Technology has exploded in the last 10 years and for youth & young adult soccer it can be both a positive and negative. Parents, coaches and players can all take advantage of the resources, but what if you are learning and doing the wrong things? Not too many players actually spend time on their own to work on their craft. There are many who spend hours on juggling or doing skills like ‘Brazilian toe tap’. Doing the wrong things will waste your time and talent, but doing the right things will take you to a whole new level. Note: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Are you wasting your time?
In just a few seconds you can find out who the top players and teams in the world as well as how-to videos on YouTube. As long as you are searching the right things it can help you, but thousands of soccer fans are wasting their time on the wrong stuff every day. The good thing is players who don’t live in a big soccer town now have ways to improve their skills. This raises the overall level & gives opportunity for those who want it. The bad thing: what if most of the players learning are spending too much time on the WRONG stuff?
Technology & the 1%
A while back I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine, Davy Arnaud, who played 14 years in Major League Soccer (MLS). Here’s a great guest post he wrote on 5 traits of great character. We ended up talking about youth development because we both have 2 kids of our own, all under 9 years of age. Also, with me teaching youth soccer players for a living & him coaching pro soccer players for living the topic is important to us. He will end up getting the generation I am working with.
Youth players should not train like the pros
We ended up talking about the YouTube people who have exploded. There’s a few who teach these tricks, that honestly a real coach would hate for his/her players to do. Many of these people on social media never played pro soccer, but they are good marketers. Even more important they don’t teach soccer to many players, instead they sit behind a computer and make videos to fool people. They title their videos “how to play like a pro” or “how to dribble like Messi”. Listen, how does an amateur player who was never good enough to play pro say they know drills that can make you good like a Pro? Pros don’t even do the things on these videos number one and number two youths and amatures should’t train like pros.The top 50 pro soccer players in the world are special people who were going to be good no matter what.Click To Tweet
World class stars are both hard workers and gifted
A big problem in America & around the world is kids & young adults are wasting their time doing fancy skills. The Top 50 Pro’s in the world can’t even do some of these trick, because they never wasted their time on them. Yes, they practiced on their own and trained hard with their teams but they worked on fundamental trapping and passing. One thing I get tired of people sparking up conversation about how can we make the next Messi or Ronaldo. It’s impossible for just anyone to become a top 50 player in the world. These players were born to be stars! I will say that thousands of people can become good college players. If you want to become better, or you want your kids to be better, you have to know what to work on and how long to work on each element to improve the right way.
Soccer coaches who excel
Make sure you are open to learning more yourself & note that the game has changed a bit in 10 years. Today’s youth players are able to watch more pro games & see how the best players in the world train. So a youth coach might tell a player it’s wrong to trap a ball a certain way but on TV the day before the youth players were watching Brazil vs Argentina where that’s all they saw.
The fundamentals (so important) don’t change much but the game has become more of a skill game and there are so many methods that improve players at a young age. The kids who are Under 16 right now are amazing! Its because they were only 7 years old when the game started to change and players like Ronoldinho, Brazilian Ronaldo & Zidane passed the torch to C. Ronaldo, Ibrahimović, Neymar. Plus 10 years ago you would only see a few pro players doing crazy skills and now you see defenders pulling it off. The reason is because of technology; people from all over the world can now watch these players. Neymar was probably 6 years old watching the Brazilian Ronaldo and Neymar’s generation just took it to another level.
Relate better with soccer coaches, players and parents
With technology you have to learn who the best players & teams are in the world. This way players, coaches and parents can all relate better. Here’s a list of arguably the best current players. It’s impossible to rate the top 5, but here’s what a lot of blogs say are the best currently.
- Top 5 Male Attacking Players: Messi (Argentina), Neymar (Brazil), C Ronaldo (Portugal), Luka Modric (Croatia), Harry Kane (England)
- Top 5 Male Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Spain), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands), Marcelo (Brazil), Raphael Varane (France), Pique (Spain)
- Top 5 Female Players: Sinclair (Canada), Marta (Brazil), Alex Morgan (USA), Carli Lloyd (USA), Wendie Renard (France)
- Top 5 Players in History: Pele (Brazil), Diego Maradona (Argentina), Johan Cruyff (Netherlands), Zinedine Zidane (France), Messi (Argentina)
Youth soccer players who improve at every stage
Instead of watching corny tricks/skills on YouTube, watch how the US National Teams & even MLS teams are trying to mimic what the top pro clubs and coaches in Europe or South America are doing and changing. They admit that they are not the best in the world like players playing in England, Germany or Spain, which is what you want. People who are honest with where they are and want to go!
