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Main techniques in modern soccer
In the last few years the game has experienced important changes. Players are faster, stronger and armed with advanced tactics, which make teams more competitive. Quickness seems to be one of the main characteristic that has been developed more recently.

The game has become more sophisticated as a consequence of young skillful players arising in recent years. Tactics and formations seem to be paramount, however the evolution of the game and the new tendencies demonstrates again that technique is a key part of the game. Over the next few issues of the Directors Cut we will highlight some of the main techniques that are evident in today’s world-class players and some example training sessions to help develop these aspects:

  • Ball control

BALL CONTROL

First touch and body shape to receive is key for good control. Often the best players in control of the ball are those with excellent attitude and explosive movements prior to receiving the ball. It is also important for the players to experiment and make contact with the ball using different parts of the body: inside, laces or outside of the foot are the main surfaces of contact but also use other parts of the body i.e. the chest, thigh or the head.

The best way to secure possession in tight areas is to keep the ball on the ground. Therefore, short passes at speed can assist in building strong offensive style of play. Aerial balls and long passes will be harder to control. For this reason accuracy and speed of the short pass is key in developing good ball control. 'keep it simple'.

Practice to develop ball control:

TITLE:

OVERLOAD POSSESSION

Number of players:

15 players - 3 teams of 5 players

Space:

60x20 yards - 3 squares of 20x20 yards

Description:

Three teams of 5 players, each team allocated a square.

The blue team keeps possession of the ball. 1 red "defender" from the square beside enters with the intention of recovering the ball. Initially this produces a 5v1 situation. When the blue team reaches 5 consecutive passes, a 2nd red player enters to create 5v2

The game finishes when reaching either a 5v5 situation or when the red team recovers and transfers the ball successfully to his/her original square. The attacking team will score as many points as defenders are inside the square when possession is lost.

Rules:

When the team in possession of the ball makes 5 passes one more defender is allowed to enter into the square joining their teammates to recover the possession.

The defending team needs to recover and transfer the ball successfully to its own square in order to change from defending team to attacking team.

One defender inside the square means 1 point, 2 defenders 2 points etc.

After every 4 possessions change the team in the middle square. This team will be in action 100% of the time without rest periods.

Variations in relation to the level of the players:

- Beginners

Free touches allowed.

- Advanced

Only 2 touches allowed. Score every 3 passes.

- Excellence

Only 1 touch allowed. Reduce the space to 15x15 or 10x10 yards.

Soccer Sideline Etiquette
how to make the game a more enjoyable experience

Here is a primer, a reminder, of little things that we can do on the sidelines to make this soccer season more pleasant for all concerned – most importantly, for the kids.

Some points to keep in mind while watching from the sidelines during the coming season:

  • Let the coach’s coach. If you are telling your son or daughter – or any other player for that matter – to do something different from what the coach is telling them, you create distraction and confusion.
  • It is very unnerving for many young players to try and perform difficult tasks on the field on the spur of the moment when parents are yelling at them from the sidelines. Let the kids play. If they have been well coached, they should know what to do on the field. If they make a mistake, chances are they will learn from it.
  • Do not discuss the play of specific young players in front of other parents. How many times do you hear comments such as, “I don’t know how that boy made this team….” or “she’s just not fast enough…”. Too many parents act as though their child is a ‘star,’ and the problem is someone else’s kid. Negative comments and attitudes are hurtful, totally unnecessary and kill parent harmony, which is often essential to youth team success.
  • Discourage such toxic behavior by listening patiently to any negative comments that might be made, then address issues in a positive way. Speak to the positive qualities of a player, family or coach.
  • Do your level best not to complain about your son or daughter’s coaches to other parents. Once that starts, it is like a disease that spreads. Before you know it, parents are talking constantly in a negative way behind a coach’s back. (As an aside, if you have what you truly feel is a legitimate beef with your child’s coach – either regarding game strategy or playing time, arrange an appointment to meet privately, away from a soccer field.)
  • Make positive comments from the sideline. Be encouraging. Young athletes do not need to be reminded constantly about their perceived errors or mistakes. Their coaches will instruct them, either during the game or at halftime, and during practices. You can often see a young player make that extra effort when they hear encouraging words from the sideline about their hustle.
  • Avoid making any negative comments about players on the other team. This should be simple: we are talking about youngsters, not adults who are being paid to play professionally. I recall being at a game some years ago, when a parent on one team loudly made comments about errors made by a particular young player on the other team. People on the other side of the field were stunned and angry. Besides being tasteless and classless, these kinds of comments can be hurtful to the young person involved and to their family as well
  • Try to keep interaction with parents on the other team as healthy and positive as possible. Who’s kidding whom? You want your child’s team to win. So do they. But that should not make us take leave of our senses, especially our common sense. Be courteous until it hurts; avoid the ‘tit for tat’ syndrome.
  • Parents on the ‘other’ team are not the enemy. Neither are the boys or girls on the other team. We should work to check any negative feelings at the door before we hit the pitch.
  • What is the easiest thing to do in the youth sports world? Criticize the referees. Oh, there are times when calls are missed, absolutely. And that can, unfortunately, directly affect the outcome of a contest. That said, by and large those who officiate at youth soccer games are hardly over-compensated, and put forth an honest – and often quite competent – effort. At worst, they at least try to be fair and objective.

