An overwhelming number of readers have asked, “If Belgium can have such dramatic player development results by simply administering ‘7 Common Sense Principles’ – Why Can’t We?
Stan Baker, included in his brilliant book “Our Competition Is the World,” the following rational explanation:
“Developing a coaching philosophy is similar to developing a road map for traveling. Just as there are no two roads that follow the exact same path, no two coaching philosophies will ever be exactly alike. Coaching philosophies may take various forms, with each helping to reach the same destination. The importance a written philosophy of coaching plays in communicating a plan to all coaches cannot be overstated. It is more difficult to take a group where you want them to go without direction!”
Belgium Director of Coaching Education, Coach Kris Van Der Haegen, was aware of the importance in writing out a coaching philosophy. He created his ‘7 Common Sense Principles’, which have been credited in leading the Belgium National Team to the #1 ranking in the world.
The readers also stated that a synopsis of the ‘Principles’ was warranted. They encourage coaches to read them and are urging Directors of Coaching to implement them for immediate success!
1. PLAYER-CENTERED APPROACH
One of the main principles is that the main actor is the player; not the coach, not the team. It’s very easy to understand that in children’s football [soccer], we have to do what they like. We call it the tailor-made approach. Who is in front of me? Look at the characteristics of the player and then adapt the environment to fit them.
2. SMALL-SIDED GAME
Kids want to play football [soccer] in their own way, not the way adults want to play. We created a format that is tailor made for this. At five and six years old, they play 1 vs. 1 with a goalkeeper.
We play two halves of three minutes, and then they go to the next pitch. The winner goes to the left and the loser to the right. After one or two games they will be playing against a similar level opponent and everyone scores goals, everyone wins games, lots of ball-touch which makes it fun. Teaching 1+1 and 1 vs. 1 podcast]
This is an amazing project funded by the Flemish government. It is about basic motor skills – making children active in several sports and at a later age they can decide if they prefer basketball or soccer or whatever. That is very important.
4. GIVING PLAYERS FREEDOM
If you want creative players, you must create an environment of freedom. That means a coach who observes, who is there as a guide, who will help them reach their destination, but not a PlayStation coach, who says, “Do this, do that,” who makes the decisions instead of them.
Create the environment, free them and help only if it’s necessary. Let the kids discover, they are more intelligent than you think they are.
5. GAME-BASED PRACTICE
You might want to do a passing and shooting drill as a warm-up, but then you have to go into situations where the players are aware of the opponent and are thinking “how can I create space for myself?”
Football [Soccer] is complex and it is a decision-making game. Young players must be in an environment of making decisions by themselves. Once the game starts, the coach is out. The player has to read the game, makes the decisions. (click for KD podcast)
6. WINNING DOESN’T MATTER
Coaches are inclined to focus on winning the game. That makes them play the big, strong players who give them the best chance of winning, so the late developers end up on the bench 75% of the time.
We play the game in 4 quarters. All the substitutes MUST come on the pitch after the first and third quarter so that they all play 50% of the game. Otherwise they don’t develop.
Remember that slogan again – “Love the game! Then the learning can start.”
7. LOOK AFTER THE LATE DEVELOPERS
Late developers will go one year lower if they need to. Then they can play in an equal battle and show their skills. If you don’t do this, you can lose some big talents who are late maturers. Nacer Chadli, Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne – they were all late maturers.
In Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona are really focusing on late developers, because they are aware of what they can do. If you give them the time to grow, they can develop into a Messi or an Iniesta!
Thank you, Coach Kris Van Der Haegen, for allowing me to publish your principles!
Are you getting ready for the summer? What activities will you suggest your players practice?
The summer time can be a great opportunity to play pick-up games, practice new skills, and enjoy learning to control the ball in fun, creative ways. Learning advanced ball control skills brings joy to the player as well as those around them. Get ready, I have 4 video clips this time to point out some differences in training! Watch a bit of each to get a feel for the differences.
We flew in Esteban Pantera from Mexico for an event in California and surprised the students at an elementary school with an unexpected exhibition. The school has many talented, young soccer players, and they had the chance to see one of the top 16 in the world.
