Soccer Articles

The Wrong Message

This article is in response to a disheartening conversation I had with a local youth soccer coach. He is part of a club who is trying to do the right things for the youngest age groups by providing a playing and training experiences that are age and developmentally appropriate. They are trying to create an environment where players can flourish while learning to play this game. They are providing a platform for games and training that goes against traditional leagues and archaic approaches used by many. For as much progress as I feel we are making in our community and across the country, I am continuously baffled by adults who not only want to put kids in an environment that is inappropriate for their age and level of play, but consistently send kids the wrong message that I feel is detrimental to their development on and off the soccer field.

In short, the coach has arranged inter-squad games for all the teams in the club’s age group. The kids are intermixed among teams and play games against one another. The coaches referee the games, and use the opportunity to stop the games at teachable moments to help the kids learn. This type of game environment is fantastic for the young age groups as it allows them to compete against and with different players, and expand their understanding of how to play the game. The coaches can influence the games to make sure the environment is developmentally appropriate and challenging for the players.

Upon hearing that these were inter-squad friendlies, the coach received many emails and calls from parents letting him know that their child would not be there. The most common reason given to the coach was, “It is not a real game, so I do not think it is important.”

If you need a visual image of my reaction to hearing that, just picture me banging my head repeatedly against a wall.

Where to start….

First, this sends the absolute wrong message to the player. At some point, the player will wonder why he is not going to the event. If the parents are being honest, they will tell the player, “Well because it is not a game, so it is not important for you to go. We are going to do something else.”

When there are conflicts in schedules and kids have to miss a soccer practice or game, that is completely understandable, but to just choose not to go because it is decided it is not important is a completely different situation.

What message does this send to the player? The only thing that really matters is games. Anything that is not a “real game” or does not count is not important. Is that the message we want to send to kids? If this is the message, it will be difficult to get the players to put forth effort in practice or encourage the them to play and practice on their own. Why would they? It is not important. Why would they waste their time? They will just put effort in and show up when it matters. Only for the games. As that is what has been taught.

Isn't this approach a little backwards? I do not think a parent would tell a child that everything done in the classroom is not important until it is time to take the test. No matter how much effort the child shows or how much he wants to do well on the test, the fact that little effort and importance was given to the preparation for the test, the child will be set up to fail. But that is obvious right? It would be irrational and silly to think the child would do well on the test without proper preparation and learning leading up to it. If the child “skipped” all the unimportant lessons before the test, the test will quickly and harshly show the importance of those lessons.

In my mind, everything that a player does outside of a “real game” is the most important part of their development. It is the preparation and training, the opportunities to improve, that are really the most critical moments for players, and that is what each player needs to understand. And parents need to support that message. Without that message being supported, when kids do compete, they will be unprepared. There will be a lack of ability to play the game, and a lack the ability to compete.

Secondly, kids cannot just show up and want to compete when they think it matters. Competitors do not just compete on game day. We want kids to compete and give their best effort at all times. A message that has a resounding positive impact on all aspects of their lives. You do not just “show up” some of the time. You show up and work hard all the time.

Whether they are playing on their own, at practice, or in a championship game, their effort and focus, should not fluctuate. Competitiveness and drive to do well and have success should be the same no matter what the circumstances. Frankly, it is a mindset that cannot be turned on by just flicking a switch when convenient. The toughest competitors I have ever played with or against played just as hard or harder in training or on their own as they did in the game. Why? They knew it was critical for them to get better, and they needed to develop their ability to compete at all times. When you start picking and choosing when you will do your best, you run the risk of picking and choosing the wrong times. But there is never a wrong time to give your best effort.

As my coach said to me, “When you play, anywhere or at anytime, you never know who is watching, but most importantly, you should always play and compete in a way that makes you proud.”

You cannot expect kids to approach the game, or other things more important than soccer, this way when we start telling them it only matters when a score is recorded, credit is given, or there is some type of reward. In reality, it is every moment leading up to that moment that is much more important, and that is what we hope each child will recognize so they do have success when it counts.

