US Women’s National Team Has Fun!

Watching the US Women’s National Team win the World Cup was a joy for me.  It was not just the victories nor the celebrations by the players and the fans.  It was the tremendous skill seen by player after player, all executing at such a high level and at such a pace.

It was Morgan’s Cruyff move for a goal verses Thailand or her laces volley verses Japan, Heath’s fake shot to the outside and goal verses Sweden,  and  Rapinoe’s inside of the foot no panic pass to the back of the net verses England that I loved to see.

And then on the biggest stage, the World Cup Championship Game, to see Lavelle sprinting at pace from the top of the center circle, executing a perfect scissors, fake right, goes left, hits an inside of the foot shot from just inside the box to the lower right hand corner side netting.  Awesome goal.

I wonder how all these National Team players learned to develop the basic skills necessary to play at this high level and at the pace they perform.  What do you think?

It is our belief at MOTI that the fundamental skills of the game can be learned by anyone, at any age, simply by seeing the skills, hearing the correct coaching points and practicing them in your own back yard or playground. 

Once that firm foundation is built, who knows what heights a player might reach.  Most importantly though the game becomes fun.  The confidence grows.  And who knows, there you might be some day on the biggest stage of all executing a touch or a move that you learned while playing sharks and minnows for your U6 recreational team, in your back yard or playground during recess.

Coaching is a GREAT adventure!

My first coaching job was as an Assistant High School Soccer Coach.  Our local high school was beginning soccer as a club sport.  My best friend and I applied and both got the jobs.

We were both graduates from this high school.  He played soccer in college.  I had never played the game, although I had played many other sports.  This was going to be the start of a GREAT coaching ride for both of us.

We got together in the summer before our first season to discuss why we are coaching.  Up until then, I had never put much thought into it.  Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves to help us think through the kind of coaches we wanted to become.

Think back to your former coaches and teachers.  They are our role models, and you will become a role model for the next generation.  HUM?  Never thought of that, did you!

  • What did you like about them? 
  • What did you not like? 
  • Did they know their stuff?
  • How did they try to motivate you?  Did they yell, encourage, or a bit of both?
  • Did they “practice what they preached” when you saw them in action or away from the sport?
  • Did all players show improvement over the course of the season?
  • Where practices and games fun for everyone, regardless of skill level?

WOW?  Now I was not so sure that I even wanted to be a coach.  The responsibility of molding young lives for the future became, for a moment anyway, a scary thought.

Then we put some action steps into our observations and, over time, massaged it into the way we coach.  It looks like this:

Mission:  To provide players, parents, coaches, and referees a fun atmosphere to enjoy the game of soccer.

Focus:  Fun, fitness and skill development.

We will help each player improve during the course of the season by:

  • Providing a safe environment for players to play and enjoy the game of soccer
  • Playing everyone equally (except on Varsity – all Varsity players will play significant time each game, but it may not be equal.  Certainly though, none of this “put them in for the last minute.”)
  • Building self-control, which builds character
  • Encouraging through positive reinforcement to achieve positive self-esteem
  • Providing skill development at our practices and games
  • Showing respect to yourself, your opponents and the referees
  • As adults, providing a positive model from our lives
  • Having FUN!

Our game philosophy then became simple. 

  • Commit first to doing your best, second to team loyalty and third to the highest total on the scoreboard.
  • Respect the contest, yourself, your opponents and the referees.
  • Determine to enjoy the competition; doing whatever it takes for you and your opponents to have fun at what you are doing.

It’s been 40 years since we first sat down to figure out what we were going to do that initial fall season.  We started as a couple of guys who had a heart for teaching kids and a desire to help positively advance into adulthood.  We chose to coach soccer as the vehicle.  We continued our education (both of us are USSF “B” Licensed Coaches) so we could be the best soccer coaches we could be.  But I think the key was molding our time together with the players in such a way that they knew we were more concerned about them than anything else.

You may just coach for a season, or a few seasons as your child grows up, or coaching may become a life adventure.  Wherever you are at, we all begin the same.  Take some time to consider, now that you are a coach, what your coaching philosophy will be.

Coaching is a GREAT adventure!

It’s Game Day!

Here are a few tips from a seasoned coach:

Have your players arrive 30 minutes early (15 for younger players who are already cleated up, 45 minutes if they tend to be late).  The older players like to chat.  The younger players just want to run and play!

Use your time before you take the field to have your players get their technical touches in.  They can also do their stretching.  Remember to do everything as a team!  Build your team spirit.

You can use our MOTI Game Day Warm Up Plan as a template for your pre-game warm up.  It includes the off the field technical touches and stretches along with three on the field tactical drills:  passing in threes, a 6v3 rondo and a shooting drill.  For older and competitive teams I like to group my players according to position.  I will have my strikers pass together, my midfielders pass together, etc.  Have them warm up with the players they will be playing with on the field.

Rotate your captains for each game.  Have your captains for the game lead the stretching for the team.  This is a good way to build leaders.