Why freestyle soccer?
How often have you heard a coach tell players to practice their juggling because it “is good for their ball control” and then tell them to work on reaching a target number? I’ve heard players tell me that their highest juggling record is 400, even 2,000. But just how much ball control are they really getting by repeating the same touch over and over? How many parts of the body were likely used by a player trying for a juggling record? It pains me to see young players aim for juggling records in the name of “improvement” only to see something along these lines:
Now don’t get me wrong, I applaud the effort and dedication that went into this, however, WE CAN DO BETTER for our players. Notice the stiff posture and the lack of a range of motion. We can lead them down a better path to ball control if we challenge them to more than “most number of touches”.
Now let’s take a look at SISM’s Andreas (video below) as he practices freestyle juggling. It requires the basic juggling to setup your next move, it requires planning ahead, connecting skills, and a level of agility you just won’t get with highest juggling records. The result is a wider range of motion, a refined touch from various parts of your feet, and a level of satisfaction that goes beyond normal juggling! And we’re only scratching the surface here, there are lowers, uppers, sit-downs, etc. to practice. Do you want a young player to watch progress to see what this age range is capable of? Subscribe to Andreas’ page and follow along.
Now let’s come back to Esteban who you met at the beginning. The elementary school students saw a talented freestyler at their school. What they wouldn’t have known is that these skills have taken Esteban around the world. Here he is competing in the World Championships in Prague this past summer!
Next time you challenge your players to practice their juggling, challenge them to learn the Around-the-World, Hop-the-World, or the Cross-Over. But in order for us to know what to challenge them with, we have to learn a bit ourselves. It’s too easy to say “keep the ball up”, it takes a little effort to learn what to challenge them with. So there’s a challenge for you coaches, learn some of the names of the freestyle tricks so you can give them fun challenges to aim for.
We’ll help you out in next month’s article!
Louie and the SISM team
By Jamie Howard-Levoy
My personal opinion is that most coaches do not make great career advancements, simply because they do not have a coaching philosophy! Having a coaching philosophy and sticking to ‘it’ is a vital career skill. In order to succeed, one needs a coaching philosophy and consistent commitment to carry-out that philosophy.
Jamie Howard-Levoy had a coaching philosophy and committed to ‘it’ with consistency. The result, Jerry Zanelli WPSL Founder and Head Coach of the California Storm, after over 30 years, has made the decision to pass the torch of Head Coach to Jamie Howard-Levoy.
You can see that Jamie’s philosophy was established by 2006 when she submitted the following article entitled, “What They Have Taught Me…”
Dear Koach Karl,
I thought your FUNdamental readers would like to read an update on my kids’ team! They are a U12 girls’ team that I have been coaching. They are also considered a “B” team and I am sure you know what that means in our soccer community.
Well, they advanced to the “sweet 16” of our California Youth Soccer Association State Cup. We had to play a guy’s team, who is on the State Instructional Staff, a young guy who also coaches at a college. He, by the way, is a very good youth coach. We had to win in order to get to the next round!
The team we were playing was undefeated and they had not lost a game in league or tournament play. The game was 0-0 for the full regulation time and the two 10 min. over times!!! We went into PKs and lost.
The kids play was AMAZING. I was soooo proud of each player. They truly love the game and each other. I kept trying not to cry after the game because I am so impressed with them. They are so much more than a team, they are a family.
They have taught me that it doesn’t matter if you are the best player or the worst player… what matters is how much heart, dedication, effort and positive attitude you are willing to put into something… you can accomplish anything. Some of the girls came up to me after the game and said, “even if I make the ‘A’ team next year, I’m not going to take it. I want to stay on this team.”
It’s incredible how much the kids want to play and work hard together and for each other when you make practice FUN and create a POSITIVE learning environment. You know what I mean. That’s why I am such a big fan of the FUNdamental Soccer philosophy and your ‘9-Step Practice Routine!’