That is the message we want to send kids...that their best effort is always required. It is what life demands of all of us. Do not pick and choose when you can give 25% or 75% effort. If you are going to do it, the effort is always your best. That is a sign of a true competitor, on and off the field, and someone who takes pride in everything thing they do.

I feel most parents want their child to improve and learn how to play the game. If so, why would we label training and playing opportunities designed to help kids improve as “not important” because it is not a real game? If that is the case, why show up to any practice, ask kids to play or practice on their own, or participate in anything with a soccer ball unless it is a game. Unless there is an opposing team, a referee, and the score is going to be recorded for league standings, it is not important or worth your time going is the message being sent.

Obviously this idea, goes way beyond the soccer field. The wrong message is letting kids believe that some aspects of learning or developing any skill are more important than others. When in reality, there are no short cuts, and everything is important. I think this is a key trait of very successful people. They pay attention and give effort at the same level to the small details as they do to the major ones, and in their mind, they probably do not see a difference between the two. If it is a step, even a small one, to help them reach their goal, it is critical and it is approached that way. This is probably why successful people are also labeled as “zealots” in a lot of ways because of their attention and effort to details that most people see as irrelevant or not important. Although it may seem strange to most, true competitors know different and it shows in their results.

Again, this is not a rant about kids missing practice. This is about prioritizing what a player attends because some things are seen as more important than others. Kids will miss practice because families are busy and there are conflicts with other activities. This is not only acceptable, but it should be expected. What was heart breaking about this is that the coach was trying to create a playing opportunity for the kids that will help them get better, and parents made a choice for their kids not to attend because they decided it was not important. Since it was not a real game, it was not important enough to show up. If we want kids to be successful when they compete, then everything leading up to that is important. And that is the right message to send, and one that will help the kids have success in anything they choose to 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 Thu, 28 May 2015
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Team or Club

Does your child identify with being part of a team or a club? Both? In youth soccer, players are normally assigned to teams and they stick with those teams throughout the entire year. Although part of a larger club, the players primarily only interact with the players on their team and their coach. Often, these teams operate independently of other teams within the same age group or the next age group up or down, and rarely have interaction with players outside of their developmental age band or the coaches who work with those groups. Although all players are part of the same club, a player’s experience can be isolated to just a single team or coach.

Unlike clubs in other parts of the world, where players are developed as part of an entire club vision and culture, in the United States, it is more common to find players being developed within the confines of a team or single group of players isolated from others. Does a U10 player in Barcelona’s program see himself as a player on the U10 team or on “Coach Smith’s Team?” Probably not. I am confident the culture and program encourages the player to see himself as part of the club, and as part of an entire program. The player will feel a connection, not just to the players of his age group, but all the players up to the senior team.

If your child is part of a “club”, than the player would identify with not just the players on his team, but would find a sense of family and community among the entire organization. The players get to interact on a consistent basis with other players throughout the club structure. All coaches and players would see each other as responsible for the success of the entire group, not just a single team. They understand they are part of something bigger, a bigger community, which can do more influential things through a larger pool of resources and support, and create more opportunities to help each player develop over the years.

Maybe your child is part of one of the few soccer clubs trying to create this type of environment?

Everything else in youth sports is "team" based so it is hard to get others to see the idea of "team" in a broader perspective. A child's team can be much bigger than just 10 kids. It can be a group of 30 or more of his peers, both boys and girls, and players of different ages and abilities. All can be part of making the season and experience within the club, not only exciting and fun, but developmentally the best learning environment possible for each player.

It is not just beneficial to be able to move kids around into different environments for a variety of developmental opportunities for soccer, but it is required in order to develop a very well rounded and knowledgeable player. That is the purpose and benefit of a club versus a single team. A club can provide more opportunities than a single team can, and to create an organized effort to help the player develop and grow over the years should be the goal of every soccer club. The measure of a great club is not in the number of teams it has. A great club can be measured by the number of experiences and opportunities provided to each player. The only way for a club to provide that is to work as a “club” and not as a number of teams all operating independently from each other.

