Social media is a phenomenon that has taken over everyone's lives. It has been used for a lot of great things but it has also been used for a lot of bad things. In the old days we did not document every single minute of our lives as we do now. And that is fine if you are just documenting your life. But in today's society others are documenting your life and sometimes without even you knowing about it. The worst part is that you must always be aware of your surroundings and always do the right thing so you do not get caught in bad situations where someone may document them through social media.
Student athletes have even more to fear as they must live by the university's code of conduct they must not put themselves in situations that can harm them. If the school code of conduct says no drinking on campus do not get caught drinking a beer and then take a selfie with your buddies. That selfie will wind up on social media by someone posting it and coming back to the university to harm you, maybe get you kicked off the team or even campus. Athletes have worked so hard to earn that scholarship and play on a university team. Don't let a foolish moment ruin your college experience.
Who knows maybe social media will force us to better behave and make us more responsible or completely destroy our lives.
US Soccer is making changes to help the beautiful game, soccer, keep up with the rest of the world and hope to compete with other countries in producing top level soccer players. One of the things most needed in American soccer is more free play. In every top player producing country kids have a lot more free play opportunities and are encourage more to just go out and play. No structure, no coaching, no adult supervision. Just play.
U.S. Soccer has launched Grassroots initiatives to come online through the launch of the in-person and online Grassroots coaching courses, a critical concept that all Grassroots coaches will learn about is Play-Practice-Play. Researched and developed by technical leaders across the domestic Grassroots landscape, Play-Practice-Play is the optimal manner to structure a practice session for youth players, as it utilizes best practices for the learning and application of game-like scenarios.
WHAT IS PLAY-PRACTICE-PLAY?
Play-Practice-Play is a Grassroots developed philosophy designed around a player-centered approach to coaching. Taking a player centered approach places the needs and motivations of the player at the forefront of a coach’s approach to coaching his or her players. The concept of Play-Practice-Play is to allow young players to experience the game and game-like situations as much as possible. This approach differs from traditional practices that may have children standing in lines, running laps and participating in drills that don’t resemble the game of soccer. We as coaches here have always implemented a curriculum that started training sessions with rondos or small sided games followed by technical or tactical training and finishing with games. This is not being rolled out by US Soccer and mandated in their grassroots training for coaches.
Free play can be implemented and conducted in many other ways, not just during training. America must get away from so much structured, organized coach based training and have more player based free play. Parents must understand and accept the fact that if they have played soccer when they were younger things have changed. Our culture has changed. The evolution of technology has seriously changed the way kids play today. Kids do not go out on their own search for their friends and just play. The dangers of our society have made parents be more weary of their kids going out playing unsupervised. Most parents grew up going to parks or school yards with a ball and a bunch of their friends and just play. That concept is not seen as much any more. We need to recreate the school yard, no adult supervision scenario. Parents should not expect just drills and coaching from training sessions. In fact they should look for more free play from their kids' coaches. Be flexible and willing to accept new training methods. For those that do not know the sport do not allow your perception to overtake what is right or what is recommended by experts.
Encourage more free play
So here we are April 1st and the emails for next fall tryouts have began. Every paying organization is claiming to have the best scenario for your young soccer player and his/her path to a college scholarship. As long as you trust them with your soccer player and write the check they will make your soccer player's dreams and off course yours, that is of a free college education a reality. Some organizations are massive and claim to be great fit because of their size and contacts others are medium size and off course there are the smaller ones. But not everything is as it appears to be. Families must do their research and come up with what is best for them which is no easy task. New Jersey Soccer Tryouts can be very strenuous and produce all kinds of results which sometimes are not realized till the families are in those organizations and find out first hand the consequences of their decisions. In today's soccer market which is full of options we are happy to be founding members of a new amazing program that we can not wait to show. It fuzes soccer and futsal in a year round curriculum. Most do not understand the magnitude of this because as we said before things are not always as they appear to be until we really take the time to review and understand them. We urge you to watch the entire video below and hope you see exactly what we mean.
Before each athletic competition most people will wish the athletes “good luck”. I ask why?
Is it really about luck? Are there variables that are beyond the athlete’s control and left to luck?
