This article and accompanying video were contributed by coach and parent Rebecca Thatcher Murcia and her two sons. Thanks for sharing Thatcher Murcia family!
A few days after seeing iSocccer.org win a prize at the Topdrawersoccer.com, I pulled out the flyer I had picked up at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America conference and showed it to my 12-year-old son, Mario.
“We could do most of these tests in our basement,” I said. “Do you want to try it and see if it would be good for the team?”
He was interested but right away I hit an obstacle. I looked in my meager tool drawer and there was no sting or rope to measure out 2.5 meters. I wasn’t going to let this stop me. I’ve always thought the most important thing we can do with young players is help them develop good technique, especially the ability to use both feet. A fun and easy way to measure this seemed like a Godsend. I kept looking and finally settled on a piece of electric cord. With Mario’s help, I measure out 2.5 meters and marked a blue spot on the electric cord.
We started going through the tests for the first time and we found the directions well written and fairly easy to follow, except for the scissor test. The writing and the diagram are clear but since the routine is so unfamiliar, I had to read it several times before it made sense.
Mario has never been very two-footed. Like most kids, he prefers his right foot in soccer and his forehand in tennis. I’ve worked hard to become more two-footed, especially after a nagging right hip injury in 2001 forced me to use my left foot to kick the ball until a doctor finally made me rest it completely. Slight digression: I was trying to explain the importance of being two-footed to kids in Colombia, where I lived in 2007 and 2008. But I got confused between the Spanish word for left and pig, which sound a lot alike. “I’ve scored many goals with my pig!” I told the poor baffled children.
Mario was taken aback by how poorly he did at first when he tried the left-footed first touch test. He kept finding that his left footed touch wasn’t good enough to get off a quick pass. After struggling with it for a little while, he managed to do 9 passes in the 20 allotted seconds.
He was also mortified by the trouble he had juggling with just his non-dominant foot. It’s funny, because I’ve been saying that it’s important to be two-footed for years, but nothing hit home like having to put a 3 down in a little box on the computer screen.
We printed out the results and Mario was purple. But the second column of numbers, the scores he needed to get to move up a level, where what he found interesting. “I’m going to work on my left-footed juggling,” he said. “I know I can do better.”
He was inspired and quickly improved his left-footed juggling to 12. Within about a week he had moved up to green. The one test that was not easy to improve was the change of direction test. One day I stood with him in the basement for close to an hour as he went back and forth, trying to figure out if Cruyffing the ball on the right-footed turn is faster than just pulling it back with the bottom of the right foot. He went faster and faster but he could not break the 20. It would seem as if he was about to do it, then a little mistake would keep his score at 20 or even give him only an 18 or 19.
Finally we stopped. I wondered if he was discouraged, he didn’t seem disheartened. “I know I have to go all out to get to 20,” he said.
“I really want to get up to blue.”
By Rebecca Thatcher Murcia
To learn more about iSoccer visit www.iSoccer.org
We just received this letter from Gary Buyagawan, a coach in Washington who has recently started incorporating the iSoccer Assessment and training tools into his curriculum. It’s so exciting to hear positive experiences like these taking place across the country! Thanks for sharing Gary.
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for providing such a great tool like iSoccer for the soccer community. While we, as a club, are admittedly still getting up and running with the iSoccer program I have taken the opportunity to run my own GU-17 team through some of the assessment drills and they absolutely love them. From a players viewpoint there are a number of great things about iSoccer.
- The players love the competitive nature of the drills. Not only against their teammates but also against themselves to see improvement each time.
- The players have found the drills fun and exciting and are anxiously awaiting to have full membership access to the website.
- Videos that the players can download onto their iPods are a huge plus. This makes their individual training portable and convenient. Players like the ability to clearly see what is being executed before trying to replicate it on their own.
From a coaching standpoint I could not ask for a better online program than iSoccer. Here are a list of benefits that I’ve seen (and remember, this is only with very limited usage thus far).
- New tools to help player development. The iSoccer program has been a great help in keeping the players and coaches focused on technical development.
- As we all know, keeping the older age group girls focused on their training rather than boys, work and/or other things is hard. This was the right tool at the perfect time to get my players focused back towards soccer in a competitive, yet fun fashion. Getting GU-17 players to actually focus on technical development is a huge challenge that can be easily corrected by using iSoccer.
- Immediate and truly measurable results. You can clearly see improvement or regression via the assessment process. There is no gray area for players to hide in. Either they are moving forward and improving or they are not as the assessments tell the full truth of player strengths and weaknesses.
- The drills and assessments emphasize balanced development with both feet and don’t allow players to favor one foot heavily.
- Players are excited and have repeatedly asked when the next assessment is going to take place. This means they are mentally engaged in their own development. Which, to be honest, is absolutely huge for players of the age group I’m currently coaching (GU-17).
As we had discussed on the phone I have been looking for an online program to support our club operations for a long time. I was looking for a program that would truly help the coaches develop their players as well as keep the individual player involved in their own progression. Something that I felt the coaches and players would both buy into because not only did it help foster improvement in their technical skill level but was fun for everyone involved. After a very long search, and regretfully a lot of misspent money, I found out that this type of program did not exist in the form the club needed… That is, it didn’t exist until iSoccer came along.
Even with the limited exposure to the program that we’ve provided out players, I cannot say enough about the positive impact iSoccer has already had on our club. I have spoken with all of the Velocity coaches and they have in turn contacted their players/parents regarding the iSoccer program. Further, rumors have already been floating from our club players, parents and teams to other local clubs and associations about this “new training program” that Velocity will be using. Needless to say, everyone is very excited and is looking forward to the upcoming year with iSoccer and Velocity Futbol Club.
Head Coach – Velocity FC ’92 Green (Washington State League, GU-17)
Program Director – Velocity FC (Girls Competitive Program with Cascade Soccer Club)
Learn more about iSoccer at www.iSoccer.org
We met Coach Becky at the NSCAA Convention. When she got home she did the full iSoccer Technical Assessment with her son and he’s been working to improve his scores ever since (in the basement no less). It’s great to hear stories like this. Thanks for sharing it Coach Becky!
My son is really having a great time with it [iSoccer]. He’s gone from a yellow to a green since we got back from NSCAA. Now he really wants to be blue. He tried 20 times yesterday to get from 20 to 21 on the change of direction test. It was the first time he wasn’t able to improve his score with a lot of effort, but he was not discouraged. He knows he needs to go full speed to get in 21 points.
- Coach Rebecca Thatcher Murcia
Learn more about iSoccer at www.iSoccer.org