You fight for what is most important toward the kids’ growth both on and off of the field. We need more coaches to adopt your FUNdamental philosophy, so they can learn that ‘yelling and screaming’ only creates low self-esteem and hatred for the game. While the FUNdamental approach allows them to Play Their Way to Success – Can’t get any better than that!!!
Well, as you can see it did get better for Jamie! On November 11, 2018, Jamie Howard-Levoy was named the WPSL ‘California Storm’ Head Coach. Congratulations and I wish her much success knowing that everything for her will ‘get even better than this’ J
Dear Reader, it is now YOUR turn to have YOUR input! Who knows, maybe your story on ‘having a coaching philosophy’, may end up helping someone improve their soccer career status…Priceless!!!
Karl Dewazien, Emeritus State DoC for California Youth Soccer Association1978 -2012
Author of the Internationally Published FUNdamental SOCCER Books Series
Producer of the highly acclaimed ‘9-Step Practice Routine’ DVD.
Internet/Clinician at www.fundamentalsoccer.com
Jamie’s response to the article…
Still holds true. One of my favorite coaching courses was my National D when I got to meet you and saw how you truly cared for the kids and their development. Thank you for not only being a positive example for the kids but the hundreds of thousands of coaches you influence.
If the kids are having fun, they will want to go out and do more on their own. Yelling at kids only makes them resent the game and their coach. Jamie Howard Levoy
By Chuy Sanchez
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Fresno Football Clubs General Manager Frank Yallop in his office on Monday after the Clubs record attendance home Opener. Yallop, if you’re not familiar is a former MLS legendary coach winning championsihps with both LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthqueakes. Cocaching the likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Chris Wondoloski to name a few. He has also played with Ipsiwch (Former EPL) as well as Candadas mens National Team. I was able to ask him some questions about his coaching careeer.
Was there a certain player throughout your career that stands out as your favorite player to coach?
Frank: I had an 18-year-old named Landon Donovan. Wonderful to coach, listened, was so talented, but wanted to work hard. Took criticism in the right way, and it wasn’t criticism, it was more my views on the game, and how I wanted him to play. He was just a joy to work with.
When did you realize that soccer is what you wanted to do forever?
Frank: Probably when I got to Ipswich at 16. I played as a youth player in England and then moved over to Canada, but once I got to the professional level at 16 I thought to myself “I kind of want to do this.”
Is there a coach that stands out to you in your career that you would consider your favorite?
Frank: I had a bunch of coaches that stood out to me and were influential in my life. Bobby Robson who was the manager of Ipswich back when I signed in 1980. His reserve coach Charlie Woods, Booby Ferguson, and Brian Owen were all coaches that touched my player career and my life in a certain way and I will never forget that. They taught me how to be a young man and taught me not to worry about stuff like – if you’re not playing well don’t worry about it you just got to keep on the path. Also, to not let outside influences change what you’re doing. I owe a lot to those guys.
What tips would you give to youth coaches?
Frank: My big thing is that I never get angry with a player if they can’t figure out what you’re saying. Your information going to them sometimes players get it and sometimes they don’t. So, don’t get mad if they don’t pick it up straight away. I never get mad at my players I just continue the same path of saying the same thing over and over and suddenly, they get it and that’s such a joy. I used to coach teams saying, “were going to play a 4-4-2 and do this this and this”. The first few games it might now work, but then suddenly there’s the beautiful picture that I have been working on everyone is getting it, and everyone is working to the same drum. Coaching is not easy people think “Oh I can do that.” You have to manage personalities, systems, and individuals. Lots of things go into it, but the big thing is you can never get mad or frustrated. You have to think “It’s frustrating, but how can I change it? How can I help my players?” That’s all I have ever done.
What message do you have for a kid who wants to pursue soccer as a career?
