Are you wondering whether or not the money you are investing, to help your child learn HOW to play soccer, is giving your child the best return?
If you are (perhaps?) these questions may add value in your decision making.
- Does the head coach have a training plan (curriculum) set up for the next year and do they make it available to you?
- Does the head coach have a performance plan set up to measure how well the child progresses as part of their individual training plan?
- Does the head coach keep game statistics like passes attempted/completed both across the entire pitch as well as within and into the attacking final third?
- Does the head coach constantly ‘direct’ (tell/yell at) players on where and when they need to be in certain places on the pitch?
- Does the club, the head coach works for, have a training plan (curriculum) set up for each years’ expected development of the player and do they make it available to you?
- Does the club Coaching Director have a history of dropping by training sessions to assess their head coaches?
- Has the Coaching Director/Club published their coaching philosophy?
- What is more important to you (as a parent) having your child on a “winning team” first, or first ensuring them the best opportunity to develop all their skills, regardless of result?
Now, the less obvious questions.
- Does the head coach offer verbal guidance to players (on a regular basis) during training sessions?
- Does the head coach watch and offer singular words or phrases during a game, to remind players about fundamental thinking they should be performing while playing the game?
- These catchwords or phrases should not be ‘directions’ but key words that have meaning and help support their in-game thinking.
The most frequently used skill by a youth soccer player is not first touch, passing, shooting, running, or dribbling; it’s thinking and making decisions; what I call “mentality”.
In an 80+ minute game your child will probably make as many as 5,000 decisions with about 98% of them occurring while playing ‘without the ball’.
In other words they need to know where to be, when to be, and why to be where they need to be.
Don’t believe that?
Look at it this way.
- In an 80 minute game most youth players average 50 or so touches (time where they possess to control the ball).
- That’s roughly three or four total minutes of possessing the ball – in real time – per player for both teams per 80+minute game.
- Said differently – for roughly 77 minutes during an 80 minute game players are playing soccer without the ball. Every time a teammate or opponent touches that ball during the 77 minutes the child is making a decision on where to be, when to be, and why to be relative to ball location, their teammates and opponents.
- And since 21 other players have an opportunity to touch that ball during those 77 minutes that equals (3 decisions – where, when, and why) times 77 minutes times 21 other players who could be possessing the ball.
- Roughly 4,851 decisions without the ball.
- That doesn’t take into account the decisions the child has to make while in possession of the ball.
A few other thoughts for your consideration.
Fact: When I attended a training session run by the Coaching Director of a local soccer club, associated with the Portland Timbers, he told me that when his team loses (in a Developmental Soccer Academy league) the next weeks’ training is nothing but running.
I watched that training session and he was right – they spent ages running.
- After 45 minutes or so of just running the lads split into 5 or 6 aside teams where two teams played and the third team ran.
- The losing team of the small sided game than ran and that rotation lasted for the rest of the training session.
- At no time did the coach provide any verbal guidance on any aspect of play.
My takeaway was winning is more important to this coaching director than child development.
I would not want my child anywhere near this coach. And yet, he’s the coaching director?
How long do you think a coach in Major League Soccer would last if all their team did was run the following week after losing on the weekend?
To many times I see one or two dominant (athletically gifted) youth players who ‘control’ the ball (and game) through extensive dribbling against other players not as gifted.
What this really means is the other eight or nine field players on the team are simply ‘watching’ that player win them games.
If you happen to be the parent of a player who is athletically gifted, great, but help influence the coach to help them learn team play by playing in other areas of the pitch.
Good scouts will always spot athletically gifted players no matter where they play on the pitch.
The more they learn positions other than the dominant striker position the more prepared they will be to play at the next highest level.
If you happen to be the parent of a player who is not athletically gifted – neither you or your child should give up.
Encourage them to master the mentality part of the game quicker – there is always room for mentally strong players – the greatest example I can offer to local soccer supporters is Jack Jewsbury.
Never blessed with great speed, Jack just seemed to know where to be, when to be and why to be where he needed to be.
Many will disagree – but I’d offer it’s better to have a star player on a team where they don’t always get the ball in the attacking final third and score goals.
The more often a coach relies on one player to win the game the more the coach enables selfish soccer; selfish soccer doesn’t create great team players.
If you’re a parent who pays to have their child trained in soccer, and the coach gets paid for providing that service then you have every right to ask they provide you their training plans and published philosophy.
It would be rude to your child if you didn’t.
Thanks in advance for your patience – this may have been more than you wanted to know?
If you have questions or need assistance let me know. @ChrisWGluck