Archive for the ‘coaches’ Category

Follow-up to the Reporter Article

May 19, 2010

Two months ago I approached my youngest son’s (U12) coaches with the idea of having a team reporter. They embraced the idea and I was off and running.

Before I share with you the reports that have been written so far, I’m including an overview of the program.

  • Attached is the score sheet (Game Summary ISUS) I fill out for each game. I include the date, time, location, and opponent of the game. I also track goalkeepers and the number of saves they made, goal scorers, and those who assisted on the goals. The score sheet also includes the report guidelines along with some notes that I write during a game that a player may or may not choose to use in the report. Notice I emphasize creativity.
  • On the score sheet, I list the player’s names that appeared in the last three reports. Some players will naturally appear more than others. These names help the report determine who has not been included in a while.
  • At the end of each game, I review the stats with the reporter so he understands what I have written and we go over the guidelines.
  • During the last game, a younger brother of one of the players was curious about what I was tracking. After a few instructions, he happily kept the stats for the rest of the game.
  • Since we have many Spanish-speaking families on our team, I get a mom to translate the reports into Spanish before I email out the report.

So far the reporter program has been a big hit. I have had a number of boys volunteer. Once I run out of new reporters, I will use this group of reporters again. It turns out these boys are just as creative with their pens as they are with their feet. Great job boys!

Game 1: Dylan

On March 28th 2010 Impact 98 had a victory in their opening spring game against DYSL Barcelona. The Impact U12 boys defeated Barcelona 5-2.

The two teams met at Cypress Park in Oakley and kick off was at 9:00. When Impact took the field they felt pumped up and ready to play. The first goal was scored by Jorge with an assist going to Grant.  Grant dribbled down the right half and crossed it to Jorge and he controlled the ball and chipped it over the goalie.  Grant and Jorge did great at hustling and timing. Grant scored a goal and then assisted Jorge again for the 3rd goal of the game. Daniel’s goal was next and it was great because he beat 4 guys and then shot. The team felt confident that they were going to win. Even though Delta squeezed one in, Ethan still had a great game saving 7 shots. He made a good save when a Delta player shot the ball fast and hard to the bottom left corner. Derek had a great defensive play because a Delta player shot it and Ethan was just getting up when Derek came and bombed it out.  It was an intense first half.

During the second half Delta Barcelona scored a ripping shot.  Oscar came back and assisted Jorge in scoring the last goal.  The communication was better than it usually is.  All the shots were right on target and hard.  The game was outstanding throughout both halves.  The defense was great from Zachary K, Andrew, Derek, Jose, and Zachary J.  In the second half Zachary K. took over in the goal and saved 3 shots.  The final score of the game was 5-2.  Impact 98 dominated the whole entire soccer game.  It will be a great season if Impact 98 keeps up the hard work.

Game 2: Jose

On April 10, 2010 at 1:30 two good teams played. The away team was Impact 98 and the home team was the Cosmos from Richmond. Impact invited three players from the younger U11 team. Their names were Ethan, Alex and Reynaldo.

The starting lineup for Impact was:

  • Goalie: Zach
  • Defense: Dylan, Andrew, Derek, and Jose
  • Midfield: Carlos, Daniel, and Grant
  • Forward: Oscar, Kyle and Jorge

After the first few minutes of the first half of the game we were down 3-0. Zach saved five shots from the Cosmos. But, Cosmos were able to score again. Close to the end of the first half, Impact substituted Grant for Josh. Then Impact scored one goal when Josh passed the ball to Jorge for the score. The first half ended 4-1.

In the second half, Cosmos scored four more goals. Impact’s goalie for the second half was Kyle. He saved ten shots from the Cosmos. It looked like Impact was going to get another goal when Reynaldo juked out the Cosmo’s goalie and shot it, but the goalie was able come back and save the shot. The final score was 8-1 for the Cosmos. It wasn’t Impact’s best performance but Impact 98 will do better next time we face them.

Game 3: Kyle

JORGE LEADS IMPACT TO VICTORY!!!!

On April 17, 2010 IMPACT 98 faced Lamorinda United at Cypress Field in Oakley.  To start off Cohen was our team captain, coming back from an injury.  Cohen didn’t get to play, but it was great having him back with us.   IMPACT 98 beat Lamorinda United 5-0!

The weather was sunny, but got windy in the second half.   IMPACT had one guest player from U11, Adain.   The game started with Kyle and Adain on the sideline.   Derek started in the goal, and then Adain came in to sub.  Our defense was strong. Lamorinda couldn’t get past them and had no shots on goal.  Jorge scored our first goal with a header after a great assist from Dylan.  The score was 1-0 at half-time.

In the second half, it was very windy.  Adain was in the goal and had 3 saves for IMPACT.  Jorge scored a second goal off an assist by Kyle from the center.  Jorge scored a hat-trick with IMPACT’S 3rd goal, assisted by Carlos from the right side!!    Jorge score his 4th goal assisted by Oscar from the left side.  For the final goal, Kyle chipped the ball with his left foot over two defenders to Oscar who score our 5th goal.

We had great communication from our players this game.  Everyone was talking.  We had a lot of passing.   We missed having our goalie, Ethan this game, but Adain did a great job for us!
Our next game is April 24th at 4:00pm at Doherty High School in San Ramon.

GO IMPACT! ! ! ! !

Game 4: Daniel

SATURDAY, APRIL 24

TRI VALLEY VS. IMPACT 98

GAME TIME 4:00 PM

DOUGHERTY VALLEY HS STADIUM

The journey begins at 3:30 pm. It’s a beautiful day. The weather is cool, sunny and windy. The teams are getting ready on the field warming up.

Meanwhile, the fans start filling the stadium. At 3:55 pm coach Rick assisted from Kim, Luis and Memo called the team and gave them instructions. “The moment of truth has arrived.” Impact 98 expects a defensive Tri Valley but will try to impose its game plans.

The game started at 4:00 pm. We have to control the position of the ball and attack in a better way. We tried to play high-up the field and pressure the defense, but hurried things too much when we had possession that we were wasteful with our final ball. In the 17th minute in the first half Tri Valley took a shot and made the first goal. This was an early goal!!  But Impact wasn’t going to give up, receiving support from fans and not after having dominated possession and taken more shots. We were struggling to get the ball into the net. We were losing 1-0.

Jorge took a shot that barely went out. Then Jose took another shot but the goalkeeper got it. We were playing well but luck wasn’t with us. Tri Valley took 3 more shots. But there was Ethan (our wonderful goalkeeper) getting ready to save all shots. We went to halftime trying to get some rest and receiving more instructions from our coach.

The second half started. “It’s very hard to play against a team that controls the ball so well.” But, we know that we are a better team. Feeling the excitement of the game, we started playing better, having more shots and chances to score. Tri Valley wants to make more goals. They didn’t know we have a great defense and a goalkeeper that was on fire saving 7 more shots. Then, Kyle found more open space and made 3 powerful shots. In the last 5 minutes Derek took a shot, the goalkeeper tried to stop it; then Oscar got the rebound and passed to Daniel who scored and made the final goal. The game ended 1-1. “A great adventure has come to an end tonight, but we want more of this in the future.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME: “ETHAN (GOALKEEPER).”

Game 5: Derek

Impact 98 Remains Undefeated at Home

Impact 98 vs. Pleasanton Ballistic

May 1, 2010 Cypress Park

At Cypress Field, two teams came at 2:00 to warm up for a 2:30 kick off.   Ballistic wearing their lights and Impact looking good in their darks.  A little windy, but a nice sunny day to be on the pitch.  Captains for this game were Miguel and Carlos.  We started off going into the wind.

In the first half Impact was mostly on Ballistic’s side of the field. Impact had some early shots with Miguel and Jorge taking great shots, unfortunately they both hit the crossbar. It took a while, but Impact finally found the net. Oscar (as known as ‘Big O’)crossed from the left, Derek passed it back to Carlos, who ripped it at the post and in. The halftime score was 1-0.

The second half started with the wind to our backs. This half Impact really dominated. To get things started in the second half Miguel took the ball down the line, crossed it to Jorge, and he volleyed straight in the net.  Right after that, Tunde passed it to Miguel and he again crossed it, this time to Zach Kos, who also volleyed into the net.  Unfortunately, a few minutes later Ballistic broke through and made it a 3-1 game.  Seconds after the Ballistic goal Big O dribbled down the line and curved a shot into the far post .  Shortly after his goal, Big O got an assist as he crossed it to Jorge, who flicked the ball over the goalie and into the goal.  The last and final goal came from a booming shot by Oscar, assisted by Daniel which wrapped up the game. At the end of the game, Ethan had a total of 5 saves. The final score was 6 to 1.  Good job Impact 98. Let’s keep up the good work.

Game 6: Tunde

Impact 98 Takes the Win

On Saturday, May 8, 2010, Impact 98 played Bay Oaks in Alameda. The field was very hard to find but in the end everyone was able to find the field. There was a little wind, but it was not too bad. The field was also very hard. For me, the game started very quickly, no warm ups just checked in and we were on our way.

In the first half Kyle started in goal. The ball was a little flat and the referee had to change it. Impact was not really playing as well as normal, but we were trying our hardest. Bay Oaks scored a quick goal to start the first half. Kyle saved six shots but Bay Oaks was able to slip one more goal in before the end of the half. At halftime Coach Rick and Coach Luis told us what we could do better.

In the second half Zach Kos started in goal, he saved two beautiful shots. After that, Oscar kicked a corner kick to Jorge and Jorge scored off the assist. This woke up the team. After the goal, Impact was still pressuring the ball and scored again. This time, it was off an assist from Kyle to Jorge who controlled it with his thigh and scored it with his left foot. Derek known as D-Rock then went in to the goalie position and saved one big goal with the help of Andrew. Carlos scored a beautiful goal off an assist by Oscar to close the game at 3-2 Impact. It was great to go home a winner.

Game 7: Zach K.

Impact 98 Dominates Lamorinda

On Mother’s Day, Impact 98 played in Orinda against Lamorinda United. After a close first half, the score was 2-1 for Impact. In the second half, we dominated the other team. The final score was 7-1.

The first half was kind of difficult. Lamorinda managed to keep the ball on our half of the field for most of the time, but that didn’t mean they were better than us. Oscar managed to slip the ball past their keeper and into the goal for an early 1-0 lead. The second goal scored by D-Rock (Derek) was a beautiful header that was assisted by Jorge. Lamorinda got lucky. They scored one goal against us. The half time score was 2-1.

During the second half, Impact 98 dominated Lamorinda. It started when Carlos assisted Oscar’s first goal of the second half. Kyle scored two goals; the first one assisted by Zach Jenkins and the second one by Daniel. Jorge also scored two goals; one assisted by Oscar and the other assisted by Jose Grimaldo. All of the second-half goals resulted in a 7-1 final score.

Thanks to Ethan’s little brother, Nolan, for keeping stats during the game. Ethan, our star goalie, saved 12 shots, which kept us going in this very important game. Also, thanks to Kim, our coach. She made cards for Mother’s Day. Kim, you rock!

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When a Goal is not a Good Goal

May 16, 2010

There is something special and exciting about kicking the ball into the back of the net. A goal feels more meaningful. It is just not the same when a goal is scored with no net or when cones are used instead of goals. A goal without a net is the same as draining a three-pointer without a basketball net or hitting a home run without the ball flying over a fence. It is simply not the same.

However, players should realize that hitting the back of the net is often not good enough. What is more important is what part of the net the ball hits. In real estate, the three most important words are, “location, location, location”. The same is true of goals.

Take a look at the diagram below. If a goalkeeper knows how to dive properly, the yellow area represents the goal area that he/she can easily save. A goalkeeper’s height and how far a goalkeeper plays off the goal line will also impact how much area a goalkeeper can cover.

There are four areas off the goal that are difficult for a goalkeeper to reach: the two top triangles (red) and the bottom two triangles (green). As I wrote in the article entitled, “2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Penalty Kicks“, a player should always attempt to shoot the ball in the two lower corners. The reasons are:

  • It is very hard for a goalkeeper to get to the ground quickly to save the kick.
  • If a player shoots low, the ball will never go over the goal. When shooting for the upper corners, there is a good chance the ball will go over the goal.

To help emphasize the bottom corners and reinforce effective shots, a coach should augment a regular goal with either small pop-up goals or cones/discs. My suggestion is to use discs since a series of well-placed, hard shots will quickly destroy the pop-up goals. With the cones in place (see same diagram), instruct the players to aim their shots between the cone and the post. Even the best goalkeepers in the world will have a tough time reaching these well-placed shots.

I have several tips for coaches to help give their players an incentive to shoot for the lower corners:

  • Award points for well-placed shots (and deduct points for poor shots):
    • 5 points for a goal shot between the cone and post with the weaker foot (4 points with the dominant foot).
    • 2 points for a goal not between the cone and post with the weaker foot (1 point with the dominant foot).
    • 1 point for a missed goal shot lower than the goalkeeper’s hips with the weaker foot (0 points with the dominant foot).
    • 0 points for a missed goal shot higher than a goalkeeper’s hips but lower than the crossbar with the weaker foot (-1 points with the dominant foot).
    • -2 points for a missed goal is shot higher than the crossbar with the weaker foot (-3 points with the dominant foot).
  • Shagging
    • When a shot misses a goal, players should always shag (or retrieve) their ball. When the player returns, he/she should go to the back of the line and not the earlier position in line.
    • If a player has kicked the ball over the crossbar twice, you now have a player to help clean up after practice.

I strongly suggest that coaches add cones to shooting exercises. The better the shots are placed in practice, the more goals your players will score in games.

Passive Defending

May 10, 2010

Passive defending is when a defender applies little or no pressure on an attacking player. Using this defensive posture in practice is a great way for players to work on fakes and feints with an actual player in front of them. However, passive defending may also be a good strategy to employ in a game as well.

I typically see passive defending used in 1v1 and 2v1 drills. The defender is there to take up space and force the player with the ball to make a move around him/her. Passive defending is great when the focus of the drill is on the offense. Going against an actual player is certainly more realistic than beating a cone.

At a recent camp where I was an instructor, I employed this tactic in the World Cup tournament, small-sided games. Every opportunity I had (I was playing in the games), I would challenge the player with the ball by running at him/her and assumed a passive defensive posture. Once in position, I commanded the attacker to, “Make a move” while reminding him/her that I was only there to apply pressure and had no intention of taking the ball away. Then they did.

With players it will be more challenging to get them to practice passive defending, especially during small-sided games. The trick is to make sure that each player is given a chance to go up against a passive defender whether the player with the ball is an attacker, midfielder, or defender. To help the passive defender, call out “Passive” when you want this tactic employed. The player nearest the ball will know what to do.

One of the benefits of passive defending is that it will give the player who is asked to defend in this manner an opportunity to rest. On a warm afternoon after an hour-and-a-half  of practice, you will have players calling out “passive” themselves.

So how can passive defending be a good strategy during a game? How many players do you see or have on your team who blindly go after a ball that is in possession of an attacking player only to have him/her baited into stabbing at the ball? Attacking players love these types of defenders. Change this defender’s behavior by having him/her stop in front of the attacking player and become a passive defender. Once this has been accomplished and the defender is tired of the attacking player still getting around him/her, have this player start back pedaling as the attacking player approaches. In one game you will have broken the player of this bad habit.

Go ahead; implement passive defending in your next practice or even in the next game.

Simple Tips that will Significantly Impact Games

May 3, 2010

As I approach my one-hundredth post, I have learned the following:

  • Gore sells. Besides the home page, my most popular post was the one about Aaron Ramsey’s broken leg.
  • Initially, I thought I only had ideas for 25 or 30 posts. I now know I have what seems like an endless supply of material to write about.
  • My content must be OK as Soccer America has reprinted five articles to date and Potomac Soccer Wire reprints one of my posts weekly.
  • I have learned that most soccer blogs cover professional games, leagues, and players. Very few blogs are dedicated to improving youth soccer for an audience of youth coaches, players, and parents.

