Soccer Articles

This Article is Not For You

by Tony Earp, Executive Director

None of my articles are for you. None of the other articles you read are either. There is a lot of information out there about a lot of things. If you are reading this, you are probably looking for information about your child’s youth soccer experience, ways to help your team this season, or anything else I have written about in the past. All of the articles I have written, the information I have posted on Facebook and Instagram have all been about my opinions and views of youth soccer, but none of that information was written specifically for you.

When you read articles and information about youth soccer, you can find opinion after opinion about anything you are interested in reading about. It is important to remember that most of it is opinion and there are very few facts or indisputable positions. As such, there are very few absolute rights or absolute wrongs. I am not saying absolutes do not exist, but they are not as prevalent as we are led to believe.

So, when reading these articles and applying them to your child’s playing experience or how to approach coaching your team, it is important to not just accept it as fact and decide that it is the right way to guide your kid or your team. There is something to take away from each article, great information and philosophies to give you ideas and things to consider, but it is rare that any article, post, or blog perfectly fits or encompasses all the unique characteristics of your child and team.

It is not that one person’s opinion is right or one person’s opinion is wrong. It is just two different opinions. Based on personal experience, education, and their perspective on what is best. In reality, every opinion is right, and each one is wrong depending how, when, where, and why it is applied. I have found few absolute answers in anything in life, and soccer is no different.

I was listening to a cable news show the other night, and a guest was talking about how we all form opinions on incomplete information. We don’t know it all (although we like to think so). He went on to talk about how strong opinions are good, passionately defending what you believe in is important, but we have lost a sense of MODESTY in our discussions and debates. When we get to the point when anyone who disagrees with us is either stupid, uneducated, misguided, ignorant, unenlightened, or is demonized, than we have lost our own personal sense of modesty in our stances. That modesty is grounded in the fact that we do not have all the facts. Especially in regards to other people’s lives and experiences.

Many of us who write articles for coaches and parents are doing it to help improve the youth soccer experience for everyone. But, I know, and I think others do as well, that our opinions do not fit perfectly or directly relate to everyone. When you try to apply principles and practices where they do not work or apply, they fail. Not because the principles or practices are flawed, but the logic of implementing them is.

We see this across the board in all aspect of our lives. From politics, to our jobs, to schools, to money, to raising kids, and to the playing field, everyone has the “new” and “better” way to do….whatever. Granted, we are all beneficiaries of those who challenged the status quo and found sensible approaches to problems and needs, but with all the advancements and changes, we all personally find ways to incorporate them in our lives or stick to the old way. We all have our reasons, right or wrong in the eyes of others, but most of us do it because it works for us. It makes sense in our reality and in the life we desire to build.

So when I write articles, and others write articles, they are not specifically for you. I do not hope you go back and change they way you approach your child’s soccer experience or coach your team. My only hope is that you are able to take something from it that helps you with your child’s soccer experience or team. My articles have ideas you agree with or the information helps reaffirm your own opinions which are different. Either way, that is exactly what I am hoping for when writing each article.

In short, this article is not for you. None of my articles are. They do not specifically, or perfectly, apply to anyone or any situation. BUT, I hope each article spurs thought and consideration, forces you to ask hard questions of yourself and others, and helps guide you, your child, or team down the path that YOU decide is best.

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 Sat, 18 Mar 2017
tags:

Guided Discovery

By Brendan Vazquez, SuperKick Director

I have been given an opportunity to continue my education with Ohio University and their Master of Coaching Education. Once a month, I will be sharing one of the “responses” to a prompt for the class. If you have any questions regarding the content of this article, you are more than welcome to email me at bvazquez@superkickcolumbus.com. If we have enough interest in a particular topic, there may be coaching education opportunities that we will open up to dive deeper into a topic.

This month, we are looking at Guided Discovery. Guided Discovery is part of the United States Soccer D License content, and is a part of their teaching method spectrum. The spectrum ranges from Athlete-Centered to Coach-Centered and includes ideas such as: Command and Direct, Question and Answer, Guided Question, and Experimentation.

