Build a Soccer Champion in Your Own Yard

By Coach V

Have you ever watched youth soccer games and noticed a few players who really stood out as talented? Did you watch with amazement as they dribbled through the crowd of defenders and then finished with that perfect shot?

The fact is that all sports, not just soccer, have certain athletes that just seem to amaze us, someone like Christian Pulisic for instance. We as soccer parents want our kids to develop as well, but how do we start? How do we get them to improve their skills? The answer may be right outside your window in your own back yard.

Young Christian Pulisic Juggling, Dribbling, Shooting

The Common Thread

First, let’s take a look at Tiger Woods. Wait a minute, why a golf player? Because his name is known world wide and we can all relate to his story. For most of his developing life, who was his coach and trainer? Who was his only putting coach as he progressed into the pro years? The answer to both was his dad, Earl.

Was Earl Woods a professional golfer? Not at all, he was a career Army man that had a passion for the sport. He loved golf and he loved his son. He was able to blend time spent together and building a passion for the game, with learning and improving. Much of this time was right in their backyard “messing around”, having fun and exposing a child to new skills and thoughts.

There were hours and hours of performing repetitive skills in the form of games and challenges. The same applies for so many great soccer players of our time and we as parents can learn from this example.

Parents Are the Key

Ask any great soccer player who played a major role in their soccer growth and 90 percent of the time the answer will be mom or dad. The SoccerU series was developed specifically with this in mind. Whether it was the level of support or the time spent in the back yard just messing around, parents are often the engine behind developing talent–not the coach.

Each night, I drive by our local public fields. Sure enough, there is a parent and child on the field working on skills or just messing around together. These small little sessions play such a major role in a youth player’s development, I can’t stress them enough.

Last year I worked with several former Division I college soccer players and the same was true. Their parents were the reason they were able to achieve such success. None of these parents were pro soccer players so how did they help that struggling child? I will explain.

Developing Soccer Players

Let’s say that a young soccer player, over their development cycle, needs to learn and master 75 core skills. These will include everything from learning the difference between an offensive header and defensive header to receiving a pass under pressure to proper first touch.

Whether the skill is basic like dribbling or advanced like performing a volley kick, each of these individual skills must be shown, taught and practiced repeatedly.

However, you’ll notice that over the course of a soccer season players may only learn one to four new skills. Often after learning these core soccer skills, they seldom return to practice them in a repetitive session. At that pace they will hit the competitive level without ever really refining all the core skills.

Extra: Christian Pulisic played futsal growing up and he’s said it improved his technical ability and skills in tight spaces. In fact, his dad had to start a futsal league in his area just so Pulisic could play it since they didn’t have one.

Futsal is a great game to play over the winter when you can’t get outside to play, as you need is a gym or a court area. Plus futsal is a game where you get more touches on the ball and develop your skills at a faster pace. And just like futsal, juggling the ball and playing games like soccer tennis or even finding a racketball court to play in, are good ways to work on your skills.

Read Part II…

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