Frank: My dad always said to me give 100% on everything. If it’s an easy game, why take it easy on them? Always try to better yourself in every aspect of the game. Also, you need to push your limits and make your ceiling go higher. If you don’t ever test yourself, you’ll never know if you’re any good. If you’re just beating the other team and it’s an easy game think to yourself “I want to score 6 goals in this game” Because that tests me. Just keep testing yourself. Keep striving to be better. You can keep improving always. When your coaches tell you to do something go out and do it. My first coach said to me “You have to be able to learn to get the ball from right back and you have to be able to chip it into this area.’. Guess what I did? Every afternoon for six months I practiced that on my own. When everyone went home I would go back to the training ground and got 50 balls and practiced my chip. I eventually got it. This was Bobby Robson and he’s the greatest manager England has ever seen so if he’s telling me to do it I am doing it.
By Martha Navia, NFCU Director
Nancy Fuller Children’s University has added a Physical Development program. We have invited our parents, grandparents, and community volunteers to be a part of our Outside Classroom Project. Thanks to Koach Karl Dewazien for volunteering his soccer skills with the children. Each group had 20-30 minutes of outside physical activities, which included hands-on, social learning, and peer interaction. As well as building healthy bodies, self-initiation, control, and personal responsibility. Our goal is to inspire imaginations on the playground and children to be able to regulate themselves, alleviate stress, allowing children with behavioral challenges to be able to participate, be relaxed and maintain better construction.
What made this soccer activity the greatest, each child had a ball to kick around and be in control of it. All balls were the same size (2) and color. Which made it age appropriated, so if a child lost their ball we didn’t hear “that’s mine” or “I had that color”.
Coach Karl knew how to handle his business with every age group! For the 2yrs olds’ coach had them against the wall reaching for the sky and tickling their toes. Following the leader as an airplane and making animal sounds. Then came the balls, each child had one to move around, pick it up and put the ball above their heads and down to their tummies.
The 3 year olds’ were moving around to get their muscles warmed up by making animal actions, running around the trees and freezing in their spots. While standing against the wall each one got a ball rolled to them. They had to freeze and wait for the next instruction. Now came the fun part, having to kick the ball against the wall, dribbling around the trees, picking up the ball and throwing it against the wall and passing it to the coach.
The 4 and 5 year olds’ had the same experiences, but with more challenges. They had to step on the ball and count, dribble the ball around them, and pick up the ball with both feet to catch it with their hands. What a great way to promote the outside project by providing activities that help children develop communication skills and social interaction with peers.
With a fast pace growing sport such as soccer in every city, who doesn’t want to kick a ball around? Soccer doesn’t have an age limit as you can see.
It’s one of the days during the week, right before the lunch hour. Let’s call it Tuesday. I’m in a casting office waiting room somewhere in Los Angeles. With me are anywhere from four to twenty other guys wearing soccer gear. Some have their socks pulled all the way up—some with shin guards, some without. Some have cleats, some have flats. Some are wearing jerseys, others have plain shirts. Just about everyone has a ball. We’re all signed in and I’m up next.
Ok be cool. Be cool. Relax. Make sure you take your time. Breathe. Look at the camera. Should I look at the camera? I’ll look at the guy behind the camera. What’s more natural? Should I look at both? Who even watches these videos? Just smile. Be cool. Be natural. Ok ok ok. You can do this. You got this. Easy stuff. What am I going to say this time? Should I say something different? What did I say last time? I didn’t book the job last time so maybe I should say something different. I wonder what they’ll ask me to do. Whatever it is don’t overdo it. Keep it simple. Nothing fancy. Confidence. Breathe. Pay attention. Control. Keep the ball under control. Just keep the ball. Under. Control.
The door to the audition room opens. I study the face and body language of the guy walking out. He looks happy. Satisfied. Accomplished. I notice his socks are pulled all the way up. Should I pull mine up? I look down. I’m wearing ankle socks.
“. . . you’re up.”
