Soccer: Real Secret to Success


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    By: FYSC

    I have been involved in soccer for over 25 years at school, club, college and professional level, and my background in psychology enables me to view training from a child-centered, developmental perspective. 

    Of the 17 million soccer players in the USA, 80% are aged between 6 and 11 years, with 60% of children aged between 5 and 9 years naming soccer as their first sport.  By age 14, however, an alarming 70% of players have dropped out of the game (source:  While there are many reasons for this decline, I believe that coaching style is a key factor. 

    For a significant number of coaches, winning takes priority over player development, and this attitude can lead to dissatisfaction among many players on the field.  In countless games, I have watched the coach place the biggest player at the back and the fastest player in attack, then tell the kid at the back to kick the ball as far as possible for the attacker to chase.  Launching the ball downfield, the player receives positive reinforcement from parents at the sideline, and believes this is the way to play soccer.  The coach may well achieve a win using this method, but how successful and fulfilled has the whole team been?

    Firstly, we have to question how many times the other players have touched the ball?  There is no fun in a game in which you run up and down the field, never making contact with the ball.  Furthermore, in many instances where another player touches the ball but makes a mistake or doesn’t contribute to a goal-scoring opportunity, parents can be heard making negative comments that will often be repeated by the player’s own teammates.  Discouraged and embarrassed, players may well be tempted to quit the game.

    Secondly, players are given set plays from the sideline, and encouragement to rigidly adhere to them.  The game of soccer changes from minute to minute and requires awareness and adaptability to react to developments.  In order to excel, players need to be coached to deal with this demand.

    It is not enough to cultivate a team that wins because two forwards score goals and receive all the praise; we need to engage and develop each and every player. 

    In a grassroots soccer study (source:, a U8 player’s contribution was analyzed across two 30 minute games, one 5 v 5 and one 11 v 11.  Figure 1 demonstrates a significant difference between the two games; by introducing age-appropriate sized practices, the player’s involvement and therefore enjoyment and opportunity for development increases substantially.

    Figure 1

    Knowledgeable coaches will teach teamwork, leadership, patience, commitment and respect, enabling every player on the team to contribute, experiment, and figure out for themselves what does and doesn’t work.  The result will be a skilful and successful team, whose players understand and enjoy the sport.

    Our training sessions have been created to encourage players to think, process information and find solutions.  In practices, players touch the ball as much as possible and perform game-related drills to develop skills which can be employed in match situations.  Let the kids think for themselves and most of all let them have fun and play.

    See you on our soccer fields this season.

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