 

  • On that note, outbursts from parents on the sideline made toward the referees only signal to our own children on the field that they can blame the refs for anything that goes wrong. Blaming others is not a formula for success in sports.
  • Yelling out comments such as “Good call, ref” or “Thanks ref” may only serve to alienate an official. The refs always believe they made the proper call, that’s why they made it. Trying to show superficial support because the call went ‘your’ way is simply annoying to the officials, and to anyone within earshot.
  • Walking up and down all game long along the sidelines, following the play, is unnerving to players and totally unnecessary, particularly so if you are trying to yell out instructions to various players, including your own son or daughter. It is likely embarrassing to the players involved and simply counterproductive. If you want to coach, obtain your coaching certification and apply for a job.
  • We all feel things and are apt to be tempted to say things in the ‘heat of the moment’. But we don’t excuse athletes for doing inappropriate things in the ‘heat of the moment’ (there are penalties, suspensions, etc.), so we should apply similar standards to our own sideline behavior. Quickly check yourself and ask: “Will I be proud of what I am about to say or do when I reflect on it tomorrow?”
The parking lot is not the time to ‘fan the flames.’ Whether it is a coach’s decision, a referee’s call, a comment that was made, let it go. Don’t harass the coach, an official or a parent on the other team after the game is over. Go home, relax and unwind. Talk positively with your child. The ride home is sometimes as important as the game itself. Make that time a good memory for your son or daughter by discussing as many positives as you can about him/her, the coach, teammates, etc.

Mental Focus for Soccer
“How do I stop being so nervous before a big soccer game?”

This is a common and sometimes frustrating issue experienced by even the most talented of soccer players.  But what you might not understand is that being nervous actually is a good thing.  That’s right! It means you care about what you are about to do, and that is definitely something to be proud of.  You may not realize it, but it’s completely natural to feel nervous.

But you still might find it hard to play under the kind of big-game pressure that causes nervousness.  The key to overcoming this feeling is to focus on what you can control and limiting your concern on those issues out of your control.  Do not burden yourself with worries like, “What if this happens?” or “What if this player is playing?” or “What if so and so is watching?”  Do not worry about that stuff!  Focus on playing the game with patience and simplicity.  You love playing soccer, don’t you?  Then, what’s there to worry about?  Just play the game and have fun doing it.

When you are playing a team you know you should beat, you probably feel confident, don’t you?  This is good because you are confident in your abilities and in your team’s abilities as well.  But how do you play well in big games, against teams that are supposed to be better than yours?  Or how about when you are in a big playoff game, and being watched by family and friends within a large crowd?  This can be nerve-racking, sure, but think about it this way: All these people are supporting you and want you to do well.  In fact, they know you’ll do well, and are very proud that you made it to where you are.  So think positively! This will help you play better and relax.