Within the Guided Discovery method, athletes receive problems to solve, with the assistance of the coach who provides hints, direction, feedback, and/or model behavior to keep the athletes on track (Mayer, 2004). This differs from Pure Discovery methods, within the Pure Discovery method athletes would receive a problem to solve with little or no guidance from the coach. Studies have shown that in educational environments, guided discovery is more effective because “it helps students (athletes) meet two important criteria for active learning – (1) activating or constructing appropriate knowledge to be used for making sense of new incoming information and (2) integrating new incoming information with an appropriate knowledge base” (Mayer, 2004). When translated to soccer, this allows players to use their knowledge base, transform information into their current knowledge base, and leads to an understanding of the tactical concept, principle of play or technical idea (Snow & Thomas, 2007).

How this method gets utilized depends on the age group, knowledge base and training session focus. We must understand what types of hints, direction, feedback and modeling falls into the Guided Discovery method. We also need an understanding of the different types of methodologies and how they are useful.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a system that evaluates the level of intelligence that people use in order to attain knowledge. There are two types of thinking within the system, low-order and high-order. Low-order thinking is the foundation of skills required to move into higher level thinking (Higgins, Keen, & Falk, n.d.). Related to soccer, majority of coaches will ask low-order questions (Snow & Thomas, 2007). I know that I find myself asking questions like: “What part of the foot do you use to pass?” This is an example of a low-order question. It helps players have a foundation of technical ability to use when making tactical decisions. These types of questions should be used to prepare players for high-order questions. High-order thinking requires more cognitive process in the creation of new knowledge. In order to answer high-order questions, judgement, critical thinking and problem solving skills are needed (Higgins, Keen, & Falk, n.d.).

Majority of the feedback in the Guided Discovery Model is through questions. Coaches must be skilled in the art of asking meaningful questions (Snow & Thomas, 2007). Use of high-order questions will allow players to think and self-reflect on their actions, which will allow them to develop their soccer intelligence. With younger age groups (U6-U8), our questions need to be low-order. As they are just developing (U9-U13) the foundation of knowledge that will allow them to make decisions as they get older. As they start to develop the knowledge base and technical or principles of play mastery, then higher-order questions will be introduced. As they reach the senior and mastery level (U14+), all questions should be higher-order. Challenging their perception of how to play the game and having them make deeper connections to the knowledge base they possess and the tactical decisions the game requires of them. Coaches must start with an objective in order to guide players. Coaches must have a deep understanding of the topic before they are able to ask appropriate questions (Snow & Thomas, 2007).

As a coach, I am still forming my ability to give meaningful feedback in the guided discovery model. Setting the activities to be able to ask the questions that will help players “click” with the new information and be able to sort it into their existing knowledge base. For me, that requires more time planning, evaluating and organizing my training sessions. Each one of my team training sessions are going to be planned over the course of a week, taking into account where we have been, where we are going and how to provide a bridge between those two destinations. Taking the time to reflect on what knowledge base I have with guided discovery and looking to fill the holes to become a more well-rounded coach. I currently do not have a firm grasp on this topic, to be honest. The questions that I ask, upon reflection, have been majority low-order. While this helps to establish a knowledge base for players to be able to recover in situations, it is truly not learned behaviors or actions. Just the reproduction of buzzwords that they have heard from me. My goal is to become more active in the guided discovery process for my athletes and not just a command coach. I may be asking them questions that I have not been able to find the correct order of questions for their “Aha” moments. I write this after a night of being frustrated during clinics because I could not apply the concept to what I was doing. Finding myself more in a command role, which may have been appropriate for the climate/culture that we were in. This model has opened me up to know ways of thinking about how people learn and what type of organization and preparation is required to really foster a learning environment.

Works Cited Higgins, H., Keen, J., & Falk, R. (n.d.). Bloom's Taxonomy. Retrieved from sites.google.com/site/bloomstaxonomy1 Mayer, R. E. (2004, January). Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning? American Psychologist, 59(1), 14-19. Snow, S., & Thomas, J. (2007, 1 1). Slidell Soccer. Retrieved 2 27, 2017, from Slidell Soccer: http://www.slidellsoccer.org/documents/1302206231.pdf

