ENCOURAGING THE PASS ... WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT By Mike Woitalla
CURT JOHNSON (Vice President, US Club Soccer):
Great article. I am coaching a team of 8-9-year-olds and the points you make are right on in terms of their development and ways to teach them while at the same time creating an environment in which they can learn/master skills on "their own/trial and error."
Clearly, part of the reason many of the best dribblers and finishers are strong personalities is that these personality traits many see as a negative allow them to tune out the coaches and develop skills that would otherwise be suppressed.
1. There is a very good reason why, even though the majority of children have the technical ability to send the ball on the ground with the inside of the foot at a younger age, they are not ready to pass until they are 8 years old or so, i.e., U-10s. The child's cognitive ability has not yet developed to where he or she can integrate the direction the ball must go to complete the pass, the distance the ball must go and the pace at which it must be sent so the receiving player can handle it -- even if the receiving player is motionless, let alone when the receiving player is moving, whether toward, away from or laterally with the passing player. It's like learning to read or do math: some can handle all this at a younger age; others cannot until they are even older. There is something of a bell curve, which just emphasizes the point that coaches need to deal with players as individuals. Emphasize first what the child can do first -- kick the ball and dribble it (or maybe vice versa).
2. Instead of team handball, I teach coaches to use "old fashioned women's basketball." No dribbling; no three steps; passes are made by throwing to another player as if the passing player was making a throw-in. Shots are taken at small goals by rolling the ball with two hands under-handed. It is a great fun small-sided warm-up game for all ages from U-12 up. It adds throw-in practice to everything team handball teaches about soccer.
WHEN THE 'BAD GUYS' WIN? By Aaron Nelson
Winning the game is a short-term goal, and coaching appropriate behavior is more likely to achieve the long-term goal of allowing kids who play soccer to develop into talented, adult soccer players. Players who respect their opponents, play by the rules of the game, and generally model good behavior will have more fun playing the game, and therefore be more likely to stay with it and enjoy playing of the long term. And finally, if you cheated in order to win, that is no victory. So even people who believe victory is the most important measure of success should understand that a tainted victory is not really winning.
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES by Emily Cohen
Amen. From a former yeller, now I have learned. Practice time is for quality instruction, game time is the "test" of the learning. Reevaluate practice based on the game results, and most importantly, the game results have nothing to do with the final score. Is it a good game if your players dominate another team but they do it with poor habits because they are bigger, faster, or already further developed?