Soccer Articles

Improving During the Season

By Matt Weiss, Director of Soccer

When players prepare for an upcoming season, they tend to stop focusing on improvement once the season starts. As a former high school coach, I saw a lot of players work hard over the summer on their touch and fitness but once school and the season started up, they plateaued. Why does this happen? What can players do to prevent this?

First of all, you can always get better. If your goal was to make varsity and you ended up making JV A, that is where you are on August 1st. It doesn’t have to be where you are September 1st. I think a lot of players make the mistake of seeing themselves as players “year to year” instead of “today and tomorrow”. Where is the best place to start? Your training sessions are a good place. The most valuable time for players is training. Training is where players have the opportunity to learn and get better.

Ask the coaching staff what you can work on. You should always get feedback from your coaches. Make sure that they can give you 2-3 specific things. Hearing “you need to work harder” is good to know, but isn’t incredibly helpful. Another great way to evaluate yourself is to watch game film so you can actually watch yourself play. You’d be surprised how much you can gain from this. Also, when you aren’t in the game, make sure you are watching the player in your position to see what they are doing well, what they aren’t doing well. I always encourage my players to watch soccer over the weekend (especially the EPL games) and I tell them “Don’t just watch the game, see how players perform in your positions. Where are they when they defend? When they attack?” Simply watching more games can help you become a better player!

Show up early and leave late. Getting early to practice is a great way to get out some soccer balls and cones and get some individual work done before your team’s training begins. Same thing goes for after practice. If you need to work on free kicks, ask if a teammate or two can stick around for 15 minutes and you can have a goal to hit 40 good corner kicks in before you call it a day. I have always read that players like Ronaldo, Messi, Beckham, Scholes and others were notorious for staying after training to work on their game. Most people assume these players were just born with talent and don’t have to train hard. The truth is, you won’t be able to stumble upon improvement, you have to set personal goals and put in the work to achieve them!

Have personal goals for training sessions and games. You need to have goals in order to have something to measure your progress. How else will you track that you are getting better? Just like when you juggle, if you didn’t keep track of your record, you wouldn’t know if you break it. They don’t always have to be something directly related to soccer like “scoring 5 goals in training”. It can range to other aspects of training (mental, tactical, physical). If you have struggled with recovering from mistakes you make in games, training is a great environment to work on things like: 1. Staying positive (can I keep a good attitude during training no matter what?) 2. Winning the ball back (if I lose the ball, can I immediately pressure the dribbler instead of throwing up my hands in anger?) 3. Making sure I put in 100% effort (win or lose I will give my best today!)

Getting fit and staying fit. This one is important and can be difficult to deal with. I experienced as a player myself one season. I didn’t play every game so when we got home from games I didn’t play in…I went running! Of course I would have rather got my work out in from playing in the game but I wanted to make sure I remained in shape so when my next opportunity came up, I was fit enough to perform at my best. This can be frustrating for some players but if you truly want to get better, you have to constantly find ways to improve yourself. To make things easier, look to combine as many of these points as possible. For example, if you aren’t playing much and your coach says you need to work on your first touch, stay after training and work on your touch in a higher intensity format so you can get fitness in also.

Be a team player. In order to be successful in soccer, you need the help of your teammates and your teammates need your help back. Everyone wants to play every minute but naturally there will be competition in your team. Welcome and accept this challenge. It will force you and your teammates to work hard and make each other better. The harder your teammates work, the harder you have to work!

Matt Weiss
Matt Weiss

Director of Soccer Matt graduated from Otterbein College in 2008, majoring in Sports Management and playing for the men's soccer team. He was head coach of the Olentangy Braves boy's program from 2011-2013 and is currently on the coaching staff for Ohio Wesleyan Men's soccer team. He has received his USSF National D, NSCAA National Diploma and NSCAA GK 1 Diploma. He was also awarded Columbus Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and OCC Head Coach of the Year in 2012

Posted by Administrator on Fri, 12 Sep 2014
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My 9 Year Old is a Forward

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

Your 9 year old player is NOT a forward. We do not even know if he is going to be a “soccer player” in the future. The only thing we know for sure is that he plays soccer and seems to enjoy it. He may even begin showing areas of the game that he is better at than others, but he is not a forward, defender, midfielder, or a goalkeeper yet. Why? He is too young and not nearly experienced enough yet to know for sure. We do not know if a 9 year old will grow up to be a doctor, teacher, mechanic, scientist, or an artist, but we certainly know they are not one right now. At the moment, the player is playing soccer and is being a kid, and that is all we know for sure.

