At your next game, please stop the yelling. I beg of you. On Sunday I was coaching our boys 2006 team in a 7 on 7 game. The coaches were stationed down the middle of two fields facing their respective fields and teams. So, in a confined area there were 7-8 coaches bellowing at their […]
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At your next game, please stop the yelling. I beg of you.
On Sunday I was coaching our boys 2006 team in a 7 on 7 game. The coaches were stationed down the middle of two fields facing their respective fields and teams. So, in a confined area there were 7-8 coaches bellowing at their their instructions at 4 teams.
At one point I simply put my hands up to my ears in an attempt to drown out the babble.
I can honestly say I did not see one of the players enjoying themselves. No smiles, no happy expressions, no rapport or banter.
Instead, stress, overwhelm, fear and worry.
What the hell are we doing?
Isn’t soccer supposed to be a recreational pastime? Doesn’t soccer rank up there with skateboarding, computer games, playing with the dog?
At this age it should, right?
So, why have we turned it into this high pressure cauldron of pulsating forehead veins, aggressive behavior, belittling of 11 year olds?
For all that is good, please just let the players PLAY. Yes, let’s remember that word, PLAY soccer.
Here’s a definition of the word “PLAY”: “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”
There it is…. for “ENJOYMENT” and “RECREATION” rather than a “SERIOUS” or practical purpose.
I’ll admit, all through club, school and college soccer, it was very rare that I actually enjoyed playing in games.
I LOVED practice and I LOVED pick up games at the park, on the street, in the back garden.
But put me in a kit and throw me out against the “enemy” and I often shrank into my shell and focused on not making mistakes and not getting hurt.
And that’s what I saw all over the soccer field on Sunday.
So, please coach, at your next game, stop the yelling.
Pick your team, pull up a chair and just enjoy watching your players play. High five them, smile at them, let you know you care.
It’ll be good for them and good for you.
Maybe a good idea to have the parents on board too!
After another busy weekend on the soccer field, I am convinced we’re making soccer too complicated.
I was involved in two 5on5 games on Saturday morning. Then I was a “clinician” at an AYSO Intermediary Coaches Course where I was teaching passing. Then on Sunday morning two 7on7 games followed by a U6 clinic alongside our family fun day.
So all in all I was on the field with absolute beginners (young and “old”) right through to former pro soccer players. Quite a cross section!
And it kept striking me that somehow we are making soccer too complicated.
How did we learn to play by just showing up on a somewhat flat surface with a ball and a willingness to play until our legs wanted to fall off?
The answer is easy, we learned by playing the game itself. No one taught us where to run, what to do with the ball etc. We just figured it out, trial and error.
So why do we nowadays insist on immaculate fields, uniforms, $200 cleats, each player with a ball, steps, ladders, speed sticks, cones, bibs, goals…the list goes on. Add to this a bunch of yelling family members, coaches bellowing instructions left and right….no wonder the kids on the field look stressed out!
Not only am I convinced that we are making soccer too complicated, but I am absolutely of the mind that we are also not making it fun.
I guarantee that if my dad or any of our parents had come down to St Francis school field and started telling us what to do, we’d have quit playing.
Imagine standing over you kid while they are playing a computer game and yelling instructions at them, telling them what to do next. Imagine putting your kid on the couch next to a complete stranger and then yelling at them so that they can win whatever game they are playing on their iPad…
If I had my way, I would build a soccer facility that was kind of a sanctuary. Players of all ages, sizes and abilities would be able to just show up and we’d let them play pick up games. No coaches, no referees, no parents, no score. Just play, play and play. How amazing would that be?
Well, how can we bring this about?
First thing I would suggest is that at the beginning or at the end of each practice, let the players play whatever form of soccer they want to play. Keep the heck out of the way, just make sure they’re safe and that’s it.
One of the clubs I work for provides a 1 hour session on Thursdays when they players show up and do whatever they want on the field. Usually ends up with World Cup, teams or “lone wolves” playing against each other into one goal. Beautiful.
Then, before Tuesday’s practice, 5:00-5:45pm is free play. Practice then starts at 5:45pm and runs to 7:00pm.
Finally on Sundays it is “Family Fun Day” in which the players, their friends and family descend on the pitch and I make up usually three teams and they play each other round robin in 5 minute games. I take all the under 6s over to another part of the field and they are our “Little Vikings.” My job with them is to keep them busy with a soccer ball, help them get used to a ball at their feet…and to keep them away from mom and dad and older siblings so that they can have fun playing soccer too.
So coach, please take a breath and remember that the game is the best teacher. There’s really no need for complex drills. No need for gadgets and gizmos. No need for parent “advice” from the sidelines. Just get the players together, throw a ball in amongst them and let them figure it out.
Please do everything you can to avoid making soccer too complicated.
Seemed to have worked for at least a 100 years or so, right?
I learn more about coaching soccer every single day that I’m involved in the game. And that’s why I’m obsessed with it.
Take this week for instance. Started on Sunday with a combination of “Family Fun Day” and our Little Vikings Clinic. I was involved in coaching the 4 and 5 year olds, introducing them to the game of soccer and my 5 year old and the other youngsters begin to become comfortable with a ball at their feet.
Over on the other half of the field my 8 year old was playing with his buddies from the club alongside his mum, other friends and their families.
It was amazing to see people of all ages, abilities and skill levels on the same turf field playing soccer for an hour. No drills, no lines, no flags, cones etc. Just learning and playing soccer in its purest form. A very nice reminder.