Here are some quick points to keep in mind when playing to stay mentally connected to the game:

  • be cheeky (take chances in the attacking third - take players on)
  • know where you want to play the ball before you get it
  • play simple one and two touch soccer (pass and move)
  • work hard and get stuck in when you need to on defense (hustle)
  • ask for the ball all the time (communicate)
  • make direct and decisive runs
  • recognize where you are on the field and where your options are
  • have fun and encourage your teammates (you all want to win)
  • forget your mistakes and make up for them with hustle
  • keep your head up
  • play until the final whistle
  • think positive - don't be too hard on yourself
  • allow yourself to get into the game with a few easy passes and then build off of that play crisp and sharp passes (play with confidence)

Improving your players mental strength, England

Champions are not made in gyms; champions are made from something they have deep inside of them, a desire, a dream, and a vision. “They have to have the skill and the will but the will must be stronger than the skill.” (Muhammad Ali)

In soccer, as in most sports, the differences in skill and ability levels between players who have reached the elite leagues be it as a top amateur, semi-professional or professional - is far less pronounced than it is among young players.

In the majority of cases talent will have been spotted and nurtured early, Intense and high-level coaching over a number of years will have improved technique and skill and a thorough understanding of tactics and excellent physically fitness that sets them aside from the enthusiastic weekend player.
So what is it that gives some players the edge over the others? What is it that lets them hold their nerve in a penalty shootout, shut out on and off the pitch distractions and climb right up to the top of the pile?

Mental strength is as every bit as vital as physical strength; it is what ultimately defines winners and losers.

Handling pressure

So called, choking in sport is the result of the intense pressure a player perceives themselves to be under. This pressure results in judgment failure which leads to unforced errors.

It also takes a physical toll, manifesting itself with an increased heart rate and muscle tightening.
Basic mental skills involve becoming aware of one's ideal internal state, then developing techniques for creating, monitoring and maintaining this state during important performances.

Example techniques for preparing players for high pressure situations:

  • Visualizing or imagining the moment. Get the player to imagine the experience of scoring a penalty to win in a shoot-out in a final or seal the championship.
  • When practicing PK’s simulate the pressure as far as possible. Create noise, get opponents to try and distract the subject, and put him off verbally and mentally.

Match day nerves

  • A common sporting term for a player who appears totally determined and fully focused on the challenge facing them is that they are in the zone.
  • Many sports psychologists believe a certain level of nervousness before a game is a good thing. In broad terms, channeled correctly it is a stimulus towards optimum performance. However if it becomes anxiety and nerves, the players vacate the zone and do not perform to their potential.

GET YOUR PLAYERS TO UNDERSTAND AND JUMP INTO THE ZONE!!!!!

SOCCER FOOD AND NUTRITION

The food groups
A soccer player’s diet needs to be high in complex carbohydrates including moderate amounts of protein, salt, sugars, and sodium.  Their diet should be low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

All this may sound quite complicated, but yet it is quite simple.  A player can easily follow simple guidelines by eating a balanced diet, including a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups nutritionists recognize: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and meat.

Carbohydrates
Active, soccer-playing kids should get around 50 to 60% of their total calories in the form of carbohydrates.  They are the fuel that makes muscles go.  This means around 3.0 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.

Carbohydrates should be the largest part of a players meals before and after training or matches.  A player should even plan to boost carbohydrate intake during a game with a sports drink, also important for source for rehydration.

The best type of carbohydrates are rich in nutrients and obtained from complex (starchy) carbohydrates found in vegetables, breads, cereals, pasta, and rice, rather than the simple (sweet) carbohydrates found in milk and fruits.

Protein
Many people mistakenly think a diet rich in protein found in milk and meat helps build muscle and physical performance.  In fact a well balanced diet has only 10 to 15% of its calories in the form of protein.  Excess protein will stress the Kidneys and lead to dehydration and calcium loss.  Muscle size is dependent on sufficient calories from a balanced diet, physical maturity, genetics and training.

Fat
Fat in moderation remains an important part of a balanced diet for a soccer player.  Approximately 20% to 30% of a players calories should come from fat.  Fat is important for many of the body’s functions including a secondary source of energy to fuel muscles, brain and nerve functions, as well as, providing essential vitamins (i.e., A, E, D, K and Omega 3 fatty acids) to help the body recover quickly by reducing inflammation and swelling from injuries.

