The following is an entry written by SocMM Executive Director Nate Baker:
This winter has been cold, rainy, windy, snowy and at times, completely miserable…
But that hasn’t stopped our 20 motivated players from training outdoors with purpose all four weekends in January. I believe the players have really bought into the idea that what we are pursuing is challenging but worthwhile. The group is a very mature one that takes pride in their pursuit of getting better and rally behind the fact that not many people are out getting better when the conditions are not ideal.
Building the player’s mental resolve and building up their desire to improve is something that has truly came out of these sessions thus far, and will serve them well moving forward.
The first two weeks we focused on the players ability “running with the ball” through working on their dribbling, 1v1 moves and 1v1 turns. We felt this was the place to start because each player was just going to train with their ball and develop their control and manipulation of the ball.
It was important to build a base of technical comfort on the ball, while giving the players techniques to help them develop. Do you need other skills and techniques to be a good soccer player? Definitely, but we felt the first two weeks need to be focused around “running with the ball”.
Weeks three and four focused around passing and receiving and turns off the pass. The first step was teaching the players proper first touch and passing techniques and then building off that by having the players have their first touch have a purpose (taking it across their body, away from pressure). Then, we gave them tools to deal with defensive pressure within a game setting, and then would finish with a possession game that tested their new techniques in a fast-paced environment. Week three was difficult, but we knew it would be. Week four was much better because the players worked hard and pushed through some of the frustrations of trying to master some difficult material.
In their off-the-ball sessions, Coach Ryan has worked the groups hard. To this point, Coach Ryan has worked with the groups on their running form, explosiveness and agility. The type of training is one of the unique things about our program, and as we move forward, the players will see how these off-the-ball techniques translate to the actual game. The off-the-ball techniques can be abstract to the players at times, but in the coming weeks, I think they’ll really start to see how everything works together.
Finally, I have found the one hour free-play small-sided games, every Sunday, to be extremely fun to watch and a great ways for the players to put their new found skills into action. We have tried to let the kids play with little coaching, and when they do something that we worked on the previous sessions, we celebrate it by being positive and encouraging them to continue to pursue that skill-set. We will take breaks every twenty minutes and talk about some general things that can improve or some things they have done well, while always imploring them to be hardworking and daring in their play.
We are in a great place half-way through the program. Players of all backgrounds within the game have found their footing (no pun intended) within the program, and that’s extremely important. The players have been fantastic, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to develop the next four weeks.