Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

>What is LeftFoot Coaching Academy?


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

>Keep the ball moving part 2

>In the last post I emphasized that the effort to keep the ball moving (in either a direct or indirect style of passing) limits the potential opportunities of players to dribble and express their creativity on the ball. How a player receives the ball is a key indicator of the skill and awareness of the player and then what they do with it sets them apart.

A great example of this was the Women’s NCAA Quaterfinal game of Notre Dame vs Ohio State. Ohio State was big, powerful and fast with a very direct style of play, one touch long ball for the most part. Notre Dame was very fluid, had several great attackers and played an indirect style, but also had some very creative players in both the attacking and defending lines.

Notre Dame’s game winning goal came from a freshmen defender who broke through the midfield, attacked open space, made a great inside cut and drilled the ball into the top corner of the goal left-footed!

Yet for several minutes before that ND had the advantage of play by continuing to express high levels of creativity. Whether is was a forward juggling the ball into a flick over the defender at the top of the penalty box and then cutting into a shot on goal OR a defender slaping the ball and laying down a nutmeg in the attacking third, ND had better, more creative players that led them to the National Championship.

At a coaching seminar I attended with Randy Waldrum, the head coach, of ND years ago, he emphasized that every player has to be able to attack, that every player should be able to finish and score goals. Case in point that the defensive center mid won a 1-0 game by attacking the goal in the semi-final. She won the ball and never stopped attacking space, until she celebrated the game winner.

What’s missing in so many players that I see is their inability to keep the ball moving and attack at speed because they either stop the ball to think or never attack space.

It happens most often when players stop the ball as they receive, think about what to do next and then try a new move to attack or then even worse, shield and stay in place.

This is developed in several ways over time, but the pattern is often set by the time the player is 11 or 12 and then continues to be reinforced until 16. (Most often it’s taught by coaches teaching players to “trap” and stop the ball.) This fatal flaw is usually identified by evaluators in tryouts as a lack of technical and tactical speed of play at later ages.

How players then solve this tactical disadvantage is by kicking the ball out of space because they know if they stop the ball, they’re going to lose it. And if the coaching they are receiving is only footskills by coaches they never learn how to use their first touch to beat the defender and create space.

The parallel problem of this dilemma is coaches who take the opposite approach and then only teach players to pass the ball out of pressure rather than learning how to read pressure, attack the space and then dribble through the space. For instance, Coach A may have a great understanding of the adult game and teaches his players to pass the ball around, find the open player and then move the ball. Over time the creativity of the individual player is suppressed by the tactical demands of playing 11 a side since problem solving is only focused on team play or large group problem solving. The individual skill is replaced by small group passing.

Contrast this to the Level 3 session several nights ago.

In two examples, I noticed that players were missing the opportunities to use the spin out move they’ve been learning the previous month.  So I noticed I needed to reinforce it by a) creating some time to practice it, b) reinforcing when and where to apply it and c) pointing out in game play how and when to correctly apply it and in what situations it’s useful.

One player was frustrated by her lack of correct application. As she tried the move she used the “move” but spun to the right instead of the left, which is where the space was to finish the goal. So I stopped her, emphasized the movement and let her try again. The challenge was that in her club environment she’s criticized for the mistake but not corrected so her frustration was based on not executing the move, but the result of it not working.

That’s fine, after the session we talked about why she made the mistake. Her coaching environment is a two touch, pass and play system of player development and for several reasons it’s necessary to move the ball faster, but she’s not getting enough practice in applying these skills. The only chances she gets is when she’s at the  LFC Academy.

But that’s the reason FOR the LFC Academy to give players the opportunity to try new things to work on a left footed maradona turn with a cruyff touch or pointing out the situations where instead of using the right footed spin, that she needed to use and then practice the left footed spin. 

It’s the foundation of the Academy, that in order to teach dynamic players how to use skill, we have to let them practice, fail, learn from their mistakes and then try again without damaging or ruining their chances to play. How many of the youth players get punished by either not starting or not getting enough playing time because they make too many mistakes? Mistakes are essential to learning and when we focus on keeping the ball moving we set up players to make more mistakes so they can attack space, then if we just teach them how to pass the ball so the team can ideally keep the ball. 

It’s a double edge sword, one that we may not win all the games if our players have the freedom to create, but what we will win in the end are more dynamic players that are unafraid to make mistakes and take risks that win games at the next level. 