[Tweet ” They admit that they are not the best in the world, which is what you want: honesty!”]
Former US Men’s head coach (Jurgen Klinsmann) is interviewed many times saying that the best soccer players in America are not on the same level as the German and Spanish sides. This is because the way they train in Europe is more intense and proper training. Watch the video here of Klinsmann explaining the difference of American & German Training
2 stages of soccer player mastery
What we practice on our own matters! Every minute and hour matters. We live in a society that is go go go, so we don’t have much time to manage. There are 2 main things soccer players should let become habits. ‘Solo training’ (training on your own) and ‘partner training’ (2+ participants): Private trainer, parent, sibling or friend/teammate. Once players master these, or at least almost become perfect in the light situational skill drills, they need to perform under pressure in game settings.
What college & pro coaches do & don’t want
Most Team Coaches, especially the higher level coaches, hate fancy skills. I can promise you that if a player goes on a tryout and is performing fancy skills it’s a major turnoff to coaches. I know coaches who would not choose Ronaldo or Neymar on their team just because they are flashy. They would admit that they are 2 of the top 3 players in the world but they wouldn’t choose them.
Coaches want players who can defend as well as possess the ball and work together. So if you are going to be that player who likes to do crazy skill moves, you better make sure you are getting stuck in on tackles. You had better not lose the ball when you do these moves. I love fancy skills but you have to know when to use them and a tryout is probably not the best time.
3 Homework Elements to work on your own:
- Juggling different ways not just the same way (Meaning – instead of taking every touch small below the knees, try also doing touches that go up high around your chest or face)
- Ball Striking against a wall or rebounder using both feet. It’s important to learn the weak foot because this will make you stand out in coaches eyes.
- Dribbling, Turning, Ball Mastery, Foot Work
People who have an advantage
Players who take advantage of their situation will have a higher chance to improve. If ‘The Player’ has a sibling, parent, neighbor, Private Trainer, teammate or friend to practice with, they can improve on the 2nd stage of soccer training.
The 2nd Stage is Dealing with Crosses, Turning to Receive, 1st touch volley drills. Yes, you can use a wall but a wall can’t give the same service. This can sometimes be too difficult or easy for certain players. A Partner can almost Tailor it just the way you need at that moment to improve on that day.
Soccer players who work on finishing skills
Most soccer players don’t master the finishing skills! This is because you can’t work on all of what comes with this on your own. Teams can’t give their players enough reps and situational training. You need to do private lessons or group of 2 or 3 to be able to get the right amount of reps. You could spend hours on this and not come close to working on all the different techniques and different scoring areas.
- Crossing & Finishing
- Passing & Receiving/Trapping
Best age to start 1-on-1 or small group training?
It takes 3+ years for players to really become fundamentally sound & that’s training 2-4 times a week and doing things on your own at home. What is fundamentally sound? This is where a player can perform great short passes with both feet, accurate volley’s, ball control, dribbling, & striking with laces properly. Technically sound doesn’t mean it’s time to stop skills. You have to keep it up if you want to continue to improve and stay sharp. All the best pros will tell you they need to improve, so you should have the same attitude.
You hear me often say the ‘7-11’ time frame of being the best time to invest money & time into 1-on-1/small group training. To narrow it down further I would say the best time to start this process is between AGES 8-10. To start you’re heavy dose of the 3 Year Plan of 1-on-1/Small Group Training. This doesn’t have to be 1-on-1 though; try to get a few in each season if you can & the rest of the time do SMALL GROUPS. The Teenagers who continue to want to improve no matter how old or good they are will continue to reach new levels.
Freedom… Right method or no?
People talk about giving the kids “Freedom” to do what they want on the pitch or practice field so that they are not like robots, doing only what the coach says. I think we have to give them both methods where they do have freedom & are being taught exact certain ways but not being over coached.
The players also need to be trained to do specific drills that force them to be good at things they would not have ever done on their own. Or else they will continue to only do what they are comfortable with which limits them. Check out this video below Of Klinsmann teaching how to communicate to players [over coaching]
Be honest with yourself and build good habits
Overall we want our players to learn to work hard & have fun! Communication is vital for players, parents and coaches, because you don’t want a player who can’t be pushed too hard on a team that is full of players who want to be pushed. The players and coaches have to be on the same page for the fun and the development to continue.