‘iSoccer’s Technology Helps Motivate Soccer Players By Challenging Them To Do Better’ Interview by Soccer Nation
By: Diane Scavuzzo of Soccer Nation
Soccer Nation (“SN”) chats with Scott Leber, Founder and CEO of iSoccer. iSoccer is an online software development tool for soccer players. iSoccer’s assessment evaluates 16 soccer skills and scores players on performance. iSoccer says, “Know your level today so you can set goals to raise your level tomorrow.” Soccer players all have a level and “now it is time to raise it! Train harder at practice and at home!” Sounds like a great idea, how does it work?
SN: What is the idea behind iSoccer?
Scott Leber: “To motivate players to play more soccer. Before iSoccer, I used to coach U6 to U18 youth soccer for six years. I realized there were issues that needed to be resolved; how to motivate soccer players to practice more on their own and improve technically.”
“Before I was a soccer coach, I played for Columbus Crew in the MLS and Long Island Rough Riders. I also played years of competitive youth soccer. The real issues in youth soccer today are with Zone 1; the beginning level. Let’s empower the players to have the tools to play better.”
SN: Today’s youth soccer player attends an average of two practice sessions a week, but is that enough to become a better competitive player?
Scott Leber: “The root of the idea is that soccer players already spend a lot of time at practice … but are we providing our youth with the best tools to improve their skills technically?”
SN: How can iSoccer help?
Scott Leber: “Being an effective soccer player depends upon good tactical and technical training; players need to know what to do with the ball, how to properly and effectively push the ball. iSoccer empowers player to take charge of their training and continue their training when team practice is over. iSoccer is a technical skill based program.”
SN: How much does it cost to use iSoccer?
Scott Leber: “50% of what we do at iSoccer we make available for free to all soccer players. For free, you can go to our website and take our assessment and find your score – anyone can do it. Then the player and parent can look and see exactly what a player’s weakness and strengths are. This is a free service. You can take the test, figure out how you need to improve, practice and then take the test again and see your improvement.”
“When we work with clubs like San Diego Surf Soccer Club, the clubs buy the program for their players. The club is able to track player development and the players are able to watch more than 500 instructional videos and compare their level against the National Standard. ”
SN: How does iSoccer help players improve?
Scott Leber: “iSoccer empowers every single player to know how to improve. The long term vision is that if we all get better technically, we will all play better games.
SN: How does iSoccer work? Players’ skills are tested, ‘assessed’ at a certain level?
Scott Leber: “The iSoccer platform offers an equal field for assessment, or in other words, the assessment is the same for everyone.
SN: Is there a benchmark for the soccer skill assessment?
Scott Leber: “More than 250,000 soccer players have already completed the iSoccer Assessment. This information has provided a base for establishing a benchmark for what we call the National Standards Assessment Project. This is the starting point, the benchmark standard for soccer players across America.
SN: On The iSoccer’s website it says “Raising the Level tomorrow stats with Knowing the Level today.” This makes a lot of sense. How does the National Standards Project accomplish this?
Scott Leber: “iSoccer’s assessment levels the playing field; it doesn’t matter if you play for the A team or B team, once you take the assessment, you work on improving your own score, you are competing against your own assessment. iSoccer provides an objective measurement of a player’s ability.”
SN: Players in San Diego can compare their scores with other players?
Scott Leber: “Through the iSoccer website, you can load your scores and compare those scores against this national standard. Players can see how they compare to the national average score across the country.”
SN: Does iSoccer rank players?
Scott Leber: “No, iSoccer is a player development tool. Not a player identification tool. It is all about development. We want soccer players to find out what they need to work harder at! Where they need to focus their energies to improve and become better soccer players.
SN: iSoccer helps kids motivate themselves to be better?
Scott Leber: “The psychology behind iSoccer is simple; because we are helping every player find success at an individual level, it is very motivating and self satisfying. iSoccer helps track a player’s improvement. It can motivate the beginning player and the very advanced player. iSoccer pushes players to be better. The goal is to achieve more. Success breeds success. Instead of just focusing on just winning, here we focus success on being the best player possible. This is a launch pad for more success. The great thing is that this is all about individual responsibility.
