Soccer Skills:

The Secret Behind Explosive Soccer Player Development

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The soccer insight is part of the “Team Management” section of the Soccer Classroom CoachingSphere helping coaches to best manage their team and players for success.

I was recently reading a soccer article about giving soccer players “homework” and how coaches should avoid it. The author posited that “kids won’t do it anyway, so why bother?” I wholeheartedly agree with this coach if his mentality is to end practice and give the kids “something to do at home.” BORING!

But…

Like everything as a coach, if we adjust our mentality of how we will present the task, you can dramatically improve the result. The reality is that we only get kids a few times per week and for about an hour at a clip, so if we want to explode our players development, development must occur outside of the practice time. Yes, coach, you’re not the be-all, end-all (and thank goodness).

Altering the presentation will inspire and motivate players to “do the work”. Remember at younger ages, they want to please, so putting them into the mindset of doing something spectacular to please you is where you want to be on this one.

How do we go about Challenging our players?

There are three main keys:

  1. Don’t present it as homework, but rather a “Soccer Challenge”
  2. The Challenge MUST tie back into something that you did or learned that day.
  3. “Today, we worked on our stepover move. Between today and next practice, I want you to work on your killer stepover in your backyard with your mom, dad, sister or brother. And, listen, I know you’re going to be making some killer stopovers in the backyard, so you may want to tell mom and dad to put on old shorts because you’re going to have them falling over in no time (joke to instill confidence in the player). Now, remember the key points: (explain key points simply – very simply). When we come back to practice, I want to see if you can beat me with your stepover move (challenge for them to look forward to next time).”

  4. Check the freaking homework! Could you imagine if your teacher never checked your homework? Would you do it? I wouldn’t – and I was even a CLOSET NERD.The first part of practice should be used to re-inforce the “challenge” you sent them home to work on. As players begin to show up, you want to remind them about the challenge and that they should begin dribbling and practicing their stepover.
  5. Who can show me their killer stepover move?
    Who can beat a teammate with a stepover move?
    In three minutes, everyone is going to have a chance to beat Coach with their ankle breaking move.

If we are making soccer fun and presenting challenges to the players for them to succeed, you will be amazed at the success and work your players will put in outside of practice time…and their growth as players. This is the goal as a coach: turn the kids onto the game and give them opportunities to succeed. Do this and you’ll be amazed at the development of your players and the subsequent dominance of your team.

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Jerry Macnamara is "The Coach" and founder at Soccer Classroom. For more than thirty years, Coach has been a player, coach, trainer and administrator. He shares your passion for the game and helping players grow through age appropriate soccer skills and drills. Feel free to contact Coach with questions

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3 Comments of “The Secret Behind Explosive Soccer Player Development”

Comment by Bob Hoffman
October 25, 2010

While I agree not all kids will do the homework, what I have been doing, is asking them to practice left foot only for 15 minutes in the backyard, sending them videos (some really good ones on you tube) and let them try it on their own. Always demo what I send them in practice before hand. But most important thing of all…checking to see how they have progresses and provide POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT!! Kids like nothing better than to hear they are doing well.

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Comment by The Coach
October 25, 2010

Bob – awesome stuff! I love that you’re sending videos out for the players (and parents) to learn. Two things of note: 1. Having a standing “use your left foot” assignment might lose some “Umph!” in time. I liken this to not varying practices enough or my teachers telling me to “read for 30 minutes” each night. While initially energized, the lack of variety might lose enthusiasm and interest. 2. I can’t emphasize enough the notion of “checking” their work first thing at practice. This provides accountability, demonstrates their growth (to them) and provides a forum for positive affirmation and continued success.

Great work!

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Comment by Lee Anne
November 11, 2013

We started a weekly 45 min. extra I made a dry erace board for the kids to use and if they do the extra time I give them a small candy. I wrote out the footskills i want them to work on. I also send out a video challenge for the week. Then have those that work on the challenge to show the other players. They are proud to show off their new skills. I have 90% of the kids on our team doing it. So it has been a success.

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