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Montgomery County Soccer Association

MCSA Coaching Philosophy

Here we outline several broad principles to guide you in making your coaching choices. 

The biggest barrier to children learning this game is lack of time. Too many competing interests are out there. The only time some of your players touch a ball may be at practice and matches. Given this fact we must have efficient or "economical" practice sessions. Players standing in lines or listening to lectures are wasting valuable practice time (and aren't having fun either!).

Children learn and retain by doing not listening! "Let the game teach the game" and "the game is the best teacher" are phrases you'll see repeated often in soccer literature. It is the coach's job to establish the proper environment in which learning is to occur. This is the absolute essence of soccer coaching. If you observe your team has trouble dribbling the ball and try to correct that by 8v8 scrimmaging you'll see that one out of 16 players are able to work on that skill (dribbling) at a time. Is this economical use of time? However, if every child has a ball and they are all dribbling at the same time…you can see that much more learning is occurring, and fun too. If an exercise or drill does not address the problem that you are concerned with, does not have sufficient repetitions for all your players, does not bear a functional resemblance to the actual game of soccer and is not fun…. don't use it!!!

Your sessions must be age appropriate. We don't mean just chronological age but "soccer age". The most glaring example of this is to try to teach passing at too young an age. Smaller children don't "share" the ball with their teammates. They don't share their toys, their food or anything else at certain ages! Forcing this too soon encourages "boot ball" and robs the child of becoming comfortable on the ball in traffic, which should be the main goal of the early years. On the other hand, " fun" games learned in the early years may not challenge the u-14 player who needs to be developing some tactical awareness by this time.

Your practice sessions need to focus on one (and rarely two) topic(s) at a time. With only a couple of practices before your team's first game the temptation will be to try to accomplish too much…fight this urge!

Move from the simple to the complex. If the drill starts out too complex for the children to achieve success they will not learn! Stay at a particular level of difficulty until the children succeed then move on. You may select a passing drill with four attackers and three defenders. If the defenders keep winning the ball two defenders or one defender or even no defenders may be more appropriate. Don't be too impatient increasing the level of difficulty; remember, everything takes time to learn.

In training it is only reasonable to use simple themes that show up again and again. This eliminates the need for extensive explanations, which the kids find "boring". You are able to build on something familiar rather than reinvent the wheel each practice session. By altering the rules you can change the environment in which learning is occurring. The same drill with two-touch play limits becomes a passing exercise where without that rule might emphasize dribbling.

Perhaps now is a good time for a reality check. If you are blessed with more technically able, or in the younger age groups simply more aggressive, players you will win more games than the coach who has a less experienced team even if he or she is the "better" coach. Your main mission is to see that your team individually and collectively are better soccer players at the end of the season than at the beginning and have loads of fun during the season so that they want to come back next season. If you think that because of your expertise or your superior work ethic you can turn an inexperienced team into a skillful polished squad…you will be disappointed and more importantly may bring more pressure on these children than they deserve.

One other thought. Keeping score and trying to win is not in and of itself a bad thing, but what you do with that information is crucial. Visit any playground game of any sport and you'll find the score being kept by the children themselves. However, when the game is over…it's over. Observe how quickly after a match the players' talk turns to something else. Your value as a coach to the league, your players and their parents does not depend on wins and losses. (Some parents may be confused on this point but we assure you their children are not.)

We strongly endorse the small-sided game concept. Players get more touches on the ball per unit time played than in full scrimmages. Weaker players get their share of touches instead of the dominant players controlling every touch. Technical breakdowns are easier for the coach to see and correct than in the confusion of a full contest. Tactical decision-making is required and develops soccer intelligence. Soccer is a "players'" game. The coach doesn't outline plays or control the action as in football or baseball. During the contest it is the players who must decide what to do and when to do it. If your practices don't incorporate some decision making, even at the youngest ages, your players will struggle come match day.

Practice doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent!! Good habits in practice become good match habits; bad habits in practice become bad match habits.

 

Practice doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent!!
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