SN: Do players enter their own assessment? Do you expect players to try to cheat on their performance to get a better evaluation?
Scott Leber: “At the end of the day, cheating gets you know where. And the feedback that we are getting from across the country is that this is not an issue. When a club such as Surf Soccer participates with their players, the assessments are verified and entered in by the coaches. As players progress, a coach logs in and tags the player’s score to verify it. If a players enters their score, the information is tracked but considered unverified until a coach approves it.”
SN: How did you develop?
Scott Leber: “In 2008, I worked together with some of my former Stanford teammates to create the iSoccer Assessment. In 2009, we launched a beta version of iSoccer with pilot clubs and officially launched our program to help develop soccer players in 2010 at the Philadelphia conversion.
SN: Is iSoccer working the way you wanted?
Scott Leber: “Yes, the feedback we are getting from across the country is that players are spending more time with the ball outside of practice and actually working harder at practice. And that was always the vision.”
SN: Was that your goal?
Scott Leber: “It was finding a unique solution to a known problem. At all levels of the game, our players are not good enough at the international levels. Long term player development is something we all talk about but when we get to the weekend we forget about it and just want to win.”
“It is a tough culture we live in. Some of our coaches will not make a living if they do not win, maybe the system is not encouraging pure player development.”
SN: What was the greatest challenge in developing iSoccer?
Scott Leber: “One challenge was coming up with the assessment. We wanted it to be truly easy to replicate but an accurate assessment of technical capabilities. We needed the assessment to measure soccer skills and questions came up regarding how to design the assessment to measure drills effectively. For instance, within a 5 meter by 5 meter grid; how do you quantify dribbling? There was a lot of thought process that went into the developing of iSoccer.”
“The second challenge was convincing the market that it is worth while assessing your players. We are asking coaches to spend one training session every few months to assess players. There was a bit of hesitation to do this. We had to send a clear message that this was very important.”
SN: America is a big country. European nations are smaller and have distinct soccer styles. Are there significant challenges based upon our country’s size?
Scott Leber: “There is such a broad range of diversity of coaches as well as a wide variety of soccer styles but everyone seems to agree that we need to focus on training our youngest players, the Zone 1 players and get them to play with the soccer ball more.”
SN: How do you account for a coaches subjectivity?
Scott Leber: “The iSoccer system allows for very little subjectivity. We spent a year building the program to avoid the possibility of subjectivity, either you performed the skill or you didn’t. It is very easy to count the number of times a player performed the skill successfully.
SN: Can iSoccer evaluate players?
Scott Leber: “This is not a silver bullet. We know that the evaluation of a player takes into account the physical, tactical and mental aspects of the game.”
SN: What competitive soccer clubs are you working with in Southern California?
Scott Leber: “We are just launching with San Diego Surf Soccer Club and are very excited about working with the club which is well recognized for player development across the country. iSoccer is another tool for Surf players to get better. Surf is well known for not only for player development but also for success on the field. Surf is known as a great perennial club and we are excited to be a supplement to an already exciting program.”
SN: Who else is supporting the National Standards Project?
Scott Leber: “As of right now, we have partnered with the NSCAA, U.S. Club Soccer, SAY Soccer, and several USYSA State associations.”
SN: Any final thoughts?
Scott Leber: “iSoccer gives responsibility to the player. You can decide, you have the responsibility as the player to improve your performance. Think of iSoccer as tools to take responsibility for you own development. Enjoy!”
San Diego Surf Soccer Club launch their partnership with iSoccer today for the enhancement of youth player development.
By: Diane Scavuzzo
San Diego Surf Soccer Club Selects iSoccer’s Motivational Program to Help Surf Players Practice Away From The Field.
