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A blog from Jacob Daniel, the Georgia Soccer state Director of Coaching. If you have comments, questions, or topic suggestions, you can email Jacob at jdaniel@georgiasoccer.org

 

Flashback Friday: Recreational Soccer Thoughts from 1993

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

Recreational Soccer:   Are the Kids Having Fun?

 

(Note:  This article was the first one written by me back in 1993 as Director of Coaching for Georgia Soccer and is still relevant today)

 

Coaching at the youth level, especially at the recreational level, can be summed up tongue-in-cheek as grown-up structure on a collision course with youthful spontaneity.  If you ask many coaches, they will tell you of their constant battle to impose organization on a bunch of exuberant carefree kids.

 

Let us study the weapons used by both sides in this war on grass.  The coaches arm themselves with whistles.  The kids, who, I am sure, would love to get their hands, or lips, on some of those, tend to rely on their complete range of vocal chords.  The coaches use line ups with boring, repetitive drills.  The kids use peer fighting, tickling, hair pulling, tears and a complete lack of collinear principles.  When the going gets tough, the coaches like to wear out the kids by resorting to long team talks, lectures and dissertations.  The kids, when cornered by lectures, respond with short attention spans and perpetual motion techniques.  The coaches, in an attempt to convince the kids into believing that everyone is on the same side, initiate goal setting and seasonal objectives.  The kids, once they read through this tactical maneuver, revert to goal climbing and seasonal objections.

 

Who am I rooting for in this inter-generation conflict? For the kids of course!!  Call me a traitor, but I am on the side of playful abandon.

 

Seriously, when one considers the amount of structure disciplined organization inflicted on our kids in school and at home, one appreciates the need to balance it out with periods of play and fun activities without regard for results, provided, of course, that child safety is not sacrificed.  Allow me to relate to you some real life examples:

 

HOW COULD YOU LET ME DOWN LIKE THIS? 

In one 3v3 game between two U-6 teams, I witnessed a mother running onto the field to scream at her child and spank him on his derriere for scoring on his own goal (the poor child lost his orientation for a moment, dribbled towards his team’s net and scored a beautiful own goal).

 

MY CHILD WILL GO ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!

I frequently get inquiries from parents who are looking for a trainer for their child as a form of “individual soccer tutoring”.  In some cases, getting a trainer is not a bad idea.  But when a parent wants to find out what his/her seven year old child’s weaknesses are so that the child can work to improve on these weaknesses, I tell him/her that seven year olds have not lived on this planet long enough to develop strengths and weaknesses.  Does the parent of a grade 1 student ask the teacher what weaknesses should he/she work on to enable his/her child to become a lawyer???  A seven year old child should play soccer for one purpose and one purpose only:  to have fun!

 

At this point, most of you reading this article are probably saying to yourselves that the above examples are but extreme cases of overzealous parents whose behavior does not resemble yours.  I hope so.  But below this extreme level of unrealistic parental expectations exists a multitude of more subtle examples of misplaced priorities of well meaning but misguided coaches and parents.  Read on.

 

POST GAME INQUEST.

Your nine year old son plays goalkeeper and has just conceded a soft goal with two minutes left in the game, which caused your team to lose 2:1.  On the drive home, you can’t help yourself and start dissecting the play that let to the goal.  You are extra careful to sound calm, friendly and not accusing.  After all, you are merely trying to help your son learn from the experience, learn from his mistakes.  Your son bursts out crying and says:  “I don’t want to talk about it!”  I am no child psychologist, but the above incident suggests to me that this keeper is under too much pressure to perform and is not enjoying himself.

 

ORGANIZED CHAOS.

Some coaches, when they want their teams to work on passing, use drills with line ups similar to this one:  They place their players in two parallel lines about ten yards apart.  The two players in front of the two lines move up the field inter-passing the ball while all the other players watch and wait for their turn.  In one such practice session that I observed, each player touched the ball about once every four minutes.  Suggestion:  Why not give one ball to each pair and let all the pairs simultaneously inter-pass while moving randomly in a large area.  Some coaches do not like this suggestion because it’s too messy – balls flying all over the place, players bumping into teach other, balls hitting the wrong players (sounds much like the real game, doesn’t it?)

 

My point is that at the recreational level, the game is kind of messy and the suggestion mentioned above is a lot more game-like than standing idle in a line waiting for your turn, and then, when your turn comes, passing the ball while running in a straight line.

 

PLAY YOUR POSITIONS AND DON’T BUNCH UP!!

We have all seen the ‘swarm’. Six year olds all bunching up on the ball.  We have all screamed at them:  spread out!  Play your position!!  Now, if I was a six year old, I would also go after the ball and disregard my position.  After all, the ball is always up for grabs.  Nobody really has any control over it.  Does anybody really expect me to believe that my six year old team mate is going to control the ball, look up to see me on the other side of the field and switch play by placing a 30-40 yard pass to my feet??  There is no point in worrying about positions if your players have not yet mastered the technique of passing the ball under pressure.  Let the swarm be.  You cannot artificially speed up the learning process.  It’s for this reason that modified soccer and 3-a-side soccer exists:  to reduce the size of the swarm, because you cannot eliminate it before its time.

