The Blog 2018-06-06T11:49:18-08:00

Covid got you down? Can’t get to the gym, can’t play soccer and can’t work with your team? 

Well, a few years back, there was a Dutch coach who needed to recover from a heart attack. His doctors wouldn’t allow him to play and his wife wouldn’t allow him out of the house. His name was Wiel Coerver. The rest is history.

Koach Karl with Wiel Coerver

           Coerver got out a soccer ball and started slowly working the ball foot to foot. Back in the day, U.S. coaches would teach ball sensitivity with toe taps on top of the ball. Coerver drew the ball backward with his sole and played it quickly forward with his instep. He cut the ball with the inside of his foot across the back of the other foot, and then played it diagonally forward with the new foot. A cut with the new foot behind the original foot completed what was named the Coerver Move.

           In an area the size of a dining room table, Coerver worked out with the ball creatively. He then came up with the idea of making a book and a video of the numerous moves. He came to the U.S. and Coerver Moves took off. YouTube has many videos of the Coerver Method because the craze became a series of soccer camps in the U.S. that continue today under other coaches.

           Coerver methodology was a blessing to the U.S. because it came at a time when coaches bemoaned the lack of creativity on the ball by U.S. international players. How could we teach what we couldn’t see or imagine? The then U.S.S.F. coaching director had his own book out showing ball sensitivity and some moves, but books and videos are light years apart for showing kids.

           What’s the Covid inspired lesson for youth coaches who are bored? Get out a ball and work yourself out in the back yard. Become good enough to demonstrate yourself. Google “Coerver moves” or “Coerver method” and watch some short YouTube’s.

           Don’t stop there, though. A move is no good unless it takes a player by a defender or into a new space. Make the move and combine it with acceleration into a new space. Use the outside of the right foot to tap the ball northeast around a defender and lean your left shoulder to protect it. Use the inside of the right to tap across the body northwest and lean the right shoulder to protect. Switch for the left foot. Beware the draw with the bottom of the foot. It’s slower and too close to the body to be effective in any but tight spaces.

           Try making a tight circle around yourself with the outside of a foot. This can be called a flick. It’s great for the northeast diagonally forward move.

           Use the inside of the foot for a circle around the body. This can be called a cutback. The cutback changes direction hard and quickly as needed to cross or serve the ball.

           With the sole, move the ball in any direction. This can be called a draw. It’s a tight space move with body balance over the ball for a strong possession. But, it’s not as dynamic as a flick or cutback and it happens too close to a defender. Better hope for a whistle as the defender attacks. Use a sweeping spin to turn the ball around the body and blast forward with a flick.

           Use the moves you see on YouTube as the foundation to get head and shoulders leaned into the dynamic new direction that you just played the ball.

           You can become the coach who inspires players by showing some flair on the ball.

Coach Diane Boettcher Soccer Bon Vivant

Diane Boettcher
Diane Boettcher
Diane Boettcher is a 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).

THE 4+1 HOLISTIC DEVELOPMENT APPROACH

“The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts.” First coined by the philosopher Aristotle, this phrase aptly defines the modern concept of synergy. For anyone who has played team sports, it echoes the T.E.A.M. acronym – Together, Everyone Achieves More.

Coaching grassroots needs to be way more than just teach kicking the ball around, it’s a chance of teaching players that soccer is way more than a game. When a kid joins a team, most of the times he’s nervous, but has a big desire to play, have fun and make friends. The club and coaches need to be conscientious of the impact that they’ll have in this kid’s future.

“A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.”  Billy Graham

As coaches we need to look on a Player-centric level, rather than a Team-centric. The focus should be on the individual primarily, and developing the collective of individuals you’ll develop the Team. Individuals success are moments not trophies, and those moments will affect the kids life’s on and off the field.

During a technical meeting at the club where I coach, our Technical Director once asked us: “Do you remember your third goal that you ever scored?”, all the coaches in the room started to think about it, nobody was able to come out with a answer, but after he asked “Do you remember your third coach?”, at that moment everyone was smiling and every single coach had some good stories to share. That simple question made me think about the impact that all the coaches made in my life while in sports, on my social life at the moment, my social life now and even the way that I raise my kids. I never thought about the tremendous influence that my coaches had in my life, today I’m a coach and I wish that I can deliver to my players that  inspiration, those memories, those life lessons and that desire for them one day follow the same route as me becoming a coach.

The 4 corners of Holistic Development in soccer. What is the holistic approach?

In soccer we “break” the Holistic Development approach into 4 main areas:

  • Technical/Tactical
  • Psychological
  • Social
  • Physical

Personally, I’ll like to add another area, since during the week a coach (at grassroots) spends average of 3-4 hours with the player, it’s important to understand how everyone around this player is affecting him for the other 165 hours. Let’s call it the Village effect. I’ll talk about it later.

“It takes a whole village to raise a child” – African proverb.

How can we use the holistic approach when designing sessions? Let’s break the concepts for easier understanding:

 Technical/Tactical

  • Unopposed-technique practice
  • Opposed practices
  • Uneven sides-skill practice e.g. 2v1, 4v2, 3v1, etc…
  • Even sides-games 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, etc…
  • Game craft, game as a teacher

All the technical skills need to be linked necessarily to the tactical aspects of the game.

For example, in a game a good pass, needs all the right technique to execute it (Use the inside of the foot – that’s the area from the base of the big toe to the central area of the heel, Under the ankle bone.)