When you buy a lottery ticket you have no control of the outcome. There is no preparation that will be able to change your odds at winning. That is my definition of luck. Not being able to prepare to change or influence the chances of altering an outcome. So how is luck going to change an athletic competition? Is it a lucky bounce of the ball? A lucky shot? A lucky rebound? All these things mentioned can be actually prevented. If a player watches the ball has proper body shape and is actively engaged in the game, not just being in the game, he will be prepared to handle a crazy bounce of the ball therefore not making it a “lucky bounce of the ball”. If he marks properly, hustles and defends with vigor a shot will not be allowed. If a shot is not allowed there will be no chance of a rebound. Does this make sense? A player takes a toe shot or just miss kicks the ball from 25 yards out of the goal, no one is expecting that shot, the wind takes it and before you know it is in the back of the net. Coach yells “unlucky”, let’s get it back”. Was it really unlucky? Let’s examine the situation. First of all if the player who miskicked the ball was actively tracked and marked in a reasonable amount of time and had not been given the time to just kick the ball the miss kicked shot would have never happened. Secondly if all the players including the goalkeeper were always ready to expect the unexpected by utilizing their agility and reaction skills the ball would have never sailed into the goal. Do you see the point here?
So when does all this preparation start? Is it after the warm up as soon as the referee blows the whistle for the game to begin? I think not. Preparation starts at training, at home, in the back yard, every time a player has a ball, every time a player watches a game every time a player thinks about the sport. Now we cannot expect most youth players to feel like this about the game in the early years with the few exceptions but we can teach them about it. We can teach them about effort, working hard and not just going through the motions. But first we have to get them to fall in love with the game. Human nature dictates that most people will give it their all if they love something. It is no different here, if they love it they will try harder.
“Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Is Not Working Hard”
By the way most people’s definition of talent is a player’s skill ability. My definition of talent is a player’s total outlook of the game. Does he love the game, is he able to read the game, does he always give 100% effort, always puts himself in a situation to make the best possible play as well as make the players around him better, and lastly how are his skills? Yes skills are last in my book. I have met and played against some great skilled players. But that’s all they were; great with the ball at their feet. They only performed when the ball was given to them at their feet. They never worked to get to the ball or put themselves in a good situation to receive the ball. They never looked to share the ball or make the players around them better, it was always about them. They had no team vision and could not read the game. But they had great ball skills. That is every knowledgeable coach’s nightmare “a selfish player”. Those players never worked hard and always lost to hard work from their opponents, those players never prepared themselves in training or elsewhere. They only depended on their ball skills.
Some players are great athletes, they have great speed, size and mental ability. They have been given some great tools to begin with, but it’s what they do with those tools that is important. It is not luck that will make them better but the love for the game, hard work and determination.
Please do not misunderstand me here; Fundamentals are the basis of all, no matter what you do, in sport and in life. One must have sound fundamentals and always work on those fundamentals, but the key here is the word “work” not luck. They have to put in the effort and commitment to get better at it and then maintain it.
Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Is Not Working Hard, not Luck.
Learning to prepare yourself for any situation, being willing to commit to work hard and will give the best chance at being successful. One does not have to love the hard work but he must crave the end result of success.
It may sound like an easy question and depending on who you ask you will get a different reply. But think this for a minute; If you like to be told what to do all the time you will never grow and develop in anything that you attempt. If you are spoon fed information and decisions all the time your brain will never learn to think on its own, become lazy and actually become counterproductive regressing in its learning and developing.
Well, at any given day on any given youth soccer field that is what’s going on. Every game has 16 or 22 players on the field, (depending if you are playing small or large side), and tens or hundreds coaches/parents around the field screaming directions and what to do at every moment of the game to the players. I realize that everyone wants the best for the players and truly want to help them but in actuality they are doing just harm to them. There are coaches on the sidelines that give instructions to the players and it’s the players’ job to execute them. Furthermore often the directions that come from all the parent/coaches are inaccurate. The team coach has given certain directions that apply to a strategy, plan, development that the team is using and the parent/coach is yelling something totally different. The player gets confused, does not want to make either coach upset, does not learn how to make his own decisions, his play ability slowly declines while his frustration increases. A player just kicks the ball to nowhere and the parent/coach cheers: “Great kick awesome job”. Maybe the situation didn’t not warrant a kick to nowhere at that particular moment of the game. Maybe the player needed to maintain control of the ball and keep possession instead of just kicking it away. Knowing how to cheer and when to cheer is another way of supporting the players and it comes from properly learning and understanding the game.
The best part about the game of soccer is that it is a “PLAYER’S GAME”. It is a game where the best players make up their own minds by reading the game and constantly adjusting to situations. The fastest a player can read the game, think, prepare and adjust to situations the better he will be. The players learn from making both good and bad choices.