Brendan Vazquez
Brendan Vazquez

Programming Operations Manager Brendan was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. He is a 2016 graduate of Otterbein University with a BA in Sport Management. Brendan holds his USSF ‘D’ License, NSCAA High School Diploma, and NSCAA GK 2 certificate. Brendan is a currently a member of the Olentangy Liberty Men’s Soccer Staff, responsible of the JVA team in the 2016 season. He is also a member of the Ohio South ODP District and State Staff. In the past Brendan, has been a volunteer assistant at Otterbein University, Head Coach of the Olentangy High School JVB team. Brendan has been a staff coach with Classic Eagles for the past three years working with the 2000/1999 Boys age group, the 2005/2006 Boys and Girls age groups. He is currently working with the 2001/2002 Girls and the 2004 Boys. Brendan works with many different ages and groups at SuperKick and that has lead him to appreciate the entire player development cycle, and refocuses him on the developmental points in each age group. Brendan works with SuperKids, the Technical Development Program, and the Skill and Speed Program throughout the year.

Posted by Administrator on Mon, 27 Feb 2017
tags:

Specialization: The Multi-Sport Athlete

by Tony Earp, Executive Director

There has been a lot of research and articles about the dangers of kids specializing in sports too early in hopes for a future career in the sport or scholarship opportunities down the road. Outside of physical and mental burnout, risk of more injuries, and the “fun” being removed from the game, many players deal with pressure from adults to excel on the playing field. The game becomes more about the adults than it does about what is best for the kids. The good news is that it seems parents are taking note and kids are doing other sports or activities throughout the year. The problem is that it seems an important step was skipped. Now instead of doing just one sport, kids are “specializing” in multiple sports. In other words, we forgot to take anything away, and we just keep adding on to the problem.

The idea is correct. It is important for players to play and experience different sports and activities as they grow up. Outside of developing better athletes, it helps prevent overuse injuries and creates well-rounded individuals with a more diverse youth sports experience.

The move away from early specialization and its benefits relies on a child playing multiple sports or activities, but not necessarily multiple at the same time. This is the detail that was overlooked by some and now kids are not specializing in just one sport, but are specializing in many sports. In some cases, the situation has gone from one extreme to the other.

With this comes a new kind of burnout and over-scheduled kids who are training 4 plus hours a night in multiple sports. They run from basketball practice to soccer practice, or lacrosse practice to baseball practice, or track to volleyball. Parents do their best to try to manage the schedules and avoid overlap as much as possible so the kid can avoid missing a game or practice for both sports.

The demands of one practice, workload, intensity, what is physically or mentally targeted, is not at all coordinated with the other practices and game schedules. One practice may be a walk through before a game or recover day after a game, and the other practice could be a physically intense session with a lot of fitness oriented activities. In this case, both coaches, are trying to do what is best for their players, but since it is two separate sports with two different schedules, one practice can be very counter productive to the other. In short, it is much harder, and almost impossible, to manage the player’s mental and physical well being due to their being no collaboration between the coaches and sports.

This is not the coach’s fault as most run their teams and seasons in relation to just that season and team. It would be a tall order for coaches to manage their teams and players based on everyone’s extra sports or activities. It falls on the responsibility of the parents and the players to manage their schedules to make sure there is a good balance between both sports and life outside of sports.

Some players who do this are not playing sports on two “competitive” teams, but instead, are playing with one competitive or travel team while the other team is more recreational. Obviously the demands of recreational sports and competitive sports is often very different, but when combined can still create a situation where a child is over-scheduled and not getting the proper rest throughout the week in relation to one sport or the others.

The other issue arises when the athlete is very good at both sports. Often, it can become inappropriate for a player to play at the recreational level of a sport because of their level of play. It can lead to a negative experience for the player, his teammates, and other teams in the league if a player has clearly outgrown this level of play. The player can be seen as a “ringer” and does not belong due to running up high scores or clearly dominating even the next strongest players.

If a player is good and loves to play multiple sports, and they overlap in seasons, then what do we expect the parent or player to do? Pick? This could be an impossible decision for both. Playing at the recreational level at any of the sports is not fun for the player or really that appropriate, and playing competitively at both sports is not appropriate for the physical and mental health of the athlete. It becomes a very tough decision, so it is understandable for the player to try to both even though it could be too much.

To help with this problem, sports need to offer competitive options that are not yearly or multiple season commitments. This would give players more options to play and train at a level that is appropriate for them, while not having to stack the same sports in the same season. Coaches and programs would need to allow flexibility for kids to play just for a single season or not train in the “off-season” without it being seen as a lack of commitment or dedication to their sport or a lack of drive to improve.

