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Street Soccer – Let the Players Play

By Adrian Parrish

Most adult coaches reading this article can remember their days as a kid playing sports in the streets. Picking your own teams, learning technical skills from your peers, setting your own rules and the only time an adult would yell at you was when you were told that it was time to head home.

More natives from African and South American countries where street soccer is still very favorable are now living and playing soccer in the US. Even one of the world’s best players has opted to play the remainder of his career in the Major League Soccer, but even with these introductions and growth in the game what has happened to the Sandlot Kids?

Perhaps you could argue that the streets are not safe due to more vehicles, the play grounds are not as safe as what they were 20 years ago, and open grass fields are been taken over by houses or office buildings. This may be true, but the fact could also be that our children never get the opportunity to be children as we schedule their play time to be as busy as an adult work life.

Children are becoming involved in structured practices at an earlier age, meaning that they are being taught so much more and become use to structured environments at increasingly younger ages. Parents fear that if the do not put their little four year-olds into this kind of set up that they may fall behind, allowing no room for trial and error which is found in street soccer.

We can not change the culture but through our practices we can give today’s children some insight into what we experienced growing up in hope that they will pick this up and take it away, and perhaps set up games among friends or even just with a ball and a wall that is at their disposal.

Almost every practice a young child will ask the question “Are we going to scrimmage today?” If you let your team scrimmage at the beginning or the end (or even both) of your structured practice, it should be a time when you allow the players to take control and create a street soccer environment.

Players need to take responsibility in setting up the fields, teams and rules and lose the controlled approach. Observing your players take on these responsibilities will help you find leaders within your team. A captain’s role is more than just leading the warm-up or stepping up to the center circle to flicking a coin. In a street soccer environment you will start to see every player take some personal responsibility and not rely on an adult to help them. Positions may be set, but every child will be given the opportunity to learn every role. These positions will not only change from game to game but during any moment of that scrimmage, thus allowing your team to create a “Total Football” style seen by the likes of Arsenal in the English Premiership and the Dutch National team of the 70’s.

But the principle is still to get the best out of each player and offer them the best opportunities. I encourage clubs to set up a Street Soccer Festival/ League that has no standings. In today’s society we focus too much on the results and do not allow our players to learn through the game. They know when they have won or lost, but they do not dwell on it.

There are many different ways of setting up a Festival/League from having set teams for the whole event or changing from game to game. Ages can be mixed, leadership can change player’s hands, but the children will learn from each other as well as the challenges and problems they face.

Many of the youth playing and living in America today may have never experienced the true and real meaning of Street Soccer, yet as we already know it is not a new fashion trend. We just feel that we are getting something better by putting our children in a structured environment, instead of just letting them play.

Adrian Parrish is the Director of Coach & Player Development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. He is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. A native of Louth, England, Parish currently possesses a USSF “A” License, UEFA “A” License (Pending), and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He can be reached at adrianparrish@kysoccer.net

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Players’ Homework – Foot Skills

By Adrian Parrish

Our young soccer players of today seem to have busier schedules with each passing season. I am sure the older generation reading this article will agree that the 21st century is very different than the on that we grew up in. Game consoles, computers, cable television, educational demands and other sporting activities seem to take time away from leisure activities and allowing players to develop and focus on one sport. Few can afford to spend three hours a day or five days a week in any single activity. Indeed most children spend only three to six hours a week at a soccer activity.

During the regular soccer season you may only practice or play with your club for 3 to 5 hours a week. If your team participates during an indoor season on average you may only get together once for an hour plus a game. It is already a well known fact that teams and players in the United States have a lower practice to game ratio then any other nations in the world. Yet more and more players are signing up to play organized soccer than any other sport. If a child is serious about the sport and participate in an elite program such as ODP they need to dedicate a significant amount of time to improving their skills outside all of their regular organized practices.

Children that do this will develop a real love for the game, although as coaches and parents we can constantly encourage and recommend this, the players themselves must have the drive and desire to do it. The best coach is always going to be the player themselves. They will learn from mistakes, they will express themselves more freely without having been told what to do. Working on such skills will also help a player develop a quality first touch and be more comfortable on the ball when under pressure. Players that are capable of doing such skills allow their coach the opportunity to move them on to the next level.