The other day I was looking at the page hits and noticed that a set of very valuable articles I wrote early on has not gotten the love or attention I feel they deserve. I have written 20 articles that start with the title, “2-3 Goal Difference per Game”. These were written primarily for coaches who tend to over-coach, place too much importance on the X’s and O’s, and don’t let their players go out and have fun and make mistakes.

Soccer, especially at the youth level, should be about free play and only a few coaches’ instructions during games. These articles include simple coaching tips that should be easy for players to understand and learn quickly. These tips will dramatically affect the outcome of a game. While player development, and not winning, should be a youth coach’s ultimate goal, increasing a team’s chances of winning without compromising development and fun is not a bad thing either.

You will find the subject matter and respective links to the 20 articles below. Enjoy!

Coaches: Practice with your Team

April 15, 2010

At a recent 360 Soccer Training camp where I was a trainer, I had something very unique happen to me that I want to share with everyone. A player who had never played soccer before was showing me how to play soccer. And, I must admit, he was doing it quite well.

At the end of each session, we had small-sided, Word Cup Tournament games. I selected the least experienced players to be on my team. Whenever I had the ball, I pointed where I wanted my teammates to move in order to be in an open space to receive a pass. When they moved correctly, I rewarded them with a pass. In turn, I always made sure to run to an open space when I did not have the ball. When doing so, I always communicated with my teammates with statements such as, “I’m right behind you” or “I’m open if you need to pass.”

There are many benefits of playing with your players during a practice, especially when they are young.

  • Show them, don’t tell them. In-game pointing and communication as described above are great examples of “instructing without instruction”.
  • Players will develop a stronger bond with you especially if you inject occasional light-hearted play.
  • As the ‘on-field referee’, you can easily dictate the flow of the game when necessary.
  • It is a great way to stay in shape.
  • If you have never played before, get out there and give it a shot. Apply what you have been teaching and preaching to your players.
  • If you are unable to play, get older players to fill this role. This would be a great opportunity for high school players to develop teaching and leadership skills.

It was not long after we started playing the World Cup Tournament scrimmages that this young, inexperienced player started to mimic what I was doing on the field. He started to direct his teammates to open spots where he intended to pass the ball. And then he would make the pass. He also had no problem directing me. I gladly obliged and followed his direction.

So coaches, practice with your team and relish moments such as these.

Coaches: Limit Joystick Coaching

April 13, 2010

I first heard the term ‘Joystick Coaching’ a few years back. What a wonderfully descriptive term. As with video games, joystick coaches want to dictate and control the movement of all players on the field. Hence the term ‘joystick’. However, there is very little joy to be had by players when they are coached in this manner.

Joystick coaching has reaches epidemic proportions (and parents are just as guilty). Why is this happening?

  • Look at other popular youth sports such as football, baseball, and basketball. Football and baseball coaches are joystick experts. Even in basketball where the game is more fluid (like soccer) and, therefore, more difficult to control and manipulate, coaches still try their best to dictate the action. Since many soccer coaches come from these backgrounds, it is only natural that joystick coaching carries over into soccer.
  • We are a sports nation hung up on X’s and O’s. Joysticking is a natural by-product of this fascination. How many times do you see defenders standing in one spot because that is where the defenders were positioned on the dry-erase board?
  • Soccer is not an easy sport to learn. No matter how many times coaches tell young players to spread out and not play bunch-ball, they still do. As such, coaches feel compelled to ‘help’ position and move their players about.

Besides early player retirements, there are other consequences of this ‘helping’ behavior.

  • In a sport that is very fluid where the action happens so quickly, players must be able to think on their feet and solve or address problems immediately. However, the more players are told what to do, the less they will be able to think for themselves.
  • Players lose their sense of purpose. They are out there to play a game and try their best yet are constantly being told how to play.
  • Once one adult starts maneuvering players on the field, other adults feel empowered to do the same. Soon, players are being told how to play and where to stand by coaches, parents, and complete strangers. And often, the three groups are giving three completely different instructions. What is a player to do?