  • Encourage players to try new skills in practice and work out where they can be used in games,
  • Practice should replicate the demands of the game and encourage players to think and make decisions just as they would in a match.
  • Match the needs of the individual by altering the difficulty using the STEP principle (Space, Task, Equipment, Players).
  • Use the “stop, stand still” intervention but not too much and make coaching points during a suitable break in play, letting players experience the flow of the game.
  • Kick foot at right angles to the ball.
  • Belly button should be facing the player receiving the pass.
  • Non-kicking foot alongside the ball.
  • Knee and ankle joints held firm.
  • Body over the ball.
  • Head steady, eyes on the ball.
  • Use the arms to keep balanced.
  • Hit through the ball’s horizontal midline – that way it will keep low.
  • Kicking foot follows through towards the target.

But, it’s not enough, if not  linked to the Tactical aspects of the passing, when, where, how and why, (timing, Weight/power and purpose of the pass).  We can make 10.000 passes against a wall, if we don’t understand this questions it would be just ball movement, and never a good pass.

Target: Developing different range of techniques on and off the ball, and ball mastery.

Psychological

  • Understanding
  • Decision-making
  • Confidence
  • Concentration
  • Commitment
  • Practicing, learning, experimenting
  • Learning styles
  • Relevant to the needs of the player

Use different methods of communication to engage with different types of learners.

  • Visual (seeing) – session plans, tactics boards, cue and prompt cards as well as cones on a pitch.
  • Auditory (hearing) – Speak with players, ask questions and encourage discussion among team-mates to solve game related problems.
  • Kinetic (doing) – demonstration to the team by a coach or by a player to their team-mates.

 Target: Increasing learning

Social

  •  
  • Communication
  • Relationship
  • Are the players:
  • Enjoying the work?
  • Included in the process?
  • Challenged? Engaged?
  • Supported when necessary (visually, orally and practically)?
  • Given ownerships, trust and responsibility?
  • Be a good role model for the players.
  • Create a positive and welcoming environment.
  • Praise players for their effort and endeavor as well as abilities.
  • Use descriptive praise to pinpoint what the players have done well.
  • Manage mistakes to the player’s advantage – understand what they were trying to do.
  • Sometimes they will have the right idea but just fail in the execution of the technique or skill.
  • Make sure the sessions are enjoyable but with a purpose.  Ensure the development of skills and game understanding.

Target: Enjoy and get them passionate about soccer.

Physical

  • Develop physical literacy
  • Generic movement skills:
  • Agility, Balance, Coordination, Speed, Soccer functional movement Skills, COD speed (Changing Of Directions)
  • Receiving the Ball, Running with the ball,
  • Dribbling, Turning, Kicking and Heading
  • Appropriate movement skills which develop agility, balance, coordination and speed through enjoyable games.
  • Using well designed practices, all coaching activities should include physical outcomes.
  • Allow for differing growth rates between the players and cater for the needs at both ends of the growth scale.
  • Children are not mini-adults and sessions should not include laps of the pitch and press ups.

Target: Improving movement and the ABC’S

This is a simplified way to understand the 4 corners of Holistic Development in soccer.

If you remember, before this explanation, I mentioned another “concept” that I called it “Village effect”, in a very simple way, it’s everyone else that has influence on the day-by-day of the children, since parents, school teachers, family, friends, other activities coaches, neighbors, etc… All these people that surrounds the child will have an impact on his life, by words, actions, behavior or ideology.

As coaches we can’t just practice and “send them home”, we need to try to understand what is going on in their life’s, without being nosy, but this approach can actually give you some answers why the child is behave differently.

How many of us (coaches) did actually got in contact with the players teachers? How many of us attended to a player’s family party? How many of us helped or initiate a extra-soccer activity, where players get involvement in the community?

It may sound too much, but the impact of this 4+1 Holistic Development approach can help improve players to a completely different level.

(All my articles are based in my opinions and beliefs, please share with us your thoughts and opinions).

Filipe Teles

Soccer Coach at Benfica Soccer School of Toronto; Soccer HUB content specialist and Founder of Canadian Soccer Coaches Network!

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Unstructured play will foster creativity in American soccer players

Why is now the time to bring “street (back-yard) soccer” to the United States?

Most of the creative players in Major League Soccer (MLS) are foreign imports. It is widely recognized that great strides have been made in U.S. soccer during the last decade; however, it is imperative that this symptom be addressed now, so American soccer has a chance to ascend to the next level during the next 10 years. The root of this symptom can be traced to the way in which American youth soccer players are coached and developed and the absence of street soccer in the American youth soccer environment. The street soccer concept needs to be incorporated into the nation’s youth soccer coaching philosophy and methodology to help foster creativity and imagination as we develop our next generation of soccer players. Coaches can take steps to incorporate this concept into soccer practices and games.

What is street soccer?

Street soccer refers to the various kinds of pickup soccer games played in parks, gyms and in streets and alleys around the world. The defining characteristic of street soccer is that it is not organized. Players show up at the “field” and two teams are formed from the players available. Two “goals” are set up, the goalposts often being made from t-shirts, bags, rocks or sticks. And, of course, a ball or representative round object is required. Everything else is negotiable, such as the boundaries and even the rules. There is no referee. There usually are no fans. There is no coach. It is soccer in its most basic and unadulterated form.

How is the development of young soccer players in the United States different from that in other top soccer-playing nations?

There are several key elements that exist in the youth soccer structures of top soccer-playing nations. First, there is a basic structure that enables young people to play the game from age 4 or 5 though their late teens. This foundational structure typically is provided by local youth soccer clubs, school teams, colleges and universities. This structure, usually absent or fragmented in many of the developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, now exists in American youth soccer.

Secondly, the leading soccer-playing nations have an effective process to identify and develop top young players. In most of these countries, the youth academies of professional soccer clubs identify and recruit talented players from their local communities. Regional and national teams typically are selected from the pool of players in these academies. In the United States, the Olympic Development Program (ODP) selects regional and national level players from open tryouts, which typically draw players from the top local youth soccer clubs. These youth soccer clubs are independent organizations and not affiliated with any professional soccer clubs, colleges or universities.

