the ground awkwardly and a shaky, circuitous gait that implies vodka-spiked milk bottles. Forrest Gump, exploding out of his leg braces, provides one of the few examples of someone who was born to run. Few of the rest of us, fictional or real, are graced with a natural stride and proper mechanics. Most programs that introduce young kids to sports neglect this most critical skill as they focus on kicking or shooting or dribbling. But for sports to be enjoyed to the fullest, running technique must be taught. If not…

Coast SportsA few years ago, we had a kid at camp who was a lights out basketball player, one of the best eight year olds I’ve ever seen. He was a Houdini with the ball, able to escape the most octopus-armed defenders. His shot was both silky and lethal. And his awareness of the game was positively Kobe-ian. With the genetic bonus of six-foot-five parents, he was already choosing tattoos to adorn his arms and which shoe line to endorse. There was only one obstacle to his Hall of Fame selection: he couldn’t run. He would lumber down the court on his heels, leaden and clunky, looking like the ungainly giant fumbling to catch the nimble, beanstalk-climbing Jack. At eight, he could compensate with stiff, fast-moving legs. But what would he do at ten or twelve? By fifteen he’d be sure to have lower back problems, putting him on a collision course with a couch and a game controller, at best breaking records in NBA Street.

Running is neither hard to teach, nor difficult to learn. It’s more scrambled eggs than soufflé. We start with slow, exaggerated steps, showing how to use arms as pistons, pushing and pulling back and forth. We time our gait so that the left leg comes forward with the right arm. Once we’ve got the stride we lean forward into the balls of our feet and increase our pace from a brisk walk to a jog, maintaining form while we churn faster and faster until we find ourselves in a full-on sprint. We save the nuances and technical adjustments to an older age (though there are plenty of “professional” programs that would happily part you from your money to help shave seconds off your six year old’s times), but mastering the basics instantly increases kids’ enjoyment of games and sports. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Whatever happened to that galumphing eight year old basketball prodigy? Happy to say that with diligence and commitment he rehabilitated his technique and was soon gliding gazelle-like up and down the court. But then life stepped in and made other plans. His older brother’s friend left a lacrosse stick at his house and within a few years his Air Jordans were gathering cobwebs under his bed. He had become an All-League attacking middie, a position that is all running all the time. Colleges back east beckoned and he answered the call. Unfortunately so did a trainload of other prospects and our boy was cut before the season. Not one to wallow, he embraced his school’s ivy-steeped tradition of racing around the quad in the snow in a clothing-optional state, breaking every dubious record in the book.

My crystal ball isn’t clear enough to predict whether your kid is going to mature into a Division 3 streaking champion – and wouldn’t you be so proud if he did – but to achieve even that level of proficiency (and infamy), the basics must be mastered. No matter how gently passes are embraced by a pair of hands, or how softly a foot can caress a pinged ball, or how far beyond the bounds of gravity a set of legs can leap, if the feet don’t fall and the arms don’t pump in perfect synchronization, you may as well be standing still. To play sports at the highest level, you’ve got to be able run before you can walk…

Peanut Butter Pretzels and the Decline of Civilization

I confess: I love peanut butter pretzels. Peanut butter is one of the sublime inventions of the last one hundred and fifty years (often falsely credited to George Washington Carver, its creation – or rather patent – is shared by several people, none of whom are named Skippy or Jif). And pretzels, that satisfying synthesis of salty and crunchy, have always held an esteemed position in my pantry. Putting the two together was sheer marketing genius. But, truth be told, they are symptomatic of what ails society today.

523dc38f3ff40316Nutritionally they’re a disaster. Riddled with fat and sugars, a serving size teeters on the border between acceptable and unhealthy, but let’s be honest, whoever settles for one serving? It takes about 3 or 4 handfuls to quiet a craving. And by the time you’ve gone down that road, you may as well throw in the towel and grab the Chips Ahoy and vanilla ice cream as well.

But on even a deeper level, peanut butter pretzels subvert the natural order.  Do we really need the convenience of having the manufacturer slip the dab of PB inside the cube of pretzel? Would life be so bad if we had to procure the ingredients and grab a spoon? Have we gotten that “fat” that we need to save the time and energy it would take to make our own?  Apparently so.

Peanut butter pretzels represent the “lazi-fication” of America. With technology, our lives are being so simplified, we’ve all become Roman emperors having our grapes peeled for us. We need to fight back.  Sound the rebellion. Throw off the togas of torpidity. It’s time to get up, go outside, kick a ball, shoot some hoops, and reclaim our birthright – and one of the preconditions of health – exercise. This is what our kids need to grow and thrive and prepare to meet the challenges of the future. According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008, more than a third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Surely the peanut butter pretzel has plenty of company in this comestible Hall of Shame. But if we’re to reverse the trend, and save civilization, our kids need to move and run and play and dance and do it again day after day after day. And if they do it enough, the occasional peanut butter pretzel will be less of a threat.

Spring Memories

As daylight lingers longer, and the beginning of April brings glimmers of balmier times, thoughts drift to springtimes past. I’m seeing a pudgy ten year old lying on the itchy white straw that is his lawn. His father was sold a grass seed named Zoysia that was supposed to stay green year round; at its lushest it barely managed a wan shade of lime. The boy stared up at the puffy white clouds billowing across a cerulean sky on this bright Kodachrome day. Someone else might have conjured elephants balancing on a circus ball or the frozen outlines of Antarctica. But for this boy, the cottony figures were none other than Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, New York Yankee heroes, whose exploits fed the dreams of a generation. As he lay there that spring day, an entire nine inning game floated by in dreamy slow motion.

Jordan 2012 (6)Years later the lad, now a dad, was on a soccer field in Downey, or was it Irvine, actually it was Thousand Oaks, as his own not-at-all-pudgy ten year old was playing in the goal. The boy wasn’t much of a keeper but the team rotated through that position and it was his turn in the box. A ball was struck a little too aggressively by the other team and it rolled to the left of the penalty area. The goalie jogged out, and to his dad’s great relief, he didn’t pick it up. Neither did he guide it back inside the area with his feet, where he could have then grabbed it. Instead he started dribbling up the field. At first his actions were met with silence and disbelief. Surely he wasn’t trying to dribble out of trouble, a no-no drummed into defenders at a young age. But as he raced further up the field, fear gripped the sideline. The coach, who was his dad, started calling for him to release the ball, to pass it to a teammate before it was too late. But the boy was in full stride, blowing by opponents with a speed that certainly didn’t come from dad’s side of the family.

By the time he reached midfield, both sidelines were in full voice, one group shouting for him to pass the ball, the other screaming to get it back. The players on the field were mesmerized, though, rooted to the spot, unused as they were to encountering a tactic so mad. The boy knifed into the heart of enemy territory, and was nearly at the far penalty area before someone from the other team woke up and chased across the field to clear the ball into the next zip code. The boy trotted back to his goal, a devilishly proud smile lighting his way. Both sidelines erupted in a spontaneous roar, the players on the field jumping up and down and the amused referee standing at midfield, shaking his head and applauding.

Not every memory is bathed in the amber glow of magic hour. That same goalie, older now, blowing off the lacrosse practice before prom to go get his tuxedo, a move that landed him on the bench on Senior Day. And his sister, much younger then, who signed up for basketball with dad coaching, then realized two practices in that she was the only girl on the court. She quit in a tantrum of titanic proportions while dad had to suck it up and coach for another 10 weeks. But sports, like spring, offer renewal and redemption, another chance to grow, to learn, to excel and to have fun. In their ability to connect a ten year old to all the stages of his life, sports – whether imagined, watched or played – are timeless.