Back in the day, when I wasn’t on the soccer field, I loved playing Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo. Recently I played it again for the first time in 20+ years, and actually almost beat the game in one try!
It got me thinking – how did I get so good at Mario Brothers, and how does that relate to iSoccer?
Edge of Ability: When you die in Mario Brothers, you get to immediately try again on the exact same level. Practicing on the edge of your ability is where you improve. Slowly, something that was very difficult will become easier and easier.
Active Learning: I got better by actively playing more and more, not by watching or being taught. You get better soccer skills by doing, not listening. You don’t need a coach to get outside and touch the ball as much as possible.
Repetition: After passing the same level again and again, that level became easier and easier. So when I played the next day, I would breeze through the first few levels and get to where I was more challenged. If you do the same skill over and over again, it will go from challenging to routine!
Just like Mario Brothers, technique is something any player can master. So instead of trying to get to the next level in your favorite video game this season, spend more time with the ball trying to get to the next iSoccer Level!
Scott Leber (@scottleber)
Great article about our friend over in Japan – Tom Byers!
The Saga of Tomsan: How an American journeyman revolutionized Japanese soccer—and why it isn’t happening in the U.S.
By Brian Blickenstaff
Posted Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, at 12:00 AM
Courtesy of Tom Byer
In 2009, Zinedine Zidane, the legendary soccer player, participated in a coaching clinic in Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. Children and parents filled the stands. The mood was jovial. Zidane was a once-in-a-generation sort of player, a kind of mad genius remembered today as much for his ball skills as for the infamous 2006 World Cup headbutt. The parents in attendance hoped some of those skills, like his signature pirouette (not the headbutt), would rub off on their children. But as Zidane and the gathered coaches began their lessons, something strange happened. The children in the audience began to chant. They weren’t chanting “Zidane,” although people occasionally shouted for his autograph. The children chanted “Tomsan,” the nickname of a 52-year-old retired player from upstate New York who never won a Champions League title, a World Cup Golden Ball, or a FIFA World Player of the Year award: Tom Byer.
Coach, we get it. You have a full time job and afternoon hits. Rushing to the field you think, “What am I going to do with the kids tonight?” You are not alone, and iSoccer wants to help you by simplifying practice! We believe the goals of the season are:
1. Players become better soccer players.
2. Players enjoy competing and want to play next season.
3. Players grow as people and socialize with their peers.
That is it. Lets keep it simple. Winning is of course important, but secondary to those three season goals! Ready? Let’s do this!
The clearer the session is to the coach and players, usually the more effective it will be. This ‘four part’ practice plan tries to give you both structure and progression. Every kid is guaranteed lots of of quality touches, tons of decision making opportunities and a chance to compete every practice! With those three things + energy from the coaches, you are well on your way to making every player better and creating an effective practice session! Feel free to incorporate any drills you already know or ones you find online. This hopefully serves as a framework for an effective, fun session. When you are done with 8 weeks, just repeat! Good luck and you can always reach out to iSoccer at: Support@iSoccer.org. We are here to help you Raise the Level of your Players!
If you are an experienced or professional coach, please forward to any coaches you think might benefit from this practice guide. And if you have any thoughts on this plan for recreational coaches, (how to make it simpler, more effective, clearer) please let us know – We are always looking to make everything we do better and greatly appreciate honest feedback!
Here is the new US Men’s National Team Coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, speaking on ESPN a year ago during the World Cup in South Africa. He focuses on two main points that he thinks would help US Soccer improve on the world stage: 1. involving players of all socio-economic backgrounds and 2. being better technically.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves Coach Klinsmann! It comes as no surprise that we at iSoccer are in complete agreement with both of these statements as 1) the iSoccer assessment is freely available to
all youth players, and 2) Our mission is to Raise the Level emphasizes technical development…. Time will ultimately tell, but at iSoccer, we believe that this is right (and necessary) direction for US Men’s Soccer.
And here is Coach Wilmer Cabrera of the U17 Men’s US Team after the U17 World Cup in Mexico.
“Unless we have an unbelievable team where we have six, seven very skillful players who can make the difference on the field. But we don’t have those types of players. I haven’t seen those players yet.”
“We have to grow, little by little. And I’m not blaming anybody. It’s the system. It’s cultural. I’m part of this culture. I can’t change what I cannot change. I want to try to help where I can. “
Sense a consistent theme here? We have to Raise the Level!
PS. We also felt that it was important to note, that as the U20 World Cup kicks off today in Colombia the US will not be present. We did not qualify….