Tips on eating and drinking before and after a game

  • Build up calorie intake in the days leading up to a match.  This ensures a players muscles contain a good store of glycogen, the agent that powers the body.
  • On the day of a game remember soccer is a stop and go sport requiring fluids and carbohydrates throughout the day.
  • The night before and 2 hours before a game focus on carbohydrates, moderate protein, low fat foods and fluids.  Foods on this list would include; pasta with vegetables and chicken, fruit, skimmed milk, cereal, yogurt, toast and juice.
  • Help the body’s muscles recover fast by eating or drinking high carbohydrate snacks within 30 minutes after the game.
  • Studies show sports drinks are more effective and often more readily taken than water as a preventative for fatigue and dehydration.  A player should drink around five to nine ounces of a suitable fluid every 20 minutes or so during a match or training.  Fluid intake should occur after the exercise as well to help with the body’s rehydration.

Training Advisory

Heat Illness: Avoidance & Prevention
As we move into the summer months we need to pay close attention to the effects heat can have the body of a young player.

I have recently provided the below information to our entire Snohomish United Coaching Staff as part of their continued education.  I feel this information should be common knowledge as there are so many false training ideals in terms of acclimatizing players for warmer playing conditions.  Enjoy and read the facts.

Heat Illness can be categorized in order of increasing severity as dehydration, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.  The warning signs, symptoms, treatments, and return to activity protocols will be discussed later in this article but suffice it to say that heat stroke can result in permanent disability or death and the related liability implications for the sports or recreation organization and its people.

From a physiological point of view, any factor that causes core body temperatures to rise to high levels can lead to decreased athletic performance or heat stress.  These factors include high physical exertion levels/duration/infrequent hydration breaks, high environmental temperatures, high humidity which decreases evaporation, low sweat levels (dehydration), lack of heat acclimatization, heat retaining clothing and protective equipment, and physical conditions which make certain individuals more susceptible to heat illness.

High Physical Exertion Levels, Long Durations & Infrequent Hydration Breaks
The risk of heat illness increases for sports and activities that have higher physical exertion levels, longer durations, and infrequent opportunities for hydration breaks.  As a result, athletic administrators and officials must take additional safeguards to protect athletes engaging in these sports and activities.

Examples of sports with high physical exertion levels include football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, boxing, and track and field.  Examples of sports with longer durations include pre-season football practice, distance running, cycling, tennis, and baseball.  Examples of sports with infrequent hydration breaks include soccer, lacrosse, and distance running.

High Heat & Humidity
The risk of heat illness rises with increasing temperatures and relative humidity.  Higher relative humidity levels reduce evaporative cooling.  Evaporation of sweat is the primary cooling mechanism of the body.

The following chart is helpful to athletic administrators and officials in making decisions in order to protect against heat illness:

  1. Athletes should receive a 5-10 minute rest and fluid break after every 25 to 30 minutes of activity.

  2. Athletes should receive a 5-10 minute rest and fluid break after every 20 to 25 minutes of activity.  Athletes should be in shorts and t-shirts only.

Dehydration
Dehydration of 1% to 2% of body weight can make an athlete feel bad and can decrease athletic performance.  Dehydration of 3% can further impact physiologic function and increases the risk of more serious heat illnesses.  Preventing dehydration is perhaps the most important factor in preventing heat illness.  The early warning signs of dehydration include dark yellow urine, loss of energy, dizziness, cramps, loss of coordination, headaches and unusual fatigue.

To follow are tips for preventing dehydration:

  • Athletes reach dehydration levels more quickly if they begin their workout dehydrated.  Athletes should pre-hydrate and should not wait until they feel thirsty because by that time it will be too late.  Higher heat/humidity, exertion levels, and duration of exercise require higher amounts of pre-hydration.  At a minimum, athletes should drink 8 to 16 oz. of liquid (preferably a sports drink) one hour prior to exercise.

  • Fluids should be easily accessible during workouts, practices, and games.  Athletes should be encouraged to drink to excess of thirst to minimize losses in body weight but should not over drink either.  During exercise, athletes should drink, at a minimum, 4 to 8 oz. every 15-20 minutes.  Sports drinks are preferred over water since the carbohydrates in sports drinks provide energy and electrolytes (i.e. sodium and potassium) to encourage voluntary drinking and to minimize muscle cramps.