Colin Chesters, Director Of Coaching, Surf Soccer Club says, “By adding iSoccer to our program, we feel we are keeping true to the progressive nature of our club. Surf Soccer Club is always seeking ways to improve our players and we feel by adding this program we are doing exactly that.”
“The San Diego Surf is one the premier clubs across the country and we are proud to have them join with us in our mission to raise the level of the game. The Surf is committed to impacting the lives of all of their players and through our relationship; we look forward to building on their existing culture of development. We are very excited to launch with the Surf but even more excited about the development in the months and years to come!” says Scott Leber, CEO of iSoccer.
“The Surf Soccer Club’s coaching staff and I have had several meetings to incorporate this program into our training. Our staff is excited. iSoccer will help motivate our players to train on their own, with a friend or with family members. We have always felt the best players are self-motivated and this program reinforces and encourages player to be so. The more time our kids spend with a ball away from their main training environment, the better the individuals, the teams and our club will become,” says Chesters.
“Colin Chesters and the San Diego Surf Soccer Club have continued to be on the cutting edge of player development on both the girls and boys side of the game. The Surf Club as a whole has acted as a leader in the development of youth soccer and we are excited to be working side by side with them to raise the level of the game,” says Rob Becerra, iSoccer’s National Director.
“I was at State Cup earlier this month watching some of our younger teams, and on many occasions, I saw them presented with a challenge that they were unable to solve. I instantly thought of an exercise in the iSoccer program that, if practiced thousands of times, would have given this player the skill set to:
1. Solve the problem
2. Be a more valued member of their team
3. Play more in meaningful moments of the game
4. Make their team more successful and,
5. Further enhance our clubs reputation of developing players for the next level.
I want to share some advice for kids and parents: Spend a minimum of 4 hours outside of training, practicing and breaking your current records. I have always been a big believer in homework assignments for younger players and this program provides this to our players in a way that is motivating and rewarding. Good luck to all the players, remember commit time to your own development. It will pay off in huge ways for you down the road,” encourages Chesters.
San Diego Surf Soccer Club launched the iSoccer program last week with player assessments. Players were eager to perform the skills for the evaluation and excited to start practicing more off the field.
[Inspiration for Article: iSoccer Founder, Scott Leber, was presenting to youth coaches at Notre Dame Coaching Course last weekend, when a 15 year old player who could juggle 600 times only scored a 10 on the iSoccer Non-Preferred Foot assessment. His comment was, "I guess I am not as good as I thought I was." It was an Ah-Hah moment for him and for all the coaches watching!]
by Scott Leber
“I can juggle 50 … I can juggle 100 … I can juggle 200 … I can juggle 600!” It is being said across the country and most everyone is praising those high numbers! But in reality, the higher the number, the more we are misleading ourselves about the development of real soccer players. Because juggling for hours on end does not require key game-related elements – Limited Time, Limited Space, Increasing Pressure – coaches, players and parents are tricking themselves into thinking we are developing highly technical players, but our players’ technical skill often breaks down when presented with in-game situations.
This story of “600 Juggles” is representative of our current short comings of developing youth players that can not execute skills properly in a game situation.
1) We are giving our players FALSE CONFIDENCE
2) Players are not able to SOLVE PROBLEMS in a game
What is the Problem?
Without being confronted with time or spacial pressure, players develop an unrealistic assessment of their technical ability.
Let’s take the scissors move for example. All your players are in a box dribbling around doing their little touches and you yell out “Scissor Left.” Players immediately scissor the ball with their left foot, shift their body weight left, touch the ball with the outside of their right and accelerate into the open space. All looks good, but here is the problem: There are no consequences for a lazy scissor or a poor touch with the outside of the foot. The player is not being DELIBERATE, but more just doing. When there are no repercussions for a misplaced touch, players are unaware of their weaknesses. And this is where players begin to develop false confidence.
Solution – Deliberate Practice
Demand that players are DELIBERATE. If the touch after the scissor has to be a five yard burst into space, demand it. If you want a quick outside right touch and then an inside right foot touch past the defender, demand it. How iSoccer does this: Each test isolates a specific skill and assigns a score to the execution of the skill. There is no room for interpretation – the player sees and knows exactly where they stand and where their weaknesses are.