 

In closing, I do believe that the coaches at the recreational level are getting better all the time.  There are many coaches and parents who are in sync with the sensitivities and needs of their kids.  I hope that through the coaching courses and clinics, we can get more coaches to stop and ask themselves:  Are the kids having FUN?

 

 

 

we have always done it this way

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

First, allow me to philosophize a bit.  In many group or communal settings, some habits are passed on from one generation to the next, with no one questioning the wisdom of the habit.

In soccer, the throw-in is one such moment where the most common play is throwing the ball down the line into a mix of players in a congested area.  If you asked the players why they take a 100% possession and turn it into, at best, a 30% chance of retaining possession, they will likely shrug and say "we have always done it like this".

Goal kicks are another example of such habits, where keepers punt the ball up the field and turn possession into a low percentage play.

On average, teams have 30-40 throw-ins per game and around 20 goal kicks each game.  That's a lot of missed opportunities to do something constructive to possess and penetrate if all you do is throw the ball down the line or punt it.  Considering that teams have between 100-150 possessions per game, throw-ins and goal kicks represent one third to one half of these moments.  Coaches who don't invest the time to prepare their teams to take full advantage of these set plays are giving up a lot of possession for no reason.

We constantly remind our players in ODP practices to use the throw-in to switch the point of attack and we show them how to do that.  We insist that our keepers distribute the ball rather than punt it up the field.

to illustrate how the outcome of these set plays impacts the game, let's use statistics from the recent game between the USA U-17 Women's team versus Japan in the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup.  the USA teamhad 31 throw-ins and 20 goal kicks.  Of the 31 throw-ins, they threw the ball down the line 30 times and only played it back to a defender once.  They lost the ball 24 times from their own 31 throw-ins.  Of the 20 goal kicks, they punted all of them and lost possession in 9 of them (they did score their goal off a long goal kick but we cannot count on that to happen often at the highest level).

Japan, on the other hand, had 36 throw-ins and they played to possess all of them.  They kept the ball 26 times off their 36 throw-ins and only lost possession 10 times.  They had 19 goal kicks, of which they played out of the back 11 times, and kept possession all the times they attempted to play out of the back.  they punted 8 times and lost possession off the punt 3 times.

So, Japan had kept possession 42 times out of 55 throw-ins/goal kicks and the USA kept possession 18 times out of 51 throw-ins/goal kicks.

There is a lesson here for coaches.  Throw-ins and goal kicks can be used to gain an advantage and it will be worth the time invested to prepare the players for these set plays.  Just because we have always done it this way doesn't mean it's the best play.

 

where are the american creative players?

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

We hear quite often soccer experts lament the lack of creative players in our country.  Just recently, a few of our soccer analysts complained that youth soccer in America does not produce creative players and that all our players look robotic, clones of the same make.  The writer agrees with this opinion.

So the question is:  How do we produce creative players?? The obvious and most common answer is that coaches should allow players to make mistakes without fear of criticism and encourage them to express themselves and try the unpredictable in practices AND games.

This sounds like a sensible approach, and it is.  but here is the problem:  our players are still tactically naive and do not have a game awareness.   They tend to ball watch, which means that when they get the ball, they have no idea where their teammates and opponents are.  Our players play with their heads down and only think about what they will do with the ball after they receive it, when it is already too late.  This lack of awareness and vision causes a lot of turnovers since players get into trouble with their first touch.

So, before we give our players the license to be creative, we have to teach them a few fundamental concepts:  get into the habit of looking around and 'taking pictures', opening their body to the field so they can receive the ball facing up, adopting a good team shape with good support angles, and learning some basic passing patterns and player movements that get the whole team on the same page.

Only then will our players be ready for creativity.  A player who has his head down tends to dribble more out of a desperate attempt to get out of trouble than as an expression of creativity.  There is a difference between expressing yourself and simply being tactically naive.  One cannot be 'unpredictable' if one does not understand 'predictable'.  If, say, an attacking midfielder gets the ball and he/she knows what's going on around her, she is in a much better position to decide between making a predictable/safe play or doing something special.  This is the proverbial 'cart before the horse' scenario.

 

coaching manuals cover all ages and levels

Jacob Daniel- State DOC

The Georgia Soccer web site Coach section has 5 coaching manuals posted in the Coaching Resources page to help coaches of all levels with their training.  The 5 manuals are:

1. Club Player Development Manual - addresses the structure of a club and recommendations on the coaching philosophy, coaching structure, training priorities for all the levels of the game, the role of the Director of Coaching as well as parent education.

2. KINS Manual - provides guidance on how to coach U6 and U8 players.

3. Academy Coaching Manual - addresses the key philosophy for coaching U9 through U12 academy players and provides pointers on how to structure practices to improve players' technical and tactical development.

4. U10/U12 Academy Coaching Manual Part II - a sequel to the previous manual.  Here the focus is on how to teach academy level players to play possession soccer within the small-sided environment and provides sample activities.

5.  ODP Coaching Manual - the official manual used by all states and region ODP coaches with a focus on teaching possession soccer in the 11v11 environment.  the principles of possession soccer and the player roles are outlined, with sample activities.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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