The key difference between the youth academies of professional clubs overseas and youth soccer clubs in the United States are the goals and objectives of the two feeder systems. Most top youth soccer clubs in the United States seek to win state cups and tournaments as early as the U-10 and U-11 age groups. In doing so, they often sacrifice individual player development. In contrast, there is a longer-term vision at the youth academies. Individual player development is the focus in these organizations because the primary objective is to develop each youth player as an individual in order to discover the one or two players who can progress to the next level and become professionals for the club. For instance, the goal of the soccer academies in England is to develop the next Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney rather than win the FA Youth Cup every year.

Finally, young players in the top soccer-playing nations have sufficient opportunities to experiment with the game without adult supervision. In most countries around the world, pickup games and street soccer are a way of life, and these young players play soccer almost every day. This is where many of the developing nations make up for the lack of a formal structure. It is in this aspect that youth players in the United States are disadvantaged compared with their global counterparts. U.S. soccer experiences are almost always supervised and controlled by adults.

What are the implications of the absence of street soccer in America?

The absence of street soccer leads to a key difference between American youth soccer and other nations’ programs. Around the world, young soccer players come from all socio-economic backgrounds. Young players face no significant financial barriers to entering the sport because they always can play street soccer with some friends as long as they have a ball and some space.

However, because of the absence of street soccer in America, youth soccer is a primarily middle- to upper-class sport. Low-income families confront significant barriers to entry because it costs $300 to $500 per year for a young player to play for two 10-week seasons with the local town team. The cost of playing for a youth soccer club ranges from $800 to $1,500 per player annually. Young soccer players from low-income families are excluded at a very early age, which is unfortunate; many of these players come from immigrant families whose home countries have a rich soccer culture. A further consequence of this situation is that it reduces the pool of potential players from which top talent can be identified and developed.

As a result, the existing American youth soccer structure is supported largely by middle-class adults, who volunteer countless hours as coaches and spend a considerable amount of time and effort supporting their children’s interests. However, most of these adults did not grow up playing or watching soccer and only have a cursory understanding of the game. More important, most of them do not fully grasp the fundamental differences between coaching adult and youth sports.

As a consequence, the mantra of playing for the team and achieving results is imposed much earlier in American youth soccer than it is in top soccer-playing nations around the world. And it typically is done at the expense of creativity, skills and independent decision-making, all of which are essential components of individual player development. Teamwork and results are important aspects of team sports and of American culture in general, but these elements should be secondary to individual player development at the youth level of any sport, including soccer.

It is this difference that enables youth players around the world to have more time to develop their creative tendencies and become more clever with the ball before they learn to play in a structured team environment. It is much easier to encourage a nine- or 14-year-old soccer player to be creative than a 22-year-old.

American kids are in no way less creative or less capable than young players in Brazil or Italy. It’s just that most of them don’t play soccer enough, and their only opportunities to the play the game are in a controlled environment where most coaches, intentionally or unintentionally, suppress their players’ creative instincts in order to achieve the best outcome for the team.

Why should street soccer be considered and what are its benefits?

We have created a strong foundation and basic structure for youth soccer in this country, but in doing so, and in the absence of street soccer, we as adults have wrested control of the game away from the kids. Structure makes us feel more comfortable that real learning is taking place. However, the highly structured environment that exists today is not optimal for having young players learn the game of soccer and fall in love with it. It is time for us to give some of the game back to the kids. It is time for us to foster and encourage creativity, as coaches, parents and fans, by creating an environment where creativity and imagination flourish on the soccer field.

Creativity is the heart and soul of soccer. It is what makes fans gasp in wonder and amazement. Creativity is Ronaldinho making his trademark lightning-quick outside-inside move and leaving yet another hapless defender in his wake. It is Maradona dribbling past two defenders and slipping a no-look through pass to his fellow striker when everyone else on the field and in the stands thinks he is about to shoot for goal. It is the 10-year-old girl in Cambridge, Mass., making up her own spin move during a game.

At the youth level, creativity draws young players to the game and makes them fall in love with it. If nurtured appropriately, it elevates the technical and tactical aspects of the professional game to a higher plane, to that point where it becomes “The Beautiful Game.”

Creativity is difficult, if not impossible, to teach. It can only be encouraged by providing an environment that helps foster it, one that rewards risk-taking, imagination and inventiveness – an environment where creativity becomes almost instinctive. That means establishing a street soccer environment.

Around the world young soccer players can be found kicking anything that resembles a ball every chance they get – alone or with siblings or friends. They come up with crazy moves to dribble past their older brothers and sisters. They go to the park or meet their friends on a quiet street to play after school and on the weekends. They are exposed to players of different ages and skill levels on a daily basis and learn how to play with and against them. They learn how to deal with other young players and resolve conflicts without adult supervision. They do this in an environment that is forgiving and relatively stress-free. Nobody remembers that you goofed up a crazy move if you make a great pass the next time you have the ball. Most important, there is no coach or adult yelling from the sidelines if you make a mistake.

This street soccer environment is crucial for developing youth soccer players. It enables them to try new things and be clever on the ball while having fun. It gives them the opportunity to stabilize their skills, develop at their own pace and build confidence. It exposes players continually to solving soccer-related problems on their own, which helps them develop their independent decision-making skills through trial and error. But most important, it allows young players to enjoy the game for what it really is – a game.

With a solid structure in place and burgeoning interest in soccer among young boys and girls, now is the time to incorporate the concept of street soccer into our youth development program. It is the missing element in the American youth soccer setup.

What are small-sided games and what are some of their benefits?

