Soccer Articles

Things Remembered

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

When I start thinking about how I got into coaching and why I chose this as a career, I cannot stop from remembering all the coaches who I had along the way that helped me get to where I am today. I have played for many coaches, with many different styles of coaching, some better than others, but I know that I took something away from all of them. With each step, these mentors, soccer teachers, helped me become the player and person I am today.

Over my time coaching, I wonder what type of impact I have on the players I get the opportunity and privilege to work with everyday. Not just from a soccer standpoint, but for the more important things. Are there moments, things I have said, or done, on the field or away from the field, that those players will point to 20 years later as a moment in their lives that was important to them (for one reason or another)?

Looking back, my most memorable moments with the coaches who I feel made a significant impact on my life had less to do with soccer and more to do with the way they made me feel. Whether it was during a training session or a very rough time in my life, these coaches said something or did something that impacted me in an incredible way. I did not know it then, but looking back, their words and actions are some of my most vivid, emotional, and inspiring moments of my life around the game.

Spaceman

Alvin James was a member of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a semi-pro team in South Florida, when I was growing up. It was common for the team to put on soccer camps in the summer, and like many soccer camps put on by professional teams, they were very popular and there were a lot of kids who attended. This was my first time at a soccer camp.

I was assigned to Alvin’s group during the camp and he was my coach for the week. This was during the beginning of my playing experience and I was new to soccer. I was not overly skilled, but I enjoyed playing the game. Alvin was one of my favorite players on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, so I was very excited to have him as my coach for the week.

Like a typical soccer camp, we played a lot of fun games and one of the classics, Knock Out, which is still popular today with kids. During the game, I was having some success keeping my ball and kicking everyone else’s soccer ball out of the playing area. After knocking out a couple players, Alvin said, “Hey, you need to watch out for Spaceman. He is going to kick your ball to outer space!” Yes, this sounds very silly, but I never had a nickname before so I was very excited to be known as “Spaceman” for the rest of the camp. The name stuck for all the years I attended Fort Lauderdale Strikers camps or saw Alvin at one of his games. He would always say, “Hey Spaceman!” It made me want to go back to the camp each year and go to the games to see the team play.

It is very common for coaches to give kids nicknames like that, but sometimes it means more than just a silly name and having some fun. I loved my nickname! In a camp of hundreds of kids, it made me feel important and special among the crowd. I was not nearly one of the better players in the camp, but I felt I could do anything on the field and was very confident with Coach Alvin. It was very early in my playing experience that I met Alvin. His nickname for me may have been the initial fire lit inside of me that kept me playing this game for many years.

I would run into Alvin from time to time when I was an older player in high school, and every time I saw him, he greeted me the same way, “Hey Spaceman!”

Stopped for Good

Richard Williams was by far one of the most influential coaches I worked with in my career. He was brilliant at teaching players the technical, tactical, and psychological aspects of the game through training. He pushed much harder than most coaches I have seen in making players work beyond their limits. He expected a high work rate and a tremendous respect to the details of each skill movement and the nuances of the game. But his real talent, that I have come to realize looking back, was his incredible ability to motivate players.

My first year training with Coach Williams I remember a moment on the field very vividly, mainly because it did not happen before, which is the reason why I continued to train with him. I do not remember most practices or training sessions, and I cannot recount for you the games I won or lost. I had thousands of experiences on the field in training with coaches but this is one I will never forget. Funny, it is not that exciting or dramatic of a moment. It was just so different than anything I experienced before.

Playing a basic possession game, I moved to a teammate that had the ball, and asked for a pass. Brian Lapinskis (yes, I still know who played me the pass) passed me the ball to my feet. As the ball arrived, I played one touch back to Brian and moved away. This seemed routine and not something note worthy.

