TAKE 5 with US Youth Soccer's Sam Snow

3/14/2014


Every athlete experiences a setback during his or her career. That is just a part of sports.

But with every setback, there's also a chance to comeback.

Liberty Mutual Insurance sat down with US Youth Soccer's Coaching Director Sam Snow to get his thoughts on making a strong comeback from a setback. 

Sam Snow

Sam brings his extensive experience at the national and collegiate level to US Youth Soccer. As director of coaching for US Youth Soccer, Sam has helped athletes deal with adversity. Sam has the experience to assist his athletes when they are faced with physical and mental setbacks.





Questions

1. Can you describe the most challenging injury you have ever had to coach an athlete through?

It was a femur contusion, first thought to be a fractured femur, to a 17-year-old male player. A contusion to the bone takes almost as long to heal as a broken bone.

2. Can you describe how you handled the situation as a coach?

After the immediate first aid with the paramedics, I worked with the player with an athletic trainer to help his healing. He had been injured fairly early into the season and we wanted to get him back on the field before the season ended if at all possible. I worked with the player both in the training room and on the field to gradually help him back into playing shape. I got him fully involved with the team by having him assist me in training sessions when he wasn't in rehab, attend all team meetings, and sit on the bench for all of the home matches.

3. How were you able to help the athlete turn their injury "setback" into a "comeback"?

I worked with him physically and mentally. He was a forward and to get him back, not just in regard to his health but also his touch and timing, took a lot of extra work in one-on-one situations before or after team training sessions. As a 17-year-old he was frustrated with not getting back to form as quickly as he hoped, so much of my work with him was mental - rebuilding his confidence. Eventually he was back on the field and ended the season contributing to the team once again.

4. What advice would you give a young athlete dealing with an injury?

Don't rush your comeback! I've seen players do that and they re-injure themselves, because they were not fully rehabilitated. Coming back into a game as dynamic as soccer takes more than physical fitness. Coming back from an injury also means getting back your touch on the ball, getting your timing with skills and tactics back, and then fitting back into the line up with your teammates. Patience, while working diligently to get healthy, is of vital importance.

5. Can you describe the most challenging "mental setback" or "mistake" you have ever had to coach an athlete through?

It was with a goalkeeper who had a lot of raw talent, but hadn't really been coached on the details of the skills and tactics of that very demanding role in soccer. With me he now had a coach who worked with him on the details of his game and he had not been coached with that much scrutiny before. He had a period when he felt he couldn't do anything right. At one point he wanted to quit the sport.

6. Can you describe how you handled the situation as a coach?

I worked closely with that young man through hours of one-on-one coaching and counseling. I helped him to see the small improvements in his game. But I kept demanding quality work from him. I knew he was capable of of higher level of play. We just had to work through his month or two of frustration. In matches I was sure to help him see the good things he was beginning to do, especially since many of them were subtle improvements that were not immediately obvious.

7. What was the hardest thing for you to accept about this setback or mistake?

Working with the goalkeeper through this nadir in his career. I was not willing to accept his momentary desire to quit the game. I also realized that I pushed him a bit too fast. I learned that I needed as a coach to more gradually raise a players game so that they can continue to believe in themselves. This goalkeeper did stay in the game, earned college soccer honors and now has been the head coach at Miami University for many years.

8. What advice would you give a young athlete struggling to "bounce back" from mental setbacks or mistakes in their early career?

First, do not lower the standards that you expect of yourself, but do accept the fact that all players, even on the national team, make mistakes. All players have setbacks, such as when they don't make the cut for the first time or they are not selected for the starting lineup for the first time or they are not playing their favorite position for the first time. You will make mistakes in your soccer and you will have setbacks yourself or as a team. The challenge is to lace up your boots again and get on with it. Don't quit! Believe in yourself and always work to improve your game. When you do all that you can to give your best then you will have bounced back.

Come back next month for another exclusive TAKE 5 Interview.


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