The leading youth soccer organizations in this country – U.S. Youth Soccer, NSCAA and AYSO – have followed in the footsteps of the soccer federations of Holland, France, Germany and Brazil and taken steps to embrace and promote small-sided games for youth players. These organizations recommend that the 11 v. 11 game format should be applicable only for players above the age of 12; U-6 players should play 3 v. 3, U-8 players 4 v. 4, U-10 players 6 v. 6, and U-12 players 8 v. 8. It also is recommended that these small-sided games be played on correspondingly smaller field sizes.

Soccer and child-development researchers consider the small-sided environment to be developmentally appropriate for young soccer players. It creates a fun environment where kids are able to get more touches on the ball and, as a result, have more opportunities to score goals than they would in an 11 v. 11 format. This increased participation also provides more opportunities for players to practice the key technical skills of dribbling, passing, tackling and shooting. In addition, players’ tactical development is accelerated; in small-sided games, they are presented with a variety of soccer-related problems more frequently and they have to make independent decisions. Furthermore, the smaller games also help develop the players’ mental skills. In particular, they teach players to maintain focus by not dwelling on mistakes that would distract them from being ready for their next touch on the ball.

The move to small-sided games for younger players is a positive one, but it has not yet been embraced and adopted at the grassroots level in several states.

How is street soccer different from small-sided games and how can coaches incorporate street soccer into American youth soccer?

The small-sided games concept offers many benefits, but it still represents activities that adults control and direct. This is the key difference between street soccer and small-sided games. In street soccer, there is no adult supervision.

The first step coaches can take is to understand and promote small-sided games in local youth leagues so young players can have a developmentally appropriate environment in which to play soccer. They can take this one step further by incorporating the concept of small-sided games into coaching sessions instead of using old-fashioned drills in which players wait in line for their turn to shoot on goal or dribble through cones. All the techniques and tactics that are taught through drills can be coached just as effectively through small-sided games. In addition, using small-sided games in practice sessions offers several added benefits – they allow players to learn in more realistic and game-like situations. They have more touches on the ball and usually have more fun.

The next step coaches can take is to adopt and promote street soccer within their teams and local communities. There are many reasons why it will be challenging to bring street soccer in its purest form to the United States, but there are several ways to incorporate the concept of street soccer into coaching sessions and methods.

One such approach is to dedicate a portion of every practice to street soccer. During this segment, the coach steps back and gives control of the game to the players, who become responsible for setting up a game themselves. The coach may even decide to bar players from using cones and pinnies for their games, instead allowing them to figure out on their own that their sweatshirts and water bottles make fine goalposts and sidelines.

This approach can be discomforting for coaches accustomed to maintaining control and structure. It can be unnerving for a coach to take a back seat and simply watch the game, not say anything, make any coaching points or settle disputed calls. They may feel disengaged from the practice and feel that they are not contributing to their players’ development.

However, this uninterrupted street soccer game is one of the most effective teaching tools available. As the saying goes, “the game is the best teacher.” In addition, coaches can take advantage of this opportunity to take a step back and observe their players in a non-competitive situation to better understand their strengths, development needs and interpersonal relationships.

This approach likely will make many parents uncomfortable as well. As adults, we typically equate structure and control as necessary elements to learning, especially in the United States. As a result, coaches will need to educate parents about the benefits of street soccer and the need for unsupervised play to help foster creativity and imagination among young soccer players.

These street soccer sessions also represent a great opportunity for the players to learn about ownership. The game they just set up and are playing truly is their own. The coach is there to tend to injuries, but nothing else. The coach may decide to join the game, but only under the condition that he or she is treated the same as any of the other players.

Another potential benefit of this approach is that it teaches young players to become more independent and helps them learn how to set up a soccer game without adult supervision. This may seem trite, but most of our young players are unable to organize pickup games themselves. Their concept of playing soccer is either going to practice or playing a game, both of which are supervised by adults.

Having our young players realize during practice sessions that they can easily set up and play soccer without any help from adults may encourage some to call their friends and meet at a field to play soccer after school. It’s a long shot, but with enough support and encouragement, maybe someday soon we will see some of our kids playing pickup soccer on their own. This is the probably the closest we can hope to get to a street soccer environment in the United States.

What else can coaches do to encourage creativity among our youth players?

A street soccer environment needs to be supplemented by coaches who truly believe in and encourage creativity. It is easy for coaches to say that they embrace creativity. It’s like motherhood and apple pie – everyone agrees that it is the right thing. However, what this truly means is that they must be willing to make creativity a higher priority – even above the results of a game and the team’s win-loss record. The implication is that they must be willing to lose games as a team to encourage individual player development and creativity.

In youth soccer, the physical and technical development of young players can vary considerably, even within a particular age group. For youth soccer coaches who are interested only in winning games, there is a tactical formula that works effectively for teams with physically dominant players. This involves playing long passes to a big and fast forward to create breakaway opportunities, which usually leads to goals. Although we should encourage effort and trying to win games, we also should be concerned about the manner in which players achieve their objectives.

Coaches should not use tactical approaches that increase the likelihood of winning games at the expense of the players’ long-term development. Coaches who insist on using an approach that is too physical will be putting their players at a disadvantage in the long run, when opponents catch up in physical maturity. Players should be encouraged to play with creativity, inventiveness, effort and good technique, and they should be congratulated when they display these characteristics, even if the result on the scoreboard is a loss.

Coaches also must understand that creativity can’t be taught, and that it only can be nurtured in an appropriate environment. Glimpses of creativity occur fairly often during youth soccer when an idea for a “crazy” move pops into a young player’s head and they try something new. Coaches need to understand that players usually will fail the first time they try something new. They probably will fail the next few times as well. Coaches need to be able to see what the players were trying to accomplish and encourage it. This approach requires a considerable shift in mentality for a majority of American youth coaches. It’s a potential roadblock that should not be trivialized. What this means is that when a player tries a no-look flick with the outside of the foot but totally misses the ball, the coach must recognize the idea and applaud it: “Nice try, you’ll get it next time.”