Immediately, Coach Williams froze the game. He then said, “Did everyone see what Tony did?” Up to this point, when a game was stopped, it was normally for a mistake, so my first thought was “Oh great, what did I do wrong?” In his very upbeat and charismatic way of talking to us, he began praising what I did. A simple thing like keeping the ball moving, and moving after I passed the ball, was something he was making a big deal about. No other coach had done that before. No other coach had Stopped for the Good. I had only experienced a game being stopped to make a correction. I do not exactly know why, but I had never been so excited to continue to play again.

He was the first coach I had who would stop and praise players as often, if not more, than stop to correct players. His ability to do this, at the right times and for the right reasons, motivated me to work hard to continue to do things correctly and improve the areas of my game needed to have success on the field. This may be common today among coaches, but it was not that common 20 years ago.

As a player, I have received a lot of feedback from coaches. Most I do not remember very well, but that day, that moment, is one that I will always remember. It stuck with me as a player and still today as a coach. Again, it was a moment that helped build my confidence as a player and in what I was capable of doing on the field. It made me realize the importance of the simple, but critical, skills players need. Building a player’s confidence and appreciation for simple things that work, may be the most important things a coach can do for a player.

To further drive home the point that he was excellent at motivating players to want and expect more from themselves, it is good to note that most players who worked with him continued on to play at the college level.

The Goal My Dad Saw

I was waiting down stairs for my dad to pick me up for my soccer game. He had not been able to see me play in a while because he was traveling a lot, but he promised to pick me up for my game and bring me. Waiting outside of my mom’s house, I waited patiently to see his car make the turn down the street.

As game time was nearing, my dad still had not arrived. My mom called and could not get a hold of him. I was angry to say the least when driving to the game with mom that day. My mom tried to tell me not to worry about it, and just focus on playing the game and having fun. I couldn’t, and when I arrived at the game I was still noticeably very mad with my dad. My coach, Walter Franco, asked me what was wrong when I walked up to the bench.

I said, “Nothing. My dad not did show up to take me to the game. Sorry I am late.” Coach Franco said, “No problem, I am sure he did not want to miss it. I am sure there is a good reason.” Obviously, I did not want to hear it, and just brushed off the comment and finished getting my cleats on to play.

That game I scored a pretty nice goal from outside of the 18-yard box. I struck the ball well, knuckling it into the top left corner, not giving the goalkeeper a chance. I remember the goal well, not because it was memorable, but just because of when it happened. Our team won the game, and when I was walking off the field, Coach Franco said, “Great goal Tony! Your dad will be sad he missed it.”

The next morning, when I got up to go to school, still mad about the day before, I found out my dad had passed away. The next couple of days leading up to the funeral are very hard to recall. It seemed like a numb blur. I have heard that when the body experiences enough pain, it can cause a person to pass out. This is the way I felt after my mom told me. I was incapable of feeling or thinking about anything. It was like all of my senses turned off to avoid feeling anything.

At the funeral, the numbness ended and I felt everything. Among my family and friends who were there for support, so were my teammates and my coach. As people came by to pay their respects and offer their condolences, it became tougher and tougher with each person who I talked to.

Coach Franco came up to me and said, “I was wrong.” I was taken back by the comment as it broke the rhythm of what is normally said. I replied, “Huh?” He repeated, “I was wrong. Your dad did not miss that goal. He saw it and I know he is proud.” He gave me a hug, and in that moment when all I could muster were tears, I smiled and laughed with my coach. While everyone else reminded me my dad was gone, he was the first one to remind me that he would always be there.

We all have moments in our life that are incredibly painful and there is very little anyone can do to make us feel better. With that said, sometimes a simple statement can offer you solace when you least expect it.

The Phone Call

There are moments that you realize how much coaches really care about their players. Through the smallest gestures, coaches can dramatically change a player’s day. For Senior Day at Ohio State, my mom was not able to make it up for the game. My mom was upset she was not going to be able to be there, but I understood and it was not a big deal.