In the Norte Dame game, the youth coach of the goal scorer should feel great that his or her player had the confidence to take over the game and be a star, because the ground work for that attitude is laid at the earliest ages.
Posted in Academy, coaching philosophy, player development, problems of youth soccer, tactics, technical skills | Leave a comment

>Creating the Right Environment


When families look for the best options for their children to learn soccer many times people look for: great word of mouth, excellent teaching and learning environments, price, time commitments, and travel access. 

What people often forget to include is how will the learning stick, integrate with their players current team or coach and the exertion level of the activities. The final outcome of such a process is often based on experience, did they have fun, and quality, did they learn? The missing question: is your player better than everyone or did they merely keep pace?

All of the players that come to study at the Academy come with several passions: 1) they want to make a higher level of play 2) they want to get better, 3) they really love the game. What they have in common is they all attend a high frequency of games and practices over the course of the summer. While it is not ideal to train hard 6-7 times a week on a consistent basis I make sure to build into Academy training environment the following assumptions: 
the player may have :
  •  2-3 games a week
  • a club coach who has them do “conditioning” activities that tire the body, rather than improve skill
  • 2-3 practices a week on top of games
  • a strict tactical objective that the coach wants them execute regardless of being age appropriate 
  • a specific position that doesn’t change

Based on these assumptions I work within these constraints to not over tax the player’s mind and their body. I do not teach tactical game play as a focus of the session. I’ll give tips based on the questions of the players or go back over the principles of the game, but for the most part I focus on making the player better technically focusing on efficient and effective movements and skills.

The skill and activities of the day are not exhaustive, but develop strength, coordination, confidence, balance and are geared toward injury prevention. This is why my model differs from the current camp and clinic model. They presume that one week of 3 hours of daily training on top of league and club play actually achieves any long term development of the player.

 In many cases what happens is that for a short period of time the player shows some improved skill or development but that without reinforcement over the long term the skill doesn’t stick and the player never integrates their camp skills into their team skills. You’re buying a short term result.

How I differentiate the learning process is by working with the players on focused skills that progress from one step to the next so that over time the player develops mastery and skill integration easier than just dumping activities on top of players to have a fun camp experience that is not consistent with their team or club play.

 During any Academy semester the player may only learn two to three skills but will have 500-5,000 repetitions with that skill in two or three game like activities. By the end of the two weeks the repetition will begin to show in team practices and games to the players’ excitement and will continue to be reinforced throughout the semester.

The training environment thus is broken down into four patterns: 1) a small amount of free play with a common restriction that players must have a minimum of three touches every time they have the ball. 2) an agility and movement based portion of training to develop  body strength and coordination, lateral and linear deceleration skills and fine motor skills related to ankle, knee, and hip mobility. These activities are often done with a static orientation to start and move to a random and dynamic movement pattern similar to a martial arts kata or dance routine.

A typical ball mastery session emphasizes 2,000 touches in a one player to one ball environment. The players are guided through progressions that relate to the deceleration techniques they’ve learned and then applied in a sequence that emphasizes coordination, rhythm and finally speed. Limited pressure is used to reinforce the learned skills, while full pressure is reserved for the player to take to their team/club practices and games, and in restricted play at the end of the session.

Finally, 4) ball striking where players are mastering the finer points of how to stick and aim their plant foot, follow through and engage the proper muscles of a driven ball through a variety of teaching methods that are more related to yoga and the martial arts than typical soccer drills. 

During a typical session players may actually have 100-200 times the amount of actual strikes on the ball than they would working in a team or clinic environment that progresses through shooting drills, lines and rotations. All players are instructed in striking with both feet with repetitions numbering in the thousands during a semester of training.

Part of the reason I keep the groups small and focused on skill development is that the progressions that I have found to teach these “stand out” skills are deficient in 95% of all players in Minnesota. From locking the ankle correctly, having a superior first touch, keeping the ball low on shots, along with the great ball skills what’s emerged are signature players that standout on their teams. Also I’ve found that no player comes to me with perfect movement control and skill development and that it takes time, patience and a passionate drive for excellence to truly master technique.

Players, coaches and families can tell the overall improvement of players who have worked with me or mastered what I have taught them.  These players spend a lot of time and energy learning and practicing and this environment is not for everyone looking to play soccer but is geared toward players who truly want and desire a coach that pushes them in a gentle yet firm progression ultimately resulting in a mental discipline and confidence that separates them from their competition.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

>Unintended Consequences


Now that you’re back at your club team, how many players and families have said, “ahhh… soccer.”  It’s almost like you’re back at what’s familiar, you can play good soccer again.

Granted, high school soccer is about 8 weeks, 12 if you go deep into the post season, but compared to club, which can be 8-10 months, 8 weeks can seem like a long time or a drop in the bucket in terms of player development.

