by Erik Imler

Morning conversation with recreational level asst coach…..

I asked, “How did the season finish up for your girls?”

Coach replied, “Good. But I often felt that we struggled to play attractive soccer.”

“Hmmm. Why?” I asked.

“Well, the head coach always wanted to work on game related passing activities like 3v2’s in practice.”

Not a bad idea from an inexperienced coach but once again, here we have a group of players who could potentially play for me in the next step in our club – the Youth Academy.  My concern is that very few (if any) of these players understand what good passing and receiving technique looks like.  The basic principles which underline good team play and make the game ‘tolerable’ to watch – is the ability to pass and trap the soccer ball. I worry that none of these players will have the basic skills necessary to survive the next level of development.

Why is it that most inexperienced coaches immediately gravitate to game tactics when working with a team during the course of a season? Why is it so hard to recognize the basic building blocks necessary to play simple soccer? Is it a case of not being able to identify what makes for good soccer? Is it a fear of being able to teach elementary soccer technique to young players?

The example above reminds me of a teacher wanting kids to understand algebra before ever learning basic arithmetic.

The legendary Johan Cruyff said it best in a previous blog post entitled ‘Teach the Basic Skills,’ 

“We really need to pay attention to the basic skills: passing, stopping a ball, heading, kicking.  If we fail to do so, it won’t be long before no one will want to watch football anymore. I watch all football but rarely find it interesting.  I see way too much pinball football.  The ball just goes to and fro, with teams unable to hold onto it.  There are very few players who can dominate the ball – mostly it’s the ball that dominates the player.  The coaches and trainers ought to take that to heart, as they are the ones responsible.”

The only way our club will produce quality players for the future is if our coaches working with our youngest players make basic technique the #1 priority. Forget about lining your players up on the field in order to get a result on a Saturday morning. It’s time to pay close attention to proper skill instruction.

Due to the fact that we live in a microwave society (desire for immediate results) and equate winning with development, so many players get the short end of the stick. Very little long term learning takes place. We put our youngsters on the path to an early exit from the game simply because they never develop the basic skills to play a simple game.

I might see these players in a tryout for the Youth Academy. Selections are made and (u9 and u10) teams are formed. But, often times, my starting point is at a very rudimentary level. My curriculum has to address all of the deficiencies our young players have missed out on in their earliest years of development. Having to go so far backwards limits how far we can progress.

I hope for more in the seasons to come.

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