Too often, we label players as being fit for a certain position WAY TO EARLY in their development. We see certain tendencies, many which have nothing to do with actually playing that position correctly later on, and decide that is where the child should play. The child is put in that position because it is where they are best right now, but more importantly (but not really), it is what helps the team win more games right now. Once a player is pigeon holed into a position, it is the only position the child plays for games and it severely limits the player’s ability to develop all the skills required to play in the future and the overall understanding of the game.

There are countless benefits for players to get to experience all positions on the field. The players gain a better understanding of the entire game. Playing all positions helps with understanding responsibilities and positioning on the field. The player’s learn the relationships between different positions on the field. Most importantly for young players, it challenges the players to use different skills, in different ways, in different parts of the field, and it is more fun!

Playing the same position all of the time only requires the player to use certain skills, usually their stronger ones, over and over again, so the game becomes less and less challenging over time and the player's learning slows down. There is little opportunity to grow past what the player can already do on the field and what the player already knows. As the players get older, the size of the field gets bigger, the number of players on the field increases, the formations change, and the playing approach becomes more sophisticated. As the game changes, the player with less experience in different positions will be more limited in regards to fitting into the game than a player who has played and learned the skills and knowledge required to play different positions. The player will begin to struggle as more is required by the coach and the game. The saddest part is the player who has grown up loving the game and was doing very well will increasingly begin to struggle, and the game will quickly become not as much fun. The player, in the spirit of having a lot of success right away, was deprived of the needed development opportunities to play the game and have success at the older age groups.

Which kids are usually labeled as a forward or defender when young? Coaches use physical attributes, which I am told change as kids grow up, and skill levels, which also change, and the personality of the player, which, you guessed it, also changes over time. The big and strong, but slower player, with a “big kick” gets placed as defender each game, while the speedy and more athletic player with more skill gets placed as a forward.

Each time the player labeled as a defender gets the ball, he is asked to just kick it forward and away from his own goal. The player rarely gets opportunities to take players on with the ball, dribble in space, receive passes from teammates, or get forward to try to score. The player gets good at winning the ball and kicking it far up the field for the forward to chase down. The player is praised and rewarded for doing his very well. Unfortunately, he will be required to do more than this in the future, even as a defender, when the game gets more advanced as he gets older, but he will not have learned how to do anything more.

When the forward gets the ball, he is asked to try to run forward and use his speed to get past the slower defenders. As soon as he is near the goal, the coach will want him to try to score. Between the two players, the forward gets the benefit of getting more touches on the ball and working on skill moves. But, the player gets little experience defending near his own goal, learning to play out of the back, and seeing the game from a different part of the field. If the player is moved to a different position by another coach, the player will be very unhappy about it and will become frustrated quickly as he can no longer do what he has always done... run forward and score goals. The player never gets to learn and appreciate any other aspect of the game. The only way the game is fun is if he is playing forward and scoring goals. A player who may have been considered the “best” player on the team, and doing everything right, can quickly become the player who struggles and does not have the required skills to continue to play at a competitive level as the seasons pass.

What about the players who do not fit either of these profiles? What about the players who are considered to be weaker because they cannot impact the game the same way? I have heard coaches say they try to “hide” these players on the field so they do not have to do much, or put them with stronger players who can cover for the weaker player’s mistakes. This limits the player's negative impact on the team. Some may call this “good" coaching, but I feel this is the LAZIEST form of coaching. Instead of trying to help weaker players improve, the coach decides it is just easier to find a way that the player’s deficiencies will hurt the team the least. That is not coaching. That is REFUSING to coach. Again, these players are not allowed to play certain positions that are reserved for the “stronger” players and they miss opportunities to get better and learn how to play the game. Often these are the smaller, less athletic and coordinated players, who are driven out of the game way to early because they were not athletic enough as a young kid.

