World's Leading Grassroots Coach Stops by Coweta Based Connect Sports Program
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
Tom Byer is recognized by his football peers, the AFC, numerous national Soccer Federations, major sponsor brands, international media and the countless number of young students he has taught and inspired over the last 24 years, as the World's leading grassroots technical coach. So what was he doing in Atlanta recently visiting a Newnan based youth sports business?
Below: The HBO Documentary on Tom Byer
Tomsan, as he is known in Japan, was in the US to continue his work with the MLS club Houston Dynamo. Connect Sports Founder, Alan Ewing, met Byer in Los Angeles in 2017 at the NSCAA Soccer Convention and started learning and following Tom's teaching called "Soccer starts at Home". Earlier this year, Ewing invited Byer to visit a Connect Sports program that operates the Physical Education and after school program for children age 4 through 14. Tom took accepted the invite on August 16 and met with the staff for over 3 hours sharing information, advice and best practices. Ewing also introduced Byer to a number of youth educational programs including Foobaskill, Nerf Fortnite & Southern Futsal.
Tom has a huge following of coaches, educators and parents around the world. On social media he can be found @tomsan106. He followed up the visit by sharing his thoughts to all of his followers on Twitter.
"It was a very humbling experience to be able to learn, share ideas and get feedback from Tom. He is working with some of the biggest coaching organizations and programs in the world and he took time to support what we are doing here in South Atlanta." Ewing commented. "He had a lot of nice things to say about what are doing but also gave some invaluable guidance that will we use when we launch our new U4 - U8 programs at schools in Coweta, Fayette & Fulton Counties in the spring"
Connect will be launching some U4 to U8 soccer programs in schools in 2020 by partnering with and educating parents on the important role they play in their child's development and enjoyment from youth sports. The NY Times reported recently that there has been a 14% drop in players between the age of 6-12. Connect hope that by educating and sharing Tom's ideas, they can reverse this trend.
Tom's philosophy is to give parents a big responsibility in developing soccer players from a young age by:
getting children comfortable with having the ball at their feet as soon as possible
educating parents on the vital role they play in early childhood development
Help create a soccer culture in the United States like traditional American sports
Ewing is the former Director of Coaching Education for Southern Soccer Academy (2013-17) and the former Director of Coaching for the Cannons Soccer Club (2003-2009) and started the first soccer program for 3 year olds in south Atlanta back in 2005. He is now the founder and president of the Connect Sports Group, a company that overseas youth educational programs such as Connect Schools, Connect Sports & Southern Futsal with programs in Atlanta, Macon, Birmingham, AL and Knoxville, TN.
On Ewing's return from Los Angeles (and Tom's teaching) in Jan 2017, Ewing purchased 30 size one soccer balls to introduce SSA's U4 program as well as placing a ball in each room of the house for his kids to use as a 'toy'.
Using Tom's program, the guidance is simple 1) Discourage your child from just 'kicking the ball' and 2) Encourage them to explore the ball using all the surfaces of the foot.
Parents can show the children different moves and patterns but letting the child explore and get comfortable with the ball is the main priority. "US Soccer advises that we use a size 3 soccer ball from age 3 to age 8, which does not promote the most optimum learning experience for young children", said Ewing. "We had some parents (and kids) push back at first but it was obvious that the children had more success because there were able to move their feet around the ball easier prompting flexibility of the ankle".
The philosophy of using a small(er) ball has been widely promoted for many years by many soccer experts but Byer was the first to really add more details and guidance to the program. It also aligns with the education of soccer players using futsal, the only FIFA approved version of indoor soccer. Futsal uses a smaller, low bounce ball to promote technical development, faster ball movement and more touches on the ball. It is a sport that the majority of the world's best soccer players play, including current players Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Philippe Coutinho all the way back to legends like Zico & Pele.
Connect Sports can be found on social media @Conn3ctSports and program founder Alan Ewing's occasional posts or retweets can be found @alanewing. Alan is a certified PE, Health, Biology teacher national soccer coach instructor for United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA), State level instructor for United States Soccer Federation and a clinician for soccer coaches and PE teachers throughout the USA and Caribbean.