Yet now that you’re back you should recognize some important factors of why it seems like better soccer.
All the players are of the same age and obviously gender.
All the players are roughly at the same level.( yet more like a bell curve with some top performers and low performers, high level workers and high level artists included)
All the players share a common and predictable “ group think” as established by the coach or club.

This allows players to then have a slanted line of performance. Players can be organized as a slanted line in terms of skill, athletic ability, roles and work ethic, etc. from highest to lowest with relatively little movement upwards if not addressed by the coach or flexibility within the training environment.

This type of organization of how players develop was one of the dichotomies that I found last year to be so alarming.

In one environment I had an outstanding group of girls players from all over the state that were allowed to come together and play as one team. Each player made each  other better yet I had to guide each player to get better through evaluations, individual training and outside competition along with very high levels of technical and tactical discipline. Since we were in a leveled playing environment we found little team competition. And you can see this happening across the state and throughout the country. More and more teams and clubs collect talent in the area, but less players are developed as a whole.

In the second environment, my little Academy, I witnessed a different set of circumstances emerge. For one, I had no attachment to any match training, so that I could focus more on the individual development and less on the team roles and organization of play. Yet there was such a diversity of talent for each player that players were able to sharpen their skills against one another in a way that was totally uncommon for others throughout the state. It’s just one of the reasons that players were getting better by coming to my Academy.

A recent blog post from Alwyn Cosgrove pointed out what Sports psychologists refer to as “leveling and sharpening”:

“Leveling refers to when the average person in your environment has less skill than you – then your skills tend to diminish and “level” out. If the average person’s skills in that same environment are above yours – then you tend to “sharpen” your abilities…. Bill Parisi once told me that his goal is always to be the dumbest person in the room – it’s the fastest way to get smart.”

What high school soccer and club soccer have in common is that they both fluctuate between both leveling and sharpening. For some high school teams, players can have tremendous opportunities to sharpen their skills because the players are better. In others, the player can decrease their skills and it levels their playing ability because others are not so good.

This ultimately leads to coaching and where I constantly emphasize that “coaching matters”.  As a coach you have to PREVENT leveling as much as possible and PROMOTE sharpening.

It’s one of the reasons I had to take my team of girls last year and play them vs. boys in one tourney. I had to sharpen their abilities since the other levels of u12 girls were nowhere near them and that they stood a chance to become stagnant by playing against each other all the time.

BUT at the same time I had to sharpen their abilities by allowing them to play against their own age group. They played up and down through the year so that they would find a balance both psychologically and developmentally.

It also matters that the coach knows what the next level of development is for the player and does not just coach to the level of play, but to the NEXT level of play. As I prepared my girls last year, it wasn’t for u13, it was for u17 when they needed skills and awareness to break down compact and organized defenses. For my HS girls, I coached them to be prepared for Division I soccer, not HS Varsity. But most coaches don’t think this way and this is where a lot of parents make the mistake of choosing coaches for their kids.

You have to ask what level is the coach in terms of qualifications and what level of competition does the coach ultimately perform? Some private trainers that I know coach at the lowest levels of club, and while that’s good for the lower levels, how do they know what’s necessary for Division 1 soccer, or much less varsity soccer or even championship levels of soccer? Have they coached those players? Have they coached in those situations? Have they succeeded at those levels and with those players? It does help that they may have played at a high level, but what you really need to ask is: are they coaching players that are getting to those levels!?

If they’re constantly coaching JV are they just happy with the paycheck or are they performing at the next level? Are their players being promoted on a constant basis? What is their level of qualification? A USSF “D” coach won’t have the experience or know-how that a USSF “A” or “B” coach will have technically, tactically or developmentally.

What experience do they have coaching at a high level of competition, out of state, in state, regionally? Are they leveled from within the coaching community from Minnesota or are they constantly seeking to sharpen their coaching skills by traveling out of state, or even internationally to attend the World Cup, for example, to see what other countries are doing?

The title of this post is called Unintended Consequences because of what happened in my Academy became one of the reasons for all of the players to have success and what I have to guard against constantly. As soon as too many players of equal leveling come into the sessions we have an instant leveling effect. It’s why I discourage teams of players to sign up for my Academy as a group. It’s counter-productive to the whole.

Yet most coaches and trainers constantly divide players up by age and gender or happily take a whole team to train. You have to create environments where there is always someone better. You have to create players that constantly strive for higher standards of play against even the easiest of players. You have to create challenges for players in the run of play and with different ages, genders and skills.

