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Contribution from Byron DeLaBarre – April 28 2016
‘You play soccer with your head, and your legs are there to help you’
My interpretation of that quote is that Dutch soccer master Cruyff was telling us that soccer is best played with an engaged and informed brain. I could be wrong – the enigmatic Cruyff may have been extolling the virtues of the aerial approach to the game. Regardless, the fluid nature of soccer demands that players continually assess their situations and make good decisions from the information they take in – optimally before the ball or play even gets to them. Between the time a coach can call out an instruction and the time it is received and understood by the player, the situation will have changed and the advice is probably not applicable anymore. Telling a player what to do in the moment can cause confusion on what he or she should be doing in a game situation. Thus – our job as coach is to both prepare and allow our players to make their own decisions on the field.
Field practice is normally where we prepare our players to make those decisions, but the New England weather can sometimes work against us. Next time fields are closed, consider a different option: YouTube! Online video is a next-best resource for preparing the minds of your players. I call these virtual practices. With the advent of resources like YouTube, coaches have an easy way to share soccer experience with their players. YouTube has tremendous search tools and will even suggest closely related videos once you start working through your search results. Transferring the gems you find to a shareable autoplay list is a minimal click effort.
A playlist of pre-screened videos emailed out to your team is a great way to keep their minds engaged on improving their game. Elite athletes make heavy use of visualization to reach the heights they achieve. There is no reason why our young players should not benefit from a similar approach. For anyone who doubts the effectiveness of thinking about playing better to get better, check out this study where researchers showed fitness gains by having people simply imagine participation in a workout on a regular basis.
Here is one of the playlists that I sent to my team when they were struggling to understand the nuances of FIFA Law 11 (the offside rule). I have assembled several playlists on other themes – I try to pick videos that are engaging and usually include an ‘awesome goals’ type of video in with the mix. I prescreen all the videos I send to ensure age appropriateness and ask parents to spend time watching them with their kids – YouTube has a way of drawing your attention over to any of the billion other videos that it hosts.
Feel free to use the Law 11 playlist I describe above as a start. Better yet, spend 30 minutes assembling your own custom playlist. If you don’t want to dive into YouTube just yet, consider pointing your players to the new video skills page on the Arlington coaching site. When weather cancels practice you can be just a group email away from deploying that virtual training session. Just remember – keep the list short, keep it focused and keep it fun. I guarantee results.
Byron coaches the BU14 “Arlington Moxie” (formerly “The Flying Chipmunks”, formerly “The Silver Shot”, formerly “The Green Lightning”… ). He has a US National E Coaching Licence and has been involved in coaching Arlington soccer since his son started at the U6 level. He recently joined the ASC Board of Directors where one of his responsibilities is development of the club websites. He is happy to receive coaching blog posts from the amazing coaches at any level in the ASC system.