The Argentineans do it correctly: It's kind of a shame that youth soccer has to be so money-driven ("Soccer Bomb," John Dickerson, December 18).
I've read lately that the English Football Association has started not keeping score at youth games, so the kids and their parents can focus on sharpening skills and keeping a love for playing.
Also, the big Argentine club Boca Juniors doesn't keep track of trophies won by its youth teams. The club's hall of fame is what matters. That is, the players graduate to the first team and many, indeed, go on to play for Argentina's national team.
It's a shame we can't be like that.
Tom Genualdi, Scottsdale
Let's find the right balance: The local soccer community would benefit from integrating the philosophy of the Positive Coaching Alliance (www.positivecoach.org) into its core programs (club, high school).
This organization promotes the concept of a "double-goal coach." To directly quote from its Web site: "A double coach strives to win, and, more importantly, uses sports to teach life lessons through positive coaching."
In fact, the soccer community may look to the Arizona lacrosse scene for such efforts at improving coaching philosophies and, by extension, finding balance in a sport's winning tradition.
The Arizona Youth Lacrosse League (www.azlax.com) — made up of more than 40 high school lacrosse boys teams (varsity and JV), and 22 junior high teams — has mandated that all head coaches for the 2009 season become double-goal-certified through the Positive Coaching Alliance.
With these coaching philosophies in place, a club's culture will still embrace a competitiveness to win, but no longer will it have a win-at-all costs focus.
Lacrosse, like soccer, may offer a few elite players a chance at college scholarships (typically a partial ride), but ultimately the student-athlete has to find satisfaction and reward in academic pursuits
That is, the prospects of becoming a professional lacrosse athlete are remote (and professional lacrosse is far less lucrative than pro soccer), so one's academic achievements will more likely be a route to career success.
J. Fishman, Phoenix
Coaches like kids with good grades: For the record, it appears that the author has misunderstood my comments about my daughter's scholarship.
She did receive athletic scholarships (in addition to her academic scholarships) in both her freshman and sophomore years at college — they were not just full scholarships.
The maximum number of scholarships (as I understand the rules) for a women's D-1 soccer program is 12, and most programs carry at least 20 girls. So unless your kid is a superstar, a four-year full-ride soccer scholarship isn't likely.
That's why I have always preached to other parents the importance of grades. Coaches like kids who get good grades, and some schools provide very generous academic scholarships that supplement athletic scholarships nicely.
Also, the money I spent for club soccer was for four years, not three, as was stated.
As far as Coach Les Armstrong's saying he would've preferred that parents confront him personally about his foul mouth . . . Unfortunately, he made it painfully clear that he didn't want to be bothered by parents. I think this was a mistake, as it allowed anger to fester with parents.
The whole situation's unfortunate because Les was really able to get his players to play at a higher level. He just didn't seem to understand the need to take care of his customers — the parents of the players.
Although I didn't agree with all of Les' coaching methods, I do hope he figures it out because he really does have a lot to offer in preparing kids to play college soccer.
Jim Dougher, Scottsdale
Overtraining is clearly a problem: As a preface, I'm totally in favor and support our children participating in athletics and do believe children who excel at whatever sport should have elite teams to play for. I'm also a member of the National Youth Sports Coaches Association.
However, what kind of idiot believes there's no such thing as overtraining?! There's a huge amount of scientific research in this area, much of it paid for by people who've invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the salaries of professional athletes.
It seems as though Les Armstrong feels he has a better understanding of this than someone such as Dr. Phil Maffetone, who writes: "Overtraining comes with many potential structural, chemical, and mental problems."
Why in hell we let egotistical idiots like Armstrong control the lives of children is beyond me. You can bet that for every athlete who gets a scholarship, there are others who've been warped by a dictatorial coach.
Rich Williams, Surprise
A Les Armstrong fan speaks up: It appears that you've taken many comments and, from them, made many false interpretations. I've known Les Armstrong for about 12 years and was a colleague for eight of them.
Les took a recreational soccer club from anonymity to national prowess. It doesn't happen merely by having an accent and bluffing your way. It takes incredible dedication, tremendous knowledge, and a culture of discipline, organization, and excellence.
True, there will be some who disagree or dislike some teaching and coaching methods, but there will be many who're extremely grateful for their experience and the expertise that their children were able to gather.
Les Armstrong is, without a doubt, one of the most knowledgeable soccer coaches in the country, and one who's enabled many young people to live out their dreams. His vision for the program at Sereno created immense success for both individuals and teams.
You should probably do some research and print another article citing all the many positives that parents, players, coaches, and administrators have to say about Les Armstrong and the Sereno program he created and guided for years.
I personally would like to thank Les for guiding my coaching career in the years I worked with him. Undoubtedly, the experience and information that I (as well as the many young people he worked with) was able to gather from Les will continue to be tremendously valuable.
I believe my comments will be echoed by many.
Steve Cooke, Las Vegas