I was training a nine year old and they felt that one of the drills was boring. I then asked if they played any musical instruments. They did. I then asked if they ever had to practice the same song over and over again? Then it clicked, yeah like REHEARSAL?
Last year in 2019 I heard about a camp that was 6 hours long and consisted of 4 hours of scrimmaging. What good is that? This is part of the reason why I truly don't support the idea of long day-long soccer camps and often choose not to run one.
I have an inner battle with the idea of Captains Practices for upcoming high school seasons.
On one hand, it fills a void of something that is greatly missing in the American soccer culture that is "Street Soccer" or "Pickup Soccer." They can be a ton of fun and a tool for team building. I remember my very first captains practice, as a freshman goalkeeper I was terrified of some of the shots I was facing from the seniors. Some of them could literally make the ball whistle through the air.
On the other hand, who is running them? What size field are they using? How long are they playing for? Who is and who ISN'T invited? I remember driving by one last year and the numbers had to be 12 v 12 on a full field. I've heard of a local High School having secret captains practices and excluding half of the program this summer.
I believe this is lost time. In Michigan, high school coaches are allowed 15 training days during the summer. When I was an assistant at a particular school, we would take advantage of those 15 days and have over 60 kids getting a meaningful training session in and tons of playing time and it still created a team building environment. If your state doesn't allow you to work with your players, I would instruct players to make smaller games, 6v6, go set up pugg goals on a basketball court somewhere or take over a parking lot. Play futsal. Thats real street culture. Develop a winner stays tournament. Keep stats and keep track of wins throughout the summer. It can be better than 12v12 or even worse, 8v7 on a full field (which I've also seen).
Last year I was training some middle school aged players that are honestly severely behind. They brought up during training how during their middle school soccer season they would have "Fitness Fridays" where the entire day was all fitness.
Now, when I was with varsity programs, at the NCAA Division 1 level, ECNL and DA teams, and at the professional level ABSOLUTELY we would dedicate days to fitness. But these players were middle school players that are behind. They cannot control the ball whatsoever. They have a hard time keeping the ball inbounds. Accidental touches all over the place and the inability to clean up the mess quickly. And yet, a coach will waste an entire training session dedicated to fitness. This is a major problem all over the USA.
I believe in juggling a soccer ball. I don't believe in just going out and juggling. I believe in juggling challenges. I don't judge a soccer players skill level based on their juggling. I'm not sure those two things are related at all.
I do juggling tests to MEASURE a players relationship with the ball. How much they've worked with the ball. For instance, I do a 14 surface juggling challenge where the surfaces are:
Its challenges like this that measure the relationship with the ball. Heres another one; on my first week back to training after the Covid19 shutdown I gave each player 1 minute and 15 seconds to count every single juggling touch they did on their right foot, even if they drop the ball they continue from the number they left off from. Then they do the test again on their left foot and I compare the skill gap between the players strong foot and their weak foot. Of the now 30+ players I've trained since returning to play, only 14 have been able to get 100+ touches on both feet.
THAT GIVES ME INSTANT FEEDBACK!
When teaching vision, coaches should really focus on training a players peripheral vision. Especially when you are going towards goal. When players at the highest level score goals, their primary focus is the ball. Often times if you were to rewind the game before the goal scorer gets the ball and rewatch the goal, you'll see a player that hardly looks up at all, because they already looked before they got the ball or a few touches before the goal being scored.
The underlying philosophy of PlayMaker Training is that "you can't have advanced tactics without having players with advanced technique." Additionally, if you have watched soccer for a long period of time you have probably been able to pick up on the different tactics applied by certain managers and coaches around the world. Flat Back 4? 3 up top? The role of the #10? High pressure? Low block? Counter attacking? All of these change over time, what has NEVER changed, is the ability on the ball, at the highest levels. While tactics are fleeting and seemingly changing every year, the technical capabilities of players, have ALWAYS remained the same. Dominate the ball and you're able to adapt to any coaches system.
When speaking to my players about vision, I focus on peripheral vision. I don't agree with yelling at players to "get their heads up." I think it's one of the most overused phrases in youth soccer coaches because at the top level, it's not true. Go and look at any goal scored and see when the last time the goal scorer looked at the goal or the goalkeeper. You'll find more often than not that the last time they looked up was 2 or 3 touches prior to the shot or up to 1 second before the shot. The primary example of this is Messi when he scores a goal or Ronaldo when he is dribbling. Focus on being able to see the ball, AND the surrounding players, not one or the other.
When I was a junior in high school I basically HATED training. As a goalkeeper, I hated training because after hitting the ground dive after dive it takes its toll on your body. So during my junior year, I basically "mailed it in" during practices. That resulted in me being the backup goalkeeper at the start of the year. After a preseason tournament, I was told by the varsity coach that he didn't trust me as a goalkeeper. I remember being furious and wanting to quit. Luckily, I ended up not quitting. I ended up developing a bit of a chip on my shoulder against that coach that I carried with me when the starting goalkeeper went down with an injury. When he went down with the injury, I seized the opportunity and never gave the spot back to the original starter. We ended up tying teams that we had previously lost 5-0 to (we weren't very good my junior year due to only returning 3 players from the previous year and the previous head coach gutted the program). At the end of season banquet, the same coach that told me he didn't trust me, called me a GAMER.
I tell this story for a multitude of reasons. The first being that sometimes I feel that players these days lack the "I'll prove them wrong" mentality. I think players these days tend to move teams, move schools, quit sports, or have mom or dad write a scathing email to the athletic director trying to get the head coach fired. I think developing the "I'll prove them wrong" mentality is one of the best things that comes from sports.
The second reason I tell this story is truly why I'm obsessed with coaching. I was never really pushed to become a "practice player" and to work harder in training. My thing with soccer was always studying the game rather than working to become the best I could be on the field throughout hard work. I'd rather study a professional goalkeeper than go out and run 5 miles. I'd rather go into my backyard and hit the ball against a brick fireplace and work on reaction saves, then go to an hour and a half training session where all we would do is scrimmage. I don't want that to happen to the players I work with. I want to help get the most out of the players I work with. I want to help them realize that they have more potential than what they are currently getting out of themselves.
The third and final reason is that, when I first started coaching, I enjoyed games WAY MORE than training teams. All of my enjoyment game during the competitiveness of game day. I used to actually mock "trainers" that didn't get to coach the game. Funny how my philosophy changed. I now realize that the most important part of a players development is what they do during the week leading up to the game. I was a firm believer in "the game is the best teacher." While it still is, the best teachers are the ones that help players realize the importance of training and make them WANT TO train even more. The players that enjoy training have a HUGE advantage compared to the players that despise training.
One of my old soccer players in Michigan, after I had her team and moved onto another team, would occasionally do some additional training with me on the side. Nearly every time, when her mom would ask her how the session went she always answered "humbling."
I absolutely love it when I work with a player for the first time and they walk away knowing that they have a lot of work to do.
I also believe that with the methods I use in my training, that players can easily point out the faults in a certain technique after countless repetitions. Which is like a golfer that mishits a golf shot and immediately knows that they lifted their head. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, knowing exactly what you did wrong, ADDS CONFIDENCE.
I consider myself a soccer teacher. Not a soccer coach. Many coaches will tell a player what to do, when to do it, and where to do it. My focus is to give each of my players the WHY.