As we kick off the new year, we wanted to take a minute to catch up with Scott, and see what’s been going on at the iSoccer office in San Francisco.
Scott, it’s the start of the 2012 fall season. What’s new with iSoccer?
Well, the big news is that we just hit 1,000,000 scores logged! We are thrilled that we hit the goal laid out when we launched the National Standards Project two years ago.
It’s been awesome to see more and more players, coaches, and parents running with iSoccer, and committing to raising the level of soccer in the US. Obviously, this is a long term project, but we are excited to see momentum building, and glad to be a part of the solution.
So you reached the goal of 1M scores logged – what’s next?
We used the scores to establish iSoccer Standards based on age, gender, and location – now we are moving into the next phase of the Project, which revolves around using these Standards to create a skill game.
We all know how powerful games can be, so we are turning ‘practice’ into a game, where players can compete against themselves, their teammates, and the community. The goal is to get more and more kids excited to spend time with the ball.
How exactly does iSoccer make training into a game?
Players can earn skill levels, badges, and accolades for completing activities and interacting with the online and mobile platform. The difference between iSoccer and other online games, though, is that our goal is to actually get players outside, instead of staring at a screen for hours!
It’s all about using technology and tapping into the psychology of game dynamics to make practice more fun. No matter how skilled a player is, there is another level that they can work towards achieving.
Any advice for coaches or parents who are using iSoccer for the first time this season?
Keep it fun! Sure, the iSoccer Assessment is great for tracking development, but the primary goal of iSoccer is motivating players. If you set up fun challenges and reward improvement, you can engage all type of players.
Also, as a parent or coach, if you are excited, players will feed off that. Ultimately, you can use iSoccer to create healthy competition around skill development, taking some of the emphasis off winning and losing.
Looking back, what have you learned in the last two years?
Wow, tough question – we’ve learned so much in the last couple years! We’ve gotten a ton of feedback from people around the country and the world, which has really helped us constantly improve the platform. One of the main things we have learned though, is that coaches and parents are very busy – obviously!
So we are focusing on simplifying things, and improving the user experience so that iSoccer.org and iSoccer Mobile become easier to use, and more engaging for players at the same time.
I love hearing from our community, by the way, so anyone should feel free to shoot me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback, thoughts, ideas, cool stories, or just to say hi!
Any new features people can look forward to?
Haha, well without tipping our hand too much, we do have some exciting stuff coming out in the coming months. We are about to launch our newest features – Player Points and Velocity. Basically, players will earn points for everything they do, and will be able to see how fast they are working towards improving. Coaches will see all of this, and players can compete with their teammates.
Also, keep an eye out for the Goalie Assessment we are creating with Tony DiCicco, and more advanced, partner iSoccer Assessments coming soon.
In 2009, Bill Miles became the coach of a rec-level U10 girls team in Hanover, NH, a small town of 10,000. Three years later, they won the U12 New Hampshire State Cup. Let’s take a look at what happened during those years, and why their coach thinks winning wasn’t their greatest achievement.
Coach Miles believed that skill training was key to his young team’s development, but he wasn’t sure how to get his players excited to spend more time with the ball. He had played D1 soccer at UPenn, but couldn’t use the drills he learned in college – they were too advanced, and emphasized the wrong part of the game for U10 players.
He discussed these issues with another coach, who introduced him to iSoccer. After using iSoccer at only one practice, Coach Miles said a light bulb went off. “iSoccer gave me a repeatable process that was fun, focused on the basic skills necessary for young players, and actually worked!”
- They started using iSoccer at the beginning of every practice, sometimes as a formal assessment, and sometimes as a quick challenge.
- Throughout practice, they used 20 seconds, and even came up with some new skills on their own.
- Coach Miles set short and long terms goals for everyone to achieve.
- iSoccer helped create a strong bond among teammates, and led to healthy, fun competition in training that motivated the entire team to spend time with the ball away from practice.
*The concept of a “growth mindset” was pioneered by Columbia and Stanford psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck. She explains that, “in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” You can read more about her groundbreaking studies with school children.
iSoccer uses games to create a fun path that shows kids how to improve in soccer and in life. Coach Miles used iSoccer as a foundation, applied it to his personal coaching philosophy, and ran with it. How you use it is up to you!
The iSoccer Team
- Players: What’s one area of your game that you have been struggling with this season? Non-preferred foot dribbling? Shooting? Aerial control? Pick one or two iSoccer Skills and really focus on raising those scores in the next couple weeks. Login>>>
- Coaches: Choose one or two iSoccer Skills that your team needs to improve on as a whole, and set a team goal to collectively raise those scores. Be sure to offer a group reward for hitting the goal, like a free-play practice. Login>>>
- Parents: Help your player improve on a couple iSoccer Skills by scoring them and encouraging them to set goals. (You can even score yourself and challenge your player to see who can raise their scores the most. It doesn’t matter what scores you get or if you’ve never played soccer before – have fun with it!) Login>>>
The iSoccer Team
Player Points: Now players earn points for everything they do in their account! From entering scores and activities, to just logging in, Player Points let you know how much you are using iSoccer to get better.
Velocity: Everything you’ve done in the last 30 days determines your Velocity. Velocity shows you how fast you’re improving, and it’s also a multiplier for your Player Points. The higher your Velocity, the more Player Points you earn!
Play with Your Team: Players and coaches can check out everyone’s Player Card on the team, and challenge each other to get better faster. Coaches can even award points to players for doing well, and take away points to keep players honest. Have fun with it!