As the casting assistant made clear, my name is Gabriel Ramirez. I am an actor from Fresno, CA now living in Los Angeles. At this point in my career I’ve worked on one television show, one movie, and several commercials. What do these jobs have in common? Soccer. I was Ho Jin Su, the right back for the LA Riot in Robert Rodriguez’s original series Matador. I was a member of the Calton College men’s team in Aymen Khoja’s 2018 film Shoot. And in 2017 I booked my first national commercial, a Sprint spot featuring David Beckham (yes, he had the pleasure of meeting me and yes, he smelled incredible). Now, before you go googling things, I should tell you that none of those jobs were speaking roles. Don’t go expecting to find me delivering a rousing half-time speech to my teammates before heading back out to the field just to overcome some insurmountable odds. That role, and others, are yet to come. Still, it’s through soccer that I am now on this journey of studying and pursuing acting.
Over the years I’ve developed a number of passions, some lasting longer than others. Acting is the latest to join the list. Soccer, on the other hand, is the veteran. The OG. It is the first, could very well be the last, and is definitely a part of my everything. Somewhere tucked away at home—only my mom knows—is a baby picture of me sleeping in the crib with a plush soccer ball. It makes sense when you consider my dad, Jaime Ramirez. He grew up playing in the streets of Mexicali, Mexico. He loved the game and it was in those streets where his flame of passion was lit and fueled. By the time February 1988 rolled around take a wild guess whose infant torch caught some of that flame. That’s right. Indiana Jones couldn’t have lit his any faster in a blacked out snake pit.
Being the youngest of three I was thrust into the Ramirez family soccer world. I couldn’t escape it. Soccer was always on the TV at home. “But Gabriel? What if you weren’t at home?” Games. My brother’s games. My sister’s games. My dad’s games. If my dad wasn’t playing Sunday league, he was coaching the Fresno Pacific University men’s soccer team. FPU was my second home, the men’s team my second family. When my dad helped form the FPU women’s team in 1998 that family grew even bigger. I was always at FPU training sessions and went to almost every game. Even my mom got into coaching for a while! She didn’t know anything about soccer before meeting my dad. It was contagious.
My passion for the game was fueled on the fields of Southeast Fresno. I joined my first team—The Ayer Elementary Bears—when I was five years old. When I was nine I joined Roosevelt Revolution and spent most of my club career there. After graduating from Roosevelt High School I went on to play at Fresno Pacific University. Between practices and games you could often find me striking the ball in the FPU racquet ball courts, juggling in my backyard, or kicking around with my friends anywhere we could. Simply put…I played a lot. Soccer, to this day, is what I know best.
In order to have booked my acting jobs I needed the fundamental skills expected of a soccer player. The first job I ever booked was the TV series Matador and that audition was a straight up, no fuss, soccer try out. There were a lot of players and we ran passing and shooting drills in groups. The Sprint commercial? I was in a room with a low ceiling and had to juggle a volleyball that wasn’t even pumped up all the way. Am I the only soccer player in Los Angeles? Not even close. Am I the best? Far from it. So how did I book those jobs out of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who auditioned? Aside from my abilities with a ball, it could have been that the casting director liked the color of my shirt. Could have been that one of the producers had a childhood friend named Gabriel. I’ll never know, that’s out of my control. All I can do is be present in the moment, have confidence, and do what I’m asked to do.
While my technical abilities have been necessary for booking these jobs, soccer has given me so much more than the ability to kick a ball on command. What I’m truly grateful for are qualities like discipline and resilience. The ability to take direction. How to listen and communicate well. Good practice and preparation habits. These are things that I value as an actor, especially now that I’m exploring roles more complex than “soccer player #2.” My game days are every audition, every scene I put up in class, and every opportunity to work on set. Just like in a game, I’m constantly making choices. Some work better than others and some don’t work at all. When they don’t work is when I have to depend on those qualities to keep me from giving up on the spot. And when they do work? It’s like a beautifully orchestrated play when the ball starts from the back, works its way upfield, and smashes into the back of the net.
Juggling Basics – In depth and best training practices!
We’re going to review the basics of juggling a little further as it serves as a foundation for ball control and get everyone started off on the right foot in 2019! We’ll cover 1) Technique, 2) Mental notes, and 3) Rewarding Training Methods. These very same techniques will be taught in our winter program in January.
