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Pass the Passion

The late Tony Waiters, former English National Team Goalkeeper, Canadian National Team Coach, and respected author and clinician was a pioneer in identifying some of the problems first encountered in North America in regard to not seeing enough kids playing in the streets and in the parks on their own getting the experiences they need. He also noted problems with how the game was organized at the youngest levels because it did not provide enough incentive for the kids to go out and organize themselves in their backyards or parks to play soccer. The once-a-week 7-aside games they were playing were not turning young players into passionate players.

Also, with games such as Nintendo, Sony Play Station, or X-Box and computers, kids have so many other activities to choose from that seem more fun. Soccer is fun. Why are kids not playing soccer as freely in the parks?

The Media’s Influence – The media generally does a very poor job covering soccer. The mainstream media is very powerful and generally ignores soccer, even though there has been record-breaking attendance at numerous games throughout the US. The MLS has recently grabbed media attention thanks to the signing of Lionel Messi with Inter Miami. This attention to the game of soccer in North America can only help create dreams for kids and is good for the game.

Making Soccer Kid-Friendly – Hopefully, more kids will seek to play soccer in the parks, but sometimes it’s organized sports that can have the most influence on a child playing the sport, and if the administrators and coaches are not making the game fun, then there is not much more we can do to encourage players to go out and play on their own to build a passion for the game.

Tony Waiters’ WayTo guarantee success, we need to alter the game and make it more specific to kids and not adults. “Kids want to kick a ball,” Waiters states in his book. Even in 7-aside soccer, the “swarm” effect continues. We need to scale the game down even further. 3v3 Soccer, for example, is based on the concept that kids need to touch the ball as often as possible to learn and enjoy the game. This is one option.

Waiters always said, “The Game is The Teacher.”  Here is an excerpt from the book Coaching 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds, “Areas in the world where kids have little to do, often depressed areas are soccer’s breeding grounds. Kids and young men play soccer morning, noon, and night. Those conditions continue today in some parts of South America and Africa, as well as in parts of Europe. Where do kids learn their soccer skills? Not by coaching! They play small-sided soccer, 2-a-side, 3-a-side, and 4-a-side, almost always on an improvised soccer field. It’s from this kind of environment that most great players have emerged and this environment does not exist in North America and is disappearing in Europe. But the requirement to have fun, kick the ball, and develop skills most certainly does. Coaches need to re-create the conditions under which kids have great fun and, therefore, learn the game.

Karl Dewazien’s Approach – Another coach who is initiating and guiding a SOCCERevolution in North America is Karl Dewazien, Emeritus Director of Coaching for the California Youth Soccer Association. He has written a number of books and lectured throughout North America on SOCCER FUNdamentals. His specialty is in working with children from a number of perspectives, including child psychology. Here are just a few of his quotes from his book FUNdamental SOCCER – Practice, “create an atmosphere where players are teaching themselves.” “Duplicate the excitement of the game in your practices.” “The genius of good coaching is to make hard work seem like fun.” “They will continue to participate if they are having fun.”

Dewazien is now proposing playing games where there are two goals at each end, which many European countries have adopted, and the German DFB is mandating.

FUNdamental SOCCER – U6 Playing Rules – Fundamental Soccer

FUNdamental SOCCER – U8 Playing Rules – Fundamental Soccer

FUNdamental SOCCER U-10 Playing Rules – Fundamental Soccer

FUNdamental SOCCER – U-12 Playing Rules – Fundamental Soccer

Scoring More Goals – Now, my specialty has been geared towards teaching players over 14 years of age how to score more goals in the chances that they get. So, what does scaling the game down have to do with goal scoring? Everything. Scoring is fun, and smaller-sided games, along with 4 goals to shoot at, will definitively increase goal-scoring opportunities in a game. You want players coming up through the system who have developed a broad range of instinctive responses that will bring out the correct skill responses to different situations, especially as it applies to scoring.

Conclusion: Passing the Passion Forward – Let’s help make soccer so FUN that kids will leave those computer games behind and go for a run and play and socialize a bit more.  It seems harder and harder for parents to get their kids to play on their own. A few years ago, Marco, my younger son, used to say,” Dad, even when I want to play, none of my friends do. They’re all busy playing video games!” Maybe organized sports are our only hope. Let’s at least make that environment more conducive to providing positive experiences for players to improve! Go ahead, pass the passion around.

For coaches who are looking at helping their players score more goals and ideas on creating a passion for the game, then my book, The Last 9 Seconds-The Secrets to Scoring Goals on the Last Touch, is perfect for you. The book also offers new insights into player development. It will become a perfect coaching reference guide.

To claim a 40% discount on the book, enter PROMO CODE: JOHN40 when checking out on the following website:

Thanks for reading,

John DeBenedictis

Executive Director of The National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada has contributed to FUNdamental SOCCER for decades. Author of the best-selling book "The Last 9 Seconds: The Secrets to Scoring Goals on the Last Touch." and offers a course called "Secrets to Goal Scoring." Goalkeeper for York University, National Title winner in 1977. Semi-professional in the National Soccer League with Toronto Ukrainian and co-ran camps with former English International goalkeeper and Canadian National Team coach Tony Waiters.