The ability to move players around and not isolate them to a team has its benefits. I relate it reading groups in the classroom, and the school environment in general when talking to parents about this idea of a “club” versus “team” environment. At the beginning of a school year children are put in a reading group appropriate to their level, but the child is not kept in a particular group the entire year since a child's abilities tend to change. The hope would be the teacher would move kids into different groups, or even different programs, throughout the year, that were appropriate based on a child's growth and development. The teacher would not wait until next school year to move them.

By consistently making sure a child is in the correct group (environment), appropriately challenged and motivated, it is more likely they will not only learn to read, but will show more growth over the year and enjoy it more. Would that not be true when it comes to a child’s soccer development as well?

Also, when it comes to school, we tend to identify with being part of an entire school community versus just being in “Mr. Smith's classroom.” In school, parents and the community see a kid as part of the entire system and hope for outstanding educational experiences within the classroom, but also within the entire school and community, that will support and be part of their child’s growth. Even though a student may spend the majority of his time each year with a particular teacher or group of teachers, there are a lot of experiences outside of the classroom offered as part of their overall educational development.

With that in mind, taking the soccer model from a “team” based to a “club” based model would have the same benefits for kids’ soccer development. Instead of only being with a single coach and a single group of players, can the players have the opportunity to develop with different kids and coaches, in a variety of training and game formats, that are not only fun, but provide a much deeper and more comprehensive approach to their overall soccer development.

Moving outside the soccer specific benefits of a club model over a team model, the social benefits of having a bigger "family" to be a part of are also important to the players. Operating as a club provides more opportunities for the kids to interact and develop relationships with different types of players/kids and to make more friends. When players are isolated on teams, they get stuck in social groups where they have “a role” and normally have certain expectations to live up to. When that social group continues to change, the kids have to continue to redefine their roles based on their environment and the other kids they are playing with. This helps players become not only more confident in a variety of social situations, but gives them diverse opportunities to play different roles within these social groups. In one group, they may be a leader who takes charge, while in another social circle, they may be more supportive in nature while others take charge. It teaches the kids how to be successful in different collaborative environments and how to deal appropriately with diverse personalities.

Being part of a club means a full comprehensive plan from start to finish. The curriculum and development focus is consistent between age groups. The experiences go beyond being part of a single team, but being part of a larger community that all have a vested interest in how one another are doing. With that interest, comes an approach that allows players to be influenced and mentored by many, not just a few. With the diversity in training, experiences, coaches, teammates, friends, and within the community comes an invaluable developmental model that helps to cultivate higher level people who can perform well on any soccer field and in any environment.

Being part of a team is a great experience. Being part of a club can be life changing experience that lasts beyond a child’s playing years.

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, 21 May 2015
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Club Fees and Real Cost

Each year when parents are evaluating where their child will play soccer next season, one variable that is always measured is the cost and value of the program. Each club before tryouts lists a “club fee” for each age group. The fee is often different between age groups based on the number of players on each team, league fees, tournament fees, and the coach’s fees. As parents review these fees when comparing different clubs, it is important to remember that they are looking at are just the “club fee” and not the real cost of playing club soccer (in terms of dollars and cents). It is important parents research further to really get an understanding of what is included in that fee and what is not. Only then, will a parent know the true “value” of what is being paid for upfront, and what additional costs are looming in the future.

Travel

For your child’s age group, you should find out where most of their league games and tournaments will be played. As teams get older, even league games require hours of travel and nights in hotels, which can quickly add up the costs for the season. In addition, depending on the level of competition of the team, tournaments can require plane tickets. But even younger teams are traveling more and doing more tournaments. Depending on the number of tournaments or out-of-town games, the cost of the season can significantly increase for each family.

Although these costs are common, knowing before the season begins will help you plan accordingly, or decide if the cost of being with that team is more than you are comfortable spending. From a family and financial standpoint, you may not want to commit all that time traveling or the extra money on hotels, gas, and food, or you understand that is part of the experience and you budget accordingly.