This is one of the reasons I’m not coaching a team this year. I did not want to bury myself into another leveling situation within a team or club and keep doing the same thing year after year, but I wanted to create an environment that would sharpen players constantly for the next level. AND then they could go back to their club teams and sharpen their skills even more. More players would develop across the state in this fashion, rather than pooling 20 kids in the same age group at the same level or creating a clinic or psuedo Academy of 180 players.

So be careful as you go back into a leveling environment (club) that you’re not surrounding yourself with the same players on a constant basis or even getting comfortable with the speed of play and relative success.

You need diversity. You need to be on your own. Girls need to play vs boys. Boys need to experiment and play even faster against girls and older boys. You need to play against bigger, stronger and faster players and THEN go back and build your confidence against the level playing field at your club. You can’t just rest on your laurels of athleticism and beat up other u15 girls or u12 boys that haven’t developed as quickly as you. There’s nothing special about that, it’s that you’re an anomaly in an administratively dictated level playing field, that’s all.

(If you don’t believe me, ask several players at the high school state tournament, the seniors on the bench for several teams, if they were the biggest fastest players at u12, because several of them were and look where it got them. Ironically, three of them were recruited from their CC to help another team win premier status, and then were cut years later. I know because I coached in the age group and saw those players at U12 and again at u14 and u17 take the same path I’ve seen for over 15 years of coaching youth soccer.)

As you’re watching all those games at Ralia and the Blast, ask yourselves, are players really getting better? I know for myself, I would watch with painful angst last year as I trained players between the boards on Friday nights that the only thing that was happening was a leveling downward of skill. We need to create better environments to develop players and we need to do it sooner rather than later. And isn’t it worth it to invest in something better for our kids?

Posted in coaching philosophy, player development, problems of youth soccer, solutions for youth soccer, technical skills, why i coach | Leave a comment

>Get Better, Be Better, Know Better!

Welcome to the LeftFoot Coaching blog. This is a resource for parents and players to learn about the in’s and outs of youth soccer development. I try to provide a resource for parents that are constantly wondering how to get better, find great coaching and understand what their kids should be learning.

Be sure to go to my main page for information, resources, and references : LeftFootCoaching
The LFC Fall Academy is currently ending. If you are interested in lessons, please subscribe to this blog for notices on any openings.
Posted in pre-game, problems of youth soccer, soccer learning, solutions for youth soccer, youth development in soccer | 3 Comments

>The Monster of High School Soccer


Question: Are you playing soccer in the Mall of America Field (Metrodome) this Thursday for the Class AA or A State High School Championship?
Answer: If you’re not, then you need to read this. 
Question: Do you want to play on the last day of the season? Meaning that the last game is the Championship Game which is the final day of your season?
Answer: I’ve coached on the last day four seasons in a row and can tell you how you can make sure you’re playing in that game, not just sitting on the bench! 
(Summer 2009, Fall 2009, Summer 2010, and Fall 2010) 

Several weeks ago I made a comment about players serving the monster of high soccer and I was asked to clarify what I meant by the statement (Why Player Development Doesn’t Occur). As a club coach and an assistant of several top ranked teams in Minnesota High School over the years I tend to argue that I see the benefits of both and each have their challenges.

