Get Better as a Player: 5 Simple Ways

Here is my way of contributing to those players wanting another dimension. I have written an introduction and then below that a few proven ways to get better at the game. If your player wants to play more soccer, have her or him engage in these activities on the off days. Create a juggling challenge environment or co-juggle with your son or daughter. I guarantee their skill set and confidence will improve after one month. Play FootSquash off of your garage door with your tween. I guarantee your skill set and confidence will…well I am willing to bet the kid gets better.

Intro
I grew up without any technical coaching until I went to a very expensive camp in California (Hubie, when he was with Puma).__We were not rich, my parents and siblings sacrificed for soccer and none of my siblings played. I was alone. Not one kid in my neighborhood played any soccer at all. Rec soccer was about a ten minute drive across town, and my club was 45 minutes one way.

So I grew up with a ball in my front yard, simple as it gets, and I had a goal made out of PVC pipes my father had constructed. My neighbor was head maintenance somewhere and had gotten a full sized net for my half-sized goal, so it had a huge bulge of net to the right of and behind the keeper. Of course there was no keeper, so this was not ever embarrassing. Through these deprivations, I realized a few ways to become a better player without even a friend to kick to.

Soccer Stuff Exercise #1
The first thing I would do was to get inspired by watching the game before I practiced in my front yard. Watch and emulate. Learn and copy what you see and like. Hint: Watch the game as much as you can like a student and focus on individual players when they don’t have the ball and when they get it. What do they do to get open? What do they do with their first touch? What did they accomplish with their possession? On game days I would watch a taped game and focus on a player. I had a mental image of swerving a cross or settling a ball played from 70 yards away. I always had a mental image of my penalty kick and I have won two championships as the final kicker:).

Exercise #2 Juggling with the feet and thighs w no bounce. (start with 50-100 touches/day) Juggle until you have set a record higher than three. Continue every day to beat your record. Push your record setting. 10 will seem like an infinity until twelve is easy and so on. Spend time lifting the ball off the ground with your foot and start to juggle from the ground. juggle with the head for 3 minutes/day, bouncing it straight up with the forehead. Juggling became my summer hobby. I pushed to reach 100, and i am not tellin’ if I ever…

Exercise #3 Cone Dribbling 5 minutes/day as many repetitions through a straight line maze as you can get without becoming dizzy. Space cones four feet apart for one week and slither through them, making soft, round turns rather than sharp angled cuts. Move the cones to three feet apart for week #2. You are looking to better your time, but also your control. Balancing speed and control is key. turning the “corner” in a tight close loop takes time to learn. Move the cones to two feet apart in week #3, and time yourself through the grid. Begin to put the cones in zigzag formations and produce sharper cuts to turn around the outside edge of the cones. Week four has the cones 1 foot apart, dribbling is between the feet, left to right, using the inside edge of the laces and the arch of the foot as well.

Exercise #4 Foot Squash: I can think of no other name for this game, but I would kick the ball off of our garage door, which was roughly the size of a goal. On the occasions I would sucker another kid to play against me, we would play squash, essentially. trying to hit a shot your opponent can’t return. Three Touch restriction for the unsuspecting neighbor kid One touch restriction for Tad. Sans the neighbor kid (assuming you tried letting him score), the kicking the ball off of a flat surface is an excellent way to develop ball control. So played alone, playing a ball properly onto a wall and “trapping”–as it was called then–or receiving the ball as it comes back to you simulates playing pass with a second kid. It is important that proper kicking is practiced, with the side of the foot or the laces.

Exercise #5 Learn to Shoot: Many advanced players still do not shoot properly (i.e. with the laces), because A) they have never been taught or B) they are afraid of stubbing their toe. That expensive camp I mentioned in the intro taught me the method to teach kids to shoot. We did it indoor with the teams. It involves learning to play a ball out of your hands, straight in the air, and developing the muscle coordination to transfer the kick from the ball at chest height, to the shot with the ball on the ground. The soccer “shot” is known as the Instep Drive. A driven ball is rarely seen in local high school play, yet it is the “push pass” of the modern college game.

Any of these five exercises are excellent on their own. If we as a club initiate these training exercises as homework now for our kids who are hungry for the game…Imagine what caliber shift we could accomplish in one year. Technically this would have a huge impact. Technical skill is one’s own, forever.

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