Uniforms

They have to be purchased so this is an unavoidable extra cost for each family. All clubs have different policies on the number of uniforms, shorts, socks that need to be purchased, and if additional items like bags, warm ups, training shirts, and soccer balls are additional costs as well. Some of these items may be included in your fees, while other items are required to be purchased or just optional. Again, having an idea of what the uniform will cost will help you plan ahead. Often, this is the first payments that needs to be made after making a commitment to join the team.

Winter or Supplemental Training

If you live in an area that requires indoor training through the winter, there could be an additional fee for renting space for practice in the winter months when teams cannot train outside. Although some clubs may include this already in their fees, other clubs may not and will charge each player additionally for these sessions. Depending on where you live, if your club has its own facility or not, this extra cost can be harder to plan for, as it usually fluctuates based on the rental rates of a facility and increasing indoor soccer league fees.

There may be also supplemental training during this time of year or throughout the year that is an additional cost. This could be skill training or more specialized training for players in particular positions (Goalkeeper). These programs may be mandatory or optional based on how they are implemented by the club. Again, this is a harder cost to plan for unless it is discussed before the start of the soccer season.

Either way, this is something important to ask about when researching a club. These are some of those “hidden” or “unknown” fees that most parents are not aware of until the time comes to pay them, or these are additional programs already included in your fees for your child that provide more value for your dollar and a better experience.

Additional Coach Fees - Tournament Fees

It is policy with some clubs that parents cover the cost for the travel expenses of the coach for tournaments. This would include the cost of the coach’s meals, hotel, and gas. Although usually a smaller expense, depending on number of tournaments and distance of each, it is another cost per family.

Tournaments may be included in your club’s fees paid throughout the year. This usually includes a certain number of tournaments. But if your child’s team does an extra tournament, or tournaments are not included in your fees, this will be another expense that is divided up among the families of each team. Again, when divided up, it is not a large sum of money, but these smaller expenses can start to add up.

Child’s Equipment

Although a necessary expense, the cost of cleats and other equipment is starting to become a little out of hand. If you have a young child who is growing out of shoes each month, the cost of cleats throughout the year will be a little painful. That on top of the fact some of the more expensive shoes tend to not last very long anyway, you will be spending some money on cleats throughout the year. To save money here, do not over pay for young player's soccer cleats. The more expensive cleats serve little benefit to the players in terms of helping them play. This is an area you can save money by not over paying.

Again, if your child plays in an area that requires indoor soccer through the winter months, than there are indoor soccer shoes (flats) to purchase as well. Although many indoor facilities have instilled turf that players can use regular cleats on, so you may not need those types of shoes.

Then of course, over the year, your child will most likely lose a soccer ball, shin guards, warm up pants, training shirt, jersey, and probably one of those items a second or third time. When the items are lost, they need to be replaced. No matter how responsible your child may be, I would plan on buying more than one of some, or all, of their soccer equipment items.

The Real Cost & Value

As you can see, and probably already know, if you really look at the real cost of playing club soccer, it is much higher than the club fees that are listed at the beginning of the season. There are many extra costs, some avoidable, others not, that parents will need to pay over the course of the season. The key is finding out what those extra costs are before committing to the team, so you can make the best decision possible about if A) this is what you are comfortable paying for your child’s youth soccer experience and B) that you feel there is good value in the money you will spend.

Again, look at what is included in that initial fee. Some clubs will include indoor training and supplemental training within their fees giving more value to what you are already paying. Others will charge extra. Some clubs will include tournaments, others do not include it and charge it later. When comparison shopping, just like any other consumer, you could ask what you are getting for your money and ask for specifics. For example, how many practices each week will your child get with his coach? This will help you determine if you are getting the value that you want for the price you are being asked to pay.

In the end, more than anything, you want your child to have a great experience playing the game he loves. But, part of making sure that happens, is knowing what type of experience that is and how much it is going to cost. Find the soccer club that offers the experience that your child wants at a cost that makes sense and gives you the most value for your money.