Then on Monday night I was working with my 2005 and 2007 Boys’s Teams for AYSO United. Obviously a much more serious situation, but we made it fun for them too. Instead of our normal practice made up of warm up, technical work, functional work and then a scrimmage (grab your FREE Soccer Practice Planner to help you put together a “normal” practice), we just played a game for the entire practice.
For the 2007s I had enough players to make three 7on7 teams, so we just rotated through (orange vs blue, then orange vs white, then white vs blue etc.) I refereed the game which allowed me to talk to players on the fly as well as create some situations with some “dodgy” referee calls.
It was necessary to bring the players in every now and then to make a point from what I saw.
Here’s the 5 lessons we learned:
- You cannot be offside if you are in your own half when the ball is played forward. You cannot be offside direct from a throw in.
- If you lose possession of the ball, you work harder than anyone to help the team win the ball back.
- Play the simple pass.
- Goalkeepers should not stand on their line, they need to come out to play a “sweeper keeper” role
- On throw ins, don’t throw the ball into the middle, look for a forward throw into space, or a throw to the defender in space to begin to switch play.
And that was plenty for them to digest.
All taught and learned while playing the game with no lines, cones or drills involved at all.
Then I moved on to the 2005 Boys. I had them play 7 players against the 2006 Boys who played with 9 players. Boy did we get a surprise off the bat. The 2006s played the 2005s off the pitch in the first 5 minutes. A good wake up call for the older boys.
Here’s what all three teams (2005, 2006 & 2007) need to work on:
- Slowing the game down
- Playing with their heads up
- Movement off the ball into space to give the player receiving the ball options
All too often as the player received the ball, his teammates watched to see what he was going to do with it…instead of the other way round….get what I mean?
So, all in all just two days on the soccer field taught me a ton:
- Still nothing teaches the game better than the game itself
- Never assume anything
- Some players step up in games
- Some players get lost/hide in games
- Soccer is for recreation and fun. Nobody on these fields is going to win a World Cup.
- I am blessed at 50 years old to be on a soccer field with talented players and players just playing the game for the fun of it.
As you can see, I learn more about coaching soccer every single day.
“Never work with animals or children” is a famous quote from W.C. Fields.
And at last night’s two practices, I now understand where he was coming from!
We took a week off for Spring Break and I couldn’t wait to get back on the pitch with my 2005 and 2007 boys’ teams.
What a let down.
For some reason both teams were lethargic and simply not “up for it.”
Maybe a little too much familiarity. Maybe a bit of cockiness. Maybe the honeymoon period of joining a new team and club has worn off.
So, I ran through our usual technical work. The 6 Turns, the “Iniesta,” our move, “touch touch” and then some of our 3 pass combinations (ABBA, ABAC, ABCA, ABCB, ABCD).
So, I decided to set up 4on4 games for my 2007s and an 8on8 game for my 2005s.
And I just let them play.
I did my very best to just observe them and not “interfere.”
But again, they disappointed as they ran around like “headless chickens.”
So I imposed the condition of “two touch” and that seemed to help.
With the older boys especially, I had to really have them concentrate on slowing their game down. Get a rhythm of “touch, pass,” “touch, pass,” “touch, pass…”
And finally we started to make progress.
At the end of practice I felt a little better and then I put it into perspective by remembering the quote from W.C.Fields, “Never work with animals or children.” He was right and tonight was testament to that.
Problem is, my job is to work with children, so I just need to realize every now and then that they are just children and there will be times when they don’t perform or put the effort in that I was hoping for.
But when push comes to shove, we were out on the soccer field playing the best game on the planet. What more could I ask for?
Don’t forget to grab your FREE Soccer Practice Planner so that next time you are planning your soccer practice you’ll be able to use it and save time and stress.
I have been reading this book, “The Numbers Game” which explains Why Everything You Know About Football (Soccer) Is Wrong.
When I say I’ve been “reading” this book, it’s been more like “devouring” the book. It’s been shocking, informative and depressing all at once!
Well, it’s claim to explain “Why Everything You Know About Football (Soccer) Is Wrong” is vehemently backed up with stats and research from all over the world.
It asks many wonderful questions such as: “Do teams that score the most goals always win the league?” “Do the teams that concede the fewest goals win titles?”
Here’s another beaut: “Does the number of goals a team scores increase with the number of corners it wins?”
Here’s some other gems:
“Any given shot has a one in eight chance of hitting the back of the net.”
“Historical records show that 48% of games are home wins, 26% are draws (ties)and 26% are away victories.”
What about this one….”Scoring an additional ten goals reduced a club’s expected number of defeats per season by 1.76; conceding ten fewer goals reduced defeats in the Premier League by 2.35 matches. So when it came to avoiding defeat, the goals the club didn’t concede were each 33%more valuable than the goals they scored.”
Food for thought, eh?
So, my simple recommendation is: GRAB THIS BOOK NOW!
As I’m reading this book, my mind is a whir. I’m already thinking how I am going to change my practices, tactics, heck, even my approach to the game. (That is for those games/teams in which I am focusing on “winning” as opposed to “development.”)
Once you’ve had your soccer juices stimulated by this book, you’re going to want to get right out there on the practice field and start implementing your new found discoveries. Use my FREE Soccer Practice Planner to put together your practices in 3 minutes or less: