Posts Tagged ‘assist’

Want to Get Noticed at a Tryout? Try a Bicycle Kick

May 13, 2010

I’ve written several articles on tryouts: one for coaches entitled, “The Worst Part of Coaching” and one for players entitled, “Be More Vocal at Tryouts”. The most important thing a player has to do at a tryout is to get noticed, preferably for a positive action. Being a good player certainly helps and being vocal will draw attention to yourself. The other way to get noticed is to attempt a bicycle kick.

I say bicycle kick because it is one of the most recognizable, beautiful and yet most difficult moves in soccer. Any time I see a player attempt a bicycle kick, it tells me the players is:

  • Knowledgeable about the game of soccer
  • Creative
  • Confident

In addition to a bicycle kick, these actions will also get a player the attention he/she needs to stand out from other players:

  • Communication
  • An excellent and unselfish assist
  • A beautiful goal
  • Great dribbling moves
  • Crisp, well-positioned passes on the ground.
  • Comfortable with both feet
  • Long throw-ins

Conversely, attempting a bicycle kick or any other move when it is not necessary (for example, a defender performs a bicycle kick in his/her defensive third just to be cute) can have the opposite effect. It can get a player noticed for the wrong reason.

Before a tryout, ask yourself (and ask the advice of other coaches and parents) and write down your strengths (initiative should be a strength since you are taking the time to think about your strengths). With your list in hand, try to apply and demonstrate these strengths at every opportunity you have during the tryout. But don’t force these strengths–strengths should come naturally.

Actually, I lied. The most important thing a player has to do at a tryout is to enjoy the experience and have fun! Good luck!

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2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Passing

February 18, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is one 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.

Personally, I am a big fan of the pass. It probably stems from having played midfield most of my life where controlling the game and distributing the ball were this position’s primary purpose. When I watch games today, I prefer seeing a nice assist rather than a nice goal.

When passes are made correctly, they look easy and effortless. They are anything but. Passing requires a player to first control a ball that is passed to him/her. Once the ball has been successfully controlled, he/she must know if and where to pass it. This requires playing with the head up (in an up position) in order to see all the players and be able to judge the speed and direction teammates are moving. Most importantly, it requires maturity, confidence, and knowledge of the game. While it is never too early to introduce and teach passing, it is a discipline that won’t become refined and polished until a player is older or has played for many years.

The passing discipline was divided into two categories: accuracy and types. For both categories, ‘Inside’ was the clear winner. ‘Types’ refers to the number of different types of passes that can be made with a surface.


Accuracy

The structure of the inside-of-the-foot is built for accurate passing. The flatter the surface, the more accurate the pass. There is a reason why a tennis racket, a ping pong paddle, and a putter are flat. Imagine trying to hit a tennis ball back over the net using a baseball bat. Or how about putting with the rounded, back end of the putter (see image to the right). In both instances, the required task would become more difficult.

Another factor which contributed to ‘Inside’ having the highest levels of accuracy is the swinging motion of the leg when the ball is passed. When striking the ball with the ankle sweet spot of the inside of the foot (larger red spot in the image to the right), the leg swing should be in a straight plane. It is very much like a golf putt. Ideally, the leg swings straight back and then swings straight through the ball. The straighter the overall swing, the more accurate passes a player will make (green arrow in the image below).

Typically, when passing the ball with the front sweet spot of the inside-of-the-foot (smaller red spot in the image above), the laces, or the outside-of-the-foot, the plane of the swing is more angled. Passes with these surfaces are similar to full iron or wood/metal shots in golf. This angled stroke plane introduces more variables to the swing and, therefore, a higher probability for inaccurate passes (red arrow in the image above).

The top-of-the-foot was the next most accurate surface. To make an accurate pass, the ball had to be struck with the foot’s sweet spot (red spot in the image to the right). Unlike with the ‘Inside’, a pass with the laces required more of an arcing back swing which took away some of the accuracy. An ‘Outside’ pass has a similar arcing swing but this surface is also striking the ball with a convex surface, making it more difficult to control a pass. Passes with the bottom-of-the-foot were accurate but the distances achieved with this surface were short. It came in last place.

Types

Being able to accurately pass a ball to a teammate in a straight line is invaluable. But being limited to only this type of pass is not ideal either. Oftentimes, a defender will stand between a passer and receiver. Except for the bottom-of-the-foot, a player can pass the ball over a defender using other surfaces of the foot. There are times, however, when this may not be possible, especially when the defender is close to the passer. This is where ‘Inside’ has a distinct advantage over the other surfaces.