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, 15 May 2015
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High School Off-Season: Do's and Don'ts (Part One)

Written by Matt Weiss

This two part article focuses on high school players and off-season training. The first article covers the physical aspects. The second article will cover the mental and emotional elements.

As summer approaches, many high school soccer families have one thing in mind, making varsity! I played high school soccer at Worthington Kilbourne and was the head coach for the boy's program at Olentangy Braves High School, so I would like to think my playing/coaching experience has taught me a few tips to pass along to you. Below are various things to consider going into try-outs.

IMPORTANT: Always ask yourself "What can I control?". Focusing on you, and only you, is the best start. If you spend time worrying about other players or what the coach thought about you last year, you are wasting your time!

Fitness (without a ball)

It is important to find out what requirements the coach has set for try-outs. Fitness testing is a popular choice among coaches. Starting training for your fitness test a week before try-outs won't be helpful, so it is vital that you set a plan for the entire summer so the dreaded 2 mile run seems like a "jog in the park". I highly recommend going into the summer with one of your main goals to be in the best shape of your life, and that is not an exaggeration. Personally, I am not a fan of the 2 mile run as testing. I agree that it will show you who has worked over the summer, but in terms of "soccer fitness" you will never find yourself running at the same pace for 12 straight minutes. Instead, it is important to work on all types of running (short, medium, and long distance). Depending on what position you play will also have an impact on your training. Midfielders cover the most distance, with the most common run as a "jog", while strikers will run less distance, but have a higher number of "sprints" compared to the other teammates. Defenders are usually somewhere between midfielders and strikers in these categories, but also have a higher number in short distances and at higher speeds.

I always tell my players soccer is fun, until you get tired. If you can stay sharp, you can be at your best the entire game. In the World Cup last summer, almost 2/3 of the goals (106 out of 171 scored were in the 2nd half or extra time of the game, and 49 of those were from the 76th or later. Fitness will help you win games, and individual fitness will help you stand out from the other players!

IMPORTANT: Whether you run alone or with others, focus on yourself. I always told my fastest players "Don't just finish first, finish first as quickly as you can."

Fitness (with a ball)

Fitness WITH a ball? Yes, it exists, and it is overlooked. Soccer is a difficult sport because you have to use your legs for running AND to play soccer. Designing your summer work-outs to involve ball work, and at higher intensities will get you prepared to deal with the physical demand of soccer. The first thing that drops when you become fatigued are your technical skills. When I played, I would bring a ball with me to the track, would juggle X amount of times, do my track workout, and then immediately juggle X times again. If you don't train at a high speed, you get a workout, but you won't improve anything. Anson Dorrance (UNC Women's Head Coach) once said this after he saw Mia Hamm (one of the best UNC and USWNT players ever) training by herself: "The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching."

IMPORTANT: If you aren't making mistakes or having bad touches during this training, you aren't going fast enough. Push your limits outside of your comfort zone. When you do this consistently, your comfort zone is now at a better speed, and then you do it all over again.

Strength

Soccer is a very physically demanding sport. Soccer players perform around 1,000 distinct actions per match. These actions change every 4 to 6 seconds. Changing from a walk, to a sprint, to a jog, to a slide tackle, all takes a lot of different muscle groups, so your strength training should be focusing on multiple areas and not just one area/muscle. Upper body strength will help you shield off opponents, win more physical challenges on your way to the ball or towards a header, and will help you generate speed by arm movement. Lower body will obviously help you with running at different speeds, changing direction, jumping, and the quickness of your feet. Ronaldo often uses ankle weights when doing dribbling exercises to train his legs through fatigue. Back/core work is essential to your workout plan as it helps prevent injuries (back injuries are very common in soccer), power, and coordination.

It is important to speak with someone who has a background in sports performance training, especially if your coach does not provide any summer work-out packets. That way you are aware how to properly do the exercise, know what it is helping you with, and know the right amount of time that should be dedicated with it. When in doubt, or if you lack equipment, always focus on body weight exercises. Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, and many other core activities are your best bet.

