Amherst Soccer Team Changes for Travel and House Next Year


Next soccer year, starting in September 2016, we have some new challenges that will begin with the 2016-2017 soccer year.  The national soccer year always begins in September. As always, registration for all programs will open in mid-June for the entire soccer year.

In July at tryouts, the current format of travel team formation and existence of players in age groups will change.   USSF has mandated changes effective September 2016 that will effect youth soccer nationwide.  The move to birth year teams will be a big change for Amherst Soccer teams.

Due to this fact, 1/3 to 1/2 of every age team will now fall into a new age group.  To determine where you will be as a player, just use your birth year.

Age Matrix here

EXAMPLE:  So if born between August and December 2001 this year you are a U14, you will continue next year as a U16.  BUT,  your teammates born January to July 2002, will move up to U15.

This is going to be difficult for some players because they will no longer be on the same team with the same players they have been with for the past several years.  We understand this but, have made the decision that we need to do it wholesale now and not try to accommodate all the requests we may encounter from parents, players and coaches.  To accommodate one age group or team, would severely diminish the age group below and above with sufficient players.

I have consulted with the various larger clubs around Western NY and found all have determined to approach it the same way we are.  Clarence, Kenmore, Hamburg, WNY Flash, etc. are all refusing to approach it with exception.  Waayyy back in the early 90s, the USSF had moved from a birth year registration to the current August-July format.  At that time, clubs just moved immediately to the new format also.  USSF has determined that we need to align ourselves with the rest of the world in soccer and all other youth sports going forward.  Our current system is unique and the most frequent issue of complaint that I have received from parents over the years.

Travel Team Assessments will be in July.  Dates will be announced shortly.

Another new change for the GIRLS only will be that teams will be formed for even year teams only.  This means if you are a U11 or U12, you attend the U12 assessment.  We will still attempt to form multiple teams but, the best 16 players from the entire two-year group will become the A team and the rest the B team.  It doesn’t matter if 10 of the best evaluated are U11.  This is an open tryout to form two teams to play at U12.  We made this decision due to the decreasing number of female players in single year age groups and that the league is not longer able to form odd year age groups that are pure due to other clubs blending girls teams from multiple age groups.

Our HOUSE League will still function with a two-year bracket for each age group.  The only difference will be the ease with which you can determine where your child will play.

Age Matrix here

Please check back in the future for more information and explanation regarding these changes.




U.S. Soccer Bans Headers For Players Under 11 To Resolve Concussion Lawsuit

The United States Soccer Federation has taken a major step in an attempt to reduce concussions among youth soccer players, adopting a policy that bans players under 11 from heading the ball and reducing headers in practice for 11 to 13 year olds, the New York Times reports. The new rules—which also include changes to substitutions—are in response to a class action lawsuit, which will now be dismissed.

The new rules do not apply to all youth soccer players in America, only those that play on teams under the auspices of U.S. Soccer, which includes all “youth national teams and academies, including Major League Soccer youth club teams.” They will only be recommendations to other leagues, but some leagues already ban headers under 10, and you can bet a number of them will adopt U.S. Soccer’s guidelines as their own.

Concussions are a major issue in youth soccer. The best study on the problem, published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that among nine studied sports (boys’ baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and wrestling and girls’ basketball, soccer, softball, and volleyball) the girls’ soccer concussion rate was second highest, and the boys’ fifth highest.

The direct act of heading the ball isn’t necessarily a problem. The study found that only 4.7% of boys’ concussions and 8.2% of girls’ concussions were due to head contact with the ball. But overall 30.6% of boys’ concussions and 25.3% of girls’ concussions occurred on headers, mostly from banging heads with another player, but also from hitting the turf. Heading was also the “soccer-specific” activity that caused the most concussions, followed by “defending,” “general playing,” and “goalkeeping.”

And while that study only examined high school sports, a smaller study also in JAMA Pediatrics found that headers caused 30.3% of concussions in female middle school players, a broadly similar finding.

Keeping kids earthbound at such a young age is undoubtedly good for their brains, but it doesn’t come without costs. Limiting how much kids can practice heading until they are 14 will lead to slower development of an integral soccer skill. And while that’s not really a concern in your average hometown league—who cares if all of the kids playing soccer for fun suck at headers—these new rules specifically apply to the elite leagues that incubate future national team talent.

