Minute with Merrick: EP04: Let the Coaches Coach

Alan shares advice for youth soccer players, parents, coaches, and fans of soccer during these “Minute with Merrick” episodes.

Alan Merrick is MOTI’s Director of Soccer Content. Alan’s professional career began in English as he played for West Bromwich Albion as well as the English Junior National Team. He played for 10 years in England, before moving to the United States in 1976 where he played for the Minnesota Kicks. His career as a player also included playing for The LA Aztecs, San Jose Earthquakes, and Toronto Blizzards, before returning to Minnesota to play for the Minnesota Kicks once again, and Playing for the US National Team – Team America. He coached the in-door NASL Team, the Minnesota Strikers for 6 years, and the University of Minnesota Men’s Club Team for over 20 seasons. Alan helped start the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association with others and has been coaching youth players, and teaching coaches for over 40 years. Alan holds coaching licenses in England, the USSF A License, and the Canadian Coaching License.

Watch Minute with Merrick Episode 5 here

Get the MOTI Soccer Training app:
MOTI Soccer for Android: https://motisports.com/google-soccer-app/
MOTI Soccer for iOS: https://motisports.com/apple-soccer-app/

Bowtie Passing Sequence

Bowtie Passing Sequence

Bowtie Passing Drill – MOTI Sports – Soccer Activity Passing Square Bowtie

Get the MOTI Soccer Training app:
MOTI Soccer for Android: https://motisports.com/google-soccer-app/
MOTI Soccer for iOS: https://motisports.com/apple-soccer-app/

Minute with Merrick – Team Terminology

Soccer Team Terminology – Minute with Merrick – Episode 8

Visit the Team Terminology terms page for key Soccer words and definitions.

Watch Minute with Merrick Episode 7 here

Why Perfect Practice makes Permanent

Training Skills & Techniques for Young Youth Players

I was visiting with other senior coaches, and we were discussing the teaching of skills and techniques in training sessions. We were all in agreement that teaching skills & techniques have been forgotten at the young youth levels. Favoring having players and parents “think” they are having more fun just playing in a scrimmage. We all agreed skills and techniques need to be taught. What fun do the players have when the ball is taken from them, and the other team then runs away with the game?  

Why teach Foot Skills and Techniques at an early age?

Learning to control the ball correctly at a very young age is critical.

As the player matures and the game becomes competitive (it’s always competitive) there is no need for players to “re-learn” the skills at ages 11, 12, or older because they are already doing them correctly.  

We already know that visual learning is the key to youth learning skills and techniques correctly. If players can “See It” performed correctly, they can “Do It” with some practice correctly at an early age!

It is very discouraging to players when they’ve played recreational soccer for years and didn’t realize they were using bad skills or techniques.

What Movement is Best to Study?

In my experience, the best Skill and Technique movement to study is when it is “perfectly performed”.

I was asked to supervise and direct a series of soccer skills and techniques being “motion captured” with special equipment. 24-foot skills were performed using Motion Capture Recording Equipment which allowed the “exact human movement” to be captured.

This then allowed us, with the help of an animator, to illustrate with precision these techniques for both boys and girls.

What a marvelous result!

Players can then view these skills in 3D from any perspective or view they learn from. We know that the players are studying these perfectly performed techniques every time. 

Making this learning available to all, was the start of MOTI Sports for Soccer. 

Why is Motion Capture Important?

Motion Capture represents the “exact human movement” that soccer coaches want their players to replicate. 

It is capturing the balance and poise of the athlete controlling the ball through the movement.

The athlete can watch the motion from any perspective of the screen (top, bottom, right side, left side) and in turn, see the perfect movement to strike or control the ball.

Perfect Technique performed Perfectly

MOTI’s guiding principle is to provide every single player with “the perfect Technique and Skill performed perfectly” in 3D via our App on their mobile device.  Players are coached, from every perspective, through complete repetitions providing both visual and auditory instruction, maximizing sensory learning of the kinetics of soccer movement.

How many repetitions are needed? I know it is in the thousands of repetitions, however, experience tells me that when repetitions that are “done well“, lead to a disciplined repetitive technique and competency. Competency in ball-handling techniques leads to more touches in a game as teammates know they are making a pass to a solid player. Finally, more team interaction and touches during play lead to enjoyment.

The competitive nature of all sports is based on the ability and willingness of the athlete to drive their skills beyond what is expected of them. My hands-on experience has taught me only 2 out of 100 players have this kind of drive and focus. The ability to play the game of soccer is dependent on the skills or techniques that the player has, which is 80% of their learning. The other 20% are tactics of the game and the ability of the coach to teach the interaction between players.

