31 Aug 5 Easy Ways to Help Your Soccer Player Improve
By Keith Gunn, Savannah United Academy Director
“How can I help my child improve?” This is a common question parents will ask me. What they are really saying is “What can I do with my child, away from club training that will increase the rate of their development?”
#1 GET INVOLVED
Yes you, parents! Over the last 15 years working with Savannah based Youth Soccer Players, I can confidently say that the best players have almost always had one thing in common – parent involvement. Like anything when your children are young, they love to spend time with you. Whether you have a soccer playing background on not, it doesn’t matter. Just watching them and encouraging them or actively participating with them will encourage them to spend more time with the ball and foster a love for the sport.
#2 WATCH THE GAME
If your child doesn’t have a favorite professional soccer team or a favorite professional soccer player, change that today! Whether they like where they are from, the color of the jerseys or the fact they just won a trophy, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the player forms a connection with a group of high level athletes who they will learn from and then mimic in their own game. Young players in the Academy Program will not likely have the attention span to sit through full games, which can last up to 2 hours. So, my advice would be to use a platform like YouTube and watch highlights of games or focus on their favorite player. If they are a defender, there will likely be clips of their best blocks and tackles. If they are a midfielder, their best passes and so on. They will immediately begin learning aspects of the game without even realizing it. Consider treating this time as you do with other forms of homework where they have to dedicate so many minutes per week to watching high level soccer in the form of games, highlights or clips.
Juggling is one of the best ‘at home’ activities out there for youth soccer players. It is fun, challenging and rewarding. All you need is a little space and a ball! This is why Savannah United promotes juggling to players away from our club training sessions. Compare this to clubs who spend vast amounts of time on juggling at club training. They are focusing on something, which is a great skill to learn, but is a minute detail during a club training environment, which provides staff, field space, goals, team mates and the ability to teach the game as a whole. Is this a good use of club training time and resources? We believe it is not. Our philosophy is that when pairing the development of skills like juggling at home along with learning the game as a whole during club sessions is a force to be reckoned with! Below is a great tutorial for players just getting started.
#4 NEIGHBORHOOD PICK UP GAMES
This one obviously depends on where you live and having enough space available, but if you have the ability to organize and host weekly pick up games please consider it, because it will greatly benefit the kids. Pick up games are intended to be fun, informal games open to different age groups and levels without any pressure where players can practice skills they learned and not be afraid to experiment etc. Pick up games are an essential part of any player’s development because they promote creativity. Once you have a location and have decided on a time, all you need are a couple of pop up goals and players will show up if it is consistent. You might get to a point where you end up having to turn people away!
#5 PRIVATE TRAINING
Hiring a private trainer for your child can be advantageous if you are willing to pay their fees, which can be very expensive. Some trainers charge between $50-$100 per session, which can last less than an hour! Compare that with club fees, which cover a year’s worth of tuition. While I recommend it to families from time to time, it isn’t essential. A player can easily reach their full potential if they put the time in alone. In fact, if you ask any of our paid staff in the Academy or Select program who had successful playing careers, the majority will tell you that they never worked with private trainers. It really boils down to whether the player is self-motivated or not. If a player truly falls in love with the game and is self-motivating, they will spend time with the ball regardless. However, if they are struggling to get motivated, a private trainer can provide the structure and routine they might need.
For more information on private training, please contact me for recommendations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading and “See you on the pitch!”