The United States already faces a number of structural challenges in competing against the world’s best, and these rules should only exacerbate them. Then again, perhaps fewer concussions will mean more elite youth players will reach their absolute potential instead of being forced from the game due to head injuries, and maybe it will allow Americans to catch up on their ball-skills.

But most importantly, it is good for little kids’ brains.

I Never Thought It Would End THIS Way

This is something all of us who have coached or had children grow through the program have felt at the end.  Marty

Live, Learn, Laugh At Yourself


For anyone who has ever coached youth sports of any kind, from pee-wee to middle school, and even high school sports in some cases………I have a deep question that has been floating in my mind in recent days. Just give me minute to circle around to it.

My youngest daughter wrapped up her high school soccer career tonight.  The days leading up to it flooded me with memories of all her games past, both far and near.  Thoughts of different leagues, cities, coaches, teammates, hotel rooms, victory, defeat.  Reflections of how she changed over the years as a player, a competitor, and a person.  Wondering how and why things have played out exactly as they have.  Thinking about influences both good and bad that could have or would have made things better or worse if they’d been different.

And I started thinking about the kids that I have coached as…

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USSF Announces Mandatory Changes for Youth Socccer

USSF, the governing body of soccer in the country, has announced changes that will effect all youth organizations starting in August 2016.  This will change the way we operate for programs beginning in September.

The first, which is the source of the largest amount of confusion with our membership, is the August to July date of birth ranges for each age group will be changed to birth year registration.  All players will be grouped by the calendar year – January to December – as every other sport does and to allow soccer to match the rest of the world.  If your son or daughter was born in 2002, they will be classified as a 2002 player.

The second change is the size of the fields and goalposts for U7 through U12 players.  We are already in compliance with our small U8 House league goals and also our U10 goals but, the size of the goals for the U11/12 will be reduced to the same size as U10. The field sizes for U8 are correct now but, U9/10 and U11/12 fields will be reduced.  This effect both house league and travel league play.  The U9/10 play will also change the rules to eliminate goalkeeper punting and also create a restraining line, around 20 yards from goal, that the opposing team must retreat behind on every gk play, including saves and rolling or kicking the ball back into play.  ASA already created a version of this in house league.  The reasoning is, USSF wants to create time and space for the players to play the ball out of the back under control and not just aimlessly kick or punt the ball up field to create a footrace or give the ball back to the other team.  All the new rules and sizes are being created to foster an environment of ball control and possession in youth play.

I will have much more information on these changes as the deadline approaches but, just wanted to share with you the evolving nature of our sport and the constant development in best practices for youth development and enjoyment of the game.

Next time,


The Trend of Specialization in Youth Sports

There has been a lot of conversation at expert levels arguing that our current culture of specialization in youth sports at too young and age is not in the child’s best interest.  The medical community, including our good friend who works with sports rehab and reuse injuries, Ron Brissette, argue that children need rest and relief from sports and also the benefits of participating in other sports that use different muscle groups.  We at Amherst Soccer want to develop the overall soccer player but, we encourage and excuse our travel players from full participation all winter so they may try other things and play other sports.  The article below is informative and helpful and hope you take the time to read it.


Youth Sports World Is Insane, by Ken Reed

from the Huffington Post  01/10/2014 8:07 pm EST Updated: 03/12/2014 5:59 am EDT

We all need to think more deeply about the insanity of our youth sports culture, with its focus on early specialization in one sport, and, especially its seasons without end. -Michael Sokolove, author of Warrior Girls

 Youth sports: a chance to run around, play sports with friends and have fun.

At least that’s how it used to be.

Today, our kids’ games have been hijacked by adults who professionalize them and attempt to meet their own needs through youth sports. Even when parents and coaches have good intentions the damage to our young people is real nonetheless.

Sometimes parents want that magical athletic scholarship more than their child does. They’d like to be able to tell the people in their lives that their kid got a full-ride athletic scholarship to State U. Others are trying to live out their athletic dreams through their children. It’s called achievement by proxy syndrome.

“A lot of parents have a belief that says, ‘How well my kid does on the field reflects on me as a parent,'” says Jim Thompson, founder of the Positive Coaching Alliance. “One of my mentors, John Gardner, once said, ‘The toughest thing kids have to face is the unfulfilled lives of their parents.’ I think there’s a lot of truth in that.”

