Girls Varsity Soccer at Derryfield: Information for Parents

Topic I. Soccer at DS and NHIAA Player Recognition

Some aspects of  our soccer program are emphasized here, and a review of how the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) honors some of our players in the post-season.


As you have read in the welcome page, the girls soccer program at DS is relatively young, but it has achieved much success—there have been consecutive championship years on multiple occasions.  The boys program has been equally as successful.  Indeed, we have been very fortunate with the quality of student/players that have come through the program.


I volunteered to coach in 2009 after an unfortunate set of circumstanes, and have continued to coach with assistance from Michelle Coombes. I was an assistant coach for Bob Cole who led the team through several championship years in the 90s, and so I have seen many great players that have subsequently played division I, II and III in college.  It is very impressive how well the program has performed over the years and how the quality of play remains exceptionally high for the size of our school.


It is realized that soccer is the first sport of the school year for some students, and players participate largely without academic concerns for two weeks in August.  As coaches, we feel privileged to work with players during this preseason period.  

 

The regular season of games starts with the first week of school and by October, soccer coaches in the state of New Hampshire are requested to complete an assessment of their players.  I emphasize here that we submit player assessments to the NHIAA before the regular season concludes and before tournament play. There is a parallel grading system called the Granite State Conference that asks for similar material.  The reviews are collected by NHIAA and then distributed to all the coaches in their respective divisions 1-4, and we vote for players based on these reviews — if we see a player perform that is not on our team, then we can also use first hand knowledge when choosing to vote for a selected player.  For example, the NHIAA has a recognition system including selection for a division 4 first team, and if a player receives enough votes from all the division 4 coaches, she will receive first team honors.  Realize that all this started with coaches selecting players just past midseason.  Hence, a player who advances their game and becomes a starter late in the season or shows brilliant play in the tournament, and was not submitted as a player to vote on, will not get any recognition at the state level.  It will come from her coaches in the post season, however. 


To make this process even more frustrating to coaches and parents, when a team has many talented players who lead teams to consecutive championships, there is an expectation that more players will get recognized by the state.  Unfortunately, representation on a first or second team from every school is guaranteed to some degree. Hence, we might have the 6 most talented players in the division, but they will not all make the first team selection.


Although this information I have shared with you may not be completely satisfying, it is an attempt to be transparent about the process used by the NHIAA to recognize varsity athletes in the state of New Hampshire.



Topic II.  Heading the soccer ball. What are the consequences?

There is no clear answer regarding this question for soccer players.  However, we continue to collect data and monitor what the experts are discussing.

There is growing concern with head injuries leading to concussions in almost every sport, and soccer is no exception.  Players do not wear any formal protective clothing, except for shin guards and they must be worn as a rule in high school soccer.  There is even a rule on how high the guard can be placed above the ankle.  We at DS have witnessed head injuries on the soccer field, and the current United States-based data show that the majority of head related injuries in soccer come from collisions with other soccer players.  


Still, the ball is headed by players and since the ball in typical high school soccer is airborne a large percentage of playing time, heading is the main method of playing the airborne ball.  Indeed, a significant number of goals in collegiate and professional soccer come off the player’s head.  Alan Shearer, a former superstar player in the Engish Football League, scored 49 (29%) of his 206 Newcastle goals with his head.  In the English Premier League, some teams concede up to 33% of goals against as headers.  Abby Wambach scored the tying goal against Brazil in the 2011 FIFA cup with her head (67% of her goals in the tournament are headed balls, 40% for life-time goals). 


If done correctly and the player has strong neck muscles, there is no measurable impact on the brain.  What’s the big deal?  Why is this becoming a focus of conversation in athletics?


Concussions are increasing for children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by more than two times in a period of 10 years.  Girls’ soccer accounts for more team-sports concussions than boys’ soccer (12% versus 6.6%).  For comparison, girls’ basketball causes 7%.  Is the soccer ball causing the concussive injuries? Nope. “ ...damage is done mostly by collisions with other players...” (Kluger, 2011).


The physics of concussion tell us that the brain reacts to momentum changes and crashes into our skull and compresses. This can lead to cellular damage and inflammation. Swelling develops and there is not much room in our heads to accommodate this expansion.  Hence, when we know there is a trauma, players must receive immediate care.  More importantly, repetitive injury must be avoided in the young and developing brain.  Coaches need to pull athletes from play in order to avoid second-impact syndrome—another blow to the head leading to a fatal brain bleed.


As of last year, athletes at DS receive a test called ImPACT (for Immediate Post-Concussive Assessment and Cognitive Testing) to measure base-line cognitive skills.  We can use this data to assess the recovery of athletes post-concussion.

 

There has been research in treating the effects of concussions, and one that has gained attention is the inclusion of more of a specific fatty acid in the diet.  Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a specific type of omega 3 fatty acid that has a number of healthy benefits, some based on its natural anti-inflammatory properties.  It is an essential fatty acid that we need to consume in our diets, and some believe it can aid recovery from concussions 

(http://www.mdnews.com/news/2011_04/national_apr11_new-frontiers-in-concussion-care). 


As parents, you can become more aware of the dangers of concussions and the need for proper recovery times by visiting the CDC website and looking for a program called Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports (http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html).


From a coaching perspective, the emphasis made here and in other publications is to remove players from the field if they receive injury to the head and then to allow extended recovery times.  

 


References 


1. Kluger, Jeffrey, 2011. Headbanger Nation. Concussions are clobbering U.S. kids. Here’s why.  Time 42-49.
2. Internet: goal scoring data for players and teams.
3. http://www.coachesinfo.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=367:heading-article&catid=101:general-articles&Itemid=188




Thursday, June 21

 Topic III.  Return to play after injury

Athletes have a strong desire to get back in the game before they are fully-recovered from an injury.  This is a great quality that defines a determined and passionate player. However, there is a level of caution required to prevent re-injury, and it is emphasized here. 

Players on our team endured the pain of several sprained ankles last year. In fact, two starters were on the injured reserve list and did not play for over 3 weeks, because of this particular injury.  Another player experienced knee pain and missed multiple games.  Thankfully, nothing any more serious than these injuries were documented. 


Based on what has been observed during the past three years coaching GVSO, it is necessary to review the procedure that injured DS players must follow. Once a player is injured, they are instructed to report the injury to our athletic trainer, Derek Lautieri.  It is mandatory that we have a record of who gets injured and the nature of the injury.  From this point, the athlete can rehabilitate with the guidance of our trainer.  In some instances, injured athletes choose to see an orthopedic specialist and obtain a prescription to see a physical therapist.  In this case, the player cannot return to  the sports venue until the school receives written permission from their doctor to release them from their care.  


Despite physical rehabilitation that involves sport specific action and stationary biking to support endurance building, the athlete has been out of training for an extended time and their level of endurance and speed of play has been compromised.  It is for this reason, that we require at least one or two full practice sessions with the team before the rehabilitated player is allowed to play in a game.

 

It is hoped that the contents of this document offer some guidance as to how the school, the physical training office and the coaching staff handle the rehabilitation and the return to game of an injured athlete.