Before the game on Senior Day, all the Seniors are called out on to the field with their parents and introduced. The coaches write some kind words about your contribution to the team and program over the years, and you are recognized for your dedication to the school and team. My roommates walked with me on to the field on that day which was already an awesome surprise.

As I was walking up when it was my turn to be introduced, I noticed Coach Speth had a phone in his hand. My first thought was, “Why is Coach Frank Speth using his cell phone right now?” When I got over to the coaches, he handed me the phone. He had called my mom and had her on the line. As my information was being read aloud, she was on the phone with me telling me she loved me, and I wept. As I was talking to her, Coach Speth put his hands on my shoulders and stood with me until I was done.

If you know Coach Speth, it would not surprise you that he did that for me. Over the years, he has done things like this for many of the players he has coached. It was completely unexpected, something he did not have to do, and one of my best memories of my time at Ohio State. Thanks to coach Speth, I got to spend that moment on Senior Day with my mom. It changed everything for me on that day.

I think these experiences, not only made me want to be a coach and teacher, but they made me such a passionate advocate of this game. Throughout my life, my coaches have been some of the most influential and supportive people I have met. These are just four of the most memorable and significant moments, among many more, when a coach said or did something to make my day just a little better or make me love the game just a little more.

As coaches, we never know how much weight our words or actions hold. What we say or do may seem insignificant or common to us, but for the kids, it could be that one thing that alters their path forever.

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 Mon, 13 Oct 2014
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Why Are You Reading This?!

By: Matt Weiss, Director of Soccer

As coaches, it is easy for us to make a practice plan, set up the cones, and then tell the players what the activity is.

“Ok guys, we have a 25x25 grid, 2 teams possessing, first team to get 5 consecutive passes gets a point…play!”

Sometimes it works out where both teams do well and you move on to the next activity, but do the players understand what they just did? Have you ever set up an activity and it looked terrible? It may be more of a teaching issue than a player issue. It is most likely because you left out an extremely important part of explaining the activity. Even at higher levels, players do what they are told but unless they understand WHY they are doing it, they are not getting better and you are not making them better.

At the beginning of the Ohio State football season, reporters interviewed players on the team and asked them if head coach Urban Meyer is the same coach as he was when he first arrived. Meyer himself said that he didn’t feel any different, but Michael Bennett, a Senior 2nd-Team All-Big Ten defensive tackle, disagreed:

“I remember that last year he didn’t want anybody to ask the question, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Just do it. It wastes time to ask why.’ This year, he’s like, ‘We’re going to teach you the why so you are more open to it and you accept it.’ “

They now have “Why Meetings” and it isn’t just about football. They discuss things like hydration, nutrition, and sleep.

When I played, we didn’t ask “Why are we doing this?” usually because we were afraid the coach would yell at us, but now-a-days, players need to know the rationale behind the coaches decisions. It makes sense when you think about it. Let’s go back to the first example at the beginning of the article but add the reasoning.

“Guys, we need to work on keeping possession and moving the ball quickly. Sometimes we get the ball stuck and the other team counters on us. Let’s see which team can get 5 consecutive passes for a point. Team with the most after 3 minutes wins the game. Play!”

Now before the activity starts, the players have an understanding of why the coach chose this activity to work on, they know where their team currently stands in this topic (needs improvement), and they know how they need to play individually and as a team within the activity (2 touch passing, move off the ball, etc). Next time you have practice, set-up an activity similar to this and explain it without the “why”. Let it go for a few minutes and then stop it, explain the why, and continue. I guarantee the quality improves simply by adding these 2-3 important sentences!

The diagram below (called the “Golden Circle” created by Simon Sinek) explains the differences of going from What/How/Why vs. Why/How/What.

You can see that when you go from the outside in, your approach may be generally accepted, but at the expense of your individuality. Even when a coach is choosing what to work on in training, there better be a reason. I would hate to think he is google searching “soccer drills” on his phone as the kids warm-up. You chose the session for a reason so share it with your players. If you have other coaches helping, let them know to! This will help them better understand what you are looking for. If you don’t share it with them, they may be making most of his coaching points on defensive positioning, which isn’t the point of the activity.

