In his article, ‘CRITICAL ISSUES THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED,’ John Kennedy stated, “What quickly dawned on me: no one was playing soccer. I bet half of these kids had passed through local soccer leagues, but I didn’t find any playing in PE, at recess, or after school. Many kids play organized soccer, but far too few play anything resembling it, and very few ever play it — ON THEIR OWN!
I very strongly believe that we can get our children/players to Play On Their Own by considering the following points:
VIEW YOURSELF AS A COACH – PARENT/TEACHER.
When coaching soccer, be as helpful, understanding, and patient as you are when teaching your child life skills such as reading and writing.
- You may be these players’ first and most influential coach/teacher.
- The stimulation and support you provide can instill a desire to play soccer for years to come.
- Please avoid just getting them ready for the next opponent.
- Instead, prepare them for the lifelong enjoyment of playing the world’s most popular team game!
OUR PLAYERS ARE CHILDREN.
The dictionary says, “Children are young persons of either sex and at any age less than maturity; persons in the process of developing both physically and mentally.”
OUR PLAYERS ARE LEARNERS.
We need to teach our players to create their playing environment. That is, we need to teach in a manner so that they can learn to ‘Love to Play Soccer’ On Their Own!
It would help if you began by teaching players to create their environment, focusing on the 1 vs. 1 game.
- Please give them the tools (in practice) to experiment and practice their way to success.
- Teach them (in practice) to become independent and responsible for their personal development.
CHILDREN LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES
- Players learn from errors made – if the coaching is done verbally and physically correctly.
- Coaches must turn player errors into a favorable learning situation.
- The player’s self-confidence should not be affected by mistakes made when playing soccer.
- Note this comment about professional soccer, “it is a game played by 22 error-prone, overpaid juveniles…who are surrounded by 80,000 mistake-free, perfect, expert spectators.”
CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.
- When improvement does not occur immediately, the child will not sense failure unless you react adversely.
- Take the approach of ‘being a positive influence.”
- Reward players with a positive comment, a pat on the back, or simply a smile.
- But only when they serve one!
CHILDREN COME TO PRACTICE – TO PLAY!
Replace words such as ‘exercises and drills’ with the word GAME! For example, A player shooting on a goal protected by the keeper is playing a 1 vs. 1 GAME.
- Keep the ball and players active.
- Understand that there is soccer learning if the ball and the players move.
- Once either the ball or the players stop moving, learning stops!
DUPLICATE THE EXCITEMENT OF THE LEAGUE GAME IN PRACTICE.
- Minimize listening and lecture time.
- Maximize touches with the ball and playing time.
- This is accomplished by playing small-sided games that begin with mastering the 1 vs. 1 GAME.
Create an environment where players instinctively respond to ball possession.
- Our ball – Instinctively, becoming an Attacker.
- Their ball – Instinctively, becoming a Defender.
ALL GAMES MUST INCLUDE TWO GOALS.
- One goal to Attack
- One Goal to Defend.
(FUNdamental Tip) ALL GAMES MUST INCLUDE SHOTS ON GOAL.
- The habit of shooting is created using a ‘shooting zone’ in practice.
- Once inside this ‘marked area,’ the players must respond by ONE-TOUCHING the ball toward the goal.
- A sprint must follow the action of the ONE-TOUCH toward the goal –following the shot.
- Then, the players must instinctively retreat (backward) out of the zone to get back on defense.
- The habit of shooting and appropriately responding is created in practices where the game action is simulated.
CONSIDER THE PRESENT SKILL LEVEL OF YOUR PLAYERS.
- Gear games so that each player is challenged.
- If conditions are too simple, they will get bored.
- If conditions are too complex, they will be confused.
- Therefore, create an environment that forces the players to make decisions and learn independently.
- If they are technically weak, always have them work with a ball in a large area against a few opponents walking or jogging.
- If they are technically strong (few are), have them work with and without the ball in confined areas against more opponents — opponents who are playing at game speed.
- It would help if you allowed them to develop at their own pace (BE PATIENT).
DUPLICATE YOUR GAME BEHAVIOR IN PRACTICE.
Your function during practice is straightforward:
- Teach them to start the action, then Observe and Help only When Necessary.
- Coach one individual at a time, just like a substitute during the league game.
GIVE THEM A HOME-PLAY ASSIGNMENT
To develop the passion and FUNdamentals that confident players need.
- Play 1 vs. 1 soccer in your backyard, at school, in the park, and vs. parents or friends.
- Play 1 vs. 1 soccer whenever or wherever possible!
- It is wise to involve the parents to make sure the child/player does their homework..!
Preparing our children/players for the lifelong enjoyment of playing soccer … PRICELESS..!