  • After exercise, athletes should rehydrate as soon as possible (completely within two hours) with a volume that exceeds the amount of weight loss.  As a general rule, athletes should drink at least 16 oz. after exercise to counteract the consequential urine losses incurred during the rapid rehydration process.  Scales should be accessible to measure and monitor post exercise weight with pre exercise weight.  Athletes who lose five percent or more of their body weight over a period of several days should be medically evaluated with activity restrictions until rehydration has occurred.  Urine volume and color is another measure of general hydration.  If output is plentiful and if the color is pale yellow, the athlete is not dehydrated.

Heat Acclimatization
Acclimatization is the process through which the body deals with being introduced to a hot environment.  Exercise intensity and duration should be gradually increased over the first two to three days of training as this is the time period in which most serious cases of heat illness occur.

The body’s sweat rate increases after 10 to 14 days of heat exposure.  As a result, a greater fluid intake will be required after acclimatization.  In addition, increased sodium intake may be necessary during the first 3 to 5 days of heat exposure since the initial increased sweat rate will result in more sodium loss.  After 5 to 10 days, the sodium concentration in sweat will decrease and additional sodium supplementation should not be necessary.

If sodium supplementation is needed early during the heat acclimatization process (or due to recurring muscle cramps) it is best administered by a dilution into a sports drink.  For example, _ tsp. of table salt should be dissolved in approximately 32 oz of sports drink and consumed early in the exercise session.

Heat Retaining Clothing & Protective Equipment
Excessive clothing increase heat stress by both interfering with evaporation of sweat and inhibiting pathways for heat loss. Dark colored clothing increases the body’s absorption of solar radiation. Stretch materials such as “under armor” can add another layer of insulation to the body.

The following tips are recommended:

  • Minimize the amount of equipment and clothing worn by athletes on hot and humid days – particularly during an acclimatization period.

  • Frequent rest periods should be scheduled so that equipment and clothing can be loosened to allow heat loss.

  • Avoid wearing dark colors on hot days.

Factors That Make Athletes More Susceptible to Heat Illness
The following internal factors make certain athletes more susceptible to heat illness:

  • Higher percentage of body fat

  • Lower level of physical fitness

  • Past history of heat illness

  • Inadequate heat acclimatization

  • Dehydration or Over-hydration

  • Salt deficiency

  • Medications such as antihistamines and diuretics

  • Certain dietary supplements (ex: ephedra)

  • Fever or gastrointestinal illness

  • Certain skin conditions such as sunburn or rash

  • Pre-pubescence

  • Athletes who push themselves hard

  • Athletes who are reluctant to report problems

Many of these predisposing factors are discoverable by a well designed pre-participation medical screening form while others are discoverable by close observation.

Stages of Heat Illness, Warning Signs Treatment, & Return to Activity

Heat Cramps
Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat illness and are commonly related to low sodium and chloride levels.  Warning signs and symptoms include intense muscle pain not associated with pulling or straining a muscle and persistent contractions during or after exercise.

Heat cramps should be treated by stopping activity and gently stretching and massaging the affected area.  The athlete should immediately consume a sports drink containing sodium.

The athlete can return to play when the cramp has gone away when he/she feels and acts like playing again.

Heat Exhaustion
Heat Exhaustion is a moderate heat illness that occurs when an athlete continues to be physically active after starting to suffer from heat stress.

The signs and symptoms include dehydration, chills, dizziness, fainting, loss of coordination, profuse sweating or pale skin, stomach/intestinal cramps, persistent muscle cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Heat exhaustion should be treated by moving the athlete to a shaded or air conditioned area and removing any extra clothing or equipment.  The athlete should lie down with legs raised above heart level. The athlete should be cooled by fans and/or cold towels.  If not nauseated or vomiting, chilled water or a sports drink should be consumed.  If the condition does not improve rapidly, the athlete should be transported for emergency medical treatment.

The athlete should not be allowed to play again until all symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration are no longer present.  Play or practice in the heat should be postponed until at least the next day and possibly longer depending in the severity of the heat exhaustion.  If emergency medical treatment was received, the athlete should not be allowed to return without specific return to play instructions from the doctor.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a severe illness that occurs when exposure to heat overwhelms the body’s cooling mechanism leading to soaring body temperatures that can result in permanent disability or death if left untreated.