When you do the opposite, starting with asking yourself “why” you are doing this, your initial action is personal and concentrated. So naturally when you share this with your coaches, teammates, players, etc, they begin with the same focus as well. As a coach, you want everyone to buy into what you are saying. I encourage my players to “question” every activity I choose (only if it is in a polite tone). I have ran sessions where one of my captains says that he likes the activity, but suggests a slight change of the rules. If it makes the activity more productive, why would I deny that suggestion? This “permission” also encourages the players to think about the activity and analyze it, and most of all, forces me to be confident that the things I choose to do in training will be easily understood and if not, that I can explain why.

The definition of why is “for what reason or purpose”. If you don’t apply this into your coaching and don’t use it to connect to the players, I don’t think your team is going to get any better anytime soon. I suggest having your team come up with goals for the season instead of the coaching staff. You may ask why? (Hey you are catching on!). When you see what the players come up with, you will most likely get more “what” goals, such as: win the championship, beat our rivals, score 40 goals, etc. These are specific goals, which is good, but find out WHY they chose those. When you get their answers, you uncover their “why” goals, also known as motivators. With the examples used above, clearly the team wants to compete with all their opponents, establish dominance over the local rival, and do it by playing an attacking style of soccer. Now you have a much clearer path of what to work on, the players have discovered why they chose those goals, and you can use that as a reference when you explain activities in your training sessions!

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 Thu, 2 Oct 2014
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Watching Soccer Can Make You Better!

By: Matt Weiss, Director of Soccer

When I was growing up, every once in a while ESPN would play a Champions League game and I would get to see teams like Manchester United and AC Milan play. Back then, I could maybe tell you one player on the field, but regardless, I knew that I was getting a chance to see some of the best players in the world for an hour and a half. I was amazed at how simple they made things look. Passing, running, shooting…it was all so quick! With the ample amount of games on TV and the internet these days, let me give players some advice: watching soccer can make you a better player, but you can’t just watch it like any other TV show… Scott Olsen, Getty Images

Here are some tips that can help players use visual learning to help improve their game.

As I said above, watch as much as you can! There is always soccer being played. Check out a high school game that your son or daughter will attend in a few years, or stay after your tournament game if an older team plays next. MLS, Champions League, English Premier League, La Liga, and more, are on TV everywhere! How lucky players are today to be able to see this on a daily basis. Youtube is always another great resource. The impact this has had on younger players is definitely apparent. For example, when I was a younger player, I remember we would play small-sided games and the coach would let us pick our team’s name. Players would always say “Buckeyes!” or some random animal, but now I hear players say “Barcelona!” and immediately say “I’m Messi!” or “I’m Neymar!” It is awesome that these players are able to identify top teams and players and want to model their game after them at such a young age. When I coached high school soccer, I would make our JV A players stay and watch the varsity game. Sometimes, if I planned on moving some of them up to train with us, I would have them sit on the bench with us during a game so they could see first hand what was required to perform at that level. If players don’t get to see what the “next level” is, how else are they going to prepare for it? You may laugh, but I probably Youtube “Iniesta” (one of my all time favorite players) on a weekly basis. I just love seeing these guys perform at the absolute world-class level. Watch the video below! Andres Iniesta Skills Play Video

What position do you play? At the younger ages, players should just watch the games and focus on the player’s control and passing, but as they get older and have a more specific position/area on the field, they should watch what these players in their positions do!

  • Where are they when they defend? Why?

  • Where are they when they attack? Why?

  • Where do they move off the ball? Why?