What is the Problem?
In a game, we are not dribbling in a box. We are not performing skills on command. We are not allowed to have lazy touches. We are not allowed to go through the motions. But we still wonder why the ball is turned over quite often in youth games. It is because we are not forcing players to perform the technical skills in game-like conditions. When there is no pressure, no time constraint, no space constraint – We have not giving our players the proper tools to solve the problems that the game demands.
Solution – Deep Practice
First, isolate the skill you want to work on. Second, limit the space and time to execute the skill. Third, require maximum speed and concentration. Finally, increase the pressure. These items are what iSoccer calls SPECIFIC DEMANDS. In all of the technical skills iSoccer test, you are working in a confined space with clear consequences for poor touches. Players are given a limited amount of time. We are requiring players to perform the skills at their absolute maximum speed for 20 seconds. Finally, we are applying the best pressure we can to an individual player – the pressure to be better than yourself.
RESULT IS MORE MOTIVATION & FASTER DEVELOPMENT
Players will feel improvement. Players will see improvement. Players will like improvement. Each skill iSoccer assesses, players will be motivated by their current level to push even harder to get to that next level. And that is training smarter!
To close, I want to challenge all of us as coaches to question our current definition of player development and look with a critical lens as to what we are doing right and more importantly, what we have to do better.
Maybe you are doing an excellent job or maybe there is room for improvement. Regardless, if our collective goal is for the women to regain their world dominance and for the men to continue climbing the world rankings, it is all of our responsibilities to do our part.
At iSoccer, we are trying to push the envelope of player development and are always looking to make our program better for the players and coaches across this country. If you agree, disagree or have any other thoughts, please email us directly at RaiseTheLevel@iSoccer.org
And, to close with our company motto: Together, We Can Raise the Level!
iSoccer had the opportunity to speak at the Notre Dame Coaching Seminar for over 150 coaches this past weekend in South Bend, Indiana. Scott was brought in to present the youth portion of the weekend. Mike Dikey from US Soccer was the other featured clinician.
The key points to the presentation were:
1 – Giving Players a Number to Achieve is Motivating and Fun
2 – Isolating Specific Skills Allows Players to Truly see Their Strengths and Weaknesses
3 – 20 Seconds can be Powerful Training Tool
[Picture - Head Coach Bobby Clark of Notre Dame and Scott Leber of iSoccer)
Scott played for Coach Clark when he was the Head Coach of Stanford, so it was a nice little reunion as well!
Players from the MPS School of Excellence and Premier Team programs will be introduced to the National Standards Project (NSP), which is currently used to measure, benchmark and track the technical ability of 18.2 million youth soccer players in the U.S. MPS will also introduce the National Standards Project to the 60 different communities that it currently helps from a coach and player education perspective and will also plan to create programs in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Florida inside the other MPS franchises.
“We are excited to include iSoccer and the National Standards Project as a component of our training calendar as we look to maximize the development potential of each player within the club,” said MPS Director of Coaching Peter Bradley. “The NSP will allow the MPS Technical Department to record and analyze test data from across the club. It will also enable us to continue and enhance our mission of coach and player education throughout the State and the country.”
iSoccer is an assessment and video training platform that empowers players, coaches, and clubs to improve their technical ability. The iSoccer Assessment will be taken throughout the year to measure individual and team development. MPS coaches will also use the assessment results to focus their training with the players and to build targeted technical sessions to supplement team practices. This additional resource provides players, coaches and parents guided video training instruction, professionally designed by experienced coaches, which can be downloaded to computers/mobile devices and performed at home.
“iSoccer is excited to build a relationship with Mass Premier Soccer as we enter into the second year of the National Standards Project,,” said iSoccer Founder and CEO Scott Leber. “MPS is a great organization that is committed to long-term player development, and iSoccer will be an excellent supplement to their current curriculum. Through iSoccer, MPS players and teams will not only know their technical level, but will also be motivated to raise their technical level.”