When the front sweet spot on the inside-of-the-foot is used to pass a ball, it will cause the ball to curve or spin. The technique can be used to curve a pass around a defender. This makes ‘Inside’ the only surface which gives a player 2 distinct options when passing the ball. Most indirect free kicks are kicked with the inside-of-the-foot to deposit the ball precisely to the receiver’s foot or head. David ‘Bend It Like’ Beckman is world-renowned for his precision free kicks and passes.

Conclusions

The ‘passing’ discipline results were not close. In terms of passing accuracy and the different types of passes that can be made, ‘Inside’ was the easy winner.

The other disciplines evaluated in this competition were: structure, receiving, dribbling, shooting, popularity among professionals, and ease of learning.

Reward the Soccer Assist

October 3, 2009

We Americans are obsessed with statistics. Baseball is all about statistics. Football is heading in the same direction. Can soccer be far behind? Most professional televised games now share with its audience shots on goal, saves, corners, fouls committed, yellow cards, red cards , and time of possession at half time and at the end of the game. I understand the importance of these stats especially if you are the coach. However, as a fan, I think you can sometimes go overboard. In my book, the most important stat is the final score.

Fortunately as the youth level, I have only seen a few coaches who are overly concerned about stats. But some stats are good to track. I have no problems keeping track of who has scored the most goals on a team. While it may single out several players from the rest of the team, it is usually the parents that have the tougher time with this especially if their son or daughter is not among the leaders. On the other hand, players know and readily acknowledge who are the better players.

There is one stat, however, that if it were tracked and emphasized more, could make a team much, much better. It is the assist. Here’s my reasoning.

The better players are already scoring a lot of goals. They know it wins games. Perhaps they are getting compensated each time they score. Quite simply, next to winning and losing, it is the glamour stat. But it could come at a price. These players may hold onto the ball more than necessary resulting in the rest becoming mere spectators. However, if the assist is now the most important or glamour stat, the better players will now focus on the assist. By doing so, these players will hopefully look to get teammates involved in the game since only when someone else scores will they received the primary reward. Just think how much better a team will become. And think how much better and more well-rounded the better players will become.

I like the way professional hockey (the NHL) tracks assists and goals. They acknowledge the goal and both the primary (first) and secondary assists. Each is worth one point. I would make one change. I would award 2 points for the primary assists and 1 point each for the secondary assist and goal.

If you are a coach, try it for a few games and let everyone know if emphasizing the assist has made your team better. As parents, ask your child how many assist points they collected in the game.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Play the Whistle

September 4, 2009

I know many of you have heard the expression “Play the Whistle”. It means that players should continue to play until the referee blows her whistle. This is great advice that all players should follow. However, many times at the youth level you will see players stop for various reasons:

  • They believe a foul or infraction was committed. For instance, the ball hits a hand or arm, someone fell down from contact, a player was in an offside position, etc.
  • They believe the ball left the field of play.
  • They saw the assistant referee’s (AR’s) flag go up.
  • They heard a whistle from another game.
  • They heard parents and coaches yelling for a foul or infraction.

There is not much that can be done about another game going on at the same time. Some referees have different-sounding whistles for just this situation. If not, players usually adapt to a multi-whistle environment quickly so any confusion will usually happen just once. With regard to the other examples:

  • A hand-ball is called when a player INTENTIONALLY handles the ball with the hand or arm. At the youth level, ‘intentional’ has a very broad interpretation. Play until the whistle is blown.
  • Referees are instructed not to blow the whistle every single time the ball goes out-of-play. The only time they will is when it is not obvious that the ball has gone out. A ball is technically out-of-play when the ‘whole of the ball’ has completely crossed a boundary line. As a rule, anytime the ball is close to a boundary line, let the referee and her whistle decide when the ball is out-of-play. The players should continue to play.
  • An AR (linesman/linesperson) is there to ASSIST the referee. Their flag can’t officially stop the game. Otherwise, they would have a whistle. By raising her flag, the AR is only suggesting that an offside occurred or that a foul or infraction took place. The referee is the final decision-maker. Wait for her whistle.

My U10 boys team won a tournament one year when in the finals, in OT, one of my players, aware that the whistle had not blown, scored the golden-goal game winner while everyone else was standing around. The rest of the players thought the ball had gone over the goal line. However, the referee did not think so and never blew his whistle. Could the ball have been out-of-play? Probably, given the way my players and the other team reacted. The lesson is that only one person’s opinion matters–the referee’s. The other team learned a very valuable and costly lesson that day. I’d be surprised if those players ever made that mistake again.