Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category.

Training Creativity Out of Our Kids

Training skillful creative soccer players has been a passion of mine since I began coaching almost 25 years ago. There is nothing more enjoyable or rewarding than seeing young players gain confidence in their ability with the ball at their feet. I also look at this as an educational experience that extents beyond the soccer field. Nurturing kids in a environment where trial and error are rewarded and mistakes are not the end of the world produces people who are willing to try new things, take risks and innovate.

I’ve recently come a across a number of blogs and videos that discus how we are killing our kids creativity. They haven’t all been soccer related but I’ve seen connections back to coaching in many of the points that are made about traditional education.

This is the first video that came to my attention and started me thinking more about this topic.

I particularly like the story at 15:30. It’s a great lesson in the importance of finding what kids are good at and developing that rather than defining them by what they are not good at.

In coaching I believe that we kill creativity by placing too high a value on winning (in education they would say, ‘testing’). Yes, it’s a game, we want to win but how do we want to do it? We want our young players to win in a way that will help them win in the long term. Teaching them be confident on the ball, smart about where they pass it and creative in the ways they move will give them the best chance at a win-win (win today – win tomorrow).

This is a very difficult row to how in a culture where the end product is more important than the means used to achieve it. We take the zero-sum-game world we live in as adults and impose that on our children in their education (both physical and mental). Making the outcome more important than the effort means that there is nothing valuable in trying something that doesn’t work. It means that mistakes only hurt the team and should be avoided at all costs. Those costs include individual learning, developing and improving.


I know I’m not the first coach to say these things but I don’t think we can say them too often. If we coach long enough we will have the opportunity to see many players grow from young players through to their late teens. Their parents will only truly see this with their own children once. If we don’t guide the learning process for both players and parents we are missing a chance that won’t be repeated for that child.

Have a great day!

Tom

Online Coaching Seminars

I’m really exctited about our latest project of online coaching seminars. We have received lots of questions from coaches asking if we are doing our coaching seminar at Nebraska this year. The answer to that is “no”. Instead, we have decided to do a series of online coaching seminars.

Instead of assembling a group of clinicians together for a weekend seminar, we will have coaches/clinicians conduct a live “webinar” that anyone around the world can attend from the comfort of their own home and then view as often as they like afterwards.

We are planning on a series of online coaching seminars featuring well known coaches and authors of our books and videos. Look for these online coaching seminars to start in the Spring.

Also, we would like your input on what kind of topics you would like to see covered. Please click here to give your input and see what other coaches saying.

Too Much Talk, Too Little Sport

An article caught my attention recently. It isn’t specifically related to soccer but to physical education in general. The study that the article is based on looked at public school physical education programs in England. The finding that caught my attention was that PE teachers were spending too much time talking and this was taking away from the kids opportunity to develop aerobic fitness and conditioning.

We have probably all seen this problem in soccer coaching as well. I’ve often heard coaching instructors say, “No Laps, Lines or Lectures”. But we still see too many times when players spend too long listening and not enough times playing. As I was reading the article below I kept thinking, “Telling is not Teaching”. Hopefully this article also gives you some food for thought.

Ofsted: PE Lessons Slammed By Ofsted For Too Much Talk, Too Little Sport

Many PE lessons are failing to improve pupils’ fitness, while not enough youngsters are playing competitive sport to a high level, inspectors warned on Thursday.

In a new report, Ofsted raised concerns that many schools are failing to push their sportiest pupils, or help those that are overweight.

It warned that in some PE lessons there is not enough physical strenuous activity, with pupils spending too much time listening to teachers.

Overall, PE lessons are not up to scratch in around a third of primary schools and about a quarter of secondaries, the inspectorate said.

The report, based on inspections of PE in schools over the last four years, concludes that in general the subject is “in good health”, with significant investment in the last decade.

But it warns that in more than a quarter of schools, PE teaching did Continue reading ‘Too Much Talk, Too Little Sport’ »

Warm-Up for Shooting

One of the perks of being apart of WORLD CLASS COACHING is that I have access to a large library of training sessions from some of the top professional, collegiate, and youth coaches. We have published books and DVDs on every aspect and topic of coaching.

I often refer to our DVD especially for new ways to approach topics to keep my coaching fresh and interesting to the players I work with. I think we’re all probably guilty of using the same few drills or exercises for a specific technique over and over. This can be a good thing because it allows us to focus on teaching the game rather than having to spend a lot of time teaching the drill. But changing things up on occasion can breath new life into a stale session and motivate players to perform at a higher level with the addition of new challenges.

In the past if I was looking for a new warm-up for a shooting practice I would have to scan through three or four DVDs to find what I’m looking for. This changed recently with the addition of our new Video Library. It contains more than 400 clips from many of our most popular DVD titles covering a wide range of techniques and tactics. Now I can search this library and find a clip instantly. I can even log in and view the videos on my Android phone (it also works with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad).

Here’s the warm-up I found from former US Woman’s National Team Assistant, Lauren Gregg.

Warm-up
Balls traveling into stride, balls traveling away from stride, movements with back to goal, balls coming out of the air.

Procedure
Groups of four (2 players in the middle – one is a defender, one is an attacker) check away, receive pass, set, hit the target

Coaching Points

  • Check back at an angle
  • Receiving player – don’t check square, check at an angle where you can see goal, teammate, and defender at the same time
  • Player receiving form the setter get on a 45 degree angle to strike into the target
  • Look over your shoulder
  • Not square – got to be at a 45 degree angle
  • If you need to take a touch to clean it up then do that.