 I think a lot of people knock HS ball without understanding why its so different and then why it’s so challenging to coach, play and perform at the highest level. Currently my record at the high school level as an assistant is 74-7-5 ( BSM boys’ 2005-2007; Eden Prairie girls 2010) and I’m hoping I can finish with one more win for my second state high school championship in 4 years. 
So, while I have had the privilege of coaching at two great programs I do feel that I have contributed a great deal to the leadership and standards of performance for both programs which is difficult to replicate elsewhere. But I’ve loved the role of the assistant that’s used as a hired gun. It’s both rewarding and allows me to coach without a lot of the stress of administering the programs.
I have also had the privilege to coach some amazing and special players that I challenge on a daily basis to be better than their current level.  How I take their game to the next level regardless of the quality of play around them is one of the qualities that I give to all my private clients and something that differentiates my approach to coaching high school soccer and youth soccer overall. 
For one, high school soccer is the great equalizer to club soccer. At the Varsity level you have u14 through U18 age groups and Prem/C1& C2 levels of play all competing on the same field. The u14 premier superstar is a different match for the u17 premier superstar in high school. The age difference requires the u14 player to be deceptive, technical and tactical; to use skills and speed that may work at u14 but works differently vs the u17 player who has seen that move over and over. They have to understand the game from a more mature viewpoint.
The u17 player may often be stronger, more skillful and more experienced than the u14 player; at the same time– if on the girls side, the u14 might be faster than the u17 player who is now past the onset of puberty and will be carrying more weight, different bone density, and will be more entrenched in their movement patterns. 
This is why you’ll see 8th and 9th graders on Varsity in some programs on the girls side and juniors and seniors on the bench. The younger players are often faster and more aggressive than the u17’s who have slowed down, carry more injuries and have entrenched poor movement patterns. 
While age, physical speed and strength are the great equalizers, decision making is the great differentiator. This is where the level of play of the premier players standout over the c1 and c2 players in the state. Since the speed of play is faster at the highest levels of play with out of state club soccer (ECNL, MRL, or USPDA) the game slows down at HS because the diversity of levels. 
On any team you’ll have three to four different levels of club play on the field at one time. Some players will be able to read the game faster and then be able to perform faster because the game is slower. These are often the standouts on the team. At the same time, the c2 and c1 players are often playing survival soccer at high school because the game is now faster and less predictable.  Also, the demands of the game are different depending on the level of play. There are better players moving faster and doing greater technical and tactical things than they’re used to which is why they are on the bench or not on Varsity. 
This is also where First year, Sophomore and Junior premier players face a brick wall in their development at high school. The game is slower so they standout, have greater technical skills, can read the game faster, but the physical differences and technical skills of their teammates don’t allow them the luxuries of what their club teammates can do for them, nor do they sometimes have the same success as they might have had in club.
There may not be the easy pass into space that allows for the them to run onto the ball, there may not be the combination play and relationships that developed over eight months in club.  They will actually have to work smarter or rely on playing a bit differently to stay involved or deal with their frustration because of the surrounding differences in ability. They are no longer playing against their own age group. They’re playing up and age and sometimes level.
The challenge though is not so much the slowing down of the game but the rudimentary tactical range of most high school games.  This problem is caused by multiple factors: players, coaches, clubs and the frequency and quality of games as well as the substitution policy of American youth soccer. 
How it shows up and how it’s most often expressed is the “BOOT ball factor” of most teams and coaches, technically referred to as a direct style of play. Direct soccer levels the playing field and both equalizes and negates the differences in skill as well as relies on the technical deficiencies of youth soccer. 
The premier players who may get taught to “knock it around” at club get frustrated by the direct play, but because of the physical speed and tackling of most defenders the result will dictate that they “get rid of the ball faster,” which is necessary vs direct opponents. 
For instance, most direct-style coaches rely on the ball bouncing over and through the defense so that the fastest athlete can then try and run onto the ball and score. This works against 90% of Minnesota teams because of the technical limitations of most female club teams: judging balls in the air, heading or volleying balls off of the back line, and controlling play by using an indirect possession style to move the ball around the field.
Yet when direct play meets a team of players that are trained to win defensive headers, control and spread out the field with negative possession, string 3-4 passes together and then also use both depth and width to spread the field–then and only then will direct play be negated. 