However, most coaches rather would use such an incident to make a coaching point and instead show the player how to receive the ball and pass it square to a teammate to keep possession. In doing so, the team benefits, but that moment of inspiration and creativity is lost from the game. Intentionally or unintentionally, the coach has discouraged players from trying that move or anything similarly creative the next time a “crazy” idea pops into their brains.

Bringing the street to America

The need to encourage creativity at the youth level is of the utmost importance for the individual development of young soccer players. The shift in the philosophy and mentality of coaches to prioritize creativity over results, and not clamp down on it, is especially necessary because American children do not grow up watching soccer on television or at stadiums nearly as much as those in virtually every other soccer-playing nation. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage in terms of not being able to learn and mimic skills and moves executed by top-class players. What they are left with is their natural creative tendencies as kids, tendencies that must be nurtured. Coaches should consider the concept of street soccer as a means of providing an environment that helps achieve this objective.

By incorporating street soccer in our youth-coaching philosophy, that 10-year-old girl from Cambridge who came up with the idea for her signature spin move while playing 1 v. 1 with her younger brother now has the opportunity to practice it on her teammates during the street soccer portion of her practices. Once she is comfortable with it at practices, she can try her move during an actual game. If she fails to execute it and falls down, she won’t be yelled at by her coach for losing the ball, but encouraged to try it again.

She’ll continue to be encouraged by her coach each of the next eight times she tries the move and fails. She perseveres and on the 10th time she tries the move, she actually pulls it off. It becomes the move that her teammates try to learn from her. It becomes the signature move that she uses when she plays in high school and college and throughout her soccer career. And it becomes the move that one day she will teach her kids and grandkids.

Editor’s note: Roni Mansur is a nationally licensed coach in the United States and has been coaching soccer at the youth level since 1999. A former collegiate player at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, he is the Director of Coaching at Cambridge Youth Soccer, an organization with more than 800 players and 70 coaches, in Cambridge, Mass., and coaches a U-11 girls travel team and U-6 boys and girls. In addition, he is a manager in the Strategy and Operations practice at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

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Calls for Coaches for remote engagement to continue to providing social and emotional support for your players during a time when they need it most.

I. Know Every Athlete’s Story:

  • Make a plan for virtual meetings just like you would for in-person practice.  Plan the meeting to include guided open-ended questions in order to learn more about your players.  i.e.  If you could hang out with your friends today, what would you do?  What do you miss most about school?
  • When the players log on to join the meeting, acknowledge each of them by name and tell them you are glad they made it
  • Ask questions that acknowledge the situation while also providing hope and something to look forward to.  Convey a light at the end of the tunnel message. i.e. What is helpful when you are feeling isolated?  Does this pandemic worry you?    The answers will help you determine whether the player needs extra attention.
  • II. Establish a Supportive Team Culture:
  • Establish norms for remote interaction such as no cell phones or other distractions so when a player is responding others are active listening.  Create a hand signal that conveys a positive response after a player speaks i.e. snaps, sign language etc.
  • When a player says something encouraging or positive to the group or another player pause to highlight that behavior.
  • III. Celebrate Effort
  • Same as any team, you want teammates to cheer each other on
  • When meeting remotely try to find an activity and lead the players through it.  i.e.  wastebasket HORSE, dribbling challenge, pushup challenge etc.
  • Ask the players how things are going in school.  Regardless of the answers, tell them you are proud of them for trying to figure it out and working through it.
  • IV. Focus on the Skills that Matter
  • Sport specific skills will take some creativity using what is available at home. When the meetings are virtual, players can adjust their cameras to see each other.  Model a skill you would like them to work on. Have players take turns leading an activity during each meeting.
  • Fitness is important in any sport.  Tale time to lead your players through some exercises the players can do at home. This will help promote fitness and prevent injuries when we get outside. This will be a great opportunity for team building.
  • Set goals for some exercises so the players have something to work toward.  i.e.
  • 30 pushups, jumping jacks for one minute etc.
  • Include mindfulness activities to promote social and emotional skills and self -care.  Work on breathing exercises and encourage players to do them each day. i.e. Harvard’s EASEL Lab’s Belly Breathing.  Coaches ask players to inhale deeply and notice their belly’s expand and then exhale through their mouths and feel the belly collapse.  Ask the players if they could feel the difference.
  • V. Be a Role Model
  • Set an example on how you want kids to react.  Remember that social cues can be interpreted differently virtually.  Avoid sarcasm and playful needling.  Staying at home can cause a lot of anxiety.  You may be the only source of encouraging words.
  • Do the activities with themDon’t be afraid to screw up in front of your players.  Intentionally choose skills you struggle with, so the players know it is okay to struggle as long as they keep working to get better.
  • Talk to players about how they manage their time.  Whether work or sport be a role model on how you can be productive during this time.  Be honest on how challenging this can be for you as well.  Sometimes we just feel flat, lethargic and unmotivated.  There are reasons for that.  Take some time to talk through it.  What are specific things you can do to work through it.
  • VII. Be Coachable
  • Talk to other coaches and sport leaders about things they are doing to engage their teams.
  • Utilize resources made available to learn more about coaching your sport so that you can use this time to get better at the Xs and Os.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment with other platforms besides Zoom or Google Hangouts.  Changing up what the players are using is a good way to give some variety and help them stay engaged.
  • Always be careful when working with minors.  Be mindful of privacy.  Whatever platform you use we recommend the guidelines from US Center for SafeSport to keep you, your players and families safe.

Be Safe.  Stay Healthy.

.