Homework can be set by the coach including such things as dribbling feints, ball manipulation moves, juggling challenges and using the wall for improving you passing can all be practiced at home either as an individual or in a small group of friends. The Home-Work Sheet along with descriptions below are skills you can do on your own time, all you need is a ball and an area as large as 5yd x 5yd grid. So even the excuse of bad weather cannot be used, practice in the basement or garage. You can set this up as a competition amongst your team and monitor which players develop.

HOME-WORK SHEET

Skill                                                    Mon      Tues      Weds      Thur      Fri      Sat      Sun

1. Fast Feet

2. Triangles (Right Foot)

3. Triangles (Left Foot)

4. Drag Push

5. Inside-Outside

6. Toe Taps

7. Double Taps

8. Slaps

9. Squeeze & Push

10. Step over Push Thru

11. Body Triangles

12. Juggle (Feet Only)

13. Juggle (Thighs Only)

14. Juggle (Head Only)

15. Juggle (All Parts)

On the foot skills 1 through to 11 you work for 30 seconds and record your score each day. Have a few practice runs before timing yourself. For descriptions on the exercises click, Footskills Diagrams – Parrish. Make sure to do all exercises on the balls of your feet and with speed. For the juggling exercises (12 through to 15) you work on the skill for 5 minutes each day and record your best score.

Adrian Parrish is the Director of Coach & Player Development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. He is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. A native of Louth, England, Parish currently possesses a USSF “A” License, UEFA “A” License (Pending), and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He can be reached at adrianparrish@kysoccer.net

Who Are The Best Coaches?

By Adrian Parrish

July 30th, 1966 is the day that all English Football Fans can look back upon with nostalgia. Although I was not alive, I know it is the only reason we have a solitary star above the crest on our national team’s soccer jersey. But it was the World Cups of 1986 in Mexico and 1990 in Italy that I was inspired by some of the world’s greatest players. Diego Maradona of Argentina and Paul Gascoinge of England inspired many youth players such as myself during their respective World Cups. The soccer world witnessed them take the game to another level. Both players had the skills, talents and ability to inspire their own team-mates, but also had young players dreaming and imitating them throughout fields and playgrounds in most of the world. This turned these great soccer legends, into soccer coaches.

In the 21st century street soccer has largely disappeared, but the greatest game in the world is more popular than ever. Like so many fellow Brits, I am gaining great satisfaction helping develop US youth players to compete at the highest possible level. In the 5 years I have been living in the United States, I have witnessed the game change so rapidly. With nearly 11 million Youth Players playing in the United States, it is easy to see why it is a game for all to be involved with and have fun.

People around the globe know that this country is becoming a force in the world’s most popular game. Along with the growth of the game in the African Nations there is a reason why the US Mens National team sits proudly in the top five FIFA rankings. There are many reasons for the growth of the sport in the US, but nobody should underestimate the work that US Youth Soccer, USSF and NSCAA have put in to help raise the level, especially through coach education and grassroots soccer.

A majority of today’s youth players have coaches that can inspire them whether their coach is a volunteer parent or a paid professional; they have somebody that has the desire and willingness to shape their life through sport. If you were to ask people that have been fortunate enough to make a career from sports; majority of them will thank a coach that worked with them during their youth. As a child playing the game in England, I never had a professional coach with any qualifications until I was 16 years old.

If you recall back to your own childhood I am sure you will remember playing pick-up games with your friends, or throwing a football or baseball with your parents, I often wonder where did those scenes go? It saddens me that those times have changed and I believe this is because a child’s social life is as busy and organized as an adults work life. Apart from watching great soccer players like Maradona & Paul Gascoinge, the best coaches during my youth soccer career were my parents. Not only did they transport me around from game to game and watch without commenting, but they encouraged and received satisfaction from watching me practice in my own back yard, trying to impersonate my soccer heroes.

(Watching professional soccer) offers coaches and parents the opportunity to help our youth soccer players build a real passion for the game. We can all learn from it and build the game to even higher limits. Every, pass, shot, dribble and tackle will be broadcast live on television, and still one of the best ways to learn is by watching the world’s greatest players performing.

