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!
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:
- Don’t present it as homework, but rather a “Soccer Challenge”
- The Challenge MUST tie back into something that you did or learned that day.
- 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.
“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).”
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.