The chance of that skill you just introduced to your team at practice finding its own way to game day is slim. So, now what? Some tips on how to bring those skills to life and make them stick!
- Emphasize: Choose one or two skills to focus on each training session. After players have learned to do a skill without pressure, incorporate it into the rest of that training session (and the next one!) and give them opportunities to try it in game-like situations. Remind players before the end-of-practice scrimmage or prior to a game that you are looking for a certain skill. Challenge them to spend 10 minutes working on the skill at home between practices.
- Encourage: Players need extra incentive to try something new and something they might not find immediate success with. Give a certain skill extra weight/points for that practice or put a restriction on their play that they need to do the skill before they can shoot or score. Keep track of how many times players do a certain skill during a game.
- Praise: In the early stages just trying is a success and should be highly praised! Verbalize and show excitement around your observation of attempts and fully executed skills to the other players, to the individual as they are substituted off, to the whole team at half-time or to a parent and player as you walk off the pitch after the final whistle.
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Jemma Merrick is a life-long soccer fan, long-time soccer player and coach, and current soccer mom. After high school, Jemma played both Division I and Division III collegiate soccer, at the University of Virginia and Macalester College, respectively. Jemma coached the women Macalester College Team.