Yes, as players get older, at the senior levels, players will not be moved around as much and players begin to be more specialized in playing certain positions on the field. With that said, and as players develop as forwards, midfielders, defenders, and goalkeepers, it is still good for them to move around at times to help them learn the intricacies of each position in relation to the one they play (goalkeepers much less than others). At the older age groups, there is still a lot of development to be done, much of it tactical and understanding systems of play, which is best learned by experiencing different positions and formations. It would not be as fluid as with a younger team, but some movement in positions is still beneficial.

Really talented players can usually be effective and have a decent amount of success in most positions on the field. These types of players have a strong understanding of what is required from each position on the field. Their knowledge of the game and skill set is not limited to a single position. Yes, based on their strengths and weaknesses there will be certain positions they are more suited for, but even that can change slightly based on the system of play and formation.

When I first started coaching, I tended to leave kids in the same position. I did not know as much (but I thought I did since I played the game my whole life), and I thought I was making the game better for the kids allowing each to play where they wanted to. The more I have learned as a coach, the more I realized how wrong my thinking was in regards to helping the players develop. I allowed the stronger and faster kids to just use those advantages all the time and have success. I encouraged and cheered them for doing it, and they did, over and over again, and the game was easy for them. I never challenged those players to work on their weaknesses and do things in the game that they were not comfortable with. Those would have been the things to really help them jump in ability level. Although there is nothing wrong with using their strengths, I never asked them, challenged them, or put them in positions to make them play differently to help them grow beyond what they could already do. If my job as a coach was to make them better, I did not do my job. I thought I was, but now I know, I was just cheering on what they already knew how to do. It would have helped those players immensely and they may be even stronger, more well rounded and higher level, players today if I would have given them more opportunities to improve and expand their skills.

So again, your player is not forward, at least not yet. He may be one in the future but he is not one right now. If you are right and he is a forward later on, and he has experience playing multiple positions, he will be an even better forward because of that experience. But if you are wrong, and he does not develop into that position, then where is he going to play? He does not know how to play anywhere else or have the skills to do so. With the assumption that we may not be able to predict the future for a player, it may be prudent to give the player the opportunity to learn the entire game by playing all positions when they are young. The players have plenty of time to learn how to be more specialized when they are older. When they are young, let them experience as much as possible.

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Thu, 11 Sep 2014
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Things We Should Not Say

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

As a coach, the more I learn about how players process and perceive the information I provide them throughout the year, the more cautious I am about what I say. Many comments that are very commonly heard on the soccer field probably should not be said (for the most part) to a player while they are learning to play the game. Although I will still catch myself saying some of these things from time to time, I have made an effort to stop myself before these comments leave my mouth.

On the surface, many of these seem fine, but when you really think about how a player would hear these comments and process them, there may be better ways to communicate our point.

You’re really talented!

It is nice compliment to give to a player, but it is the wrong message to send. Telling a player, or anyone, that they are talented, can lead them to believe they are just naturally better than most. Although the player may be a talented player, you should recognize what the player has done to become talented. A better compliment to a player would be, “You have worked really hard!” Instead of just recognizing that the player is good, you put the focus on what the player did to achieve that level.

Why is that better? If a player believes they are just “talented”, this is just something they are good at, the first time they are put in a situation where they begin to struggle and do not have much success, how will they react? If they feel they are just talented, they may immediately feel defeated and think, “Well, I guess I am not as talented as I thought.” A player who has been complimented on their work rate and focus would probably be more likely to enjoy the struggle and know that if they just work harder, give themselves more time; they can reach that level as well. In short, that player will be more likely to work through a difficult situation versus just give up when their “talent” is being challenged.

What are you doing!?

When do most players hear this? Yup, right after a mistake. As if the player is going to turn around and say, “I was trying to make a mistake and give the ball away to make it harder on my team to be successful in the hope you would yell across the field and single me out.” In short, this is a common reaction of a coach which does NOTHING to help the player. If you have ever coached, you have probably said this before. I know I have. If our goal is to teach, this is the last thing that should be said to a player.