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Player Technical 2016/2020 Summary – Youth Development

In this report I have listed some observations from watching English Premier League youth teams for the last three years. During this time period I have watched a number of games played by English Premier developmental teams and lower league senior teams. The quality of play is quite impressive. The following report contains recommendations and discussion points which may help coaches of American players in their teaching priorities.

The Industry of Player Acquisition and Selling.

The development of players, culturally, is an industry. The scouting, development and selling of young players in most European and South American countries is, significantly, financial. The buying and selling of players can be a very lucrative business and players are represented by agents at a very young age. It is a very different paradigm to the high school and collegiate route which is the path most American players take to become professional soccer players.

I spent a significant amount of time in the UK in 2016 and 2017 with John Doolan, one of Everton’s top scouts (Recruiters) One of the main jobs of a scout is to identify players who might be capable of playing in the Everton squad. The role of the scout is critical at top clubs and John, along with a number of other colleagues who work for Everton, search the UK, and indeed, the globe, looking for players who might improve their first team squad.  Along with the acquisitions of older players, professional clubs have youth programs for players as young as 10 years of age and going all the way to 23 years of age. Everton’s youth programs have been very successful in developing professional players but much time is spent watching players from other clubs who might be traded to enhance and strengthen Everton’s first team squad.

Everton Football Club is a football club in Liverpool, England, that competes in the Premier League, the top flight of English football. The club have competed in the top division for a record 114 seasons, missing the top division only four times since The Football League was created in 1888. Everton have won 15 major trophies: the League Championship nine times, the FA Cup five times and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup once.

All the top clubs have full time staff members watching and evaluating potential signings from other clubs, especially, in their late teens and early 20’s. John is perfect for this position having gone through the youth development system with Everton and then playing for a variety of English professional teams. Everton invited him back to become a youth development coach, where he became a valued and respected staff member, developing the likes of international players, Ross Barclay, Tom Davies and John Joe Kenny. Thoroughly cognizant of the demands of both Premier League and youth developmental levels, John accepted the position of Scout in 2016/2017 season and has become noted for his work ethic and player evaluation capabilities. He is the, quintessential, talent spotter and takes his role extremely seriously.

Watching Premier League Youth Development.

Although the players in these games are the same age as our American high school and college players the quality of these games are of a very different character. These games feature players who have acquired advanced technical skills which include the importance of taking care of yourself on the field including some of the “Dark Arts” of the game. Watching Liverpool U18’s versus Paris St. Germain U/18s, Everton U21’s versus Man Utd U21’s etc. is just different!

My experience in Brazil, as an observer, twenty years ago, was the same. The youth players are fighting for their professional lives and everything from what they eat, to their professional progress as players is carefully monitored. Whether they sign a professional contract or not has a massive impact on their family, especially as many come from quite poor backgrounds.

In the UK the players are, similarly, playing for their careers and are observed and analyzed in every game they play from a very young age. Even practices are videotaped. Lower league teams recognize that if they can develop a player and sell to a higher level club, they can make a whirlwind of money.

Most of the players are, obviously, committed to becoming a pro. However clubs are directed to offer sophisticated education programs and many players have attended American universities – often turning pro after graduation from university, either back in the UK or in the USA. They have the enviable position of having a University degree in their back pocket producing a very different motivational paradigm from UK and Brazilian players who have modest educational qualifications.

First You Make Your Habits and Then Your Habits Make You

Obviously the identification of talented players is of significant interest to all of us..….but my interest, for this report, is in identifying the technical habits which make these players so good. In watching so many games I noticed that similar skill patterns kept occurring game after game. After 43 years of playing and coaching in the USA I had rarely seen this level of soccer night after night, right in front of my eyes. The HABITS displayed by these young English professionals are, well worth noting for the future development of American players. In addition some observations of game management from the Premier Youth League coaches (use of substitutions, holding a lead, changing systems of play etc.) are also noteworthy.

As the Premier season draws to a close these are my reflections from some of the games I have seen. Some may appear to be repetitive…but repetition itself is a critical part of the players development journey.  

The following observations stand out –

  1. Shielding.

Use of the upper body to retain possession of the ball. Moving into opponents prior to receiving the ball……or…as Anson Dorrance (UNC Chapel Hill Head Women’s Coach – 1991 USA Women’s World Cup winning coach) would say, “Controlling the opponent before controlling the ball.” When two players are going for the ball the player who cuts off the other player “first” will win the ball. This will require players to step across and “into” the immediate opponent and blocking out the opponent…dare I say, something I have seen basketball players do on free throws. Blocking out players can only be done within a couple of paces of the ball, otherwise it would be obstruction. This important technique is called “shielding”. One of Anson’s legacies as the USA Women’s national team coach is that the best American women have mastered this skill….and the USA are number 1 in the world’s women’s game.

  • Receiving.

Ability to secure the ball with every part of the body, even under heavy pressure.

  1. Pre – receiving move. Player receives ball under pressure and buys time by “gesture” movement towards ball……player initiates a long step towards the ball which freezes opponent and then, let’s ball run across himself and takes ball in a different direction.
  2. “Flipping”. Receiving under pressure but “Lifting” ball over opponent’s foot.
  3. “Sitting” Cushioning a physical challenge by lowering center of gravity and initiating the first physical contact by stepping into opponent.
  4. “Gesturing / Indicating”. Attacker is marked tightly by opponent but indicates, with an open palm, to team mate to pass ball to foot which is furthest away from marking defender. A technique used successfully, as a player, by Paul Lambert when playing central MF in Scottish national team.
  • Scanning. Playing “Sideways On” (Frank Lampard – Master Scanner.)
  •  Head on a swivel all the time.
  •  Constantly looking over shoulder;

             i. When moving into support position.

             ii. Just before ball is passed.

             iii. Moment ball is passed.

             iv. When ball is on it’s way.