These are some simple tips that will help coaches curb the joystick epidemic and truly help players.

  • Lead by example. Limited joystick coaching during games as much as possible.
  • Set ground rules for your assistant coaches and parents. Explain the drawback of joystick coaching and having multiple adults ‘help’ players with conflicting instructions.
  • Rather than telling players what to do and where to play, ask them how and where they should be playing. Let them think of the answer and assist only if they don’t know the answer.

Coaches (and parents), leave your joysticks hooked up to your game consoles at home for use with FIFA ’10. If you don’t, you’ll be using the actual joystick much more since Saturday mornings will soon be free.

Size Does Not Matter

April 6, 2010
What do Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona and Brazil’s Pele have in common besides being international superstars and most likely in the Top 10 list of all-time soccer greats? They are all short.
  • Messi is 5′ 6.5″
  • Maradona is 5′ 5″
  • Pele is 5′ 8″

I hate it when I hear coaches place so much emphasis on size and height. Emphasis on speed I can understand. I also think height is important for a goalie. But to dismiss or overlook a player because of his/her physical stature is a huge mistake. Size does not matter!

Over the years, I have found many reasons why size is not important:

  • Shorter players have a lower center of gravity, making it much easier to dribble, make fakes and feints, and change direction.
  • Never underestimate the toughness of a short player. These players are usually tougher and more physical than taller players.
  • Before the age of 14 or 15, headers play a very insignificant part in a soccer game. Being able to out-jump someone for a header is of little value.

Regarding headers; height does help; no doubt about it. But so, too, do timing and jumping ability. Check out these amazing headers by the aforementioned superstars.

  • Messi’s 2009 UEFA Championship goal against Manchester City. Look how Messi reached back to head the ball.
  • Maradona’s ‘Hand-of-God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup against England. Though Maradona used his hand to score the goal (see images below), I’m still amazed when I look at the video. In real-time, it still looks like a legitimate header. Though it should not have counted, Maradona still had to get off the ground a good distance (the second picture shows how short Maradona is).

  • Pele’s goal in the 1970 World Cup Final against Italy. Look how high he got.

Remember coaches, just because soccer is called football throughout the world except in the United States, don’t place the same importance on size and height that American football coaches do. Otherwise, you may be overlooking the next Messi, or in my case, the next me.

Photo of the 1975 or 1976  Odd Grenland Ballklubb youth team. I was 9 or 10 at the time. Would I (red arrow) have been overlooked by many coaches today?

Coaches and Parents and Rhetorical Questions

April 2, 2010

If you are like me, you are guilty of having asked rhetorical questions such as these:

  • What were you thinking?
  • What kind of shot was that?
  • Don’t you know how to stop the ball?

Though these statements were posed in the form of a question, I never expected an answer. Although keeping my mouth shut would have been better, I justified that my rhetorical questions were slightly better than stating:

  • “That was a dumb move!”
  • “That was a terrible shot!”
  • “That was a lousy first-touch!”

Plus, how would I have responded if a player answered one of my questions with a sincere or snide remark?

For one such question, the kids usually had an answer. But the answer was usually a lie. The question was, “Who was that to?” I would ask that question when a player made a poor pass or when he/she simply kicked the ball up-field without looking up first to find a teammate. Typical answers were:

  • “Ryan!” who happened to be the teammate who somehow received the ball by pure chance.
  • “Adam!” who happened to be the nearest teammate in line with the pass even though in order for Adam to receive the ball, it would have had to pass through three defenders.

Rarely if ever were the answers truthful.

