There are a lot of websites out there dedicated to youth soccer. Most are trying to sell you the next best thing in coaching, training, drill books, etc. Everyone needs to make a living, and I can assure you if I could make one writing about youth soccer, I would. But some sites are clearly done by someone dedicated to the sport, who want to give something back – and if they can make a little extra money on the side, great. The point is, it can be daunting trying to weed through the thousands of youth soccer sites out there to find the really useful ones, regardless of why the authors put them together.
One site I’ve come to really enjoy using is SoccerXpert, which was suggested to me by one of my assistant coaches.
SoccerXpert is an online collection of soccer drills – nothing new there. What makes it so useful is it’s interactiveness. The drills are grouped by age, which makes it easy for a coach to pull up a subset appropriate to their team. The drills are also rated by users, so you can sort by the most popular. Each drill has a consistent graphical representation of how the players and equipment are laid out on the field. Users can rate each drill and make comments/provide feedback. You can also bookmark your favorite drills and print the drills in a clean format to bring to practice. Individual viewing statistics are kept as well so you can see drills sorted by ‘Most viewed’. You can also submit your own drills for consideration and publication, making it a truly interactive site. As a web developer – I found the site VERY well laid out and easy to navigate. My only pet peeve was that the interactive features (voting, comments, etc) used to be hidden where you had to mouse over or click a link to get those parts to appear. Now they always appear at the bottom of each drill, which I think makes it more obvious to users that they can vote and comment.
Probably the most exciting thing about SoccerXpert is how the drills are apparently stored. Read enough of the ‘Drill Info’ sections and if you know what ‘metadata’ means – you realize the drills are stored with many different descriptive bits of information: Age, Field Size, Length, Equipment Needed, Min/Max Players, etc. Add to that the online data like rating, number of views, and date of publication and you could search drills in all sorts of ways. I say could, because right now it seems you can only use Google’s site search to search drills. But it would be awesome to search for drills for U10 players, rated 4 or higher, for a maximum of 6 players, that have been viewed a minimum of 2000 times. The site also has other sections for tips and articles which are also quite good, but the main focus of the site is the drills.
The potential for this site is huge. As someone who has developed web applications for a while now, SoccerXpert strikes me as a very good site that with time will become truly great.
First, what can you really DO on SoccerXpert?
- Search and view drills by age, popularity, and most viewed
- Rate individual drills from 1-5
- Comment on drills
- Print drills for use at practice
- Keep up with new articles and drills via RSS (Excellent!)
- Submit new drills for publication
There may be more, but that gets to the main functionality. Now to the potential. Given how I think the drills are stored in a database, here are some things that could be done to make SoccerXpert truly great. As I’m well aware, any site can be ‘great’ given enough time and coding – yet sites like these are often hobbies that we dedicate as much time to as we can. So my suggesting the ideas below is not mean to criticize what the site doesn’t have. Instead it’s more for what could be done down the road.
- Allow drills to be searched by various criteria (players, equipment, difficulty, length, etc.)
- Allow users to create accounts and instead of bookmarking favorites, create online lists of favorites. Yet another data point that can be used to group drills ‘Favorite drills’ for drills favorited the most.
- Once drills can be searched by criteria, start linking the criteria keywords in each drill so when you click, you get a list of drills in that criteria. This has begun to happen already based on age in newer drills.
- Provide a short ‘bio box’ for coaches who submit drills so they can list links to their home leagues, teams, email address, etc. when their drill is viewed.
- If coaches begin to submit many drills, allow drills to be searched by author.
- Allow coaches to create multiple ‘favorites’ lists and rename them ‘groups’ or something. This would let coaches create small sets of drills that relate to each other for use in a specific practice.
- Include a widget that shows drills with ‘recent comments’ – hoping that the comments are from coaches with some feedback.
- Include a section in each drill on how to make it into a ‘game’ which can ramp up the intensity of a drill for older teams.
- Start tagging drills with a specific set of ‘skills’ that a drill can improve (Passing, Dribbling, Shooting, Gameplay, etc.), allowing drill searches to be further refined. I think this is partially done with the ‘Focus’ section of each drill. But to be searchable, the terms have to be consistent.
- Include vote counts in the ratings (Rating 3.88 – 24 Votes) since a drill rated 4.2 by 20 coaches is likely to be MUCH better than one rated a 5 by 1 coach. Just gives the user more information.
- Allow for custom RSS feeds based on specific drill criteria.
Obviously one is limited only by one’s imagination. But the ideas above would give SoccerXpert some more interactivity and hopefully keep coaches coming back again and again.
Again – the fact that I have a number of ideas for improvement doesn’t mean the site is lacking. At it’s core right now it is VERY useful for youth soccer coaches. I visit often when working on a future week’s lesson plan or after a match when I notice a specific area one of my team’s needs to work on. I just had some ideas for new things and wanted to share them.
SoccerXpert is a great online resource for any youth soccer coach. Be sure to pay them a visit.
I Give SoccerXpert 4.5 Nets ->