Well it’s safe to say that if you are a hard core footy fan then the worst month of the year is finally over. After a lengthy few week break, I don’t watch the average US tour games they make the big clubs go through, the season is upon us once again!
And I am not going to lie; watching United drop points, at old Trafford, on opening day, is something special. Restored fear factor eh boys? [sorry United fans, if you don’t know I wholly support Arsenal]
Not only is it the time of year where us crazy fans get to watch footy, it’s also that time of year when we get to begin playing. Yes, that’s right, I am deciding to strap the proverbial boots on and give it another shot. And I like many soccer fans out there also realise that this is the time of year when you struggle to get out of bed in the morning. For lack of a better word, my legs are just a wee bit “tight.” The last time my legs were this sore was probably after a summer training season with Bruce Wilson aka “chief” [captain of the Canadian 86′ World Cup team] before another University of Victoria season.
Lastly, and most importantly, it is the time of year when many of us begin coaching the sport we love.
This week @WillCromack and I are having a week long summer training camp with our U12 Gold team. This is a critical week for our team indeed. It is at this point in the season, right at the beginning, where a coach needs to begin setting the standards, tone, philosophy, and culture of the team – see Will Cormack’s piece on team culture here.
This week we will begin slowly bedding in our objectives and new technical developmental layers which we will focus on throughout the rest of this week and season.
Some examples include:
1) Checking away and showing for the ball at the appropriate moment. At U12 gold the lads need to understand that you should be continuously moving and making space for yourself and the player with the ball. The timing of runs is critical to embed.
2) Always receiving the ball on your back foot. This allows for your body to naturally open up, thus giving you more options and time on the ball.
3) 200 passes per game is the minimum standard we are excepting for our team. If we have the ball the whole game the lads will have more time to make decisions. Remember soccer is a game of decision making and providing the kids with the opportunity to make decisions will make them better. If your team has the ball the whole game, you know what that looks like? At the U10-12 ages it literally looks like the other team walking of the park and quitting, because it is no longer fun.
4) Two or three options/strategies for playing out of the back. Our team will play out of the back. Again, allows for the kids to use their brain, and make more decisions, therefore improving their play.
Another important notion is embedding the teams theme for the year, which for us is the term, HUNGRY. We will use this term to shape the culture of the team and parents throughout the season.
This is just a taste of what will be in store for our team next year.
So now for an important question that comes up when I converse with fellow coaches daily. Coaches will say, “Greg, I am doing all this great work during the week in training, and the kids get it, but then it’s game time on Saturday morning and it all goes out the window.”
Well, here in lies the biggest challenge I believe we face as a Canadian soccer culture, which unfortunately gyrates around the parents on the sideline. In most instances it’s the parents that don’t understand the true definition of success during the 60 mins of a youth soccer game. Parents will yell, “not down the middle!” or “kick it up!”
As a result, the kids become fearful of making a mistake and resort back to the simple option, which is kicking the ball up the park and therefore not making a decision. See @Russcher blog from a few weeks ago on decision makers and problem solvers for more information.
So how do you convert all of your hard work from practice into a game setting on the weekend?
One way is to set tangible developmental metrics which the players and coaches are accountable for during the course of the game. Don’t just talk about passing. Don’t just talk about receiving the ball with your back foot. Don’t just talk about playing it back to your goalie. Actual set up a program that holds your team accountable for achieving what you have been practicing and talking about during your midweek training sessions.
Actually count how many times the kids do it in a game. See where your team is at. Adjust accordingly to let the kids experience success. Then establish a target to aim for.
Anything but counting goals…
Here at Play Better we have already done this for you. So if you, as a coach and are having difficulties translating what you have been coaching midweek, into the game environment on weekends, then we courtly invite you to consider joining our program this year.
In addition, Play Better hosts monthly coaching meet up groups to provide supplementary information on a range of coaching topics. It is a fantastic chance to learn from the pros and continue learning and developing as a coach. The Play Better team is also please to officially announce that Canadian soccer hall of famer & current assistant coach of the @SJEarthquakes, Nick Dasovic will present a great start of the season topic -Models of Play – on Monday, Sept 8th – at Mahony & Sons Burrard landing. So Please join our meet up group and come out for a pint!
With all these opportunities what do you have to lose? What do we as a soccer nation have to lose? Our men’s national team are now currently ranked 122 in the word, This is straight up embarrassing! So why not mix it up and trust us?
We already have teams Playing Better across our country. And the results are there for all to see.
We are here to help! So take the plunge, try something new, and sign up your team today. The season is upon us and there is still time to join our growing team.
p.s. If you haven’t signed up for our monthly newsletter – what are you waiting for!? Up in the top right corner. Just drop your name and email down.