The signs and symptoms include core body temperature (rectal) that exceeds 104° F, altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior, or decreased mental activity.  Other signs and symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, hot skin (dry or wet), increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and fast breathing.

Heat stroke should be treated by calling 911 for transport to a local hospital.  While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, begin aggressive whole body cooling by removing extra clothing and equipment and by immersing in a tub of cold water if available.  In the alternative, use fans, ice, or cold towels placed over as much of the body as possible.

The athlete should not be allowed to return until his doctor approves and provides specific return to play instructions.  The athlete should return to physical activity slowly and under the watchful eye of a trainer or other health care professional.

Planning Process
The planning process should take into account the following considerations to reduce the instances and severity of heat illness where the temperature and humidity are above predetermined levels:

  • Educate administrators, officials, and coaches on all aspects of heat illness.

  • Practices and games may need to be postponed and rescheduled to avoid peak temperatures.

  • Practices may be modified to shorten their duration, intensity, and equipment usage.

  • Mandatory non-routine fluid breaks should be scheduled during practice and games.

  • The normal work/rest ratios may need to be modified during games or practice.

  • Water and/or sports drinks should be readily available.

  • Game rules can be modified to allow unlimited substitution.

  • Pre-participation screening including questions about fluid intake, weight changes, medications, history of prior heat illness, etc. to identify athletes that are at higher risk.

Sources

Goalkeeper Basics 1
There was a time, not so long ago, when the role of the goalkeeper was considered to be less important than that of the other players on the team.  Nowadays though, the situation has changed considerably.  In the modern game, all players are considered to be on an equal footing, irrespective of the position they occupy.  Despite this, however, there are many specialists who feel that the goalkeeper has a special place in the team, since they are possibly the only one whose performance can determine whether their team wins or loses a match.

In this article, we will be looking at some basic goalkeeping techniques.

The ‘Set Position’
  • The feet should be approximately shoulder width apart

  • The weight should be on the front half of the feet ensuring a balanced position

  • The body weight needs to be slightly forward

  • The knees need to be slightly flexed with the hips square to the ball.

  • Keep the head still and keep ‘the nose in front of the toes’.

  • The elbows need to be narrow with the chest facing the ball.

  • The hands need to be front of the bodyline and approximately ball width apart.

  • ‘Prepare the hands early’.

These are general guidelines.  Q’s will be posed as to what is the correct hand position.  The goalkeeper will naturally use a position that feels comfortable and therefore they will vary.  As a general statement-

‘If the goalkeeper feels comfortable and has a good and consistent handling of the ball then it is not a problem.  However, if handling techniques are inconsistent then hand position may need changing’.

The ‘Set position’ will obviously alter slightly due to the physiological make-up of the goalkeeper but generally the principles remain the same.

  • The goalkeepers starting position in relation to the ball.

  • Movement into line of the ball.

  • The Set Position as the ball is struck.

  • The assessment as to which technique will be most appropriate.

The ‘W’ Techniques
  • The hands need to be brought from being in front of the
    line of the ball into the line of trajectory of the ball with
    chest square.
  • The hands are prepared with the palms facing the ball
    with the fingers spread and the thumbs forming the ‘W’ shape.
  • The elbows need to be slightly flexed to act as ‘shock absorbers’
    when the contact of the hands is made with the ball.
  • The contact with the ball needs to be made approximately ’15-18
    inches’ in front of the body.
  • ‘Soft hands- Strong Wrists’.
  • ‘Keep the eyes on the back of the ball’.
Common problems:
The goalkeepers’ head is not still and the head retracts as the catch is made, thus making the goalkeeper unbalanced.The goalkeepers’ elbows are not flexed enough, which ‘flattens’ the hand shape which often leads to the ball catching the end of the goalkeepers’ fingers.

 

Tomorrow’s player – shaped from today’s youngsters

Sport in general and especially soccer has a very important educative role in the learning and development process of youngsters. Soccer not only provides an opportunity for youngsters to develop their skills that are particular to the game; it also helps them to develop their personality, and their psychological and social skills.