Trying to get your players to watch the game is not an easy task, so as coach’s and parents we can encourage this by watching it with them. You can commentate on what the players did and what was successful. Then have the players provide you with feedback and give their opinions on the game.

Have the youth player watch an individual who plays in a position that they like to play. Most children like to score goals and play as a striker, but have them observe more than just the final product. Watch the runs that the forwards make to create these opportunities and then see if they can reproduce the skill in a practice or game. This is a good tip for the older or more skilled player.

All of my life I played defense, but I would watch the bigger picture and was mesmerized by the players who would beat their opponent on the dribble with great skill and moves. After the game my father and I would go outside to play 1v1 so I could mimic the player I had just watched. One soccer ball, a patch of grass and probably 20 minutes was all I needed to have fun as a child. Many coaches have approached me with the problem of trying to get players to do soccer work at home. Have the players write a report on a game and bring it back to the next practice; this may sound boring to the child, but what will happen is the child will pay greater attention to what is going on and probably end up going outside and start playing with the ball.

Thanks to my parents the game of soccer is in my blood; I live, breath and drink the game. So why not help our young soccer players to become better soccer players not just by coaching them during scheduled practice times but to love the game beyond the field.

Adrian Parrish is the Director of Coach & Player Development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. He is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. A native of Louth, England, Parish currently possesses a USSF “A” License, UEFA “A” License (Pending), and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He can be reached at adrianparrish@kysoccer.net

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Three Tips for Teaching Players to Finish

By Adrian Parrish

Have you ever been in a situation where you control the whole game, out-shoot your opponents and end up losing by one goal? Opportunities to score may have been handed to your team for easy goals when the keeper spilled the ball but your team failed to capitalize on this because they never followed up their shots.

As coach’s we conduct shooting session’s focusing on the technique, but how often do we focus on the tactical and psychological part of finishing? Many times our players believe the harder they hit the ball the better the chance they have of scoring, when a majority of goals could be scored by simply slotting the ball in and finishing with finesse.

No matter how good a shooter you are you have to practice finishing not just shooting. There will be games when the opponent’s keeper is just too good or lucky for you to rely only on your shooting skills. Below are some good practice tips that can be used with most shooting activities/games to
improve a player’s ability to finish:

Tip #1: Taking the Opportunity
A striker’s confidence will be high when they are scoring goals, but it will be very low when they are missing the opportunities, this may result in them even refusing to take shots. If they are creating chances we need to keep encouraging this, from there the minimal request I have for them is to make the goalkeeper work, the maximum I can demand of a player is to score.

When conducting finishing and attacking practice sessions, during the warmup have the players play into the keeper, this will help them hit the target, warmup both sets of players and they will be reaching your minimal request. As in every other practice session we then add pressure and make the activity a little more complex, so as well as adding defenders, raise your demands to request that the players score.

Tip #2: Terminology
When I observe coach’s conducting shooting sessions I will often hear them instruct their players to shoot. As long as the player gets the shot off, no matter of the end result, the coach will often be satisfied. If the shot misses the target, a coach will tell the player that they are unlucky. This could make the player believe that the coach is satisfied with any kind of shot. Instead of shouting shoot, encourage the players to finish.

Tip #3: Following up the Rebound
Lazy attackers have a bad tendency of watching their shots when they “know” that the shot is going in. They then miss the opportunity to score when the ball hits the posts or bar or is batted down by the keeper, and either one of the strikers fail to follow in.

Adding special requirements to a practice can help solve this problem. On any shot that an attacker takes, that attacker has three seconds after shooting to enter the goal and touch the net or the goal is disallowed. This ingrains the habit of going to the goal every time they shoot.

Great shots, no matter how pretty, only count once the ball enters the goal. There are no style points in soccer. Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Manchester United and Holland may be one of the world’s best strikers but he scores majority of those goals with toe poke or tap in from inside the six yard box and those goals count the same number as that beautiful 30-yard scorcher that hits the top corner of the net.

Adrian Parrish is the Director of Coach & Player Development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. He is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. A native of Louth, England, Parish currently possesses a USSF “A” License, UEFA “A” License (Pending), and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He can be reached at adrianparrish@kysoccer.net