If you REALLY want to help your developing and growing soccer players' long term development, then this article is for you. If you're simply trying to win the next game, then maybe it's not. In this article I will address an issue I have seen and dealt with for years and at ALL levels of soccer; the failure to return to the core skills and relearning what we have forgotten.
It's not just a rare occurrence, it happens everywhere.
All around the U.S., players are getting worse with age? I know, I know, it sounds strange, many will disagree about their players, but it's true and I see it almost everywhere I go. As time goes on it seems we lose focus on player CORE skill development and start worrying about that next game. We are concerned about team rankings, championships, tournaments, and results rather than focusing on the most important thing we can do: continually developing skilled players. I will warn you, it is often hard for the coach and parent to see this through their own eyes.
We spent years developing the SoccerU series. Literally hundreds of hours in the field capturing the essence of soccer skill training, breaking it down, and then putting it in a form that ALL could use to improve their players. We worked with ALL levels of players from young 7 year olds, to college players, and even professional players from around the world. The funny part is many people think it is just for young youth players. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We have coaches from all over the country writing us to thank us. Many of these coaches work with older players including high school players and even a few college coaches that now use the series to develop incoming players or returning players from summer breaks. If there was one message I could get out to ALL coaches, it would be to return to basics for at least a portion of EVERY practice.
He's Calling Again
I'll start by giving you an example of a great player that has learned this lesson and understands its importance. Matt, as I'll call him in this article, is a great player. Probably one of the "smoothest" players I've ever worked with. When you watch him play or see him with a ball at his feet, you can't help but be impressed.
He played top level competitive soccer as a youth, played ODP, RPL, and the usual top level teams for his age. He was a star player in high school, played college soccer, and recently made the reserve team for a processional team. Once in a while he'll give me a call and ask me to work with him. However, most people are kind of shocked when they see us training. They expect to see some magical professional sessions, however we return to basics. We are doing the exact same touches, and core skills we work with in the SoccerU series. Yes, the VERY SAME skills we are teaching to younger players. You'll understand why in a little bit.
Here Come the College Girls
I worked with a girl one summer just after she finished high school and was heading off to play at college on a scholarship. I called her "little bit" because she seemed so thin and small in my eyes. A great kid, quiet, and really fast feet. It's kind of funny because before I knew who she was I saw her play in high school during a tournament. Out of all the players I watched that weekend, she really stuck out in my mind. She could REALLY play.
I hadn't seen her in almost two years, and then one day I got a phone call from her dad. He was wondering if I'd be willing to work with her and a few of her teammates during the summer. What he didn't know is that for the first time in many years, I was kind of taking the summer off. But, he was persistent. So I agreed.
Most of the girls were seniors in college now and had years and years of playing and training under their belts. We met each morning early before the heat kicked in too heavy. We trained for three hours each day. Here's the "shocker" for you, not me. Most of these girls had trouble performing core and basic skills. Wait a minute: Didn't I just get done saying these were great players, playing in college on scholarships, and could REALLY play? Yep... you heard correctly. It might surprise you, but it is VERY common and I see it all the time, good or even great OLDER players that lack many core skills and touch.