One of my objectives for both of our sons this season was to enroll them in our club’s added skills training over the course of the season.
The course is an extra night a week, and lasts for an hour. The instructor is our club’s Recreation Director, but he also coaches several Select teams and is involved with coaching at the local High School and holds a National Youth License.
His background far out shadows my background in coaching – which began when my kids started playing soccer.
I definitely believe that skills work holds a place in kids learning soccer, especially in the United States. In countries where there is a stronger presence of soccer in the media (and kids are fans of soccer) some of the work we do in training is probably learned through emulating the stars of the game. In countries with a stronger street soccer presence, older players probably pass these skills onto younger players.
I think the strongest part of this training has been encouraging my kids to pick up the ball at least two times more during the week. The first extra time is for the training, and the second extra time is to do the homework for the next class.
General Flow of the Session
Each week has followed a similar format – warm up with basic touches like toe taps and inside touches, followed by some review of the skill learned the prior week and then introduction of a new skill. The last three weeks have finished with a 1v1 game that requires the players to use their newly learned skill in the game before taking a shot.
What They’ve Learned
Now into their fourth week of training, they’ve really improved their touch on the ball. Overall, each touch is more controlled and predictable.
Juggling: Aidan has improved to be able to take 4-6 touches before losing the juggle and has really taken to the skill. I know a lot of people question the value of juggling as a true soccer skill – but from my own learning path it has been something that’s improved my touch and acuity with the ball. Evan is lagging a little behind – but he’s getting at least two touches on the ball before losing it.
Turns (Cruyff, Pullback, Chop, Hook)
Lunge, Scissor, and Stepover: Both of the kids are getting better at executing these moves at a standstill. Both are having trouble integrating into their game on a roll and especially opposed, but it’s coming along.
Tempo and Tone
The course is taught with a higher expectation than the training in U8 Recreation Soccer. Kids are expected to stay on task, and expected to work on their skills away from practice. They are also being introduced to not sitting down in the course of practice. (I’ve been trying to introduce that to my U8 team – don’t sit down or pick up your ball unless you are specifically told to do so.)
It’s fairly non-stop from start to finish, for 60 minutes. This week they took one water break, and otherwise stayed in motion. It was solo ball work for about 50 minutes, and 10 minutes of 1v1 (one pair at a time from a group of 10 kids.)
I’m coaching both of their teams now – and Evan has known only me as a Soccer coach since he started. Aidan has had me as a Soccer coach for two “Seasons” (one Fall, one Spring) and as a Basketball coach once. He also played Baseball under other coaches at an earlier age. I know that the age of coaching them will be coming to an end eventually – maybe as soon as Spring for Aidan and probably Fall two years from now for Evan. It’s good to see them working with other coaches and being able to so well.
My wife likens it to comparing being taught at home by one of us, versus the professional educators at school. We are certainly capable of teaching the topics of Kindergarten and Second Grade, but there’s an authority bestowed upon the teacher that has instant respect from them that they don’t afford to us.
I think the work presented is challenging. Getting these moves correct isn’t easy for the average 5 year old (Evan is below the target age groups of U7 and U8 that make up the other kids in the group) but I see a good commitment from him to trying and repeating. When I’ve tried to work with him on the past on things that are hard, I’ve gotten the head down and “I can’t!”
And the good attitude transferred over to the homework this past weekend. We had good weather, and it brought out Evan to work hard. I grabbed my ball and practiced the same skills opposite him.
Your Kid Doesn’t Belong Here If…
If your kid shows up to practice to screw around, don’t bother signing up.
If your kid is a distraction to every other kid because he wants to be the class clown, don’t sign up.
Otherwise, it’s pretty open in skill level. I see kids who are on the weak end, and the strong end of both U7-U8 Boys and Girls. Extra touches and instruction never hurt anyone’s playing ability.