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
Inspiration in sports and life come from practically anywhere and anyone. The one thing about sports is that it can provide life lessons that will be treasured forever. Being inspired helps all humans achieve things that may not have been possible without that inspiration. SOCCERKILLZ has always prided itself with providing not just soccer training but also character building training. As the owner of SOCCERSKILLZ SPORTS I always find inspirations from many different things and situations and I continually try to learn and grow from them. As everyone, sometimes life may get in the way of keeping up with those inspiration lessons but I try to get on track as soon as possible. Players can inspire a coach just as much as a coach can inspire players. Below is video about being inspired.
As the sponsor of Central Jersey Futsal, SOCCERSKILLZ has teams playing in the Central Jersey Futsal based league, that train in a futsal environment. Recently one of those SOCCERSKILLZ trained teams played an outdoor game and the referee was an academy coach who from time to time referees this SOCCERSKILLZ trained team. After the game was over the referee asked what type of activities does the team train with as he said the team's passing not only has improved drastically but they can possess the ball at will. He went on to comment that if his academy team, same age as the SOCCERSKILLZ trained team, could pass the ball and possess the ball the same way the SOCCERSKILLZ trained team could, they would be unstoppable. By the way, his academy team is a highly ranked team in the state of New Jersey. He said although they win plenty of games and get positive results they are like robots. They do not possess much creativity and they rely mostly on their physicality to win 1v1 battles, possess the ball and create scoring opportunities.
Well, now you may ask...
What is wrong with that? They are winning battles possess the ball and create scoring opportunities. Isn't that the object of the game? To non-soccer people yes... To people who know and understand the sport probably not. First of all, if the academy team plays against another team that has the same physicality, player for player and skill set, and if the other team can pass the ball better is more creative and can understands how to move off the ball create space with passing to exploit lanes chances are they will win the game. The physical game only wins if a team is superior to another team, and we see a lot of this in youth soccer. But if the physicality is a non-factor, the skill set is equal, now other things come to play, like player thinking, ball movement, on and off the ball, creativity, creating lanes, exploiting space, taking advantage of miss matches and so many other variables. Physicality only wins games if the other team is less physical and does not have any other qualities as mentioned previously. At the youth level physical teams can get away with just that. As the players get older and play for better teams mostly all players have physicality and skills, or if they do not have all the other qualities discussed earlier. Therefore, teaching the game from just a physical aspect does not serve players in the long term.
So, my answer to the ref./academy coach was: What you see is a product of many years of teaching them passing and moving, playing in a small sided environment, learning to develop not only individual skills but team skills. Learning how to be creative and allowing them to be creative. We do not sit on the sidelines constantly barking directions. We are not developing robots but free-thinking soccer players. Futsal has a lot to do with this kind of development. It's a fast pace game which does not allow physicality. A player must be sound with their individual skills, be able to think fast and always move. It's a 5v5 game that all players must move, no real set positions other than the keeper who can also play as a field player. Creativity is at an all-time high in futsal. Coaching from the sideline is very difficult as the game is so fast, by the time a coach blurs an instruction the play is already over, therefore a player must think for themselves and must think fast. Futsal is also played on hard surfaces as opposed that of slower turf surfaces making the game even faster.
Being able to play a "Barcelona" style of game as we teach at SOCCERSKILLZ futsal and soccer training is a long-term development method, but it provides solid results as opposed to quick physicality methods that although provide immediate results fail in the long run.
To get a firsthand idea of how the SOCCERSKILLZ futsal training in New Jersey works check out our programs and come for a free training session.
Quality trainers come in all ages and sizes. Erica Skroski and Madison Tiernan are quality because they bring a lot of characteristics younger players can relate to. The fact that they are in their prime of their professional careers and on top of their game is a quick draw as younger players see them play on Saturdays at the stadium and then train with them on Mondays & Wednesdays. It's a GREAT relationship as now younger players have direct access to pro players and can see that they are everyday players just like them.
They can see that by working hard maybe one day they can be in Erica's and Madison's shoes. They can see the quality in their words and actions. They go home and pretend they are them on Saturday being introduced at games or signing autographs after the games. They pretend they are making soccer moves or scoring goals. Then during #SOCCERSKILLZ Summer Development Soccer Training they try to show them those moves and how they can be just like them. It is something that youth soccer needs more of. Interaction between pros and youth players. It can promote so many qualities youth players need.
It's TRUE pleasure to have them train with #soccerskillz summer development soccer training.