“SILENT PLAY/” is a way that SoccerSkillz Training helps the players accomplish their development. After an instructional training session players will be asked to play in small sided games, varying from 3v3, 5v5 or 8v8, where they will have to make up their own team shape, line up and substitutions. They run the teams as if they are in the school playground with no adult supervision. You will be amazed at how much more they communicate, help and create situations.
As coaches, parents and spectators, we can help the players more by giving them a chance to play on their own and make their own decisions. There is a right time for teaching a better way and a right time to enjoy watching them play.
Developing a soccer team into a quality squad is a lengthy and intricate process for both players and coaches. With proper training, motivation goal setting from coaches and players, a team can reach and surpass their goals and aspirations. Quality teams are formed over years of training with one another, having an excellent coach, and parents that recognize the value of sticking with their team instead of bouncing around from team to team always looking to win because they think their child is the best player on the team and he/she should be playing with the best players can make the difference on the field.
STOP THE MADNESS
wins DO NOT measure development.
Yes, every team starts the game with the objective to win it. But at what cost? Many premier level teams are winning because they are stocked with big, physical kids that can run fast. They push and shove their way up and down the field. When they score it is usually done by individual efforts, shooting the ball directly at the keeper who miss handles it because of the pace of the shot, or the shooter just toes the ball in the net.
These are not quality wins.
What makes a quality win is when the entire team contributes to the goal, the player who scores places the ball instead of just shooting at the keeper, yes that is called finishing, and the shooter strikes the ball with proper fundamentals instead of just toeing the ball. It is extremely important to understand what your duty is as a player, coach and parent on that team. A coach has to coach according to the skill level of the athletes on the team. The progression and development of the team should be the focus. Look at where the team is and try to determine where they should be at the end of the season. It takes much more than a great coach to get to the winner’s circle and know that you have developed doing it.
The members of each successful team, players, coaches and parents, thrive on teamwork, dedication, hard work, and something that most coaches forget: the element of fun.
The SoccerSkillz Training School is dedicated to developing and progressing student athletes as individuals in a team setting that will excel over the long term with proper skills, team oriented mentality and without breaking the pocketbook.
Do the players know the difference and if so, can they read the game to be able to make quick adjustments and decisions?
As a player, student and coach of the game I have been taught to appreciate ball control and possession. I am a product of being able to read the game at all times, make adjustments and quick decisions. Having and maintaining possession is a key element to the game. Without possession of the ball a team cannot apply the principles of attack. They cannot penetrate a defense and eventually score.
How much possession is enough, what makes an effective possession from an ineffective one and how can we make sure our players understand the difference?
We all know Barcelona are the masters of the possession game but we can't all play like Barcelona because we may not have the skill set to do so.
If Barcelona are the masters of possession why has the team conceded loses to Milan, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and the unforgettable disaster to Borussia Dortmund in 2013 Champions League semis? Is it because they have fallen so in love with their own style of possession game that they do not make proper adjustments when needed?
Let’s take a step back and first analyze what do we need to maintain possession. In my experience before we even attempt to teach possession a team needs to have sound fundaments. Players need to be able to trap the ball, control the ball and pass the ball. If players cannot do those things, there is no way they will be able to maintain possession. At SoccerSkillz FUNdamentals are part of every day training. When a player trains in our system foot skills have to become second nature, so that a player develops the confidence to be able to receive, control, pass or take on another player 1v1.
So once we have developed the individual player’s skill set then we need to move forward and work on the concept of possession, passing the ball, moving without the ball and offering support to the player with the ball. This is something that takes time and patience; as players now need to read the game, make adjustments and decisions. As they get better at it the possession touches and time of possession increase to the point a team can move up and down the field with ease. As the team reaches that goal of mastering possession now it faces a new problem. POSSESSION OVERKILL. That is what happens when the team passes for the sake of passing but really is not moving towards the other goal, remember the reason why we want to keep possession is so at the right time we can penetrate the defense and possibly score a goal. Yes, the goal was to teach our team how to keep possession but once that is mastered the team must be able to read the game and know when to pass, where to pass, how much to pass. If a player has the right opportunity to take on a defender one v one and thinks he can beat that defender then by all means he should do that. If the ball is passed to a player and the player has read the game quick enough and accurately and can make a one touch through pass to penetrate through the defense instead of just passing the ball back to a teammate that is great adjustment and decision. If the ball comes to a player and he is in a good position, has the right angle, and sees an opening to take a shot instead of passing the ball again that is a great adjustment and decision. How about the fact that slow passing, predictable passing or just too much passing helps the other team set up defensively and takes the element of surprise away from your side. The space where a team passes is another consideration. With TIMELY passing we want our team to spread out the other team so it can make it easier for our team to penetrate. A lot of times teams fall victims of small untimely passes which although it gives the illusion that our team is doing great, in reality it helps the other team set up defensively and crowd the middle of the field or their penalty box making it difficult for our team to penetrate. As our team may push all players up to try and break this massive crowd up we leave ourselves vulnerable to counter attacks and quick goals.
