Friday, July 19, 2013

Special Education, grassroots coaching and the youth soccer player.

special education
Soccer is for everybody.

This post was inspired by my conversation with Joe Talarico before we both officiated the same game.  Joe works in the "Brain Injury" business and we got to talking about how people discover, much later in life, that they had treatable and addressable issues in their learning and living, with respect to what happens between your ears.

Before I start, please know this is not a lecture or preaching.  This is me sharing with you what I learned

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Delivering a U4 Active Start soccer session - anybody can do it.

This just might be my most important and influential soccer work at the moment.  Spreading the good word about Active Start makes people more comfortable with their entry into the soccer world and eases their initiation into the coaching world.

When the CSA developed the Active Start session guidelines, I thought it was brilliant.

The format is quite simple.  Every child has a parent as a partner.  There is one ball per child.  You lead them through exercises and movements for roughly 45 minutes.  Lots of high fives and cheering.  Lots of drink breaks, smiles, laughing etc and you go home happy.

Some coaches aren't buying the format.  Some say it's not soccer.  HEY.  It's U4, it was NEVER soccer.  EVER.

I watch some groups try and play 4v4.  10 kids per team.  One kid has the ball.  7 are watching.  9 are sitting on

U8 Boys Grassroots Soccer - Wizard Academy - Week 3

welland soccer club
This past Thursday (July 9) we had our third session of the Wizard Academy, our club's "development" program for our U7/U8 players.  There is NO SURCHARGE by the Welland Soccer Club for this program and it is one of the coolest initiatives our Tech Director, Rob Lalama, has ever come up with.  And Coach Rob is a cool guy.  He was a drummer in a band and it can't get cooler than that, can it?

The group (players and coaches) is nothing short of energizing, from the point of view of a facilitator.  Planning and arriving to set up is fun, chatting it up with the boys as they stumble in.  Soccer Training for U8 players is the beginning of where you can start to see kids become "players".

Comfort with the ball and the confidence to experiment is our biggest priority with these boys.   The second priority is working with the coaches to improve their delivery of sessions.

For me, coaching development should be an important bi-product of everything the club does. (unrelated side-note;  Teams that call me to run a session only to see the coach "chill" with the parents the whole time never see me again. It's not a night off for the coach.)

This week we had 27 boys and 5 coaches.  We had an extra helper in the form of a U12 girl, Coach Kennedy, who is also part of the district program.  We split the boys into three groups of 9 and she evened out the small-sided-game station by making it 5v5.

We started out by doing a "follow the leader" type of dribbling exercise, in groups of three, one ball per player.  We then followed with 10 minutes of working on turns.  Lots of touches.

For the next part of the session, we set up three stations.  The group rotated through the stations twice.

Station #1 involved various dribbling sequences using agility poles instead of markers or cones.   It was the same setup we used in week 2.  This was manned by Coach Mirko (aka The Croatian Sensation) and Coach Chris (no nickname ... yet)

Station #2 was a 1v1 station with a different twist from previous weeks.  We set up 2 goals on each side of the attacker.  Coaching points:
  • Attack either goal
  • See the ball, the defender and the space you want to attack
  • Use turns if a change of direction is required and accelerate.
  • Don't be afraid to turn again if required 
  • COMPETE!  Challenge to win the ball.  Drive the goal to score.

1v1 soccer drill

This station was delivered by Coach Marco and Coach Dave.  Their observation was that about 1/2 of the players were getting the idea and executing the second time around.  We will do this again.
"Comfort with the ball and the confidence to experiment is our biggest priority with these boys."
The small-sided-game Station was delivered by Coach Scott.  Minimum two-touch was the main condition again, but we were suggesting and looking for more turns, and we got them.  We also worked to get them to get their restarts going a bit quicker.  "Can I take it?" by 5 players is not necessary EVERY time the ball goes out.  We'll snap them out of that habit.  :)

  • The program is voluntary and meant to give the boys more tools to enjoy the game.  The next session will not have group activities to start.  It made some of the kids who arrived late feel a bit alienated while we reorganized on the fly.
  • Running players through an exercise a second/third/fourth time gives them a chance to succeed and refine. 
  • We need to keep the water in a central location.   Too many players running to mom and dad and taking too long to regroup.
  • I let the U8 coaches do most/all of the coaching tonight.  I was just moving around watching and injecting the occasional tidbit of information.  That seemed to work well.  The session content brought the learning out.
  • I am trying to encourage the coaches to let the players settle their own disputes.  Too often we want to control what's happening and they depend on us.  I had the same experience at our club camp where everybody goes to the adult for the answer. Teachers tell me the school playground is the same scene, kids not working out their own issues.  The issues I am speaking of include fouls, somebody staying in as GK, who put the ball out, etc.
  • For the last 5 sessions I am going to have one coach at each station and one coach travel with each group.  The coach with the group will co-coach each station.  This way, each week,  they get a chance to: (1) deliver one session multiple times to work on their delivery (2) see multiple exercises and be involved in delivering each one using the same group.
Near the end, I did assemble the parents for four reasons:
  • Balls need to be inflated.  I passed a few balls around so they could see the correct pressure.  We have a pump onsite, but the balls arriving inflated makes everything easier.
  • Kids were running out of water too early.  Send more water.
  • Reminder to wear white shirts.  Easier to organize for games.
  • Praise the boys and thanked them for their support.
So far the support has been good and the players have been enthusiastic.  We reconvene in July 25 for another 4 sessions.

P.S.  Coach Rob's brother, Mark Lalama, is a busy musician and is the former music director for Canadian Idol.  His youngest brother, Paul, is lead singer in a local band called Jonesy.  So, Rob is even cooler by association and genetics.  His other brother, Dave, was a decent player and is now an architect in Winnipeg.  I guess that's cool too .... I do know he doesn't return calls from  Art Vandelay.