A common belief is that US youth soccer players suffer from over coaching, and in many cases that is true. But in our helicopter parent society where kids rarely can just go ‘play in the park’, coaches are in a situation where they have to provide SOME instruction and opportunity to develop. How do you create a fun practice where the kids push themselves vs go through the motions while also correcting mistakes and allowing for self discovery of soccer skill? In only 2-3 sessions a week? But that’s a post for another day.
Even harder is how do you get kids to want to play with a soccer ball outside of practice. I’ve tried all sorts of tactics in my 10 years of coaching, but don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a player to do so (though I’d have no idea if they did).
So last week, after one of our U11 girl’s teams wrapped up practice, I was talking to their coach about some registration stuff. As the players packed up and gradually left with parents, I kept hearing this ‘Whap! Whap!’ I glance over to the fence and one of the quieter, smaller players on the team was drilling her soccer ball into the fence, over and over. Great way to practice proper technique when striking the ball. I briefly hinted that she might hit it better with her foot closer to the ball and approaching from an angle and left it at that. So, of course, I watched her closer for a bit to see how she did, and I see that when she would turn around at her ball to face the fence again, she wasn’t just turning around. She was doing an excellent reverse scissor! Over and over and over. Every time she’d do the move, she’d let this grin slip onto her face.
Now this 10 year old player is not one of the strongest players on the team and she doesn’t have a dominant personality. But over the course of last season, she would dribble the ball with increasing confidence, even under pressure, despite her teammates imploring her to ‘get rid of it!’. Then I see this. I cannot WAIT to see how this player develops, because she clearly WANTS to get better. Plenty of players work hard at practice or rely on raw athleticism. But few make a point of pushing themselves on their own and putting themselves under pressure on purpose. Their coach could practice reverse scissors with them for weeks, and none of them would try it in a match. I bet this player will – because she perfected it on her own.
I wish I knew how to consistently make more players do that, because no amount of coaching can equal that!