IMPORTANT: Everyone has different levels of strength, just like soccer skills. You have to start somewhere so do not bother comparing yourself to others. Focus on a starting point, the process, and the end result!

Evaluate and act

I mentioned this in a previous article, but you should always get feedback from your coaches, even if you have to ask them yourself, especially going into the off-season. When I coached at Olentangy, I would have 1-on-1 meetings with every player and we would discuss how they did and what they need to work on moving forward. I would already have my ideas written down, but would ask them to explain their thoughts first. Players MUST learn to be able to self-evaluate themselves. How else can you get better if you don't know where you are? Accomplishing this will get you and your coach on the same page, and have a clearer path of what needs to be done to help you achieve success.

Again, focusing on general areas as well as your position's needs, will help you get the most out of your training. If you are a central defender, finishing may not be the most important thing to improve compared to tackling and heading. BUT if you and your coach are open to you changing positions, you may be able to open up to different areas to improve. Sometimes changing positions will help your chances. I had a handful of players who may have played forward for their club team, but played defense for me, and because it was clear to both parties, and not a spur of the moment decision, the player was already for the change. David Beckham was born with natural skill, but before and after every session, he would still be at the training ground hitting numerous crosses and free kicks. If he played a different position, he would have had the same dedication, but would have adjusted what he worked on.

IMPORTANT: Be honest with yourself. If you don't know your weaknesses, your opponents eventually will.

Playing

Working on how fast you can do a move is great, but unless you work on it in a match-like environment, you won't be prepared. A lot of coaches will set-up "open fields" during the summer. I have found these to be a good opportunity for teammates to play throughout the summer but unfortunately, few players seem to actually take it seriously and aside from being active, little productivity comes out of them. You cannot control how others play at open fields but you can control yourself. Use these sessions to get a gauge on your fitness, touch on the ball, and overall feel of where you are currently at. Do not go into them passively. Fail, make mistakes, be creative, and see what it shows you. When I played at Otterbein, me and my 3 teammates would do 2v2 workouts in the gym. There was nowhere to hide, and you had no choice but to always be defending or attacking. There were unlimited opportunities in those sessions for us to be face to face with our current ability.

IMPORTANT: Don't hide in these sessions. Be yourself and push yourself. You will get out of it what you put into it.

Matt Weiss
Matt Weiss

Director of Soccer/Operations 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. This past season, they reached their 10th NCAA Final Four. 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, 13 May 2015
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Development Requires Competition

Often when talking about development and soccer players, it is assumed you are reducing the importance of trying to win or the will to compete for the players. Since development is the focus, than whether you win or lose is irrelevant, right? No matter what, after each game, everyone is given a gold star, ice cream cone, and patted on the back and told they are great. The kids should feel no different after a loss than they do after a win. Results do not matter, so who cares who won, right? In reality, nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, competition is at the heart of development and learning.

When I was a kid, part of the reason I trained so hard was because I hated to lose. I still to this day despise losing at anything. With that in mind, I also had a coach who made it crystal clear that in order to give myself the best chance to have success, I had to get better. It is not enough to show up at a game and want to win really really really badly. It is not enough to show up and just feel like you can work harder than everyone else on game day and expect to get positive results. From early on, my coaches, and parents, made me earn every ounce of success I had on the field by helping me understand it would be a direct result of what I was learning and how I was improving.

Part of any player’s development is learning how to compete, and what is required to have success on the field. The problem is that kids can be set up and put into situations by adults to have success without earning it, to be set up to win without having to compete. I call it “bumper bowling success.” By manipulating the kids’ actions or the challenges of their environment to make things easier or only asking them to do what they already can, success is handed to players. The success is not earned.

When players are set up to succeed, they are not really being asked to compete at all. Although a player can have success initially, eventually without the development and learning, the success will end. The player may have assumed he was getting better due to the wins or positive reinforcement from the coach or parents, but all of a sudden he will find himself in a situation where he has no chance of being successful. Without the fundamental skills to play the game, there is no way he can compete. Not only will he not know how to compete, the player will also lack the tools to even give himself a chance.

