COACH’S CORNER: Team Building as a Mid-Season Pick-Me-Up

The fall season is short and hopefully (mostly) sweet. But that doesn’t mean it is without challenges. Often times everyone involved starts a season with renewed energy and optimism. There is a plan and goals for where things will ideally be when the final final whistle blows. This is, however, all before school starts and daylight gets shorter and maybe that master plan isn’t going quite as expected…

If a mid-season dip sets in, what can a coach do to help reinvigorate effort, focus and fun? Sometimes it requires going off-script and changing the plan. Try to figure out what the team actually needs. For younger players, this might mean less drills and possibly some time relay races, 1v1 to goal or more free play. For older players, it helps to ask them for feedback. Take the pulse from some of the trusted leaders on the squad. Maybe an extra day off? Is a relaxed team-building practice needed?

Regardless, the fall can and should be a magical time to play – and at the center of it all is the team experience. Building the energy and momentum of the team as a whole can be a valuable shift of focus and an important motivator to get everyone through the final weeks still smiling and remembering why they love the beautiful game.

View another COACH’S CORNER article here.

Minute with Merrick – Meaningful Connections – Episode 11

Minute with Merrick – Meaningful Connections – Episode 11 – MOTI Sports

Watch the previous Episode 2 the Rabbit Hole

Making Skills Stick

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.

Get the MOTI Soccer app and try it for free.

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/

Passing Side Foot 2021

MOTI Sports Passing Side Foot Skill. Best viewed in the MOTI Soccer app. Get it now on your Android or iOS device.

COACHES CORNER: When you first start coaching

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When you first start coaching – be it your initial foray as a parent coach or the beginning of a new season with a new team for a more seasoned recreational coach, figuring out what to cover in a practice can be daunting. This is often especially true after you have seen them in their first competition – the list of “things they need to work on” feels endless. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and it’s best to go in with a plan.

First, give some thought to the skills you would like to introduce and the topics you would generally like to cover over the span of the season and work from there. Be realistic and age/developmentally appropriate with your expectations and goals.

Pick a theme for the practice. Keep it focused. Don’t worry too much about correcting non-theme related “issues” that come up in that practice (might be no need to address a missed passing opportunity if you are introducing and working on moves to get around a defender)

Incorporate that theme into the progressive stages of your session: warm up, drills, game-type situation. Emphasize throughout. Regardless of the theme – keep it fun and keep them active.

Be over prepared. Occasionally an activity will be a bust and you’ll need to change course. Having extra theme related ideas as part of your plan will prevent you from panicking and (hopefully) the 7 year olds from finding the dandelions more interesting than practice.

Keep building on the themes each week. But repeating an entire practice plan (with tweaks based on what worked and what didn’t) can be a good thing for everyone too!

And finally, whether it be at the beginning of practice as players are arriving (great incentive for kids to arrive on time) or at the end as your final activity, it is always a good idea to give them an opportunity to just play at each session– scrimmaging with no restrictions and little to no coaching!

View another COACHES CORNER article here.

Our Stay at Home, Trying to Stay Healthy Journey

When asked, via text, from friends and family about how my boys and I are doing during this stay at home time, I inevitably respond, “We have each had our meltdowns, but are mostly hanging in there.” This is the truth. Some days are definitely better than others.

I have seen several jokes about the ups and downs of having a “quarenTWEEN” – and I can relate. Having usually active 11 and 13-year old’s that are now doing remote learning, often begrudgingly, while also managing my own full-time work from home has presented a fair share of emotions and drama – from all of us. However, we have also done our best to find moments of gratitude, try to make the most of it, and come up with a loose “quaranROUTINE” that includes drinking more water and getting outside together to move our bodies in some way every day. We are trying to take this “opportunity” of togetherness and no official schedule to work on things that we did not have or find the time for previously.

With no recess, gym, or organized sports, the boys have not had their regular outlets for competition, so one thing we have adopted is (mostly) friendly water challenges. None of us in our household usually drinks enough of this liquid gold – so we are working on creating a new habit while also having fun with it. We sprinkle random water slams and races throughout the day. Any of us can declare one at any time, and when someone makes the call, we all must step up to drink up the H20. Win-win.

My younger, the dog, and I have been running a mile a day. It was exciting to see his progress as I encouraged him the first couple of times, we got out there. Now he is the one asking me, “when are we going to run today, Mom?”  After we finish, the three of us join the older, who is at the local park, working on breaking some not-so-positive soccer habits he has developed over time. I have observed him improving areas of his skill game that he had not focused on for years. He uses video on the phone to record himself and see what self-adjustments he can make. Locked ankles. Correct technique. Weak foot. Repeat. Perfect practice makes perfect, as his wise grandfather often reminds him.

Occasionally, we mix it up with mini head juggling or quick passing sessions. Timing each other doing short sprints. Setting personal goals and being able to mark the improvement that continued effort brings. I find I am discovering new things about each of them and their learning styles and observing more about my parenting approach and myself during these moments.

We will try to carry over some of our new daily practices when that time comes to emerge from this stay at home period.  My hope is that you have been able to find what works best for your family and circumstances and that amidst the inevitable “meltdowns” that you are also “mostly hanging in there.”

Hey Coach, Are YOU Having Fun Yet?

Early in my coaching career, I realized that no matter how hard my day had been or how tired I was, I inevitably left practice or time with the team I was coaching in a better mood than when I had arrived. I was and still am consistently energized by sharing my love for the game, by the “aha” moments, by hard work, and the list could go on.

While “fun” comes in different forms for every person, if you aren’t having fun as the coach, chances are high that the kids likely aren’t having much fun either.

What is the stuff fun is made of for you? How can you bring it to your coaching?

This is a friendly reminder to keep it fun, for them and for you!

COACHES CORNER: Does Nutmeg Really Belong in the Kitchen?!

I have a kid who truly loves playing soccer. There is a long list of amazing byproducts of this, including great friendships (for the kid and for me!) and learning important life skills and big life lessons (yes, again, for both us).

If I’m honest, there is also a short list of minor annoyances that have resulted from it.

Most of those are obvious: stinky cleats, missing shin pad sleeves, an ever evolving rotation of lost water bottles…There is also a not so well known one. Top of this list is something that nobody warned me about and I would never have guessed was “a thing.”

Apparently, kids who are (healthily?) obsessed with this beautiful game like to dribble a soccer ball around the house and try to surprise attack a parent – or truthfully anyone or thing, including the dog – by stealthily getting the ball between someone’s legs at inopportune times. This can happen pretty much anywhere but seems to occur most often to me while I’m cooking or doing dishes. I’ve learned (see aforementioned great friendships) that this is going on in other households as well. It is an actual thing! So I ask:

DOES NUTMEG REALLY BELONG IN THE KITCHEN?!?

I don’t actually have an answer for this. But it brought me relief and laughter to learn that I am not alone in my struggle to stand with feet at just the right defending angle and distance apart so as not to get exposed while at the oven or sink.

Nutmeg. ‘Tis the season…