All these things happened to Barcelona, as they fell in love with their possession style of play and over passed at times, did not take shots when it was the best option, let the other teams counter attack them with quick through passes and timely finishing.
Being able to balance the passing possession game with quick proper read of the game and appropriate correct decisions is the magic of the game in my opinion. Teams that can master a blend of proper passing possessions, quick 1v1s, through passes, long balls and timely shooting are teams that will be able to see positive results.
Is the measure of development in youth sports how many games you have won? Why is that a lot of parents and coaches have become accustomed answering this question: "How did you guys do?" with this answer: "Oh, we won!". I always tell them I did not ask you if you won or lost but how did you do. How did your player play, how did your team play. Did they use their fundamental skills, where they able to read the game, make correct decisions or execute properly. Did they play as a team, did they help each other, encourage and motivate each other. DID THEY HAVE FUN?
I see all the time premier level teams that claim how great they are and how they never lose, just not understand the game of soccer and their coach has gotten the parents so into winning that they are clueless about how under skilled their children are. Yes I said clueless because either the coach is not educated about development or has just forgotten about development. I see coaches just pick the biggest and fastest kids on their teams and then proceed to encourage them to just kick the ball as hard as they can up the field, run after it, bump, push and shove to get it and try to toe it into the goal under any cost. How about this one: As soon as the team recovers the ball the coach screams and yells for everyone to pass the ball to one player on the team that has a bit of skill. EVERY SINGLE TIME pass the ball to that player. I do not know about you, but last time I checked soccer has eleven players and they are all supposed to play together in order to accomplish their task. What happens when that one player is sick or can not play? Parents that get it find themselves paying money to have their children play for academies with paid trainers so they can be developed the right way. Paid trainers do understand the difference between winning and developing a youth player.
Below is a great report I found by Ivan Kepcija & Prof. Craig Johnson that sheds a lot of truths to the right development of the youth soccer player. PLEASE PLEASE read the entire report and I am sure you will see what I am talking about!
Once you download and read the report you will have a better understanding what development is all about and how SoccerSkillz follows that philosophy in order to reach long term development, similar to the development European and South American countries have. Then sign up for a free training session so that you can experience first hand the philosophy and how it works.
Most parents and coaches think players come to the pitch simply because they want to win. In reality, this is the furthest thing in a player’s mind. Players want to play more often regardless of the result. For less able players, if this means playing in a losing
side, then many would rather do that than not play at all. Players play, coaches coach fans cheer! Simple isn’t it?
As a coach my philosophy is to give all players in the development years as close to equal playing time as possible. Off course there may be situations or instances that may not be possible but overall the playing time should be divided equally. Think about it; would you just show up in every game knowing you will be sitting on the bench? And please do not tell me that some players know their role and have accepted that they are support role players or are on a team for development purposes. At the youth development level there is also a social element to being part of a team. Players build bonds and relationships and feel like they are part of a group.
Research shows the focus should not be on whether you lose or win, but on positives.
Introducing a procedure that reduces the emphasis on losing or winning and focuses on activities to create more developmental fun activities while creating a learning environment for the players is essential and the positive results will follow.
I had a parent recently tell me after a training session that he liked the fact that I trained, build and developed for the future rather than the now. He meant that he liked the fact that the training sessions were designed for developing the player/goalkeeper skill set, awareness of game, solving situations and most of all having fun. He said that his son always looks forward to coming to training because number one he is always curious to see what the coach has planned for the training session, (keeping a session always fresh by doing different things keeps the player’s retention and focus), and likes the fact that the players play.
That is what the “street games” philosophy is all about that SoccerSkillz Training and Just4Keepers are implementing in their indoor training sessions. Players/keepers come together and after a topic specific warm up and technical period the players play 3v3 and build to 5v5. However the players make their own line ups, substitutions and run their teams as they see fit, without the coaches’ input. Coaches make coaching points during brakes. As coaches we like to watch players/keepers find their own solutions in the game. Just like kids do on the school playground without any grown-ups around. It is beautiful to watch games start at a chaotic state and eventually settle down with a well organized group helping each other and working together.