Forget the warm-up that has to relate to the day’s topic. Forget the technical training for the first 15 minutes of practice. Forget building from simple to complex. Forget ending the session playing a large game finishing on regular goals with keepers. Forget about yelling freeze or stop, painting the picture, rehearsing and then going live. Forget about training in the same game realistic spaces. Forget about having two teams differentiated by different training vests. Forget about having to use a standard soccer ball. Forget about small-sided goals. Basically forget everything for right now about soccer coaching.
The reason I want you to forget absolutely everything is simple, it will open your mind up to the fact that there are other ways to develop players, outside of the box ideas and methods! Don’t worry about what other coaches will think or if your USSF Coaching Instructor will be upset with you, that stuff doesn’t matter. Once you forget everything, the restrictions will be off of you! You will be free to be an innovator and free-thinker! This is when you will really start to progress as a coach!
Below are a few examples of what happens when you start to question the way things have always been done. However, for each and every example, I do have a reason behind the idea that makes sense to me, and most often based upon scientific research. I am not trying to justify that the method is correct, rather just how I came up with it and why. Soccer is a game of opinions and when I discuss the game I love to hear everyone’s opinions, but opinions backed with reasoning make more sense to me.
Why do we use only standard soccer goals in training? Think about how coaches use small-sided and regular goals in training, often it is all we use in all of our trainings. This is fine, but it often creates only one type of problem solving environment. How about using goals that have a net that is small and off the ground, like a pole with a hula hoop on top of the pole. The only way to score would be in the air through the hoop. Place three or four of those on each end-line and everything changes. It certainly changes the strategy of the game; the players would be forced to break down the opponent in a completely different manner. Using high hoop goals would in effect change everything, it would require different types of problem solving, a complete change in tactics and the adaption of technique. Add keepers and it further complicates the tactics. This is what I call a beneficial unique experience.
Why do games have to played in squares or rectangles? What happens if the shape of the field is a star, circle, triangle or even something crazier? The different field shapes will require players to come up with different solutions in-order to be successful in each individual field shape. This is another unique training environment that players can benefit from, which I argue will benefit them in the real 11 v 11 game. I can supply you with numerous examples of unique training experiences that helped players improve their games. Neymar and futsal until 13 years old, Ozil training in the metal cage as a boy, Ronaldinho playing beach soccer, Petr Cech and his ping pong ball machine and many many more examples. These examples serve to support the benefit of unique training environments.
Constant use of Cognitive Soccer Training Aids: Put on a pair of my peripheral vision blocking glasses and you will soon realize that you must increase your head movement and scanning frequency to be successful while playing. Use these glasses on a consistent basis and watch your game excel, especially when you take them off. Suddenly scanning becomes something you do non-stop for all 90 minutes. Players who scan more are shown to complete 2/3 more passes, more forward passes and score more goals. That’s an idea backed with science. The training aids don’t stop there, players who use my handheld overload trainer, work on increasing their focus and attention capacities. It is proven that the longest a person in today’s tech driven world concentrates on one thing is 3.5 minutes in a single day; how are players supposed to concentrate for 90 minutes, if they never concentrate for longer than 3.5 minutes (cell phones, video games, Ipads) in a given day? Impossible. Another training aid based on science.
Training Vests: Why split your team into two different colors? Why not have them all wear the same color vest with odd and even numbers. The odd numbers play together and the even play together. This type of training focuses on eye scanning patterns, cueing, building sustained focus, enhancing concentration and bolstering attention capacities. If a player wants to tune out in this type of training, they will surely lose the ball or be caught out of position. Another training idea with science behind it.
I will leave you with a few last thoughts. I am not saying to forget everything literally, but I am saying don’t let what you were taught hold you back in your coaching ideas. If you do forget everything on purpose for a little while, it might spark ideas in you that would have never been released if you never questioned things. I have a college degree in athletic coaching & physical education, I have numerous coaching certifications and have been mentored by some top educators and coaches, but after everything I have experienced so far, the one thing that resonates with me is that there is no one right way to do anything, never mind something as complicated as coaching and education. Be skeptical if anyone or any organization declares they have the best method and best way to do it; it just isn’t true.
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