Winning the Off-Season – Breakin’ it Down with Burk (Ep6)


Hello MSI families! I hope everyone had a fun and rewarding Fall season. With winter upon us, it is time to rest and recharge. How can we best prepare ourselves for another season of soccer this Spring? How can we win the off-season?

How do we define winning? Over the past two weekends, nearly 2,000 youth soccer teams at the recreational, classic, and travel levels participated in tournaments throughout the Baltimore/DC area. While some of them did win 1st place on the field, did the rest of the teams “lose” the weekend? If we specify what we hope to get out of youth soccer, we can find more ways to win. Our national soccer federation gives us a good place to start.

US Soccer’s Coaching Education pathway lists 4 qualities of a positive youth soccer environment that all licensed coaches are tasked to provide:

  • Enjoyment & Fun
  • Dignity & Respect
  • Safety
  • Player Development

When our kids are having fun in a safe, respectful environment and improving as players, we are all winning. Not by accident, developing this culture also leads to team success! How can we help build this culture during the winter? How can we win the off-season?

While our traditional Fall season is winding down, soccer continues around the world. One way we can all win the off-season is by watching soccer to further our understanding of the game and our passion for the game. The Women’s and Men’s NCAA Division I tournaments will be wrapping up over the next few weeks with many games on ESPN Plus and ESPNU.

The MLS playoffs continue through December 9 on Apple TV and Fox Sports. Top leagues in Europe and around the world continue through the winter with games on ESPN Plus, Paramount Plus, Peacock, and many more. Watching the game played at its highest levels helps us learn and get excited for the Spring season.

How can players win the off-season? Some of our players are on teams that train during the winter or play in winter leagues. Make sure your focus for the winter season is on developing your skills! If you are taking a break from sports for the winter or playing an alternate sport, that is great too. Whether you are involved in organized winter play or not, I encourage players to find fun ways to play soccer during the winter. Play 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 in your neighborhood; organize a pick-up game with friends; challenge your teammates to better their juggling records. Here are some of my favorite individual workouts for the off-season:

10 Minute Ball Mastery Workout at Home

Juggling the Ball – Beginners

Juggling the Ball – Tricks

Backyard Soccer Skill Challenges

How can coaches win the off-season? How can we level up before the Spring kicks off and be ready for our players when the weather is nice again? MSI is excited to offer a number of avenues for Coaching Education.

  1. We are excited to offer a course through the United States Soccer Foundation and the National Council for Youth Sports called Coach-Mentor Training. Becoming a Coach-Mentor means learning how to truly make a positive impact in the lives of your players. You will learn skills for developing clear and enforceable team rules, building trust within your team, handling behavior issues with empathy, and much more. This is a free online course that we encourage ALL MSI coaches to take. Click here for more!
  2. MSI is excited to offer free in-house Coaching Education!
    1. 7v7 and 9v9 Tactics Workshop with Matt Arrington, DC United Academy Coach – 12:00-1:00 PM, Friday, December 1. Sign up here!
    2. March ’24 – 9v9 and 11v11 field sessions with MSI Technical staff. Sign up here!
    3. March ’24 – 7v7 online sessions and field sessions. Sign up here!
    4. March ’24 – 4v4 coaching clinics for 1st Grade coaches – coming soon!
  3. Start – or continue – your Coaching Education journey with the US Soccer Federation. Click here for details and for information on courses being offered through MSI in January.

Parents – you can win the off-season too! As you probably know, MSI is a proud partner of the Soccer Parent Resource Center. Click here to read more and create your free Soccer Parenting account! Check out the section at the bottom about The Sideline Project, a brief course you can take as a Soccer Parent Resource Center member.

When parents understand how to be supportive and engaged without making the game stressful or challenging for players, referees, and coaches, everyone wins! For the Spring 2024 season, we are proud to announce the MSI Sideline Project Challenge. Any team in our Recreational or Classic league that has a 100% completion rate (one parent/guardian per player) for The Sideline Project will receive a UPSL All-Star Experience!

Our new Men’s UPSL team recently completed their Fall season as DMV Division 1 champions, and we are excited to start our new Women’s team this Spring! If your team’s families achieve 100% completion in The Sideline Project, you earn a UPSL All-Star Experience for your players. Experiences will be tailored to the age and experience level of the players. Examples include:

  • Game-day scrimmage on the UPSL field with fans in attendance.
  • Players act as ball girls or ball boys during the game.
  • Players walk out with the teams as pre-game mascots.
  • UPSL players appear at a game or training session as guest coaches.

You can start by completing The Sideline Project today! Save a screenshot of your course completion. Team Coaches or Managers can contact to confirm completion of the MSI Sideline Project Challenge.

I hope you now have some concrete ways you can stay connected to soccer this Winter. Let’s go win the off-season!

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