So take a look at your account (you probably already have points!), and feel free to let us know what you think about Player Points and Velocity!
The iSoccer Team
- Recognize improvement: Using one or all of the iSoccer Skills, recognize players for improving their scores, no matter how skilled they are. That way, everyone has a chance to receive praise for personal achievement.
- No achievement is too small: Often, less skilled players don’t have the opportunity to stand out in games. iSoccer gives them a chance to achieve something tangible, like going from an Orange to Purple Skill Level. Treat this just like going from a Red to a Black Skill Level!
- Keep it fun: By setting objective goals and giving players fun rewards for raising their skill levels, you can take some of the emphasis off winning and losing, and get players excited about skill development!
Print iSoccer Skill Certificates with iSoccer Plus
*When we say ‘reward’, we mean anything from a pat on the back, to public praise, to making a player captain for the next game. It’s up to you, and doesn’t have to be a material reward!
Of course, there is nothing wrong with rewarding a player or team for playing great. However, rewarding improvement and hard work can sometimes be even more motivating!
The iSoccer Team
Quick Tip: 3 Video Progression – Heading
Whether you are scoring off crosses, knocking the ball down to a teammate, or controlling it for yourself, being comfortable with the ball at your head is important no matter where you are on the field. Here are three iSoccer Skill Videos that you can use as a simple, effective progression for learning how to head the ball!
Step 1: Start with a seemingly simple exercise, and see if you can hit a perfect header with your forehead right to your hands every time. (You can also try 2 or 3 touches to a catch.)
Step 2: Find a wall and challenge yourself. It may take a minute to get the hang of it, but find a rhythm and as you get more comfortable, move further away from the wall.
Step 3: This one isn’t easy either, but is great for perfecting your head and volley control. How many can you do in a row? 3? 5? 10? 20?
Neymar shows that a good touch with your head can make a huge difference, no matter where you are on the field. Right through the legs!
Learning basic, yet important skills like heading the ball is all about repetition. You can use the iSoccer Skill Videos to work your way up, and then keep it fun and interesting by creating challenges for yourself, like seeing how many juggles between your head and feet you can do!
The iSoccer Team
Quick Tip: Little by Little
"I want to become a better soccer player."
This statement is echoed by young players everywhere, but sometimes it may feel a little overwhelming. Where do I start? How do I get there? "Improvement" can be a vague concept, especially in a subjective game like soccer.Often, players don't know for sure if they are getting better, and can get discouraged about their development. This is exactly where iSoccer can help:
"I want to improve one or two iSoccer Skills."
This seems much more doable! Players can focus on one or two skills, and see tangible improvement through objective scoring and skill levels.
"I can see myself getting better!"
By picking a few iSoccer Skills to work on, players are able witness incremental improvement that helps them gain momentum and get excited about their development. Little by little, and over time, they can become a better player, and have more fun on the soccer field!
The iSoccer Team
Quick Tip: Soccer Golf!
Summer is the perfect time to challenge your friends and teammates to a round of soccer golf! You can play anywhere – from the park, to the backyard, to the house – and it’s a fun way to sharpen your accuracy and touch.
1. Make the course: Pick out something to be the ‘hole’ and get creative in where you put it and what the rules are. Hit the fire hydrant, chip through the swing, on top of the picnic table, only with your left foot…
2. Set the par: How many touches will it take to hit the hole? Set up par 3s, 4s, 5s, and higher (depending on the difficulty of the hole).
3. Have fun improving your game: The more time you spend with the ball, even playing games like soccer golf, the more you will improve as a
player – it’s as simple as that!
If you play soccer golf inside, we recommend using a tennis ball or small sized soccer ball!
The iSoccer Team
Quick Tip: Learn How to Bend the Ball
Being able to bend the ball is not only fun to do, it also makes you a more dangerous passer and scorer. However, bending the ball effectively takes practice. Here are three iSoccer Skill Videos that are a simple, effective progression for learning how the bend the ball!
Step 1: Find a wall, a friend, or a parent and get comfortable volleying the ball with the inside of your foot.
Step 2: Standing sideways, focus on creating spin and hitting the ball cleanly. As you establish a rhythm, hit the ball harder and move further out.
Step 3: Create spin with the inside of your foot, and practice hitting a stationary ball off the ground. Once you are comfortable striking a clean, bending ball, set up a target and challenge yourself and your friends to a game. Get creative and make up the rules!
As a young player, David Beckham used to hang a tire from the corner of a goal and try to curl it in for hours. Later he was able to do this!
Learning basic, yet important skills like bending the ball with the inside of your foot is all about repetition. You can use the iSoccer Skill Videos to work your way up, and then keep it fun and interesting by creating challenges for yourself, such as bending a ball through a tire!
The iSoccer Team
Feel free to forward this to anyone who loves soccer as much as we do.
Quick Tip: 3 Juggling Skill Challenges
Here are 3 iSoccer Skill Videos that you can use to make quick, fun skill games this summer. Challenge yourself, or your friends, and see how many you can do!
For Beginners: Once you can do the 1-2 catch, see how many more you can do in a row. 3? 5? 10? Right and left footed.
For Intermediate Players: This one is great for learning proper foot angle for striking a clean, driven ball. Complete as many as you can with either foot. Remember – no backspin (a little forward spin is even better).
For Advanced Players: How many can you do in a row while knocking the ball as high as you can followed by a small control touch? The higher you knock it, the more skill is required. And remember, only use your laces!