Where are the skills?

Have you watched a youth soccer practice or asked your 5th grader about their soccer unit for gym class lately?  What are your observations?

I have, and as a lifelong soccer coach it scares me.  What I have been seeing in the classroom and on the soccer field is an emphasis on playing games at the expense of time spent on individual skills.

Now we all know that the kids, when asked what they want to do, will say enthusiastically “PLAY.”  Not surprising is it.  Playing is FUN, and that is why soccer is such a success with youth in and out of the classroom.

As I survey the soccer landscape for U10 and above (3rd through 8th grade) I am encouraged by the standards that are set for our Physical Education teachers while being equally discouraged by the standards seemingly set by our own soccer governing body in the USA – the USSF.  Let me explain my observations.

In education, the teacher is required to present a comprehensive lesson plan for each gym class module they teach.  Daily the teacher must prepare a learning plan which includes, but is not limited to, the following:  safety and equipment checks, integration of other core academic areas into the PE class, plan your time together to encourage engagement, prepare warm up and cool down activities, a presentation of basic skills and strategies, structured time for grouping students into teams to work out their basic skills and strategies, check for understanding and correct misunderstandings, and offer closure by reviewing key concepts and points.

WOW!  For me that sounds like a very well thought out soccer training session.  That was also the method I was taught to use when taking my USSF and USC coaching and diploma courses.  The problem is though, that most PE teachers are not versed in basic soccer skills.  So they will gloss over the presentation of basic skills and strategies and move right into playing games – which the students love!  The teacher is happy because the students are happy and they have a lesson plan that addresses most of the items they are asked to address.

In USSF driven soccer, the coach is being asked to take some educational courses which is good.  But the reality is that only those who have “heard the call” to coach soccer are driven enough to take the courses.  The course offerings now have also glossed over the presentation of basic skills in favor of a system where the players will (it is hoped) become well versed in the skills needed to succeed in the game simply by playing the game.

Where are they?  Where are the basic skills taught these days to our young soccer players?

Basic soccer skills is the cornerstone of MOTI.  Seeing the disconnect in education, we have developed a comprehensive soccer unit for Physical Education teachers.  Our Teacher App fills in the gap in their lesson plan by providing age appropriate skills that can easily be taught by even the novice PE teacher using visual and auditory aids.  Seeing the disconnect in USSF and their Play-Practice-Play model, we have incorporated age appropriate skills into their Play-Practice-Play practice plans.  All of this was done by Alan Merrick himself, so you can trust the content and the motivation.

And for those “new to the game” parent coaches, we have a wide variety of story book games for the younger players to advanced rondos and small sided games for the older players.  All designed to work with our basic skill techniques.

Where are they?  Where are the basic skills taught these days to our young soccer players?

They are here!

By Brad Carlson

Brad has coached a variety of sports in the community, middle school, and high school for 40 years including coaching the MN 2021 Class A State High School Champion.  He has coached soccer from U6 at the recreational level to U19 at the club level and all age groups at the high school level, including 11 years as a head coach.  He holds a USSF "B" coaching license and USC diplomas.