Is there a crueler thing to do to a child? Make them believe they are heading down the right path, when actually, they are going the wrong way.

It is really a simple concept. The players all need, and should, develop a desire to win when they play. But, you know what, if they want to win, then they need to learn how to play and earn it. They need to compete the right way and try to finish first. That is how life works. There is no logic in wanting to win and not wanting to learn the skills needed to play. This is true in school, business, sports, and every aspect of life. You should want to do well and want to have success. Not for the sake of the success, but for the fact that is the standard you hold yourself too. And that is what kids need to learn. If you do not want to learn how to play soccer, you do not want to learn how to control the ball, dribble, pass, receive, defend, move off the ball, and everything else needed to play, then you really do not want to compete at all. You really do not have a strong enough desire to win because you are not willing to do what is necessary to win, not once, not just now, but for as long as you play.

Winners, true competitors, win because they work harder than their competition to get better. They want to win, so they know they need to get better. They work hard, get better, and win they win more than those who do not. As they win, the competition gets tougher so they still strive to continue to improve.

When players do lose, there are plenty of lessons from the loss that need to be addressed and learned by the players and the coach. A "development-first" focus is not saying, “Hey, we lost. No big deal.” There is no room for learning or development in that statement. Developing players is using those times to look at the games and identify where the team and each player need to improve to get better. Again, development is key. The players are asked to reflect on what went well and what did not, and how can they replicate the things that worked and improve on the things that are currently out of their reach.

On the other side, a loss does not mean that the game was a waste, and that is where the line is drawn. Those who just want to win, and do not care about development, fail to find the important takeaways from those games. The only thing focused on is the fact that the player or team lost. If a team loses but the players are executing and utilizing skills learned throughout the week with the coach, then there is success there that needs to be recognized and acknowledged.

When any player or team tries new skills or tactical approaches on the field, it does not work perfectly the first time or the first full season attempting what is being learned. While trying to learn those skills, the players and team expose themselves to a higher possibility they will lose some games. Not until they have mastered those skills will the players have the best shot at winning playing that way and using the new skills.

This is where the lessons are found when a player loses. Those lessons are what they take back with them to training to work on to improve before next game. If the approach is “who cares that we lost,” then it does not give the kids goals to work towards at the next training session. On the flip side, if the kids are just scolded for losing and their attempt to use those skills are not recognized and praised, then what is their motivation to continue to get better at those skills or try them again?

In training and in games, competition is key for player development. The drive to win and have success on the field is connected to the drive to improve and get better at the game. A player cannot only focus on one or the other as it would not allow the player to develop. If a player just wants to win, but is not willing to train to improve, there will be no development and winning is not possible. If a player just wants to get better but does not want to win, then they have no reason to use what they are learning. If you cannot use what you are learning, why learn it? And frankly, if you do not want to win, there is no reason to play.

Competition is healthy when it is presented in the correct way to the players. We cannot ask kids to compete without giving them the tools to play the game, and we cannot ask them to develop the tools if we do not want them to compete. It is when winning is the only goal and the development is sacrificed in order to take short cuts to help players “cheat” themselves into a win and out of getting better that competition is grossly warped by adult influence.

The purest form of competition can be found in the streets and parks when kids play pick up on their own. With no adults or added external pressure, the kids will still compete because they want to win. Because they want to win, they will take risks, take charge, and assert themselves into the game. This is part of why “free play” is an important part of player development. Free play creates some of the most competitive environments kids will find themselves playing.

When someone mentions favoring a player development focus over a focus on winning, it does not mean that winning is not important. It usually means that the goal is to develop players which requires learning how to compete and win games, but there is no room for taking shortcuts to win a game if you want to create an environment to develop players. As with a developmental approach, it is understood there are no shortcuts to developing players but plenty of short cuts to win games.

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 May 2015
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