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A Letter From Our President, Libby Rappolt

What brought you to the San Francisco Vikings?

The reason I came to the San Francisco Vikings Soccer Club was the same as so many parents; I had a high energy 4 year old, that wanted to have a similar soccer team experience that his parents were experiencing. We had weekend team games, and team uniforms, and tournaments, and he wanted his own team. Pierre said to me “Mom, when can I have my own team?” so of course I went looking.

Google didn’t exist at that time, so I had to use the phone book to look up SOCCER, and I found the SF Vikings Club and drove over to the office. I was shocked to be told that the entry age for children was 7 years old. I volunteered on the spot to start a program for the kindergarten age children, and that was the start of the microsoccer program and a volunteer effort that I did not expect at that time would change my life.

I was so galvanized by the positive response that I saw from my friends who also had kindergarteners that wanted to start soccer, that I decide to devote my free time volunteering to create a soccer program that was designed for kids to have their first soccer experience. I am so grateful to Vikings for supporting that vision and being open to trying something new in the soccer programs that they offered.

What keeps me attracted to the Vikings, is the constant collaborative ideas that the coaches have for improving the learning efficiency of practices. It is a fun group of diverse people, who share a passion for coaching the beautiful game, and want to help kids increase their enjoyment of the sport. We examine our coaching techniques at practices and games and evolve them based on new idea of how children learn.

Although SF Vikings has a terrific tradition with youth soccer, having started a program in 1939, we do not coach the same way today. Tradition and Emulation are common methods of coaching, but SF Vikings tries to support modern ideas and concepts in learning.

Parents can help their children have a deeper, better quality experience not only in soccer, but also in schoolwork by embracing the new research into the optimal method in which skill acquisition occurs.

Coaches talk about the 4 Pillars of Performance: Technical. Tactical. Physical & Psychological. The longer that I coach, the more I am convinced that the Psychological component is the most important of the pillars. I used to think that the psychological component was about giving my players confidence, because a confident player performs better than a player with low confidence. Now I have learned that the psychological component is interwoven with Resilience, which means embracing Desirable Difficulties. It is good when things are hard, and we can work to figure out how to solve problems.

I think most people have heard that the research by Stanford professor, Dr Carol Dwek, demonstrates that children are more motivated to try something difficult and expand their skill set when they are praised for attempting the challenge, as opposed to being told how talented/skillful/smart they are. The children do not want to risk losing that label, so they avoid their non-preferred foot; do not attempt taking a shot they might miss; for example. We try to praise the effort to use the non-preferred foot; to attempt the shot on goal (even though it was not successful).

Motor Learning has a mental component in the mastery. If the athlete thinks about the physical movement, then often they are hindered (“choking” on remembering to turn out the ankle, swing the leg from the hip, follow through with leg swing, step forward to gain power) but when the athlete concentrated on the outcome (completing the pass) then there was “FLOW” and greater success.

I think that Vikings embraces Passion and Perseverance for long term goals, and those goals include mastery of the basic soccer skills of dribbling, passing, tackling, shooting and goalkeeping. What I like about Vikings, is that the club encourages the player NOT to specialize, but to first learn all components of the game and then choose a favorite position after experiencing all facets. If a player has early specialization in defending, then he will not learn to embrace dribbling, because that is a risky choice to take on an opponent in front of your goal. A player who has only experienced the forward position never has the pressure to win a tackle to prevent a goal. A player who has never been the goalkeeper doesn’t experience the feeling that everyone else makes mistakes or giveaways on the field, but a goalkeeper’s mistake is usually punished with a goal for the opponent.

If I were to chose 3 words to describe the SF Vikings Club, I would choose Grit, Curiosity and Character.

Grit because we work hard and embrace the difficult path for long term success.

Curiosity because we are always looking how we can be better.

Character because we value integrity and relationships.

I try to integrate those qualities in the programs I oversee, and the practices I design for the teams that I coach. I am grateful to the Vikings Board for supporting those qualities.

Sincerely,

Libby Rappolt