Don’t just watch, LOOK for these things and ask yourself WHY they do it. When you watch the games, you will find situations where you think you would have done something differently, but why?! I want to be a better coach, so when I watch games on TV, I get out my notepad and pretend I am scouting a team or I am coaching one of the sides. I try to mute or fast-forward through the part when they announce the team’s formations so I can figure it out myself. Last year, I spoke with a U15 coach would have their players pick a game over the weekend to watch and write a one page report on what they saw. I think this is a great idea as a homework assignment for your players; not just so you encourage them to watch, but so you can encourage them to THINK!

It can even apply to video games (FIFA). Of course, this should be done after you have done all your homework and chores…but you can really learn a lot from playing soccer video games. I’ll play anyone in FIFA (if you challenge me, you got it) because it is fun to plan and execute a way to win. Don’t just play the video game, pick a formation and a starting XI for a specific reason and take note of what kind of formation/team you are playing against. Here is an example…so you play your friend in FIFA and he is Real Madrid (of course) and you pick Fulham (good luck!). You play with 3 in the back and lose 10-0. It might be because your friend had Ronaldo and Bale out wide and you gave them acres of space to attack and get behind your defense. LOOK at what the game is telling you, and THINK how you can be successful with it!

Once you see it, think about it and practice it! As players warm-up at SuperKick, I sometimes see young players doing pick-ups and tricks with the ball that I didn’t even know existed until I was in high school. In the past, I have even had one or two of my high school players teach me some stuff! This exposure to professional teams and players impacts your kids in many positive ways. I recently read an article about “mirror neurons”. Mirror neurons occur when we observe an action and the neurons in our brain mimic the action that we see, even if we are sitting on a couch. Here is an example: Babies start imitating movement as soon as they are capable. They use this observation/action to learn speech, facial expression, and other body language cues. This is one reason why athletes use imagery as another means of training and preparation. If you watch an action, and your brain reacts to it as if you yourself are doing the action, you will be better prepared to perform that action when you are actually doing it! So if you observe soccer players perform, and pay attention to specific movements, you are actually practicing these movements. The next step, which is the most important one, is to grab a ball, go outside, and do it yourself!

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 Wed, 24 Sep 2014
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The Great Coach Misconception

by Tony Earp, Senior Director

The season is almost over. Over the course of the season, the team continued to improve and the players are doing well on and off the field. Individually, players are making great strides in improving their skill level and continue to play with more confidence each time they step on the field. As a coach, you have done a great job with your team spending countless hours putting together training session plans, analyzing player performance, and providing instruction that helps player correct mistakes. Now what?

The Great Coach Misconception is that a coach will look at what they did this past season and try to replicate it to try to achieve the same results. The coach found a system that works and the coach will stick to it, right? On the contrary, a great coach will look at how the season went, successful or not, and find things to improve. The misconception is that great coaches stick to what is working. When in fact, great coaches are never satisfied with what is working, and are ALWAYS looking for ways to be better. Why? Simply, great coaches know that just because it is working does not mean it is the MOST EFFECTIVE way to do it. For great coaches, there is no ceiling to improvement. They are often pleased, but never satisfied with their performance as a coach.

When I started coaching, I had this misconception about great coaches and teachers, and I still find myself fighting it today. When things are working and going well, it is very hard to make changes. My goal was always to find what worked and then stick to it. Why recreate the wheel each year, right? If I have a system that works, it does not make sense for me to take time to change it again. Changing what I was doing could also lead to adverse results. I can make a change and it not work, and then everyone would ask, "Why did you stop doing what was working?" Then, I would really look silly! Well, at least that is what I used to think. That fear and unwillingness to change is just an excuse, among many other excuses, to not put in the extra effort to improve.

Great coaches constantly challenge their own coaching philosophies and practices at the end of each season. Not everything, but looking at a couple specific areas in which there could be room for improvement to help the players and team achieve even more next season, on and off the field. Think of the wheel. No, they are not trying to reinvent it, but over the course of history it has proven beneficial to keep trying to make the wheel better. And that is the difference, the desire to constantly make it better. Without it our wheels would still be made of wood or stone.