However, you won’t see this in Minnesota, at least not all the time.
And if you do it’s a rare team or coach that understands that these principles of play, technical skills and tactics aren’t valued. I’ve had the privilege this year to be part of one of the most qualified coaching staffs in high school this year and the synergy has allowed us to both push each other to see new things and balance both our coaching experience with what we can improve on the field of play.
The technical and tactical conversations have been both illuminating but also invigorating. We have almost the highest qualified tandem in the state and still feel as if we cannot make a huge difference in the technical skills of the players. That the development of technical quality is best left to the clubs and that we both need to manage the health and functionality of the players during our limited time with these players. 
While we have made an impact to some degree we both know that the offseason is extremely important and the level of training that players get from Nov-April is the greatest differentiator for every player.
What has been the biggest challenge is knowing that what happens in high school doesn’t translate back to club all the time. While several players may have seen increased playing time, their role authority increase, other players will be really excited to go back to their club team so that they continue to standout among other true u16’s or u15’s and no longer have to compete with seniors.
The challenge is for the player to integrate both the high school experience and the club experience and then still maintain a quality of confidence as they transition. For some players, their club team is a better team than their high school team and so they have a relief of victory to go back to. For others, their club team is an environment that won’t help them develop because of the leveling impact of the team. 
If a c1 player gets pulled up to varsity and sits it’s not the quality of the varsity team as much as it is the level of technical and tactical demands, quality and training of the c1 peers and coaching environment of the c1 team from the summer.
So on the eve of the Class AA State High School Final here are some tips if you want to get this far next year:
  • make sure you understand the basic principles of the game in terms of attacking and defending up to 4v4 and be able to communicate and execute from all positions in a 4v4 format.
  • Varsity level players understand how to defend and attack in a modern zonal system of play and know that man to man marking and undisciplined or lackluster defending is unacceptable and will not promote their overall player development. Every player must know how to defend at the highest level and understand the difference between tackling and jockeying, especially how and when to do each.
  •  Ball striking and ball skills/creativity in the attacking third is a must for all players regardless of position, that players should be able to:
    •  a) drive the ball low on the ground accurately with no spin over 20 yards to feet of targets in the run of play.
    •  b) be able to consistently serve a high lofted ball with backspin over 25 yards and 
    • c) be able to drive a ball with no spin over 25yds in the air ; all with less than two steps of preparation
    • d) be able to one touch, push pass a ball with a “ping” over ten yards, both moving towards and off the dribble.
    • e) be able to volley pass a ball to retain possession; not just volley to penetrate.
  • Ball skills: be comfortable and execute in game situations; all basic and some advanced changes of direction: outside cuts, step-over turns, cruyff turns (or hook turns) and conti or spin turns. 
    • Should have a basic fake or feint move (step-over, shimmy (fake shot) or hesitation move) and should also be able to turn when receiving: inside arc turn/across the body turn as well as a pivot turn. 
  • All varsity players need to be comfortable and confident winning and engaging in 1v1 situations; i.e, keeping possession, creating penetration and also regaining possession, not just destroying play and kicking the ball out of bounds.
  • All varsity players will need to play balls out of the air with their heads and understand the difference– to be to execute defending and attacking headers in the run of play.
  • Players need to find a way to get 2,000 touches on the ball per session in a frequent and dedicated manner during their club season/summer to be comfortable with the ball in possession at the varsity level. 
Finally, players have to realize that it’s not just being a team player that makes you a varsity player or a great soccer player for that matter. It’s the fact that you are a soccer player first and foremost and THEN you can play within a team. 
Too many players are forced into the roles of a team player too early and never amount to squat.
 Be great first, then play with great players when you have the chance.
::::::Oh yeah, :::::::
Soccer Monsters only want to be fed fast players running after balls kicked in the air. You have to feed the monster by kicking the ball as hard as you can to satisfy the monster and then keep it on the ground and taunt the monster with your skills. The Monster wants the ball in the air and wants you to chase it down. So you have to feed it, but then let it get its fill and play a skillful game.:::::
Till next time, (actually wait for the flurry of emails coming in the morning!)
Posted in coaching philosophy, coaching psychology, player development, problems of youth soccer, technical skills, Winter Training, youth development in soccer | Leave a comment