For other parents, youth sports provide the centerpiece of their entertainment and social life. And then there are a growing number of profit-seeking adults in the youth sports field — club sports administrators, personal trainers and coaches, tournament and camp organizers, etc. — that are focusing on making big bucks off parents’ dreams of athletic glory for their children.

As a whole, our youth sports system is broken. As the country’s performance culture increasingly focuses on the development of elite athletes at the youth sports level, our kids are burning out emotionally at a greater clip and at an earlier age. Moreover, this “sports for the elite” approach has come at the expense of a “sports for all” philosophy that would significantly help address our country’s childhood obesity epidemic.

Intramural sports — in which all students could participate regardless of their athletic ability — have gone the way of the dinosaurs. And physical education classes are on the endangered species list.

Research shows that nearly 80 percent of all children who play adult-organized youth sports drop out by the time they’re 13. The reason most often cited is that it’s no longer fun. The primary reason it’s no longer fun? Overzealous adults, in the form of parents and/or coaches.

And our kids’ bodies are breaking down with overuse injuries at an alarming rate.

“With specialization, the danger is that kids use the same muscle groups, day in and day out, and this wears out the muscles,” says Michael Sokolove, author of Warrior Girls.

Fred Bowen is the author of 18 books for kids that combine sports fiction and sports history. He also writes a weekly sports column for kids in the Washington Post. He agrees with Sokolove regarding the dangerous adult-driven trend toward more and more specialization in youth sports.

“I think you can see overbearing adults in all the youth sports issues today. For example, let’s take specialization, playing only one sport at a young age. I had the privilege of interviewing Cal Ripken one time and I asked him when was the first time he played baseball year-round. He told me, ‘When I signed a professional contract at 18.’

“I point out to parents that Ripken was an all-state soccer player in high school. Ripken was a big man for a shortstop but he could really move his feet. Soccer helped him with his footwork. San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, was not only a standout football player in high school; he was also an excellent basketball player. But people who saw him a lot in high school said his best sport was probably baseball.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically says don’t specialize in youth sports. So, if kids specialize by focusing on playing a single sport year-round, they are doing so against doctors’ orders. And adults who allow specialization, or encourage it, are going against doctors’ orders as well.”

Why is this happening? What’s going on?

Ego is a factor. Too many parents are living the “athletic scholarship/pro athlete dream” for themselves, pushing their kids too hard, and in the process, taking the passion and joy out of sports.

And good old human greed plays a role as well. There are a growing number of profit-driven youth sports vultures that are increasingly leveraging the dreams of youngsters and their parents for their own financial benefit. It doesn’t matter how athletically-challenged some of these kids are, the sales pitch from some youth sports entrepreneurs remains the same, whether it’s delivered implicitly or explicitly: “If you come work with me, join our club for $XXX a week/month/year, I can get you that scholarship.”

“Jay Coakley (a leading sports sociologist) believes youth sport is child labor revisited,” says Thompson. “You have entrepreneurs making money in youth sports and the staff, in a sense, is made up of young kids. That’s a problem.”

Yes, one of many problems in youth sports world.

Reflections on the US Women’s World Cup Victory (and ASA policies)

This blog was inspired by a goal scored in the WWC by the USWNT’s Kelly O’Hara and comments made by Alexi Lalas, Kelly Smith and Heather Mitts in the studio post game. It hit a nerve with me and something I had been doing over a 16 year coaching career with three different girls’ teams.  It is also something I always explained the importance of to “my” girls. Here is the goal.

by Marty Ott
ASA Executive Director

US Youth Soccer has some guiding principles regarding the development of young soccer players.  Additionally, our league has some rules regarding the same in the form of playing time for those up through age 12.

We also encourage that these guidelines be followed for older teams. These, I believe, are the beliefs of our travel committee and board. Our job as coaches is to teach and prepare soccer players.  Not, defenders or forwards but, total soccer players.

How can we do this?  By keeping to the best practices of USYSA and the recommendations of ASA and rotating players through multiple positions in practices and games.  And by giving the kids, no matter their age, plenty of playing time in games to keep them engaged and excited about being part of a team and giving them a chance to experiment and learn from success and failure at any position they play.  Every kid wants to play the game.