Solution

During practice, anytime a ball is passed, the player making the pass needs to call out the name of the teammate he/she is passing the ball to (loud enough so the receiver can hear his/her name). This tactic will address and solve a number of issues and problems:

  • First and foremost, it will eliminate the need to ask the question, “Who was that to?” The player will have answered the question before it was ever asked.
  • If the ball does not go to the intended receiver, the passer will know it without a coach or parent having to bring it to his/her attention. When older players make poor passes, ask them to state why it was a poor pass. For example, “I did not use the inside-of-the-foot” or “I did not look up” are good answers.
  • Speaking of looking up, in order to call out a player’s name, the passer has to look up. Too often, players play with their heads down, don’t see the whole field, and make poor passes.
  • Kickball, which is the act of teams kicking the ball up and down the field with no purpose, will diminish. Long balls will still be kicked, but they will be kicked to a teammate.

Over time, the rhetorical questions will lessen and play will improve dramatically.

2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Ease of Learning

March 31, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is the final in a series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how ‘Inside’ was crowned champion. What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.

Of the six disciplines tested so far in the MVP (most valuable part) tournament–structure, receiving, dribbling, passing, shooting, popularity among professionals–‘Inside’ won five of them. The only discipline it did not win was the ‘Structure’ competition, although it did come in a close second.

One discipline remains–Easy of Learning. Given its importance, it would be nice if it was easy to learn to use the inside-of-the-foot. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For this discipline, ‘Inside’ tied for last. The winners were the bottom- and top-of-the-foot.

The main reason why ‘Bottom’ and ‘Top’ won this discipline has to do with the way humans walk. Most of us walk with our toes pointing (relatively) straight ahead. Thus, when a ball is passed to a player, it is very natural to simply lift the bottom-of-the-foot off the ground in order to receive it. Equally natural is to use the top-of-the-foot to pass and shoot the ball (although a young player will often use his/her toe when first starting to play soccer).

The story is very different for the insides- or outsides-of-the-feet. The reason once again has to do with the way humans walk. Receiving the ball with the inside-of-the-foot is not natural. To control the ball properly, the receiving foot needs to have the hip turned out slightly, the knee even more, and the ankle turned a full 90-degrees in relation to the ball. To pass or shoot the ball with the inside-of-the-foot is even more uncomfortable and unnatural. I’m guessing a ballerina would have an easy time learning and feeling comfortable using her ‘Inside’ but not a young player. Just like the inter-locking golf grip takes a while to get used to, so too does using the inside-of-the-foot. The same difficulty and uncomfortable feeling exists when using the outside-of-the-foot.

I hope you enjoyed the MVP series. All eight posts are meant to highlight the importance of the inside-of-the-foot in an unusual and hopefully memorable way. The more youth players I see with poor ball control and a weak first-touch, the more convinced I am that …

  • The inability to properly use the inside-of-the-foot, and
  • The lack of attention this part of the foot gets from coaches

… are the two biggest problems in youth soccer today. These issues are preventing players from reaching their full-playing potential.

I’ll conclude the series with one final thought. There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master”. When I first started coaching, I thought I could apply this proverb to describe the process of learning to use the inside-of-the-foot. However, after having coached youth soccer for many years and seeing the difficulty many kids have with the inside-of-the-foot, the following expression is much more appropriate: “Difficult to Learn, Easy to Forget, Impossible to Master.”

2-4-6-8 Who Do We Appreciate?

March 29, 2010

Everyone knows the ‘2-4-6-8-Who-Do-We-Appreciate’ cheer that is performed at the end of most youth games. It is a great display of sportsmanship, especially when the cheering team has lost or is upset with the other team. It is important to let things go after a game. This cheer along with the shaking of hands or high-5’s is a good way of achieving this.

When I coached my kids’ teams, I always used this cheer at the end of games. I also used it at the end-of-the-year parties. However, at these parties, I had the players ‘appreciate’ the people who truly needed to be thanked–the parents.

As the last item on the agenda,

  • I gathered all the players around me.
  • I explained to them that they were going to do the cheer once last time. But this time, they were going to thank their parents or their guardians who took them to all the practices and games and who washed their dirty and smelly uniforms.
  • I told them that this had to be the best and most passionate cheer of the year.
  • Finally, I asked the players that at the end of the cheer, they go to the adults they thanked and give them a big hug and kiss.

If you are like me, I will take all the hugs and kisses I can get from my kids.