Instead, something along the lines of, “Next time, can you get your head up a little quicker so you can see your options?” The player does not need it highlighted a mistake was made. A player needs information (coaching) to help them be more successful next time. Coaching is not about just recognizing a mistake is made, but more importantly, helping the player correct it and learn from it.

You know this! I taught you that!

Well, obviously not. Unless the player is doing it, you have not taught it. In addition, not only does the player obviously not understand what you are asking them to do, now they also may start believing they are not smart of enough or have the ability to understand it.

Put yourself in a player’s shoes. When was the last time you were clearly confused, and maybe even a little frustrated, because you did not understand something? Think about that time. Now, how helpful would it have been for someone one to walk up to you and say, “Hey, you know this!” I would assume this would either make you more frustrated or more confused.

I think this would be more helpful for a coach to say to a player, “Remember in training when we worked on…. Well, this is a great opportunity in the game to try…..”

In the end, if the player is showing signs that they do not understand what you are asking them to do, find another way to explain it so the player can understand.

You Can’t do that!

Unless they are breaking the rules of the game, I am not sure if this statement applies much to the game of soccer. The players who we enjoy to watch the most are the players who do things that nobody else has the guts to do, and most likely, would be something a coach would tell a player NOT to do if it did not work the first time.

When players are young, they have to be given the opportunity to try and do things that might not work right away. They need to fail and learn from it. Just because they cannot do it now, does not mean the player may not be able to do it in the future (if given the chance to try).

Let young players experiment in games and try to do difficult things. When they do not work, the player will learn more from being able to try it and fail than from a coach explaining what to do or not to do on the field.

That is not good enough!

Although you are trying to motivate the player to pick up their level of play, I am not sure if this is the best statement to do it. A simple fix would just to make the statement positive versus it being negative.

“You CAN do better than that!”

After hearing this, a player will be much more inclined to try to do better. Instead of just being told what the player is doing is not good enough, you are letting the player know you feel they can do better.

By simply saying “it is not good enough” can make a player to feel the coach believes their level will never be good enough. When people know you believe they can accomplish more, they are much more willing to at least try to prove you right.

If you do that again, I am taking you out!

I left this for last because it is the worst thing a player can hear during a game. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I hear it. Really, if a coach ever says this to a player, they should just take the player out of the game right away, because from that point on, the player will be too scared to do ANYTHING in fear of making a mistake, so the coach will end up taking them out anyway.

A fear free environment is necessary to help a player learn to play the game. Fear is the adversary of creativity and enjoyment. Two critical aspects of learning anything! As soon as the player is scared to fail, there is no point for them to play anymore.

If you are not sure if a child is playing scared, here is a very simple test. Every time a player makes a mistake, what does the player do? If the player keeps playing, that is a good thing. If the player makes a mistake and immediately looks to the sideline at a parent or coach, the player is playing scared. Why? Because they are looking to the sideline to see if an adult is upset with them.

It is important to always choose your words wisely when communicating with young kids and athletes who are trying to improve. Although you may be trying to get the right message across, the delivery of the message can be the reason why it is received or rejected by the player. Just changing the way things are said, what is said, and what is not said, can have a long lasting impact on the players you coach.

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Thu, 7 Aug 2014
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If it is Important to You

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

How do we prioritize what we do each day? All of us have things we are forced to do, and all of us have things we want to do. With limited amount of time in a day and so many things to do, it is impossible to do everything. I came across a quote by Dan Gable which I think helps put things in perspective on how to prioritize:

“If it is important, do it every day. If it is not, do not do it at all.” – Dan Gable

I am sure we all have something we tried for a little while and then stopped doing. We told ourselves, “I am going to do this every day.” It was probably something we thought we would enjoy, make us feel better, be healthier, or improve our lives in some small or large way. When we stopped, normally the excuse is that there is just not enough time. There are too many other things that need to get done. In truth, that is not the reason.

When something is truly important to you, you will do it every day (or most days). If it is not important, then there is no way you will stick to it. Honestly, if it is not important, than why waste your precious time doing it?

