Are Youth Soccer Players Getting Worse?

Hundreds of Skills and Touches

Now, we just got done talking about ONE specific skill. One of the first and most basic skills we learn in soccer when we are just babies. How many skills and touches can you think of? There are literally hundreds and hundreds of them. So, now that we are getting a bit older and focusing on conditioning, positioning, "the game itself" and many other aspects of soccer, how much time is devoted to these? Quite often, none.

How can we prevent this?

In my opinion, and through our testing and observations, there are only two ways to prevent this.

  1. The coach must see this, embrace this, and use it in practice. In the SoccerU series we spend one of the first chapters covering the 1,000 touch theory. We try to stress to coaches that the first 20-30 minutes of each practice is often wasted or not used properly. Often teams at practice look like "track" teams jogging and running. We show coaches how to immediately (at 6:01 if the practice starts at 6:00) get their players touching a ball, be active, get warm, and revisit core skills. Not a minute is wasted, there are NO LINES, every player is moving and touching a ball. After 25 minutes or so, the players have had close to 1,000 touches; they are exhausted, and now warmed up and ready for their soccer lesson. Not to mention that they just revisited over 50 core skills.
  2. The parent can provide "private" training. Whether the parent does it, or even hires a young coach to do this, it often works out very well. This is something I did with even my own son. If your player has "practice" on Tuesday and Thursday, then on Monday and Wednesday they can have a skill and touch session. Two hours of nothing but revisiting or learning skills that are desperately needed. (We left Friday as our down day and rest day.) Often we would have four parents get together and pitch in $15 per session. We would give a younger coach (usually going to college) the SoccerU series and have them focus on the core skills. The players would do nothing but work on core skills. Dribbling, moves, touches, settling balls, etc. The coach would make some good money, the kids got tons of skill work, and it worked out fantastic.

My point is pretty simple, and I really hope you "get it" by now. Usually around the age of 14 or 15 a player STOPS adding new skills to their bag of tools, and often skills that haven't been revisited fade away. They simply take the skills they have and try and play the game to the best of their ability.

However, for most players this is NOT enough to keep progressing in those higher levels or be one of the very best. Mature players, yes even the great ones, need to continually work on core skills and relearning skills or touches that have been forgotten or are not natural and instinctive. If they aren't, you'll never see them in a game.

Coach V is the founder and developer of the SoccerU training series. He currently works with all levels of players including youth, collegiate and professionals.

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