While most youth soccer clubs try to cover the basic training and introduction to the game through games and co-ordination exercises, a substantial amount of work still has to be achieved with the development and education of tomorrow’s youth players while they are at their “building” stages 7 – 12 years of age.

This is the “golden age” for developing technical skills, as well as the technical/tactical rudiments of the game and even basic psychology skills. All of the basics of technique, individual tactical awareness and the fundamental principles of the game should be trained at this age, as well as mental attitudes, such as concentration, self-confidence, perseverance, willpower, etc….

The work done at this “golden age” therefore has to be optimized, and the coaches/educators who work with the players have to be passionate about their educative role. Several players today have achieved their fame because of the education/training that they received at this introductory level. 

With a solid base to work from players can then matriculate towards the performance stages of their development and education where a greater emphasis is placed on the athletic and physical preparation of players as well as on their mental approach and tactical preparation – all fundamental requirements for playing the game at the top level.

The training and developing of future professional players is, of course, fully justified and imperative, because it ensures that they are better prepared to face playing at the top level.

It is, however, also essential to remember that the game of soccer has a wider role to play and that it has to include basic educative values as part of its agenda. Soccer has to provide a real School of Life, a school that is prepared to train and develop not only the elite players of tomorrow, but also all of those youngsters who are passionate about the game and who form the base of the soccer pyramid that the game needs to ensure its continued progress.

Evaluating your coaching methods!

In general we design our coaching sessions to improve how our teams play and perform as individuals and as a team.  We measure the improvement and success of our training during games and scrimmages as we all know the game is the “Best Teacher and Evaluator”.  When assessing our coaching and training sessions, we all too often attribute any effective learning down to our excellent coaching ability and any ineffective learning and training sessions are blamed on the players!

Can you evaluate the effectiveness of your coaching?
Most coaches attempt to obtain and assimilate as much knowledge as possible.  How well do you prioritize and simplify the knowledge that you have acquired?  Do you have an effective and enthusiastic manner?

Enthusiasm is effective but the coach must work hard to know more about his/her players and involve them as much as possible and in as many of the team decisions to get total buy-in.

A good coach is one who encourages their players to make decisions themselves and who prevents them from becoming too dependent on them.  This emphasis on coaching styles is not only to develop more effective communication skills but also to encourage a more co-operative team.

Is the organization of your practices characterized by simplicity and clarity?
Many soccer coaches are concerned with the desire for variety, and for the quest for new practices.  This is commendable if associated with a search for different coaching styles and methods in order to improve.  Too often, however, change can be for change’s sake with an undue emphasis placed upon how the session is organized as opposed to how the session is coached.

It will be of benefit for all coaches to evaluate how they organize their coaching sessions.  Traditionally, coaches have tended to use a session structure which moves from a warm-up, to a skill aspect, to a game.  Sometimes it is a good idea to use a different approach.  Therefore, Coaches are encouraged to evaluate and experiment with other formats.  Some are outlined below:

Whole Part-Whole Method:
After the warm-up go directly into a game.  After highlighting the perceived weakness go into some small group work to improve the highlighted area.  Then go back into the game.  Through this whole part-whole method the players are more likely to understand the context in which the highlighted area has relevance and perhaps more importantly, they understand why they need the practice and can become more motivated to improve.

Self-check:
The coach gives the players some key points to check when practicing on a highlighted area during and away from training sessions.  This is most appropriate for the development of technique and can take the form of single challenges or tests.

Buddy Teaching:
Here the coach organizes the players in pairs; One player is the ‘coach’ and the other is ‘learner’.  This form of coaching is particularly useful for teenagers as it helps to develop communication skills, awareness of others, patience and tolerance.

Players – particularly young players – not only learn from watching outstanding performers they also learn by watching each other.  Teenagers are particularly prone to peer pressure.  This can be harnessed purposefully by encouraging the teen player(s) to coach each other jointly to solve a particular problem.  The key to Buddy Teaching is that the coach must work with the Buddy Teacher and not with the player who is practicing.

The overall aim is to develop thinking players who will practice away from the coach.  Remember, a good coaching approach may involve saying nothing.

If the players are already in a really effective learning situation by themselves the trick is, can you see it!.

 

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