“Players will be encouraged to utilize the online tools that iSoccer provides to help them devise a training program to be carried out at home,” said Bradley. “iSoccer will help to motivate players to increase their accountability for their development and also increase their contact time with a soccer ball.”
SoccerPlus and iSoccer partner to raise the technical performance of youth soccer players and raise coaching awareness.
March 7, 2011
Starting March 1, 2011, the SoccerPlus network will introduce approximately 15,000 players and 1000 coaches participating in SoccerPlus sponsored and partner youth programs to the National Standards Project (NSP), a long-term initiative to measure, benchmark and track the technical ability of the 18.2 million youth soccer
players in the U.S.
“We are delighted to include iSoccer as an integral part of our ‘Player Development Revolution’, an initiative to emphasize the importance of appropriate player development with young players”stated SoccerPlus Founder and Boston Breakers Head Coach Tony DiCicco. “We plan to expose our club players, coaches and club partners to the iSoccer NSP immediately.”
“SoccerPlus shares our passion towards raising the level of the game through the concept, ‘If you can measure it, you can improve it,’” stated iSoccer Founder and CEO Scott Leber. “This partnership is a wonderful opportunity for all the clubs, teams and players working with SoccerPlus to further accelerate their development.”
“The iSoccer assessment activities will form part of our ‘High Performance Program’, a comprehensive approach to player development aimed at raising coaching performance and encouraging players to practice their technique in organized practices and importantly, in the yard at home. Players can enter their own scores on the iSoccer website and track their progress – a real incentive for the players to dedicate themselves to technical training”stated David Newbery, SoccerPlus Director of Player & Coach Development.
Based in Hartford, CT, SoccerPlus was formed in 1982 ago by Tony DiCicco, 3 time World Champion USA National Team Coach. SoccerPlus offers a variety of programs and services to youth soccer, including consultancy to youth soccer organizations, residential and day camps and clinics, community outreach in low-income areas and a premier club program competing in some of the top leagues and competitions in the country including the ECNL. Contact: David Newbery: email@example.com www.soccerplus.org
TOGETHER, WE CAN RAISE THE LEVEL OF THE GAME, ONE PLAYER AT A TIME!
Players See and Know They are Improving
Soccer is a fast-paced game that requires players to simultaneously focus on their control, vision, communication and shape. With so many factors, it can be very difficult for young players to isolate specific improvements. So at iSoccer, we remove the outside factors, and isolate individual skills. We have created a scoring system for players to measure themselves and see their improvement. The player now has full awareness, understanding and ownership when they achieve a higher iSoccer level!
Success Breeds Success
Everyone loves the feeling of winning and self-achievement. So we built iSoccer with that psychology in mind. The first couple of times players perform the iSoccer assessment, they should be able to progress from one level to the next without too much additional training. This scoring system was deliberately designed so that players feel the satisfaction of earning a new level and achieving a higher score. However, as players progress, attaining each new level will require a deeper and deeper commitment to that skill. Reaching that next level may take weeks, months of even a year, but players’ previous successes will strengthen their belief that they can achieve the next level.
The Perfect Challenge for Each Player
Players are different – skill, speed, decision-making and field presence all vary. Finding the perfect challenge for each player is crucial. With iSoccer, there is only one competitor, “yourself.” No matter the current score, a player can always try and do one more…. And that is the perfect challenge!
A Complete Team Effort
The ultimate vision is for each and every player to take responsibility for raising their own level. However, we recognize this is a team effort and that outside support and recognition can be very powerful! The iSoccer program motivates players more effectively when parents and coaches reinforce the scores and goals. If a coach or a parent administers the assessment and then does not mention it for 6 months, the full potential impact is lost. In a positive and healthy way, challenge and remind your player to raise their level! Coaches, check out “How to use iSoccer in Everyday Practice.”
Great Articles on Motivation and Earned Success! Click Here