Top 7 Ways to Improve a Child’s Soccer Level
A soccer game lasts 90 minutes long and is played by 22 players all on the field at the same time. The game clock never stops. It runs for goal kicks, corner kicks, substitutions, and for a large amount of time when the ball is under no one’s control. Studies show that on average each player is only in direct contact with the ball for two minutes each game. So while you may be playing soccer for 90 minutes, for only two minutes will it be your turn to dribble or to pass or to shoot … and these instances come in a FLASH, usually lasting only a few seconds at a time.
This two minute average is also true for youth games, while there are fewer players on the field, the game is much shorter … your time to shine remains very limited. These two minutes are your two minutes.
When your child is at practice, whether it’s for their in-town team, town travel team, club team, or a national team – practice time is not much different than game time. Your child’s typical 90 minute practice is dedicated to a warm-up, set of drills, some form of a game, and often finishes with a scrimmage. Just like your weekend games, the time spent when you directly influence the play is a very small percentage of the overall practice.
There is a widely publicized idea that to truly become a master at anything you must practice a specific task for over 10,000 hours. This idea has been used to explain success across a wide-spectrum of fields: from Bill Gates’ computer programming, to Mozart’s musical compositions, to Michael Jordan’s finesse in basketball. Studies repeatedly show that you need to surpass this 10,000 hour threshold to become a world-class master: there is a direct correlation between the hours spent practicing a specific task and your level of achievement. The learning curve is not a straight incline, it differs for everyone – it may plateau at some levels, increase exponentially, or perhaps even regress at certain points. But this chart shows a general soccer learning curve:
The reason why I bring up both the notion of such limited action during games, and the studies indicating a correlation between one’s success and practice, is not to show how much more practice time is needed to become a World Cup soccer player or to make a U10 “A” Team – but rather to ask where your child is in his or her development?
If your child plays a total of four hours a week of soccer (two 90 minute practices and a game) are they four hours closer to becoming a master or even just an advanced beginner?
Or are they only .2 hours closer, because of the four hours they are playing soccer, they are only truly “practicing” for maybe 12 minutes?
It is the last question that I want to examine more closely – is your child truly developing when they are actually at their team’s practice?
I don’t ask this question to attack the traditional practice plan or even to change it at all … I ask this question to illuminate the need in every player’s development to focus on the two minutes when they are in the direct control of the play. Viewed from this broader perspective, when a player is at their team’s practice, the coach is concerned with their TEAM’S development – how they defend in the back, the shape they attack with, etc. The coach’s goal is justifiably on the team’s success and improvement. Technique and fundamentals are often ignored, or are secondary to the “team” and coach’s goals.
Perhaps this is a case of putting the cart before the horse, because if each player were able to improve individually, wouldn’t the team improve overall? For better or worse, the current structure is not going to change, and even if it did, it would not diminish the importance of focusing on your two minutes, rather than the other 88 minutes.
The traditional practice/game format is not truly the most conducive to individual player development. If your child wants to improve their game at a faster rate than their peers, they need to do something else. It’s at this point where you might feel helpless – how can they do this?
The answer is that your child needs to zone in and breakdown the fundamental tasks they will face in their two minutes:
Understanding the specific skills required
Learning the correct way to execute those specific skills
Learning how to train themselves
This is what we teach at the PROformance Soccer Academy – we focus on your two minutes.
We are not a replacement program for your team’s practice nor do we have our own teams that are attempting to recruit players. We are a supplemental program offering various training programs aimed at improving your child’s performance on their team.
Top 7 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Individual Soccer Development:
Knowledge of the correct techniques and how to train using these techniques
Understanding the reasoning behind the techniques and ability to recognize/correct flaws
Sit In The Stands