The more I have read about great coaches in all different types of sports, I am constantly blown away by how much work goes in during the off-season to get better. Great coaches expect that attitude from their players in the off-season, and the expectation is the same for themselves. Not just the standard things that need to get done to prepare for the season, but the amount of extra effort and time put in to analyzing and critiquing their own actions and approaches to teaching their players. Great coaches tend to be more particular and critical of their own actions than anyone else. They are brutally honest and very particular when picking a part all their actions and decisions from the previous year.

Coach Wooden is a great example and someone I love to read about. After each season (many of which ended with championships), Coach Wooden would spend a lot of time researching a part of his approach to training or teaching his team the game that he wanted to improve (regardless of the success last season). His goal was to always improve.

He did a ton of research on the area he wanted to improve and analyzed the data. He would find other team’s statistics, call or send out surveys to opposing coaches, find related articles and publications on the subject, etc… After all of that, he would take all the information, and come up with a plan on how to implement his findings into his training for the following season. As a “thank you” for helping, Coach Wooden would send his results to the coaches who provided information for him to analyze.

It seemed odd to me that the coach, who I assumed would be receiving calls for help from other coaches (which I am sure he did), was the one who was making the calls for help. Again, that was my misconception about great coaches. I thought they did not need any help. They were already great! The simple fact is that these coaches understand that they do not have all the answers and needed to constantly learn as much as possible to help their players succeed.

Great coaches who have a lot of success are often seen as very systematic. Yes, they have a system, and many of them have written about their systems and they are available for coaches to study. The consistent thing about many of these systems is the principles most of them are based on; analyze and improve. To analyze a season requires asking a lot of tough questions. Improvement requires change, and at times, some level of discomfort. Improvement does not happen by accident. Consistent improvement, and regular success, is the result of coaches willing to make changes each year that will help their team and players. After a season below expectations, this is probably something most coaches naturally would do. But after a season that expectations are met or surpassed, making changes is normally not a natural thought. Most coaches will ask, “What did I do right this year to help the team get to that level?” which is a good question. The question that is harder to ask is, “What did I do wrong this year to make it harder to get to that level or beyond it?”

Great coaches have coaching philosophies and firm fundamental beliefs that may never change much throughout their career, and that can be a very good thing as it shows the coach knows what they want to accomplish and how they will do it. Although to best implement their philosophies, the coaches will look for ways to improve upon them or adjust them as their knowledge of the game grows, the game changes, and their players develop.

Again, I think a great misconception with great coaches is that they are stubborn people who do not compromise or look to change. They are coaches with a set system and the recipe for success that works for them. This was my image of those coaches.This image has changed the more I have learned about how these coaches actually operate and the only thing really consistent about them is their willingness to change and improve what they do.

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 Mon, 22 Sep 2014
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Our Youth Leagues Are Better (for your players!)

By Matt Weiss, Director of Soccer

As we approach the end of the Fall season, teams start to make plans for what they want to do through the cold winter months. Indoor soccer is obviously a popular choice, but where should your team play? Well it depends on what you want to get out of it. If you want them to play with tons of teammates and chase the ball off the walls, then I’m sure there are a few good places for that.

If you want to continue having your player’s develop and grow the necessary tools, then SuperKick’s 4v4 league is the league for you.

I remember the first time I played indoor soccer at age 10. It was love at first sight! Being able to play on a big field with walls, being able to shoot and pass without the worry of it going out of bounds, and winning the league to get a free t-shirt, what could be better?! Looking back, I still agree that it was fun but was it really beneficial for me as a young player? The answer is simply NO.

So what makes SuperKick’s league different from the others?