Instead, it would be supporting the multi-sport platform and the benefits that come with it that have been well documented. There will still be players who just participate in a single sport and train more than others, but that does not mean that those players will necessarily have an advantage over the kids who do not train year round. But, it also could mean that they do, but that is ok, because that is how it goes sometimes.

Every player is different and every situation is different, so players who want to, and do, play multiple sports, need to be handled according to what is best for that particular player. With that said, it has to be recognized that there are additional dangers with kids playing multiple sports that overlap in season. Just like a player who specializes and is just playing one sport without rest, a player with multiple sports and no rest could be in an even more developmentally inappropriate situation that can have more negative effects than just playing one sport. There can be additional wear and tear on the body. In reality, the training and time has just doubled… along with diversifying the experiences. The real goal would be to diversify in sports without drastically adding to the number of hours/time spent training and playing to create the most developmentally ideal and safe playing experience possible.

In short, there are issues with specialization, but there can be even more issues with playing multiple sports at the same time. It is all about balance which is what the original push against specialization was based on. Although you want to be careful not to paint everyone with the same brush. What is right for one person is not right for another. Although, most agree that a proper balance needs to be struck between sports and other aspects of life. Especially when the push to play one sport or multiple sports is coming from adults with goals of making higher level teams, scholarships, professional contracts etc, there are a lot of adverse effects to the child.

We do not want to acknowledge the dangers of specialization, but at the same time, have kids stretched thin between multiple sports and only point to the benefits. The benefits of being a multi-sport athlete can quickly diminished by the overwork and fatigue placed on the body. We want to be careful we do not move from one extreme side of spectrum of youth sports to the other.

Kids can play one sport, or play multiple sports, but parents and coaches need to be constantly monitoring the player’s physical and mental condition. The player must be enjoying the experience and growing within that experience. It should be self-driven, and not externally driven. The player has to want it, not just the coach and/or parents.

As a child who loved one sport, I understand what it is like to have a passion for something and pursue it relentlessly. It has sacrifices and struggles, but I never did it for any other reason except that I loved it. I do not think that is right for most kids. And, what about the child who is truly passionate about multiple sports or activities? Do we deny the opportunity to pursue both? I think that is a hard thing to do.

In the end, we do not want to push kids in specializing in one sport because we think it will help them achieve more, and we also do not want to push kids into playing multiple sports because new research shows it is better for them and many high level athletes played multiple sports. The common ground there is the word PUSH. It is the PUSH from adults and coaches that make either scenario inappropriate for the child.

Know your child. Know your players. Make decisions based on what is best for them and what they love to do and are passionate about. Do not make decisions or push one way or the other out of fear your child or team will be left behind or will lose opportunities to be successful.

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, 15 Feb 2017
tags: Soccer, youth soccer, coaching, sport

Developing Soccer IQ

By Brendan Vazquez, SuperKick Director

The need for more intelligent soccer players is becoming more apparent each and every day. The question is not would a better game intelligence be a benefit to all players but how do we develop this trait in our players?

A simple answer is we have to develop a situational awareness. There are three things we need to be keenly aware of when playing the game.

  1. Where is the ball?
  2. Where are our teammates?
  3. Where is the opposition?

If a player can answer these three questions, they will be able to make quicker and better decisions of where to take their first touch, where to dribble and the space to move into. All to often there is only one question that player can answer in game situations: where is the ball? Many times, as a coach, I can only answer this question as well. We become so fixated on the round thing, that we forget that there is a game being played. I had an opportunity to have a small group discussion with Former USMNT manager Jürgen Klinsmann. One of the things he mentioned to the group, when asked about player development, was the need to have better players between the ears. The need for more intelligent players at the top level is apparent in that we have not produced a true creative midfielder since the likes of Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna.

If you have a few minutes check out this video of Sergio Busquets, the player that I believe is the catalyst to the Barcelona side that has dominated soccer over the past 8 years. You can also let me know what you think of the music!