Now the story that crystalized this for me….

Kelley O’Hara is 27 years old.  She grew up in Fayetteville, Ga.  Near the home of my brother.  She was the star forward for Starr’s Mill High School, leading scorer for four years, State Champions, all-State player, Captain two years, Parade All-American two years, Georgia State player of the year,  played for the Peachtree City Lazers and AFC Lightning Soccer Club (both high level clubs) until she moved to the US Under 17 National Team.  You can see she was an exceptional youth soccer player.  She went on to play at Stanford, was the leading scoring forward for four years, losing the national championship her senior year and winning the Hermann Award as the best college player.

When she was finally called up to the National team, she was pegged as a midfielder and her first World Cup gave her a few minutes of time.  By the time Pia Sundhage took the team to the finals against Japan at the WWC in 2011, Kelley was playing as a starting outside back.  Along comes Jill Ellis as coach of the national team for 2015 and she tells Kelley, I don’t see you as a back but, as a forward.  Kelley sees the logjam of Wambach, Morgan, Leroux, Press at forward and realizes she needs to be flexible and gets time as midfielder.  What happened with her goal in the video above is, she worked hard to play no matter where the coach and when the coach decided to play her and her instincts as a forward told her to anticipate the pass and make the run to score that goal.   The commentators noted that the modern soccer game requires that every player be flexible and trained to play almost anywhere on the pitch.  This clicked for me and made me realize I had been doing the right thing for years.

My message to my players, when they objected to being pushed out of their comfort zone to play a different position was, you never know what your next coach or team will need.  Do you want to be ready to play or sit because you are not prepared?  One year, we were having trouble finishing so, I moved my fastest, most aggressive girl who loved playing defense to the right side up top.  The girls looked at me as if I was crazy when I announced the lineup.  She proceeded to make a run on the ensuing kickoff and beat her defender, received the ball and buried it far post.  For a few seconds, I was a genius! That never lasts : )

One of my best friends was told at the beginning of his junior year of high school that his coach didn’t see him playing as a forward.  He asked the coach, “what do you need on the field?”  Goalkeeper, said the coach.  So he changed and worked to become the best he could.  That friend ended up playing four years at Kent State as a GK.

If we as a club, don’t focus on the development of players at 9, 10, 11 and even as old as 16, we are doing a disservice to them.  Who cares how good the win/loss record is if 6 kids sit on the bench all the time?  What do you want to do as coaches and parents?  Give every player the chance to develop to their maximum desire and potential or win some trophy that ends up in a box in the basement in a couple years?  My best season ever, as a team, would be 4-4-4 with all games 2-1 or 3-2.  This shows me we are competitive within the division, learning to deal with success and failure, working to make corrections and improvements at practices and playing the whole roster to keep the kids engaged and dedicated to the team.

Let’s not sacrifice for bragging rights.  Let’s all decide that Amherst Soccer is truly “where player development comes first”.

Hello (Amherst Soccer) World…

Well hello there…. Welcome to Amherst Soccer Association’s new Blog!
What’s that you say? Just the thing you were looking for? – A Blog about Soccer? Awesome!  I’m glad I can help.

This place is for both new soccer players/parents just starting out, and seasoned players/parents, who have been involved in soccer forever.  We’re gonna talk about all things soccer, keeping you informed with soccer happenings and other soccer topics, not only locally, but we’ll look at some national and international soccer too.  We’ll discuss the rules of the game.  What is House Soccer? Travel Soccer? How about Premier Soccer? And any other soccer related topics you’d like to discuss.

But why a Blog?  Why not just slap this stuff on our website?  Good question.  A Blog will allow us to have a better connection to the soccer community.  It will give you a chance to comment or respond to some of our articles and postings – all good I hope.  Maybe you’d like to post an article or add to the blog yourself, or suggest a topic.  All things that will help us communicate and connect with you better.  And to read a blog, you don’t have to be a member of facebook, or “like” us to “follow” us.  No special requirements here.  Well,.. you might have to read ‘n stuff.

So get ready,  I hope we can help with some of your soccer questions and help keep you informed.  So please, comment, suggest, send, post.  Check back soon for future postings!


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