Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Will adult soccer help drive the game at the Grassroots level?

father son soccerTonight I was an Assistant Referee for two women's game in St Catharines.  During the one game I asked a player on the bench how many teams were in their league.  She told me three tiered divisions of 9 teams each.  This is a Niagara based league.

I told her when I started playing men's soccer in 1984, Welland had one team in each the Niagara Soccer League Premier and First Division.  We now have 2 city-based men's leagues of 10 teams each, a Co-ed 9v9 program of 22 teams as well as teams in the NSL Premier, First and Second Division.  This growth has happened in every city in Niagara.  There wasn't a women's team in Welland for a long time.

So what does this have to do with Grassroots football?

You walk into any garage in Canada in you will find ice skates that fit everybody in the house, hockey sticks of all sizes and the occasional puck.  Many families have a hockey net as well, standard issue red posts with white mesh.

When I was a kid (born 1966) most of our parents did not play organized soccer, although may of our families came from soccer countries.  But, for argument's sake, we were the only players in the house.  All of my

Do field conditions matter when developing soccer players? Artificial turf, the necessary evil.

Before I get started, don't start talking about kids on the streets of Africa and South America.  Our kids not playing street soccer is another issue.  

Once our players get to the point where it's time to move them forward, how important is a surface where the ball rolls true?

We take our kids to Streetsville Memorial Park in Mississauga, Central Park in Burlington or Mohawk Park in Hamilton, and we expect a quality game?  Never mind the game, what about training there? Ontario's bad field list is VERY long but it's also a victim of the significant growth in soccer.

(We were at Mohawk park last night, that's what drove me to write this.  It is my least favourite place to take my team.  The grass fields are poor and they have the same white lines for football on them making them very confusing)

Poor fields and limited climate narrow the scope of our collective programs because of limitations on when you can train and where.

I know soccer people prefer grass over artificial turf, I know I do, that's for sure.  But in a place like

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The genius of LTPD ... easier and better coaching.

I have a fear.  My fear is that new coaches are nervous, but do not take advantage of the incredible information that's out there to help them calm down and deliver a quality program.

LTPD has proven to be a very rare philosophy that is simultaneously easier to understand and provides better results. In this age of technology, we equate better with more complicated.  Not always true.

I can tell you, with modesty firmly in place, that I am confident that I can design and deliver a session for any team at any level, male or female.  In fact, a lot of my friend are.  But I find LTPD to be a very useful and valuable tool in my planning and delivery.

My main justification for using LTPD?  I have a lot of experience and formal coaching training.   But LTPD was developed by people far more experienced and educated than me.  I would be a fool to not embrace it and appreciate and evaluate it's ability to improve soccer in Canada.  Over time I may develop some opinions of it's effectiveness and contribute to its development, but for now I'm enjoying it.
I've written session plans for some coaches and they literally ask "that's it?"
My inspiration for this stems from the many conversations I have had with coaches who say they are not sure what to do at training, yet ignore the mountain of very focused information that has been printed, mailed, emailed, verbally conveyed and visually demonstrated to/for them.  They want to do it "their way".  That would be OK if they had a "way".  One thing I learned as I progressed through the coaching ranks ... there is no glory in re-inventing the wheel.  My reward comes in my delivery, rapport with players and ability to observe and correct (or cheer). 

What you get from LTPD.

Better knowledge of characteristics of the player.

With the help of LTPD info and info from courses, you have deeper insight into the player you are working with.  Characteristics include physical, tactical, technical, mental, social, and psychological .

Considerations for training session

If we know who we are working with, then we know what would be better and more appealing to them in terms of session content.  LTPD information offers coaches more suggestions for session considerations.

Age appropriate activities

I've seen coaches trying to run U16 level sequences with U8 players, and vice-versa.  Age appropriate doesn't mean dumbing-down a session.  It means establishing a challenge level
that still gives a player a mountain to conquer, but able to see successes along to way to build confidence.

Knowing the LTPD information offered about the development stage you are coaching puts you in the right frame of mind to deliver the session effectively to the athlete you are working with.

Session/season organization.

LTPD information gives coaches guidelines/suggestions for how much time to spend various areas of focus.

You also have guidelines on the type of schedule you should keep  and length of the program.

And now, as the icing on the LTPD cake, Ontario Soccer has just released the Provincial Grassroots Curriculum , a quality document that comes to the aid of the entire soccer community.

Other coaches' experiences

LTPD was developed by very experienced and educated coaches and educators.  Why not put their own growing pains to work for you?
"In this age of technology, we equate better with more complicated.  Not always true."
As an experienced coach:

LTPD reminds you to consider developing a more player-centred session plan and tailor your delivery to maximize the time you spend with your players.  Even if you are an academy coach or club technical director, you need to remember to reset your expectations and delivery from session to session if you work with different groups. The framework has also made it easier to train other coaches by keeping sessions simple and focused.

As a beginner coach:

You're nervous and have the same question as many other new coaches "What do I do during practice?".  OK.  Let's talk ..... you're coaching U8 girls .... you played soccer yourself up till U18 ... you are one girl's father and somebody else's mother is helping you ... she has no soccer experience but is very active ... you and your assistant refer to your LTPD information for "Learn to Train" development stage.  Hmmm .... you now have an idea of what they are capable of, physically, mentally, socially, psychologically, etc ... you know a L2T session suggests 15% warm-up, 50% small sided games, 30% soccer technique and 5% cool down.


Your assistant leads them through a dynamic warm-up and you transition that into a few warm-up exercises with the ball. 

You get them into a small sided game, after letting them play, you add a condition where they must pass the ball 3x before scoring.

You stop the game and have them play 4v1, 4v2, 5v2, etc keepaway within a grid.  You give them ideas that you are comfortable giving, but let them solve the problem before them.  You and your partner have a group each and you switch so you can both see them all.

You get them back into a game and see if they are able to keep possession a bit better.  Yes?  Great.  No?  Maybe reintroduce your game condition of 3 passes or back into the keep-away for a bit and mix up the groups, then back to the game.

After wrapping that up, your partner leads them through a cool down.

You go home.

"LTPD was developed by people far more experienced and educated than me."

The LTPD info (available at NO CHARGE) laid out the warm-up, game, technique and cool down scenario.  You used the curriculum and Internet to find some ideas for each section.

Your practice is done. Your girls played a lot of soccer, had some problems to solve on the field and maybe even squirted you with their water bottle.  You, my friend, just delivered a very decent session.  More experience will help you offer more information and be more comfortable in your delivery.

Using LTPD's information relieved you of some of the stress surrounding the content of your session.

If I brought my young son to a session and you delivered the content I just presented, I would be happy.  And they got to play so, more importantly, my son was able to play some soccer.

This is the genius of LTPD that some people are not open to seeing.  Your sessions are easier to deliver, yet content of the session will contribute more to your players' development.

I've written session plans for some coaches and they literally ask "that's it?".  Yes.  That's it.  I think they're disappointed because they're expecting a 1000 cones and 40 drills.

Simply put, coaching in accordance with LTPD works.

If you have more questions, consult your club's technical director or any friends that you have who are more experienced coaches.