Do a lot of building up and encouraging during your pre-game warm up.  Get their confidence high!

If you are playing with a keeper, then you or one of your assistant coaches should warm them up while the rest of the team is doing the passing drills on the field.  Remember that you are trying to build the confidence of your keeper, so be a good server of the ball to them.  You want all your players to have success.  Confidence and success in the warm-up leads to success in the game.

As you set your line up, make sure that your groups when you substitute are about equal in ability.  It will be much more fun for the kids.

Having said that, put the players that can handle more pressure in the middle of the field.  Put players who are new to the game on the flanks where there is less pressure.  Everyone will have more success.  The sign of a good coach is putting players in positions where they can succeed.

For the kids it is important for them to think of themselves as “starters.”  So, make sure you rotate starters every game.  Let them know that everyone on the team is a “starter.”  They all will feel better about themselves and you will see it in their performance.  Keep looking for ways to build them up!

Make sure everyone is playing equal time – or as close to equal as you can make it.  I can guarantee you that the parents know if their child is not getting the same amount of playing time as others 🙂 This will make your life easier with the parents.

If you are really into the competition part of soccer (even if you are not keeping score :), here is how I like to set my line up.  I think backwards from the end of the half.  I try and have my strongest group at the end of the half and at the end of the game.  Those are the times when most goals are scored.  So, if you have the opportunity to play around with your line ups (probably because of a shortage of players for a game), try working backwards and see what kind of results you get.  I think you will be surprised.  It also works in well with the “All Players Are Starters” philosophy.

Do you have a team manager yet!  You should 🙂 The kids love orange slices or watermelon at half time, or something cold at the end of the game.  Kids and food are always a good combination!  Ask for a Parent volunteer to coordinate this for each game.

When you talk to your players as a team, make sure you are the one looking into the sun rather than the players.  You will keep their attention better.  Also get down to their level so you can keep eye contact with them.

If you have team rules (like no swearing, no cut downs – only build each other up, be responsible, etc.) and you have someone break a rule DO NOT use running as a consequence.  Soccer players LOVE TO RUN!  It is a major part of the game and players should be encouraged to run.  Instead be creative with having them do something else that is quick and gets the point across – like 5 push-ups, 5 burpees, etc.  I like to stay away from sit up and crunches because their core is also such an important part of the game.  At the High School level, we do those along with running as part of our training.  For younger players though crunches are a good exercise for them to know and get used to doing.

Most Importantly . . . Have Fun!

Parents – help your children have success

As parents we all want our children to succeed.  We want them to have fun.  We want them to make new friends.  And we know the importance for their development to participate in extracurricular events like sports, music, theater, dance, chess club . . . whatever it may be.  A child’s social life is as important as their academic life for their development.

It is well documented that extracurricular activities increase self-esteem, improve social skills, lead to better grades, expand their worldview, promote the use of both sides of their brain – creative and analytical and more ( Nicole Jackson, April 18, 2017).

Sports like soccer can be a key component in the development of your child.  Well done parents!  Getting your children involved in soccer is a great first step.

One of the many reasons I chose soccer over other sports and extracurricular events to coach is because the game is full of little victories.  When we look on as parents, we may see a ton of mistakes.  Ugly touches and questionable decisions abound.  But as a coach, what excites me is when I see a player successfully execute something in a game that we had practiced on.  And I make sure that all the players hear me as I praise him or her.

In soccer, the game begins and ends with simple touches on the ball.  Everything builds from there.  But if the foundation is not set, neither the players nor the team will feel like they are having much success.

Like anything worth attaining it takes time and practice.  But practicing the correct way is key.

My grandson chose to play the trombone in school.  The first year it was enough to just be able to play a few notes kind of right.  Getting the beat down was more important for him!  If he hit the right note it was a bonus. 

That thought for him carried over into his second year.  The beat was all important, not so much the notes.  Now, in this third year, he is starting to realize that it is a combination of playing the right notes at the right time.  As he does this, along with his section mates, his section and the band are coming together to make sweet music!  It is interesting that some of the band members practiced correctly from the start emphasizing playing the correct notes while some others, like my grandson, took a bit longer.

Children develop at different ages.  Teaching them correct fundamentals in whatever they are learning helps them in their development.  For soccer, you as a parent can help your child develop the correct fundamentals simply by spending time with them using the MOTI APP.  All the basic touches are there in a fun 3D motion capture APP with expert coaching points.  Your child can play around with the APP, see the skill, listen to the coaching points and practice it right there in your back yard or basement.  You can also see the skill and praise them at home as they smooth out their touches.

Then when you watch them practicing with their team or playing in a game, you both have something to look forward too.  Watch and see if that awesome touch you worked out in the back yard shows up in the practice or game.  And when it does, which I guarantee you it will make sure there is plenty of excitement and praise from the sideline! 

It’s the little things done correctly that make this game so much fun to coach and watch.  And who knows, when the stars align and enough good touches and thoughts happen, a goal might be scored:)