A Balanced Approach to Coaching

There has to be a balance in our approach to coaching youth soccer players.  The pendulum in recent years has swung away from individual skill development and toward activities and games without guided individual skill development.  MOTI provides a middle ground – expert skill development combined with fun activities and games for the players to participate in.

So, when you are coaching, teaching, or handing out curriculum to players and parents, why not share training content that they can learn from and that will stay with them? Give players that “perfect practice” with Skills and Techniques that are “executed perfectly” making them “permanent“.

Preparing for Next Season

As High School or College coaches, we often view this time of year as a season break! The season is completed, and summer is beginning, sure there will be summer camps and newly recruited players showing up for fall practice, but not much you need to do right now, or is there?

Remember new players will be showing up for Varsity Practice in High School or the newly recruited players for your college program in August.

They will all arrive with what techniques (foot skills) they have acquired, but usually not a complete complement of tools are in their tool bag.

Time will need to be spent reviewing and training them to use correct moves and techniques.

We came up with an easy-to-use group of 24 techniques that if mastered these players will be great.

Using our MOTI Soccer app, you can get players to practice through June and July on their own so that they will arrive with all the tools in their tool bag you would expect. You can monitor their progress and usage and see what time they are willing to invest in themselves and therefore your program.

You can subscribe to a Team Annual License and give it a try for under $30, put all your players on it, and now you can watch and see how they are willing to train.

Your Team Captains can be part of this process, helping players get practicing and encouraging them, while you’re respecting the no-contact rule!

Best Alan!

Read another coaching article – Coaching Smarter saving Time

Athlete’s Built in Stress Reliever

An Athlete’s Built-in Stress Reliever – Episode 6

Alan shares advice for youth soccer players, parents, coaches, and fans of soccer during these “Minute with Merrick” episodes.

Alan Merrick is MOTI’s Director of Soccer Content. Alan’s professional career began in England, where played for West Bromwich Albion as well as the English Junior National Team. He played for 10 years in England, before moving to the United States in 1976 to play for the Minnesota Kicks. His career as a player also included playing for the LA Aztecs, San Jose Earthquakes, Toronto Blizzard, and for the US National Team – Team America. He coached the in-door NASL Team Minnesota Strikers for 6 years, and the University of Minnesota Men’s Club Team for over 20 seasons. Alan helped start the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association with others, held youth soccer camps across the upper Midwest, and has been a guest clinician for USSF coaching school courses for over 40 years. Alan holds coaching licenses in England, the USSF A License, and the Canadian Coaching License.

Watch Minute with Merrick Episode 7 here

Get the MOTI Soccer Training app:
MOTI Soccer for Android: https://motisports.com/google-soccer-app/
 MOTI Soccer for iOS: https://motisports.com/apple-soccer-app/

How simple can a practice be? How effective?

Young players need Structure

Young players need structure and an environment that allows them to succeed in their soccer skills development.  

Small practice areas – more touches

Therefore, Coaches need to set up small playing areas or grids. Coaches should use cones or pinnies/vests as boundaries, that give players visual reference points. This will reassure them of their surroundings.

The use of smaller working areas ensures players get as many more touches on the ball as possible. Players that navigate with a ball in a smaller area touch the ball more often. Getting all players moving around and being active with a ball is a great starting point. This should be a goal throughout the player’s lifetime participation in the sport.

The correlation between the number of touches on the ball and increased skill mastery is indisputable. The more touches, the better, never forget it.

Keeping it interesting

Coaches should continually change the activities in the grid setup to ensure that the needed ball repetitions do not become boring.

The objective is to have players from the age of 5 through 10 completely familiar with a minimum of 8 skills with the ball. Having them do the basic moves that are required to move, guide, and protect the ball in all directions.

By coaching with activities and techniques that accelerate their players learning curve, this age group can learn basic ball mastery.  

What Skills curriculum must-have?

A Skill curriculum is a must-have set of skills for these players’ foundation within the game.

Inside outside touches of both feet, inside-outside touches that then transfer the ball to the other foot side for continuous weaving of the ball from side to side.

Double touches of the ball on all foot surface going outside, outside to inside, inside, repeat on the other foot side.

These simple foot skills produce all the ingredients of great dribbling skills and ball manipulation.

Changing direction to either keep the ball in play or turn away from opponents is hook turns with the inside and outside of the foot.

The sole of the foot can produce a drag back motion to turn or control the ball. The sole of the foot can also produce lateral motion. This is useful to move the ball into passing lanes or preparation for clearing or shooting a ball.  