>A Different Choice


Another State Title!
Photo by Jeremy Olson – www.digitalgopher.net

What is LeftFoot Coaching (LFC)?

LFC was created by Christian Isquierdo, M.A., as a solution to player development that allowed players long term professional training options. 

This was to offer more than the general clinic or club training that met only one night a week with their team or general clinic in the area.  

The problems were that players could only go to one club training, one coach or team and only one night a week with their team or clinic in the area. Or there were 15-20 players per coach in each session.

LFC players wanted more training, more nights and better quality coaching. They wanted a long term relationship with one coach that wasn’t based on winning, playing time or tryouts.

The LeftFoot Coaching Academy based in Minneapolis, off of Highway 62 and 35W offers more than just a once a week clinic, but a 10,000 sq ft facility and over 20 hours a week to schedule small group player sessions. LFC is a unique and different experience outside of the clinic and camp models offered by many Minnesota clubs and programs. A limited number of players are accepted each semester to train together. Additional players are allowed in seasonally. Learn More.

Posted in minnesota soccer, private instruction, Private Training, soccer training | Leave a comment

>It Begins. The Ten Steps To Changing Player Development in Minnesota.


Three years ago I wrote an article that I tried to submit to MYSA’s Soccer Times about how clubs are failing their kids.
 It didn’t get published.
I was disturbed by the trend that clubs were only focused on team development and patronizing player development by offering camps and clinics that lined the pockets of DOC’s but didn’t emphasize player development. Community clubs, super clubs, you name it clubs, were recruiting players, meddling with each others teams and never creating opportunities for players to get better through their own means or choices–they had to be selected, recruited, or already be on the top team to get the best attention.
Over the six years that I’ve lived in Minnesota I’ve witnessed player after player, family after family go through the agonizing process on an annual basis of deciding what to do with their child who just wanted to play soccer. They wanted to play high level soccer and receive good coaching so that their daughter or son could be a great player.
 Most just wanted the power to decide on where to get the best training without leaving their friends for a super club hours away. One mom told me the only club in town that would program three nights a week was the worst experience for her child, but it was the only option to go to.
The problem was that there was never anywhere you could guarantee that the focus would be on your kid. Any team, club, camp, clinic or  program creates an experience for the kid, but not real programming for the overall development of the individual player. And no one programs seven nights a week so that the family has multiple choices of when to attend.
Even the programs I worked for had kids coming in and going out and were restricted to when and where you could attend. On Friday’s in St. Croix, Thursday’s in Minneapolis, Sunday mornings in Coon Rapids, Tuesday’s in Blaine. You had to fit within the box if you wanted soccer training that wasn’t volunteer coaching.
Or if the facility rented full or half fields, the clinic had to pack in 40 kids for 3 coaches in six weeks on half a field. If you were lucky to get a good trainer it was worth the $135 for 1.25 hours in a dome during the winter, but the soccer was never that great. The player didn’t get better. (on my behalf, you can’t work with a kid in 8 hours and expect greatness to happen over night!)
 That model later grew to a 38 player half field session with two coaches for roughly $24/hour over 16 weeks but that was it. You’re in and you’re out on your own again. 
So I tried working through three different clubs and programs to create long term academies that weren’t team based or location specific, that were player and coach based. The ideas failed to get past boards of directors and club directors because “people just didn’t want that”. I tried to create a center of excellence within a super-club that didn’t organize itself based on recruiting kids away from their community club. That never materialized. 
I went to work on my own. I patiently began building my own Academy on the idea of long term player development without any attachment to winning, team formation or status, but coaching for the highest level of play from every kid. That I was focused on the player attaining higher levels of play every season, if that player wanted to work that hard.
 I continued with the vision to have a facility that was geared toward player development. I grew from 3 players in 2008 to 35 in April of 2010. But I wanted a facility–I needed a facility to take that next step. 
If you look at the new domes that are being built they’re built on one premise: To make money on players being part of teams. They’re not built on the premise of making players better by having the facilities to develop soccer players. If they were they’d have as many full size goals as basketball courts have baskets. In one of the newest facilities there are only TWO full size goals for four halves of fields. 
Watch a team shooting at goal during practice one day and imagine that being how someone would practice their golf swing: You hit the ball, chase it down 40 yards and then wait for someone to finish before getting your next shot. 
How are we to create better goal scorers if that’s how we continue to practice shooting? During that process you have 16 players standing in line waiting for their next turn. 
–“oh that’s fun.”
 If there weren’t 60 yards between the goal and another wall you might not have to chase the ball, but our cities, business leaders and architects aren’t creating soccer facilities with players in mind. They need fields to create more leagues. More leagues are cheaper to administrate and bring in more revenue.
Large fields to create more teams of players having a 1:22 ball to player ratio!
So what are we about to do about it? How must we create the change we want? How do we create more players, becoming better? 
How do we rise the tide and lift all the boats?
First: Smaller classes, smaller groups, within a primary facility designed for shooting and finishing, dribbling, heading and technical skills.
Second: A ball to player ratio that is not 1:1, but more like 3 balls per player, which is not dependent on players bringing balls to practice with them. A repetition ratio that doesn’t have to wait for three players to chase the one ball that’s inflated.
But a shooting gallery that is enclosed and directly inline with the scale and repetition to hit shot after shot without having to chase a ball all over a dome, park or field.
Third: Access to any and all training sessions you want to attend. If you want to go 5 days a week, go five days a week. if you want to go twice a week go twice a week, even go seven different times each month in different time slots if you want! And you don’t have to leave your community club!
Fourth: Provide high quality, nationally licensed youth coaching that you know exactly what you’re paying for. Don’t let it be a hope and let’s see what we get. Know who you’re buying to coach your kid. Know what they’re all about. 
And be able to talk to them about your kid. Know that they want and demand the highest standard for your child and themselves. Be in a long term relationship with your coach, not a fear-based, “hope my kid plays if I don’t say anything” relationship.
Fifth: Create an online scheduling and payment system that makes it easy to buy, schedule and change the players’ schedule to easily accommodate your family’s crazy life. 
Sixth: Have more than one Full Size GOAL to shoot on at practice!
Seventh: Be able to track skills development through the use of custom skills training programs that progress from one skill to the next. Not just a, “here’s a bunch of fun tricks– see if you can do it”.
Eighth: Be in one location seven days a week that’s centrally located, easy to get to and OPEN YEAR ROUND, rain, shine, snow, hot, cold, lightning or hail.
Ninth: Create competitive leagues that are skills centric, player oriented and flexible to the strength of the players not the inadequacies of the opposing teams. 
Tenth: Build young athletes first and great soccer players emerge.
Be part of a revolution in youth soccer.

