To develop skills and master the game, the next best thing to playing is to watch. But a common lament among American coaches, one I've heard even from U.S. national team coaches, is their young players don't watch enough soccer.
For sure, the great players I've ever interviewed tell stories of watching stars make brilliant moves, and then trying to emulate them. Former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, to name one, would watch soccer on TV with his older brother, then go straight to the backyard and mimic what he had seen.
There's no shortage of soccer on American television, but young players often aren't drawn to watching if there's not a soccer culture in their house. In many other countries, where dad's a big soccer fan or Monday's schoolyard conversation revolves around the weekend's games, children are more likely to watch soccer.
So coaches need to encourage them. They can mention upcoming games - "The USA is playing Mexico on Sunday!" -- and perhaps send e-mail reminders on when they're being broadcast and on what channel.
Coaches can start a friendly pool or fantasy league to encourage their players to watch high-level soccer. Have players pick a favorite MLS or WPS team - or teams from any league that is televised - and spur discussion on last weekend's games at the next team get-together.
Also, modern technology enables coaches to make at least some soccer-viewing convenient for their players. For this generation of kids, watching videos online is a part of their daily routine. Coaches can e-mail links to highlights or instructional demonstrations.
Highlights from soccer games around the world can be found by searching YouTube.com, and visiting soccer video highlight websites such as Footytube.com, SoccerClips.net and GoalJunky.com. MLS and WPS have video highlights on their sites. MLS's site features Goals of the Week and Saves of the Week .
YouTube also provides profiles and highlight montages of soccer role models, from Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Lenny Lun, who coaches girls at Northern California's Mustang Soccer, picks a "move of the month" for his players to focus on. He directs them to a video-game promo that works perfectly to demonstrate a variety of spectacular moves that entertain and inspire.
Advanced Skills Tutorial (5:05 min.)
Below is a collection of other instructional video clips that young players of various levels may enjoy:
The Ronaldo Chop (1:23 min.)
Awesome Soccer Juggling Video (2:00 min.)
The Robinho Stepover (1:33 min.)
Juggling Pele: The Master and His Method (2:00 min.)
Kelly Smith's Tips & Tricks
Juggling Tips (2:40 min.)
The Zico (1:48 min.)
(Mike Woitalla, who coaches youth soccer in Northern California, is the executive editor of Soccer America. His youth articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.