Teaching this Age Group the correct foot positions and shapes of the body is a must in ball manipulation.

Correct muscle memory and focused body movements are crucial for performance.

Where to spend training time?

Athletes who spend the time and effort learning these foundation ball skills will have the necessary level of proficiency to thrive in the game often making it a lifetime team sport.

Therefore, players who do not get these foundation skills will pass up on the more difficult aspects of the game. They often leave the game frustrated and despondent at the age of 13 and 14. You will see them as solitary joggers on the park trails or side of the road later in life.

Where players can practice?

Players can and should get 3D Animated foot skills for their Mobile devices and practice the plyometric foot movements of ball mastery at home.

Coaching Smarter saving Time

Smart coaching can be as simple as becoming better organized before the season by mapping out your practice plans for an entire season. Having a practice plan for your sessions gives you coaching content that can be easily accessed and ready for delivery to your team. Being organized and having a plan saves anguish, frustration, and failure in producing the quality training experience you want to give your players.

Consistency of content throughout the training season is key to instructing and demonstrating to players to become knowledgeable and engaged as a squad. Parents will appreciate the coach more when they see the organization, energy, movement, and meaningful activities. Players are having fun doing them.

Preparing practice sessions on the fly. i.e., in the car in transit to the practice is not a good idea and does not produce a meaningful experience for players, their parents, or the coach. Having some structure and purpose within your plan allows for productive coaching moments and growth, all within a calm and calculated learning environment. Hectic behavior from a coach in a learning and instructional situation does not resonate well with a squad of impressionable players.

All of these adverse situations can be avoided with Soccer Training Platforms in an App. Coaching content, coaching points, coaching concepts, and coaching ideas are available in your hand. They can be communicated through a set of earbuds when you need them most on the pitch. A volunteer parent coach or the young former player turned coach can deliver a solid practice plan with a positive outcome.

Board Members, Coaching Directors of Clubs Competitive and Recreational programs, sports administrators in Park and Rec, YMCA, YWCA, and small Soccer Clubs can now eliminate the dreaded 2 by 4 across the forehead after a season when they hear from parents and players that the coaching experience was less than stellar.

This solution is available now in a Soccer App that utilizes revolutionary software with Motion Capture 3D Animation depicting Skills & Drills needed to play good Soccer. The brain neurons of young players are lit up when they start to begin visually engaging depictions of skill sets and small-sided game activities.  The visualization players receive on how to make a foot move with the ball is available during an actual practice time or even better as ‘Home Work’ in the back yard, garage floor, basement, or even in front of a full-length mirror in the players’ bedroom. Players can ‘See it, Listen to it & Do It’ then they can replicate the perfect foot skill time and time again.

A well-charted Practice Plan for 6 weeks, 8 weeks, even 16 weeks with either one or two practices a week takes away any of the hectic, panic, or no time often associated with coaching in the youth environment.

With this coaching resource, the coach can share the digital content with players and parents to better prepare them all for the tasks the coach will be instructing them on. Again, any visualization players can see the learning curve. Just think how much time it saves the coach in verbalizing soccer concepts into the squad of players. An offshoot is the education of the parents who now are being exposed to the inner sanctum of soccer knowledge. Because of this, their appreciation of the game is heightened. This results in a changed behavior on the sideline as parents respect more skilled performances from their own players and others within the group.

Time saved because players see the practice activities before setting foot on the field can now be used elsewhere. For more repetitions of correct technique or working through activities already well established in the player’s mind.

Having content properly curated across age groups assists in the learning curve for coaches and players. To become a competent player layers of progressions that need to be worked on are delivered in the correct and orderly sequence of skill and technique building.

MOTI recognizes and is concerned that the statistics on the attrition of players playing organized sports is exceptionally high. 70% of players stop playing organized sports by the age of 14. I attribute that to athletes not being allowed to have exceptional coaching of the best techniques in an ongoing prolonged format early in their technique development.

With an App in their hands, soccer players can practice at home. Practicing the correct techniques with expert coaching prepares players for an enjoyable and successful experience on the field. By using the Apps analytics tool, individual players, coaches and parents can make themselves accountable for counting their steps, their repetitions, their Minutes doing skill moves, even their time spent looking at the content of the current ‘practice plan’.

Coaching smarter with MOTI technology allows players and parents to get a leg up on this shared visual knowledge of the game of Soccer. Technology is leading them to have beautiful outcomes of a successful play.  Helping to build camaraderie with teammates while learning how to cooperate and strive for an increased health activity while enjoying a growth capacity in a complex sport like Soccer.

Learn more from Alan with the Basic Principles of Play.