A guest article written by Rich Zahn: Coach of the U14 South Delta United who Played Better last year to support the Delta Hospice Society.
Last summer, as I prepared for pre-season with my U14 boys, I found myself pondering ways to get them – and their parents – to focus on development over winning. Improving as players, both in their individual skill sets, and in their understanding of the team game. The year before I was shocked to see the level of kick and run soccer played, and succeeding, at what was supposed to be a rep level.
That was when I was introduced to the Play Better program…Rewarding players for reaching individual or team developmental goals. We chose counting passes as our goal, and went about teaching the boys how to play the ball out of the back, and not to fear passing back to their keeper. We struggled with it early in the year, as mistakes were made. However, as losses piled up during the fall, the standard of play was growing. The boys were learning to find space. To get their heads up. Shoulder check. All of the basics that sadly don’t get taught regularly enough.
As the season progressed, we found ourselves outplaying teams – we out-passed one 152-46 – but still dropping games due to mistakes. The biggest surprise for me, was seeing the boys more concerned with hitting the passing targets as opposed to what the score was. It took a good 4 months for everything to come together, but when it clicked – it clicked. Through January and February we played the same teams we had lost to in the fall, and beat them all, most of them handily. We played a team we had lost to 2-4 in November, and trounced them 7-0, only giving up one shot against.
The improvement in our players, as individuals, and even more importantly in their understanding of the game, was noticeable as we played these teams who played the same kick and run style they did in the beginning of the year. The work the boys put in was rewarded with a league cup championship run in the spring!
The Play Better program sets kids up to learn the sport properly. This is my story from last year and having conversations with other coaches many, if not all, have very similar stories to share.
I can’t wait to see what heights we hit in 2015/16!
Go. Play Better
Rich Zhan @