Busquets Play Video

Pay close attention to his head, when he is on the ball, first touch goes into space that has been left unoccupied by the opposition. His head goes up to scan the field and he normally doesn’t look back down to the ball until it is time to release it. He does an excellent job of playing the ball forward because he is always aware of the answers to the three questions poised earlier. Not only is he an excellent attacker and possession retainer, he also uses these three questions to start his defensive action. He is able to deny space to the ball carrier, intercept passes, and tackle the ball because he is acutely aware of where the opposition wants to move the ball.

How do we develop these traits in training? At SuperKick we strive to increase the technical abilities of all players. Increasing the comfort of all players with the ball at their feet is key to being able to play with their heads up. However, with that, the need for the execution of technique becomes apparent when we play in small sided games. The game becomes sloppy as players do what they have been told, move the ball forward, even when that is not the best option. A simple game that I like to use is the three team keep away. We see players taking their first touch into defenders or away from passing options. The reason I enjoy the three team keep away game is it requires players to be able to pick up their head, recognize which team is the “Defensive” team and find a pass that allows them to keep possession. When this is not happening, a corrective action would be to stop the play, have the players close their eyes, and be able to identify where a specific player is. If they are not able to achieve this, we ask them to see more of the field.

A way to do this at home: ask players to perform skills and pick up their heads. An example would be to do a fundamental movement, and see how many touches they can take with their eyes forward before they either take another look down or loose possession of the ball. You can do this in a set amount of time and record the number of touches verses the number of times they look up. While this would be geared towards allowing players to pick up their heads as they dribble or have the ball at their feet.

The best way to develop this skill is in game situations. Restrictions on game situations to increase the awareness of players would be touch restrictions. Playing a game knowing you only have 1,2 or 3 touches, the need to have an idea of what to do with each touch becomes even more apparent. The game format really does not matter, as long as you have more than 2 passing options. However, this restriction alone does not equate to soccer intelligence. When in the game the need to take space with a dribble, just take a negative touch, to turn and beat a defender or the area of the goal to finish into would all constitute soccer intelligence. If you look at the game, you never see a team play in an exclusive number of touches or restrictions. You see players that are situationally aware and execute the action needed to make the situation successful. Sometimes it is playing in one touch out of pressure. Sometimes it’s to take on the player to draw a second defender to create a passing lane or finding a killer pass after the space has been occupied.

Coaches need to encourage players to look off the ball by doing the same and seeing their heads. Are they scanning the field or just looking at and surrounding the ball? When you go to a local professional or higher level players, you will see this in the best players. They rarely loose possession of the ball in any game situation. It could be a central back, central midfielder or striker. Having this ability to look away from the ball to see the situation is what makes them so good!

I will leave you with a video of Christian Pulisic, watch how he makes the killer pass after picking up his head and finding the space. There is a reason why he is playing at Borussia Dortmund at 18 years of age. He sees the field! He makes a choice based on what he sees. Hopefully we can continue to develop players that have the soccer intelligence and situational awareness of Christian Pulisic. When we do, we will have a chance of winning the World Cup.

Pulisic Video Play Video

Enjoy and keep your eyes off the ball!

Brendan Vazquez
Brendan Vazquez

Programming Operations Manager Brendan was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. He is a 2016 graduate of Otterbein University with a BA in Sport Management. Brendan holds his USSF ‘D’ License, NSCAA High School Diploma, and NSCAA GK 2 certificate. Brendan is a currently a member of the Olentangy Liberty Men’s Soccer Staff, responsible of the JVA team in the 2016 season. He is also a member of the Ohio South ODP District and State Staff. In the past Brendan, has been a volunteer assistant at Otterbein University, Head Coach of the Olentangy High School JVB team. Brendan has been a staff coach with Classic Eagles for the past three years working with the 2000/1999 Boys age group, the 2005/2006 Boys and Girls age groups. He is currently working with the 2001/2002 Girls and the 2004 Boys. Brendan works with many different ages and groups at SuperKick and that has lead him to appreciate the entire player development cycle, and refocuses him on the developmental points in each age group. Brendan works with SuperKids, the Technical Development Program, and the Skill and Speed Program throughout the year.

Posted by Administrator on Tue, 31 Jan 2017
tags:

One Question

by Tony Earp, Executive Director

Can you play? It is simple question and the most important one. All the evaluations and feedback, opinions about what makes up a great player, and debate about the most important skills a player can possess, all come back to that simple question. The only thing that matters when determining a player’s ability level is if or if not that player can meet the demands of the game. When players are training, focusing on improving different skill areas of the game is very important, but will it translate into the players being effective and better in the game?