Progression

  • Checking player now has the option to turn, dummy, or set
  • Coaching Points
  • Check to the ball with some urgency
  • Look over shoulder for defender
  • Targets adjust
  • Defender’s defend like you mean it
  • You only need a half step to shoot
  • Receive with foot furthest from the defender

Check out the new Video Library have access to hundreds of drills, exercises and small-sided games on every technical and tactical topic.

Have a great day!

Tom

Sole of the Foot Control

With the outdoor season coming to an end in the Midwest of the United States, I’m turning my attention Futsal training. For anyone not familiar with Futsal, it’s played with a ball that is one size smaller than the ball the players use outdoor (U9-U12 play with a size three ball while U13 and above play with a size four). The ball is also constructed to have a low bounce to help keep it on the floor. The game is played on the same surface as a basketball court so the ball moves very quickly. These characteristics mean that it is sometimes easier to control with the sole of the foot rather than the inside of the foot.

During the outdoor season I discourage players from using the sole of their foot to receive the ball because of the uneven surface and the bounce of the ball. So during the first couple of practices I spend a lot of the time working on receiving and dribbling the ball with the sole of the foot.


Dribbling a Futsal Ball

This is a simple exercises to get the players comfortable with the different ball. To begin with they dribble with both feet, then only with their favorite foot, then with their not-so-favorite foot. I do this instead of right foot and left foot so that the players always get to start with their stronger foot before trying with the weaker foot. I encourage them to use the inside, outside and sole of their foot.

Next I introduce three sole of the foot moves: pull back behind the leg, pull back and go (also called a ‘V’ by some) and finally a stop, hop a go. The last is basically a hesitation move where the player drags the ball back as if to stop but then keeps their foot on the ball and rolls it forward. To begin, the players use the space between the cones to practice the moves. Eventually, they use the cones as defenders.

As a progression you can have three or four players stand on the cones with one foot and try to tackle with the other. Once this is easy for the players you can remove the cones and add an active defender to pressure the players.

Passing in Pairs

This is also a simple exercise. The key is to teach the players how to properly receive the ball with the sole of their foot.

Coaching Points

  • Toe up, heel down
  • Roll the ball out of your feet to set up the pass

Stepping on the ball is often the best way to control it as moves quickly across the court but it is also important to keep the ball moving to protect it from pressuring defenders.

I finish the session with a long scrimmage to go over the different rules for Futsal such as kick-ins, goalie throws and substitution rules.

How do your sessions change when moving from outdoor to indoor?

Have a great day!

Tom

Training a Team with Two Goalkeepers

This is the first time I’ve coached a team with two players that think of themselves as full-time goalkeepers. We came to an understanding before the season began as to how playing time would be divided. We also decided which events they would have a chance to play on the field when they were not in goal. In other events they would play one half in goal and not play in the other half.

This has worked well in large part because everyone has known what to expect and there have been no surprises. I also think it has been very good for both goalkeepers because there is an element of competition that is usual among field players but doesn’t often happen with goalkeepers because a youth team usually only has one. They are aware of how the other goalkeeper is doing in a exercise or game and they push themselves to be as good or better. This is in spite of the fact that they  have had strictly even playing time up to this point. They know that there will come a point in the season, around the time of State Cup, that the goalkeeper that has proved themselves to be more consistent will get to play more in important games.

One of the keepers had never played on the field before this year and that opportunity has not only helped her with her foot skills but also taught her the game from the perspective of a defender. She has grown in confidence to the point where she looks like she belongs as much on the field as she does in goal.

Having two goalkeepers has helped the team in a number of ways as well. It gives us a sense of security because we know if one of the goalkeepers picks up an injury the other one is there to take her place instead of having to use a field player. Fortunately, both have remained healthy but in a long year of competition I would expect one to be out for a game or two sooner or later. The greater benefit has been in training. Having two goalkeepers makes for more realistic and competitive exercises and small-sided games. With only one keeper, the team she is on has a distinct advantage over the team that has to put a field players in goal. This also takes a developmental opportunity away from the field player because she is practicing something she would almost never do.

I’ve enjoyed incorporating specific sessions aimed at the goalkeepers into our practice routine. The book, ‘Team Training for the Goalkeeper‘ has been an excellent resource for me to find sessions that benefit the team but especially the keepers. Here are two small-sided games that we’ve used with a lot of success.

Small-sided game 3 – GK dealing with pullbacks
Organization: 30×60 / 5v5 w/ 4 targets (in 5×5 boxes), two goalkeepers and full goals / ball starts w/ GK1 / combines w/ team 1 and targets to score / goal must come from a ball pulled back from one of the two targets

Coaching Position: Behind the goal

GK Coaching Points
Angle play: prioritize front post
Stand up / be big
Low hand save with cutbacks across goal
Contingencies (rebounds)

Progression
Team can use targets but not required to score a goal

Variation
Can play the same game to emphasize the goalkeeper’s distribution decisions and techniques in counter attacks / goalkeeper’s first look is to the targets – develop mentality to exploit opponent’s with distribution patterns

Small-sided Game 4: GK dealing with crosses
Organization: 4v4 w/ goalkeepers and full goals / four wingers / 36×44 w/ 5 yard wide channels / Game starts with a free cross into GK1 / game begins with the condition that a goal must come directly from a cross

Coaching Position: Behind the goal or wide of the exercise to see starting positions, decision making and recovery movements

GK Coaching Points
Starting positions in relationship to the ball
Stay or go decision
Angles of approach
Catch/box decision
Contingencies

Progression
Crosses can only come from the defensive half (deep crosses) or attacking half

Do your teams usually have one goalkeeper or two? At what age do you think having two makes sense for the goalkeepers and the team?

Have a Great Day!

Tom