(See chapter on “Sideways On Soccer” in my booklet – “Developing The Elite American Soccer Player.”)

  • Driving the ball “dead straight” with power and “shaping” passes.

a. Ability to drive the ball, over long distances;

             i. “On a rope.” Dead straight, no spin. Arrives at targets chest. (Again, Frank Lampard driving ball – below.)

             ii. Also with fade. This pass slows down as it approaches the target and is easier to control.

             iii. Also with slight hook. This pass has spin and target can receive ball on the run.

             iv. With backspin. Shorter pass played between defenders with backspin. Checks up for attacker, behind backs.

                   Too many of our players cannot drive the ball dead straight. They continually hook the ball…why?           

  1. Ball not out of feet enough. The ball must be out and away from the players body and feet so the player can take a long “hop” in this case from right foot to left foot which is the plant foot. As left plant foot lands the left hand is pointing at target – arms are important part of technique.
  2. Plant foot (in this case the left foot) lands too close to ball. The ball needs to be struck with the knuckle of right big toe and, to make ball go straight, must strike ball slightly left of center. If the plant foot lands too close to ball there is not enough space for knuckle of right foot to contact ball left of center and make it go straight..
  3. Striking toe comes up too quickly. If the striking toe comes up too quickly it will put spin on the ball and ball shall hook. Right toe should be pointed downward all the way through the strike.

I have watched several practices of professional youth development teams where the players simply drive the ball at each other putting hook, slice and straight driven balls.  I remember watching some Liverpool players staying behind after formal practice to work on hitting the cross bar of a goal with no net from the top of the penalty box. One player stood on one side of the goal and his partner on the other – a competition to see who could get to 10. This is a technique which is well worth staying behind to work on after practice. 

  • Development by Osmosis – Learning from older players.

Playing with and against older professionals is one of the most effective ways for young players to learn and develop. It is very fashionable to play a couple of older professional players (30/32 years of age) in games alongside the young professionals (u18s, u20’s etc.) In addition, clubs will, often, use older players coming back from injury to play in junior games.There is a sprinkling of older players in many of the youth games specifically to enhance the learning experience of the younger players.

Sadly many American clubs cannot do this simply because all the older players have gone to University at the age of 18 and many have not come back after graduation….so there are few people for the 14/15 years old left to learn from. However, I have worked at clubs were the coaching staff is young enough (30+) to play with and against the older age groups within the club (say the 16 year olds) who mix in with and against the older players. Other procedures could be developed to enhance the younger players learning from playing with and against older players – having local college players to come and help with practice is one way of improving young players by osmosis.

  • Using substitution as a motivational tool.

There is enormous competition for playing time within youth and professional squads and the coaches will, often, use the substitutes as a “Threat” to players on the field who are playing poorly. The coach gets the subs off the bench so the players playing in the game see the subs warming up alongside the field a couple of feet from the game. In a system when subbed players cannot go back in again this move by the coach can be a notification to specific players on the field that you are going to have to do better or you shall be subbed! The American system allows free substitution so the threat is not quite as sinister but modifications can always be improvised by a united coaching staff who are in agreement about player performance.

  • Early Movement – Early Support..

             Players moved to support a team mate “Before” the ball reached that team mate.  

             So…player A passes the ball to player B and, as the ball is rolling from A to B, player C is already moving into position so that player B can pass the ball to him first time or, at least, early. Combined with early verbal communication this enabled players to play one touch. A certain portion of each practice playing 1 touch soccer can enhance this habit. Verbal communication is, also, to be encouraged.

  • Early Decision Making and the importance of Small Sided Games.

Due to the positions they occupy there are certain patterns of play which occur in every game to players. Players must be exposed to those patterns of play in practice and master those patterns. Consequently, in a 6 v 6 practice game a right back should be positioned on the right side of the field which corresponds to the position he plays in the 11 v 11 game. Right backs receive the ball sideways on in a game as they are in a flank position. Central midfielders receive the ball facing their own goal…which is a completely different receiving skill. The positioning of central midfielders in small sided games should reflect this. Players are aware of their options with the ball before receiving it. Frank Lampard’s body positioning (sideways on) and constant scanning made him one of the finest midfielders to ever play the game.

  • Ability to receive a hard pass.

Players rarely bobbled a ball even when passed with lightning speed. Although our US players have improved in this area they still make too many first touch mistakes. A common mistake novice player’s make is to receive the ball with a loose ankle i.e. with the big toe pointing down. To make the foot rigid the big toe should be pointing up which will lock the ankle and give the player a better receiving surface and more control over the ball – also  important for passing with the inside of the foot. This is one of the most common mistakes I see when watching our young players and must be addressed early in a player’s technical development…the consequences from not correcting this malady are dire. Players who have receiving flaws shall have a very difficult time playing at a significantly sophisticated level.

  1. Repetition.

Two walls featured here – one in Brazil and one at an English Premier League club. Players are expected to spend an enormous amount of time doing very basic routines kicking the ball against a wall. We were astonished to see the willingness of Brazilian players to perform, what appears to be, extremely basic skill repetition day in and day out. The Brazilians used their wall every day, sometimes for 30 minutes. The big question is, “Are our players willing to do basic repetition?”

  1. The Coaching Team.

It would not be unusual to see 5/6 staff coaches at an Everton U18 game…plus more in the bleachers watching the game. This is not always possible in American clubs but the understanding that the coaching staff are a team which work together must be emphasized.

Moreover, it is, absolutely, essential that the coaching staff must have an understanding of “correct” technique.

e.g. Heading – Pictured below – Poor on top. Good on bottom. Why? How is it done correctly? Ball mastery by basic repetition must be embraced by the players.