As many coaches have seen, there are players who are technically sound, physically capable, understand the game, and work hard, but struggle to be effective in games. They have the tools, but cannot seem to use them when needed. All the pieces of the puzzle are there, but they cannot put them together to meet the demands and challenges of the game.

These players have worked hard fine tuning their technical ability on the ball. With both feet, they are sound in receiving, passing and dribbling with speed and control. Tactically, they understand their role in their position, the principles of attacking and defending, and the coach’s expectations on how the team should play. The player is physically capable of playing the game, and the player is competitive and wants to win. Again, all the critical skill areas to play the game are possessed by the player, but for some reason, the player is unable to use them in the game effectively.

Something was missing in the player’s training. Something very critical. Although the player has learned all of these skills and has these tools, he has never learned:

  1. HOW/WHEN/WHY TO USE THEM.
  2. HOW/WHEN/WHY THEY ARE CONNECTED

Often this occurs when learning of these skills are done in a vacuum, isolated of one another, and not within the context of the game.

Think of it this way… like many people, I enjoy watching the many YouTube videos of people doing crazy tricks and skills with the soccer ball. From juggling, skill moves with the ball and finishing, there are some amazing things people can do. Many may watch these videos and just assume these people must be great players based on what they can do with the ball, but that assumption may be very wrong.

The only thing I know watching that type of video is that the player is exceptional at that one skill. I have no idea if the player is actually an effective player in the game. I know he can juggle, do a wicked (insert Boston accent) skill move, or hit a crazy bending shot, but I have no idea if that player is any good at playing the game.

I am not being critical of those players or those videos. I actually think they are tremendous tool for young players to watch and get ideas to train on their own, spark their own creativity, and expand their understanding on what is possible to do with the ball.

The point is that a player’s goal is NEVER to just get good at a single skill movement or an activity in training. It is not to be a better juggler or be able to do a skill move with the ball. A player’s goal should ALWAYS be to improve their ability to play the game. So when training, or practicing any skill, it always needs to be done in the context of how it will be used in the game.

When training, without the context of the game, or a clear understanding of the application of the skill being worked on, it is possible to develop players who are excellent at training but struggle to play the game. Just like in the classroom, information and skills learned are most effective and useful when applied to their required use when it really matters (in real life).

In contrast, there are players that in training seem to struggle, but when the game starts, they are able to play at a higher level than expected. They may not be as technical on the ball or physically good as we think they should be, but when they step into a game, the player can find ways to be successful and very effective in helping his team. On an evaluation, a coach may have a slew of areas the player needs to improve on, maybe a lot more than other players, but at the same time, the player seems to be more successful than a player who would rate better on a written evaluation.

This type of player shows a clear understanding of several important things:

  1. His own strengths and weaknesses. He understands how to play towards his strengths and hide his weaknesses.

  2. The game. Really understanding nuances of the game, the critical points, that allow the player to make exceptional decisions and anticipate the game.

  3. Competitive spirit. Let’s face it. Some players are better because they just want it more.

The larger point is that all players are deficient in some skill areas comparatively to other players, but that may have little impact on their level of play. Despite not being as strong in some areas as other players, their “total game”, or their ability to be effective in games, is much higher than players who have considerable better technical or physical abilities.

Again, the real “evaluation” or the only “test” that really matters in determining a player’s level is how they do when the whistle blows. I have always been one who believes in player evaluations and feedback, but when we cut through all of the fog of player development and determining a player’s level of play, the only true evaluation is the game. The game is the only real measure of a player’s level of play.

The game is not biased, it is not political, it has no self-interests, and does not care about getting phone calls or emails from parents. The game will always be the most honest person with any player about what they are and are not able to do. Simply, either you can play or you cannot play.

When training, keep this in mind. Your goal, whether on your own, with your coach, or with some friends, is to get better at playing the game. Find ways to train yourself to be more effective in a game, when it counts.

Skills are necessary, juggling is important to improve your touch, YouTube is fun, but the game cares very little about how many “views” your last video post received, how many times you can juggle, or how crazy your skill moves look. It will only ask you one simple questions once the whistle blows… Can you play?

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 Fri, 20 Jan 2017
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