Pre-Registered Lefties have begun registering online for classes today.

For Common Questions and Answers: Click Here.
For Academy Offerings and Classes: Click Here.
Pre-registered clients will have 48 hours before online registration is open to the public to purchase and sign up for classes. 
Online Registration, Payment and Scheduling will open to the public at 8:00 pm Wednesday, October, 27th.
Classes begin Nov. 6th.
Posted in coaching philosophy, player development, Private Training, problems of youth soccer, soccer training, solutions for youth soccer, why i coach, youth development in soccer | Leave a comment

>Coaching For The Next Level

>The other night a coach I observe from time to time said to me, “I hope I’m not the point of your next blog entry! But I really do enjoy them!”

Well this one’s along the same topic but it’s aiming toward the point of what I referred to earlier about joy-sticking the game but accentuating the issues with coaching, and a point I refer to as “coaching your players for the next level.”

When a coach “joysticks” the game he skips a fundamental process in a child’s development within the game. He or she solves the problem of the game for the child by telling them what to do. This is different than coaching and giving technical coaching points.

Coaching is the process of reminding, correcting and inspiring learned behaviors in a child or player during the flow of the game or after the sequence of events. It’s the process of allowing time to influence learning through problem-solving so that players can control the decisions within a game and then be influenced by the coach at critical junctures.

Directing is telling, yelling, moving and controlling the actions of the player so that the instructions are learned and repeated over and over and become second nature. There is a big difference between the two and many novice coaches think they’re coaching when they are really directing. Directing only goes so far. Although Directing can win games, but rarely do they prepare players for the next level of play.

The challenge with coaching youth players is that for the most part the child is only experiencing soccer from the vacuum of the environment that is presented to them on a daily basis within either the club or recreational system.

This is why it is very dangerous to play for one coach from u8-u14 and think that it’s benefitting the player. It benefits the team, but not necessarily the player. Because during these years the player may for a director rather than a coach.

A coach is unattached to the outcome of a team, but is inspired by players. A director is attached to the results of the team over the interests of the player.

During the critical development years between u8-u14 most soccer development is left to volunteer parents with good intentions yet with very little understanding of the physical, psycho-social, cognitive and emotional development of children with the GAME of soccer.

This is where you get the adult coach trying to teach children the “adult game of soccer” rather than facilitating the EXPERIENCE of soccer as it relates to the child’s viewpoint. Children don’t like to stand, be told lengthy directions or complicated games. They just want to PLAY.

That’s how I can always tell a good coach. If they let them play and can share the experience of the game with their players to make the game better. More creative. More skillful. More fun. More player-centric than coach centric.

But great coaches demand and challenge more from their players and coach to the next level. Not the current level.

A great coach takes players beyond where they are and holds a higher standard for those critical moments in a player’s life when more is demanded of them. When their psychological strengths or weaknesses are put to the test. Where you actually have to defend or break down the defense on the attack.

The other day I witnessed one of those directors thinking they were coaching.

There’s been a coach in the state that coaches their players to win game by exposing the weaknesses of other teams by lofting big balls in the penalty area hoping for a chance to get a loose ball in front of the goal. They use the “when in doubt-kick it out” mantra for their defenders, even though there’s no pressure, just kick it out. I tease them that they have a 40 yard first touch instead of any control.

The other day, with their team down 2-0 in the last 10 minutes of the game– the coach was yelling and screaming directions  at the very exact moment of action–they threw their hands in the air when one of the defenders launched a ball 30 yards into the stands without any pressure from the opponent. The coach, or shall I say director, went nuts!

The defender did exactly as they were taught, “kick it out, when in doubt.”

They lost the game and watched the final 10 minutes tick off the clock as the other team allowed the defenders to kick the ball out again and again.

The winners of the game solved the problem accurately time and again, they cleared their defensive zone, played it to the robotic thinking defender, let her kick it out with her team losing the game and then proceeded to walk up the field in their own time to let their outside back throw it farther down the field. Which as you can predict: the losing defender kicked it out again!

The coaches were yelling and screaming; increasing the anxiety of the players. But you don’t coach during the game, you prepare your players for those situations.

You allow them to decide the game by solving problems and you coach them through the year to be prepared for those situations.

You create them in practice. You hold players’ to higher standards than your competition.

You expect greatness from your players because you coach them daily for the next level of play.

Not their current one.

Posted in Academy, coaching philosophy, coaching psychology, player development, problem solving, problems of youth soccer, technical skills, youth development in soccer | Leave a comment