You know the iSoccer assessment… But what happens when you limit the rest and do each iSoccer assessment back to back to back to back as a workout – You Get iSoccer Gone Bad! This 11 workout can be done by players of any age at any level…. But beware, it will be TOUGH! Technical execution is a very simple concept: How quickly, accurately and consistently can you perform the most basic skills. Now see if you execute technically as your body get more and more tired!
In preparation for the Fall Season, Summer is the time to focus on technical development and work towards Raising Your Level. 15 to 20 minutes a day of focused and intense training will make all the difference. This workout can be done by players of any age at any level…. Technical execution is a very simple concept: How quickly, accurately and consistently can you perform the most basic skills!
Make the commitment today and Lets Raise Your Level!
Click here or on the images to download the file!
TEAM: Anthem Middle School Girls Soccer
- Primarily 4th-7th graders (one 8th grader)
- Other teams had five to seven 8th graders
- Half the team had never played competitively
- Some teams ‘laughed’ at first sight of Anthem’s size (score ended up 8-1)
What did they do in training? How did they motivate players of different skill level? What did they do to win?
HEAD COACH: Doug Pillsbury
Game Day: We Won by Passing and Dribbling Around Bigger, Faster Players
Every team we played was bigger, stronger and faster than our girls. Our central midfielder (a 4th grader) is only 4’6″ – One game she played against a girl that was 6’1″! We had to rely on our individual and team skill to 1) Be able to dribble and get out of tight spaces, and 2) Be able to effectively pass around the bigger players. iSoccer gave us that technical base that really showed up in the games. By the end of the season, my girls were doing give-and-gos and passing the ball around the field. It was great to see how the training came to life in the games! [Check Out iSoccer's Article on Passing and Receiving]
First Four Weeks: One Hour of iSoccer Everyday
iSoccer was the skill development program that we implemented at the beginning of the season. We would train for 1.5 hours a day: One hour of iSoccer and 30 minutes of small or full sided scrimmage. Over the course of the season, we did three formal assessments, while the other nights, we just used the iSoccer Space and 20 second work intervals. The difference in my players’ skill level was ‘night’ and ‘day’ by the end of the four weeks. Our better players were sharper with the ball while our more recreational players went from having basically zero control, to being able to control, dribble and pass effectively. It was incredible! [Check Out iSoccer's Article on How to Use iSoccer in Training to Motivate Your Players]
My Players were More Focused with iSoccer
The 20 seconds and simplicity of the 16 assessed skills helped focus my players. For those 20 seconds, each player gave it their all – Maximum effort with maximum attention. As the weeks went by and I was able to correct the technique of each player, every one of my players kept getting better and better. And the number of touches each player was getting on the ball was amazing. 20 second work rate + high number of touches = My player’s skills were becoming faster, more accurate and more consistent. [Check Out iSoccer's Article on 20 Seconds, Skill Isolation and Deliberate Practice]
My Girls were Fired Up about Raising Their Level
A couple of weeks into the season, I began to offer optional Saturday training that focused specifically on the iSoccer assessment. I was extremely happy when I got a little less than half the girls to come out on Saturday morning to do technical training. They wanted to ‘Raise Their Level’ and were willing to wake up on Saturday for optional technical training! To further motivate players, I gave out an iSoccer Outstanding Skills Award to one player who had the highest score and raised her level over the course of the season. [Check Out iSoccer's Article on The 10 iSoccer Levels and The Psychology of Motivation]
Practices were More Structured and Effective with iSoccer
The first day of training I had 21 girls: Some played competitive club soccer while others had never played at all. I asked myself, how am I ever going to create an effective practice with players of very different abilities? I found the answer in iSoccer. By separating the girls in groups of three, working in the iSoccer Space and putting girls of similar skill level together, I was able to effectively teach and motivate each player. By working in the confined grid, the girls were more focused on beating their own scores, than worrying about what the other girls were doing. This was especially helpful in motivating the girls who were playing soccer for the first time. They could develop at their own pace without the pressure of others watching or seeing how far behind they were technically. [Check Out iSoccer's Article on The iSoccer Space]
Brought iSoccer Reports to Regular Training Sessions
I would print out various iSoccer reports and bring them to practice. One of the reports shows the top scores for each girl on the team. If I heard a score that was higher than their highest score, I would publicly recognize them. This added a healthy, yet competitive element to the session because other girls wanted to be recognized. Being able to quickly reference scores and use them to motivate was very helpful!
Japan wins the Asian Cup over Australia in the 109th Minute from an absolutely incredible volley. The technique. The focus. The precision. The strike. Nothing short of World Class! And technique like this only comes from deliberately working on your form for many, many years!