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Fundamental Soccer Blog


Diane Boettcher, Soccer Bon Vivant, shares her expert insights after reading, Inadvertently Failing Our Players – and Intentionally Supporting Our Players!

In much the same time and place as basketball, volleyball was invented in the United States. In the early 1900s, the Spalding sporting goods company came out with rule books, balls nets, and backyard sets doubling for badminton. The sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1964. From then until 1984 (the Los Angeles Olympics), Japan, the Soviets, Cuba, Brazil, and a few other countries ‘Ate Our Lunch’ in a sport we originated.

We were busy playing pattycake volleyball in the backyard and putting 9 kids on a side for participation purposes. The Japanese put two kids across the net from each other and taught them to dive laterally to dig a ball up and roll out safely into a Japanese Roll. In Brazil, kids took a quick 1-set and hammered the ball at net height. The Soviets taught blocking as a roof over the opponent’s set.

So, what are the lessons? If we try to teach kids with pattycake games, the result won’t be actual soccer. If we use too small a space, the result won’t be soccer fitness. If training group sizes are too many, the result won’t be soccer intelligence.

This author spent time at the national training facility in Holland for their international coaching school. During that time, we from the U.S. witnessed a lot of conditioned four vs. four games and the advice to “solve the problem.”  In other words, the game teaches.

Playing soccer in small groups with different ages teaches younger players better than Duck-Duck Goose, Sharks, Minnows, or Freeze Tag. Soccer itself is a FUN game and doesn’t need silly games as hooks to get kids interested in learning skills. Kids are also eager to get into the kind of game they see on television, unlike the lead-up activities. Kids in other countries play soccer with whatever space they have, using marker goals and the number of kids available, without regard for age grouping. Theirs is pure play without the need for preliminary activities.


One area where non-soccer games teach is locomotor skills- starting, stopping, turning, twisting, and running. Speed, tag, and dodging games build dynamic flexibility, balance, and explosive strength that keep players injury-free. Using them for warmups enhances the athleticism of soccer players. It gives the dynamic base for play both on and off the ball.

So, let’s leave the silly lead-up games for elementary physical education. Our youth players deserve a rich soccer experience so that up the competitive chain, tiny Central American countries won’t eat our lunch!

Diane Boettcher

Diane Boettcher is a Soccer Bon Vivant, Former Physical Educator in Elementary Grades, High School, College, and University. She is an Olympic Development Program coach with coaching licenses from the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), Holland (KNVB), and the English (FA).