What’s significant about the simplicity here? We are an advanced ball control program and our team members are some of the best in the world including the 2x World Freestyle Champion from Poland. As world freestyle champion, it’s critical that the foundational touches enable everything from the simple to the most complex combos. And the complex only happens with efficiency (see #2 below). So let’s jump right into a review of the techniques!
Last article we saw the juggling tutorial (click here if you missed it) and covered the following:
- Make contact with the ball at the spot above the toes, not the laces.
- Flick the leg out from the knee (2a, 2b), as opposed to lifting the leg from the hip joint (2c).
- And last, aim to keep the ball around knee height when juggling.
As a reminder, the toes cushion the point of contact and prevent the ball from bouncing off of a hard surface such as the instep area of the foot. Keeping the ball knee-high makes for efficient touches and makes it easy to visually track the ball’s path.
Here are two tips that I remind our players when it comes to learning new skills:
- The training we do today leads towards our progress in the near future, such as one month from now after consistent practice. Do not worry about how you feel your session went “today”. The more opportunities your foot has to touch the ball the further your development will go. Think of it as a law of training: it’s almost impossible not to improve with consistent work. So get to work, you need today’s practice
- I was practicing a skill that I felt was difficult and one that I consistently failed at in the beginning. The dreaded head-stall. Put the ball on your forehead to try and balance it and watch it fall right off! If you looked for success on the same day you’d find more failed attempts than noticeable progress. So when the 2x World Champion was on tour with us I asked him if there were any secrets to doing it better. I share his response with all my groups working on a new skill: “Amigo, there is no secret, practice.”
Rewarding Training Methods
There are a couple ways to go about training on either a hard surface or even the grass. Starting with the ball in the hands (we can work on the initial flick up later) let the ball drop. On a hard surface you can let the ball bounce first and on grass you can practice without the initial bounce.
If you’re on a hard surface you can use the following sequence:
- Let the ball bounce and with your right foot tap the ball up and catch it with your hands.
- Let the ball bounce and with your left foot tap the ball up and catch it with your hands.
- Remember the coaching points of using the area above the toes to make contact and the ball should be kept below the chest on their touches.
- Give players an easy challenge that they can be successful at: They must “Drop, Tap, & Catch” after single touches and do so 5x on each foot. Skill levels vary and this will be easy for some, awesome! You then challenge those players to do 2, 3, or 4 touches before catching. You’ve got the idea now and can challenge everyone in the same exercise based on their skill level.
- Everyone has completed their first tasks of 5 easy ones, now increase everyone’s goal by one additional touch! Now they take on their new challenge and they must perform 5x on each foot.
- Choose your number of successful catches to vary your training timeframe, etc. 8x per foot.
- Players must flick the ball up and catch it.
- Players must flick the ball up and juggle 2x then catch, etc…
- By giving them a target number they can “race” to they can see who finishes first and adding a competitive nature to it.
- During their race they must execute x# (6x for example) in a row, if they drop a catch then they must start their count over again from 0!
Why catch the ball after each successful execution of touches (1x, 2x, etc.)?
- FUN: New players tend to feel incompetent with their juggling abilities but quite confident with their catching skills! After each number of touches they’ve been challenged with, they’re rewarded with the opportunity to use an easy skill they’re great at, catching. Some will dive to catch it to make it count, it is fun!
- PRODUCTIVE: Requiring players to catch the ball asks them to touch the ball into the space where their hands are when catching… just around knee height. Controlled execution of the Drop, Tap, and Catch sequence results in a mental focus on the ball being juggled efficiently where it belongs, right in front of us.
- WHY NOTS: Why not practice with bounces in between? In trying out the bounce option I find that it allows players to make any touch that goes upwards, as opposed getting straight to practicing a touch that comes straight back up around the knee area. It results in players making less than ideal touches, too much backspin on touches, and chasing the next touch to keep it going. The practice doesn’t require that they aim for a particular spot to touch the ball.
So off you go! Get your players having fun, succeeding, and working towards the progress that comes after a month of consistency!!!
Happy New Year everyone!
Louie and the SISM team