Most youth leagues in the area play 7v7 or 8v8 on the same fields as the men’s open divisions! Even if the men’s open plays 6v6, should 16 nine year old girls be covering the same area in a game as 12 adult males? Probably not. Our 4v4 league has 8 total players playing on a field 1/3 the size of our adult league field. Smaller players need smaller fields! Want to know what that it would feel like as a 10 year old player to cover an adult sized field? Check out the video below from the England’s FA (Football Association) Youth Development:

"Let's see how the adults like it" Play Video

So now that we have the field space figured out, let's talk about the number of players on the field. Most leagues in Columbus have 7 to 8 players per team out there at once which is great, right? That way more people are playing at once. Maybe, but in terms of player development, the answer is no! In 2002, Dr. Rick Fernoglio worked with Manchester United to study 4v4 and 8v8 games and concluded the following. When comparing 4v4 small sided games to 8v8, there were:

  • 135% more passes

  • 260% more shots taken

  • 500% more goals scored

  • 225% more 1v1’s

  • 280% more tricks, turns, and moves

You might be wondering why can’t this still happen if you just double the size of the field and the number of players on the field. If you think about it, it is pretty clear why. With a smaller number of players on the field, each player will have more opportunities to get touches on the ball. At the youth levels, players should not be in stuck in one position (see Coach Tony Earp’s article on this topic here). The 4v4 format gives each player numerous opportunities to play offense and defense. Because they are so directly involved in the game, they are getting great fitness as well. How many times have you watch your son or daughter walk around the field in an 8v8 game, going minutes without touching the ball? With the increased action each player gets in our 4v4 league, their self-confidence and self-esteem can grow along with their development.

"“Where are the walls? Where is the big goal?”"
Like I said earlier in the article, when I was 10, I loved how any shot or pass that I misplaced would just rebound back onto the field, but what if they weren’t there? How would that have changed my approach? Well, I probably would have tried to have better accuracy on my shots and better weighted passes. Scoring off a full power shot is fun, but so is scoring goals in general. Leo Messi is a perfect example of this. For every highlight goal he has, he has 30 where he simply passes the ball into a corner. A goal is a goal! The goals for our league in SuperKick are 4’x6’. Not only are you working on accuracy but it also helps with passing. Scoring a goal is when you pass the ball into the net!

“What’s the score? Are we going to win the championship?”
Spoiler alert: We don’t keep track of the score in our 4v4 league games and we don’t keep track of wins and losses. If that is off putting to you, maybe I can convince you to stick around. We want to provide a playing environment for the players where there is minimal pressure to win. We want them to play without the fear of failure. When players can overcome this, they will play with confidence and creativity. It may sound strange, but we even suggest that the coach limits his coaching during games. The coach should focus on helping out with substitutions and encouraging the players to have fun, put in effort, and not worry about score. The only time the score is important to the game, is when it becomes lopsided. When this happens, we strongly encourage that the winning team’s coach give their players “conditions” so that they can still be challenged and work on improving something, for example:

  • Must score off of a first touch finish

  • Must use your non-dominate foot only

  • Must score off of an overlap, or cross, or wall pass

  • Must pass 5 times before shooting

Instead of losing 15-0, where the winning team hasn’t challenged themselves and the losing team has had zero chance of anything, this can create the game to be closer and more competitive. Both teams are still challenged (winning team has to complete conditions, and losing team is in a closer game with more opportunities to win the ball and attack).

So we have covered players and coaches eliminating the pressure and negative emotions from the game...who is left? YOU! The parents. We expect only positive comments regarding your team during the games. If your son or daughter makes a mistake, it is OK! John Wooden once said “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” Players will not develop unless they get out of their “comfort zone” so encourage your children to be creative and try new things in our 4v4 games. That’s why we set-up the league this way!

“You can learn the tactical side of the game later. It’s amazing to me that people put so much emphasis on trying to be tactical and worry about winning when it doesn’t matter when you’re 12 years old. We’re going to have big, strong, fast players. We’re Americans, we’re athletes. But if we never learn at an early age to be good on the ball, then it’s just useless.” Landon Donovan, USA World Cup hero, in Soccer America, July 2002

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 Wed, 17 Sep 2014
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