Posts Tagged ‘soccer practice’

Fun Practice Alternative: Catch

January 6, 2010

I played American football in high school and college. I was both a field goal kicker and punter. One trait often overlooked in kickers and punters is their creativity. There are only so many kicks and punts these players can practice before they either develop a dead leg or simply die of boredom. When I played, we needed to be creative to get through most practices. When I was not working on field goals or punts, I enjoyed playing catch. We would take turns being the quarterback and pass the ball to kicker/punter turned-receiver teammates running prearranged routes. We would also play catch by having the receiver run down field and instead of throwing the ball, we would punt the ball, The goal was to hit the receiver in stride.

A similar game can be played at a soccer practice. Here’s how.

  • Come up with a few pass routes. Some short and some long.
  • Divide the team into 3 groups: left-sided receivers, right-sided receivers, and the quarterbacks (kickers).
  • Have a receiver run one of the routes and have the quarterback pass the ball to the receiver in stride. Kick the ball off the ground so the receiver has to catch it. The ball should be stationary when kicked, like a free kick or corner.
  • Make sure everyone gets a turn playing all three positions

Once the players begin to feel comfortable with this game, add some variations:

  • Add new routes.
  • Have the quarterbacks chip the ball high into the air or have them kick it ‘on a line’.
  • Have the quarterbacks kick with their weaker foot.
  • Instead of catching the ball, have the receivers control the ball with their feet.
  • Add a defender so the pass needs to be more accurate.

This fun practice alternative is great for the quarterbacks. It gives them an opportunity to work on:

  • Touch. Chip shots, regular kicks, or power passes all require different types of touches to be put on the ball. During a regular game, correct ball touches are important.
  • Kicking into open space. Since the receiver is moving, the quarterback needs to pass to the spot where the player will be when he/she receives the ball. This should happen in a soccer game all the time.

The receivers benefit as well.

  • It gives them an opportunity to receive and control the ball from unusual angles. This is a great exercise for the forwards.
  • It reinforces the need to always be moving.
  • Running the routes helps with fitness.

If playing ‘catch’ with a soccer ball is not a big hit, break out some footballs. While throwing and catching a football will not benefit the team much from a soccer perspective, it will still be a nice break from a regular soccer practice.

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Enrich and Retain your Soccer Knowledge with Spaced Education

December 17, 2009

As a youth soccer coach for a competitive (traveling) team, I never wanted soccer to be the most important or even the second-most important part of a player’s life. I made it perfectly clear at the beginning of each season that family and school always took precedence over soccer. If a family had planned a vacation, I wished them bon voyage. If a player was inundated with homework or had an important test to study for, I did not want them at practice.

What I learned early on was that very few if any of the players I coached would play soccer after high school. And if they got the opportunity, it was going to be their playing ability and not my coaching that got them there. However, good study habits, good grades, and reinforcing the importance of school were all attributes that I could negatively impact if I insisted that soccer was more important than school.

Speaking of learning, I recently came across a fantastic new educational website which promotes spaced education (http://www.spaceded.com). Spaced education is based on two core psychology concepts: the spacing effect and the testing effect.

  • The spacing effect refers to the concept that information which is presented and repeated over spaced intervals is learned and retained more effectively.
  • The testing effect refers to the concept that the long-term retention of information is significantly improved by testing learners on this information. Testing causes knowledge to be stored more effectively in long-term memory.

At SpacedEd, spaced education works as follows:

  • A person enrolls in a course.
  • Each day a person receives at least one question to answer.
  • If the person answers the question incorrectly, a full explanation is presented to the tester. The question is placed back into the question pool and is presented to the user again after a short interval (let’s say 7 days).
  • If the person answers the question correctly, a full explanation is still presented and the question is still placed back into the question pool. The question is still presented to the user but this time after a longer interval (let’s say 21 days).
  • Once the same question is answered correctly twice, the question is retired.
  • The course is completed once all questions are retired.

So can spaced education help youth soccer players on the field? I don’t know yet. I do know that in order to improve fundamental technical skills, a player must repeat the same action thousands of times before body and mind start to react instinctively. This training is known as developing muscle memory. But soccer is much than just technical skills. So perhaps spaced education can play a role in improving soccer in the United States.

To find out, I have taken several courses and on December 13, I published a soccer course entitled, “Soccer 101“.  I invite you to enroll in my class. It is free and I promise it will be educational and fun. The course covers topics such as: Laws of the Game, soccer terminology, and soccer skills. My answers contain coaching tips, current and historical soccer facts, and plenty of pictures, diagrams, and YouTube videos.

Let me and others know what you think.