Applying this to soccer, this is an honest question all players must ask themselves. If soccer is something that is very important to you, then you should practice it every day (in one way or another). If it is not that important, than that is ok, but that has to be something you are honest with yourself about. You play the game, but you cannot overly concern yourself with your level of play, which team you play for, or your overall success on the field. Why? It is really not that important to you, or it is at least not important enough to take up that much of your time. That might sound like a bad thing, but it is not. It is just how you have decided to prioritize your interests.

Yes, I am sure everyone is concerned about their performance and obviously want to do their best, and any player can give their best each time they step on the field. How important that is to you will determine if you do what is necessary to actually impact your level of play and chance to be more successful on the field. Soccer is a sport, a great sport, that is fun and helps keep you healthy and fit. It challenges the mind and allows kids to be part of a team. These are all awesome reasons to play the game, and frankly, the only reason any kid (or adult for that matter) needs to play the game. This is the main reason why most kids will play the game.

But some kids may have dreams and aspirations to play soccer at a more competitive level or be the next “Messi” when they grow up. For those kids, the game is more important to them. It is not more important to the parents or their coach. It is more important to the player. The player wants to do more and wants to see themselves get better. Maybe the game becomes important enough that they play or do something in regards to soccer every day. This is usually true about the people we read books about and watch movie portrayals of their lives, not just in sports, but all aspects of life (business, art, science, music, etc..). These people had a slight obsession with something and it became something important enough that they would do it every day devoting a large portion of their lives in pursuit of their dream. Many more people who we do not know about do the same thing, but never reach their dream or get to that desired level. Despite falling short, I like to believe that they still enjoyed the journey and spending the time doing what they loved.

As an adult, with so many responsibilities, it gets harder to stick with things that are not very important. For example, I really want to learn a second language. I bought Rosetta Stone and made a promise I would spend an hour a day working at it. Not a long time, but I lasted for about two weeks, and at this time, I have not spent anymore time on it. Frankly, I have to make a decision if learning a second language is that important to me or not. If it is, there are no excuses and I need to find an hour a day and stick to my plan. Or perhaps my goal of an hour a day was too lofty, and I set myself up to not reach it. Maybe I should have started with a more moderate goal. Spending 15 minutes a day may have been more manageable and perhaps I would have stuck to it.

One thing nice about being a kid is the average kid does not have as many responsibilities as an adult and probably a little more free time. With this free time, a child can have many “important” things they do every day to explore new ideas, develop new skills, and stretch their ability in any area desired. I am the last one who would advocate for a child only playing one sport at an early age. I think kids should play many sports, try different hobbies, and explore many interests when they have the time to do it. What is important to them will change with age and will change a lot, but that experience allows them to have a better idea of what will be important to them later on. As they get older, their time will become more and more limited and they will need to begin to choose which activities are the most important. What will they later in life that makes up a part of who they are? There will not be enough time to do it all, and if they try to do it all, how well will they do any one thing? Normally, when stretched too thin and there is too much on our plate, something will suffer and not get the needed attention.

In the end, we all need to find the important things we do that makes us happy and help us grow as people. We do it because it makes us feel better and we do it because we want to be better at it. It can be anything. For players who aspire to play soccer at a high level or just play because it is fun, soccer may be one of those things. Soccer is something they want to do as it makes them happy, not only when they are successful, but simply because they get to do it and like how it makes them feel.

Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Wed, 23 Apr 2014
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Can you Keep the Ball?

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

It is the number one question. A player must have the technical, tactical, physical, and psychological ability to keep the ball when a pass is not immediately available and under pressure. Keeping the ball can be done by dribbling into space, turning away from pressure, shielding, and being able to move the ball quickly between both feet to never allow the defender a chance to touch the ball away. A player must have excellent control of the ball under pressure, tremendous foot speed, and use their body efficiently to protect the ball from the defender and create space from the defender. Simply, if the defender cannot reach the soccer ball, the defender cannot take the ball.