Coaches MUST be interested in their own continuing education (bottom photograph) and be willing to adhere to the Club’s Technical ID as developed by the club’s Technical Committee.

For more information on developing future players and coaches please access JeffTipping.com Please note our new coaches “pocket book” which can fit in the coach’s pocket so you can refer to the exercises right there on the practice field. Contains many exercises to help the new and developing coach with quality practice sessions. Also if you are interested in taking your team to the UK and/or joining us on a Coach/Study tour of the UK please contact us at our email address. jeffrtipping@gmail.com    
Jeff Tipping.com    jeffrtipping@gmailcom 0(11 44) 1 695 421 701 – UK (001) 816 213 6755  – USA    
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It’s not just how well your team plays that is a judge of your success. It is far more complicated than that.

If you happen to coach a winning team this does not automatically make you a good coach. Just as if you coach a team with a losing record doesn’t automatically make you a less effective coach.

Good coaches build significant relationships with their athletes. They treat them with respect. They build, rather than tear down self-esteem…(make a player feel crummy about him/herself and that player will consistently under-perform for you.)

Good coaches have winning and losing in perspective. (It’s a known fact that the more emphasis you place on the outcome of the game or match, the less chance your athletes have of reaching that outcome.)

Good coaches understand that their primary job is to teach athletes how to be good people as well as skilled performers. If you build a trusting, caring relationship with your players they’ll go to the “max” for you. You’ll get to winning far faster by teaching your players “silly” concepts like commitment, honesty, caring, mutual respect, teamwork, sportsmanship, etc.

And the primary way you teach these things? By who you are and the relationship that you build with each and every one of your athletes.

Do you want to be an incredible motivator? Then build solid relationships with your athletes.

Ponder this one question. How many “coach-of-the-year” awards are given to the coach with a mediocre record who is adored by his athletes because he is honest, respectful and teaches his players how to feel good about themselves, how to be better people, how to play well together as a team, how to effectively handle success and failure, the importance of having character, a positive attitude and good sportsmanship? I know, these seem like such “minor” lessons when compared to winning and losing…

Your challenge as a coach is to not get yourself so caught up in this “winning is everything” mentality that you lose sight of what’s really important and what a truly successful coach is. And the funny thing about this is that the less your ego is caught up with winning, the more you’ll end up winning!

Dr. Alan Goldberg, is a nationally recognized expert, author and clinician in the field of sport psychology and performance psychology with years of experience working across all sports with athletes at every level.

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Hall of Famer, Keith Tabatznik, in his articles for FUNdamental SOCCER, “Coach: Improve In Isolation” wrote, “During the virus-shutdown might be the perfect time for coaches to improve their own ‘game.’  I asked others for input on the subject and Coach Tigran, Youth Development Phase Lead Coach, Barnet FC, UEFA PRO Licensed Coach, was kind enough to respond with the following…  

“Coaching is one of the most responsible tasks that people can have. It is fascinating area but is not an easy area. You have to remind yourself why players are in the training sessions; what they want; what they need and why you are there. Here are some of my thoughts and ideas to consider when coaching:”  

Get to know the person and then the player. Connect before you correct. Show them that you care not only with your words but also with your actions. Actions speak louder than your words; so speak less but when you speak be careful the words you use. Be aware what your body language communicates as well. Focus on the individual, what they want and what they need. Praising is important where there is a need for that; but praise the effort and not the outcome.  

Environment is everything. First of all, create an environment that ensures the players safety and well-being. That environment should be engaging, boosting confidence, promoting creativity and letting players express themselves without the fear of failure.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Be ready to change, tweak or adapt your sessions within seconds. It is ok if your session looks messy, don’t feel uncomfortable, learning is messy. You don’t need to have everything too organized, there is no need for everything to be so structured. There is no perfect session, but you have to plan it as a masterclass.

Manipulate the task. What you train is what you get. As coaches we are learning designers, so design realistic scenarios and situations that allow players certain opportunities for actions and consequences for their actions. Be ready to be surprised from the outcome of what you were expecting to see from the game. Remember that players need to have interactions with teammates and opponents in order to be able to solve problems consistently. Tasks should be challenging but always as a reference to the real game.

Increase or decrease the complexity in your practice games. Adding more numbers, adding more rules have to be in line with the capabilities of the players.

Make sure the players have as much ball contact time as possible. Let them master the ball, create a relationship with the ball, players should fall in love with the ball. Focus more on dribbling and protecting the ball; rather than the solution of a pass, which is trying to get rid of it and not protect it individually. Know the details of a technique but don’t be obsessed to correct the technique to perfection; there is no such thing as perfect technique!  There is however a functional and successful technique which suits each individual.

Mix the age groups and the players with different abilities, the psycho -social interaction is very beneficial. There is no need to stick the players into certain positions including GK’s.  Let them experience all areas of the game, so that they will develop different technicotactical and psychosociological aspect of the game.

Involve the players in the feedback, let them take responsibility of their actions. Use the ‘Socratic method.’ Asking good questions is an art. However, keep in mind that understanding of the game is not the same as understanding in the game. So, go back to your session design and see if that speaks to the players.  Give value to your questions.

Observe, Reflect, Review, Feel the Sessions. Coaches have to think why they do what they do. It is necessary for the learning process.

As coaches we have to consistently educate ourselves. Don’t educate yourself only around football [soccer], football is more than technique and tactics. Stay humble because knowledge is never enough.

The above is not in any particular order.  It depends on your external factors and the culture you are in. Adapt, but keep in mind that if we don’t preach what we teach as role models; then we are coaches with a double standard.

Coach Tigran Tadevosyan

Youth Development Phase Lead Coach, Barnet FC

UEFA PRO Licensed Coach

Can be followed at: twitter @coach_tigran

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