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.
When coaching kids soccer, one quickly realizes how it can be difficult, because young soccer players seem to always be wandering in a different direction! How can a coach keep his/her players’ attentions and keep control of their practices? By mixing up activities and using as many senses as possible, a coach can give players an outlet for their energy while still teaching them. By keeping lessons short and focused, a coach also encourages players to pay attention before being let loose.
Mix it Up In my youth coaching career I have seen coaches be all fired up and full of creativity after they first get their coaching licenses but soon they fall pray to the weekly training boredom blues. A lot of coaches show up at the field, sometimes late because of their daily routines, not properly prepared with a coaching session plan for the day. They try to wing a training session and at times forget that their key subjects are youth soccer players that they might have had a long day at school and might want a bit of release of energy in the soccer pitch. Coaching kids soccer requires one to be innovative and always engaging and mostly to be always using their creativity and imagination. Kids do not stay focused for long, so coaches must constantly invent new ideas, games and techniques for keeping their young soccer players excited about participating in soccer and learning. To do this, I personally have had plenty of wacky, creative ideas from time to time…crazy hat day, golf soccer, hula soccer, for the younger soccer players, daily player game creation and favorite exercise, or player run training session for the older ones…
Keep it Short Coaches do not have much time with youth soccer players before their minds will begin to wander. To stretch out this time and get more undivided attention from young soccer players, coaches should work to involve players by asking them questions, asking them to repeat things just said, summarizing important lessons, and making the session interactive.
Because of short attention spans, coaches should keep lessons concise and very focused. By encouraging players to pay attention to one lesson at a time, broken up by periods of physical activity and reviews of material covered earlier in the practice, coaches lengthen the amount of serious time they have with young athletes.
Increase Interactivity When Coaching Kids Soccer Youth soccer players today are not as able to sit and absorb information as previous generations because of the readily available media streams. They are now able to process multiple inputs at once and often get bored or restless if they are simply listening to someone talk at them. To reach young soccer players on their level, I incorporate videotaping of training sessions, with the aid of a parent and then email all kids that training session with comments and remarks. Kids love to watch themselves and realize much better what the coach was talking about when they see themselves participate in that particular training session. Skills that were explained or mistakes and adjustments that were discussed in a training session, all of sudden become understood by watching the video playback.
Coaches should remember that any internet usage by young players needs to be heavily monitored by responsible adults to prevent athletes from wandering to inappropriate sites or accessing unapproved material.
Those coaching kids soccer can also provide written material or charts for older athletes who can read and write. Charts could contain a list of what skills have been taught, when they were first introduced, and the coach’s assessment of how well the athletes perform that skill. For written material, coaches can pass out brief instructions about skills or a one-page review of what has been taught to that point in the season.
The use of different soccer aids that are fun and engaging is another great way to teach and improve their skills while holding their attention and always have them ask for more.
Lastly one of my least favorite methods of training is “LAPS”. I see kids running laps, either for warm up or cool down or for punishment. My philosophy is that soccer is a game or quick short sprints. Running nonstop for a prolonged period of time is called cross-country or long distance running. A soccer player’s heartbeat is different from the one of the long distance runner. Why not develop and strengthen that heartbeat with proper sport appropriate exercises. I have found some fun engaging videos of great ideas on these sites:
www.futworkz.com - www.soccertoplay.com
As I write this, I am still bathing in the joyful accomplishment feeling from the performance of my new,
only months put together U9 girls team in yesterday’s 14 team scrimmage fest. Let me point out
that all teams in the scrimmage fest were 2 to 4 flights higher than us but we played teams that were
2 and 3 flights higher as the 4th flight were high level premier teams. I felt that my girls could compete
with teams 2-3 flights higher and they proved it. We did not win any games, nor was I expecting to win
any. My goal was to introduce them to more serious challenging competition and see how they would
handle it. They were competitive in all games, scores were very close and there were two reasons why
we lost the games.
1st Physicality – I explained to them that we can play against bigger faster kids by mastering our
fundamentals, passing and moving without the ball and letting the other team do all the running. Even
though teams are in higher flights does not always mean they are better.
Most youth level teams play for today, kick and run, more physical style of football. That will earn them
results "today" and get them in higher flights, but as the development goes "tomorrow" will come and those same teams will find themselves losing to the teams they used to beat as those teams have developed their fundamentals, touches on the ball and movement without the ball. So we play for "tomorrow".
2nd The “BUTT DRAGGING” Phase of the game caught up with us. In today’s pro level football
matches there are more goals scored in the last couple of minutes and extra time than the entire game.
That is also true for most youth games if the teams are not as fit as their opponent. Lack of stamina leaves the kids wondering what happen to their skill level. The fatigue of a less fit team is shown as their quality of play starts to fall off and their decision making falters. Technique goes out of the window as the athlete is struggling for oxygen after an intense run or a series of moves. The advantage in those late minutes swings to the opponent. When a coach helps a player improve their technical skills while on the verge of exhaustion will pay huge dividends at those late minutes with the game on the line.
We have been working on those two points, fundamentals as well as our stamina, and have been making huge improvements. Although we have not reached our goal yet working with Futpro and the Futwork Training System has most definitely put us on the path of competing with higher level teams. A few months ago when this team was put together we had a hard time competing with a U8 higher level team. Since we started to use Futpro and Futworks I can see the fundamentals, footwork, agility and stamina improving. Best of all my girls love to train and the "boredom blues" have gone away. Going from U8 to U9 higher level competition is leap of development.
Watch videos here --->http://www.soccertoplay.com/futworks.html