Composure (being relaxed) is very important with trying to keep the ball. When players panic, they rush and make bad decisions with the ball, normally trying to FORCE it through a defender or into an area of the field they have no support. Instead, if the player is confident on the ball, the player can quickly move it comfortably between both feet, and use their body to protect the ball, the player can give themselves more time and space with the ball to make decisions and find a good option. Doing this allows the player to maintain possession of the ball, and a teammate time to get into position to support the player with the ball before it is turned over. As soon as a player has the ball, it is easy to tell how comfortable the player is with the ball. Does the player tense up? Stand too upright? Lose their balance? Look rushed or unsure of what to do next? Does the head go straight down and stay there.

Being able and willing to play in any direction at any time is another key to keeping the ball. Players need to be able to change direction while moving with the ball using different parts of the feet. Often players play in one direction; directly to goal! Although I love the desire to get to goal, straight ahead is often not the easiest way to get to goal as defenders are taught to defend the “dangerous” area of the field which is normally in the middle of the field. This requires a player to be able to move in any direction with the ball at a moment’s notice. If a player feels limited and has to go forward, it is much easier for a defender to win the ball. When moving away from pressure, the ball needs to be cut into an area the player can protect the ball with their body and ideally to the other foot farthest from the defender (similar to dribbling a basketball). This is often when players will lose the ball. Although they change direction quickly, the ball is cut into an area that the player cannot protect it with their body and the defender is able to step between the attacking player and the ball. Players tend to dribble with their dominant foot even if it is closer to the defender. The ball must be put in an area where it is difficult for the defender to reach it.

Here is where the player must be effective at using their body, especially with their arms, to hold a defender off their body and away from the ball. It is critical the player on the ball stays low, keeps their feet shoulder width a part to provide good balance and making it hard to push them over while keeping the ball on the foot farthest from the defender. The attacking player needs to use their body to keep the defender away from the ball to prevent the defender from physically being able to reach the ball. When players shield the ball, they should keep their hips lower than the defender’s hips, use their arms to make themselves bigger, to control the defender, and to try to create space from the defender to turn as soon as they can.

It is hard to keep the ball when under direct pressure with little room to play. Players have to be exceptional at protecting the ball with their body and continuously move to hold the ball for just a couple of seconds. With this in mind, players need to be more physical while trying to keep the ball. Often, playing aggressive is only thought about when a player is on defense, but being physically aggressive is just as important when the player has the ball. My challenge to players is can they physically control the defender and not allow the defender to push them off the ball. Can they be just as physical on the attacking side of the ball? Being a physically tough player on the ball can frustrate a defender very quickly. This frustration can cause a defender to lunge at the ball or give up an unnecessary foul. Both of which make keeping possession of the ball easier.

There are physical and technical differences in all players. Some will be more physical or technical than others. Players need to figure out, based on their strengths, how they can protect the ball from a defender while working on improving their weaknesses. Bigger players will be able to hold off defenders with more ease and may not have to move the ball as quickly, while smaller players, who are not as strong, need to use their bodies very efficiently and keep the ball moving quickly to avoid a long physical confrontation.

In a game, a player rarely has to try to hold the ball for an extended period of time, but being able to hold the ball briefly provides more time to make a good decision on the ball to help avoid losing possession. The more players think about moving in all directions with the ball versus just straight ahead and use their body efficiently to protect the ball, the more success they will have keeping possession of the ball in games.

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Tony Earp
Tony Earp

Director Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University, is a State Certified teacher, and is a USSF C License coach. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. Tony's achievements included 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2001 and 2002, serving as Captain in 2002. Tony was named Most Inspirational Player in 2001 and 2002, as well as achieving Scholar Athlete status in those same years. Tony was a member of the 2002 MLS Draft Pool. After playing, Tony was a history teacher at Licking Valley High School in 2005 and at Dublin Scioto High School in 2006. In 2007, Tony Earp accepted a position at SuperKick as the Director of Soccer Training where he continues to serve as the Senior Director of Training managing programs, establishing training curriculums, and coaching athletes. Tony was the Head Coach for Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer program in 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tony is a Director for Classics Eagles FC and is the Director of the SuperKick Classics Juniors Academy. With 10 years of coaching experience, Tony has developed a reputation of being a coach who motivates players to expect more from themselves and creates a training environment conducive to developing high level players.

Posted by Administrator on Wed, 23 Apr 2014
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