Lateral Training and Youth Soccer

This past Sunday, the U9 boys had their first open inter-squad scrimmage of the season.  This after taking an 8 week break from soccer altogether.  The boys were deliberately put into different positions to try-out their talents somewhere outside of their norm.  Other area boys joined the scrimmage to get some time in.  On top of all this, several of the boys grew in height by an inch or two.  All of these challenges looked like a recipe for a train wreck of a game.

Instead of a fire drill, Sunday's scrimmage was probably the best display of tactical play I have ever seen from these boys.  Possession up the middle was sharper than expected as the center midfielders did an outstanding job quarterbacking the play on the field.  Chemistry quickly developed among the boys on both teams creating multiple touch sequences prior to shooting on goal.  The shots on goal were rockets.  I could tell that the boys were embracing the off hours shooting practice being offered.  This looked like a team of boys who have progressed considerably from the time off this Summer.

How does that happen?

It is abundantly clear that an exclusive focus on soccer may not be the answer after all.  The secret to your child's success in one sport actually comes from practicing other sports.  Baseball camp, basketball camp, golf camp and lacrosse camp gave my son a good boost in his confidence at that first practice.

Laterally training is especially important for a developing child.  While it is important to their physical development, it works even more on their ability to better interpret various game situations.  Baseball helps your child learn how to instinctively position themselves in a variety of plays (i.e. grounder to short, pop fly to the 3rd baseman).  Basketball helps develop a faster thought process with in a higher speed of play.  Lacrosse and soccer are VERY similar in how the game is approached tactically, except that one uses a ball and stick.  Golf?  Really??? Absolutely!  Golf teaches lessons to a future soccer player.  Have you ever been forced to hit out of the woods or play an imperfect lie?  Golf teaches a soccer player how to overcome adversity.  Not every transition is going to be played from "the middle of the fairway".  The player learns how to think his/her way out of trouble.  If you combine the aspects taught in these other sports, the mental approach to soccer suddenly becomes less of a challenge.

Parents, if you have a son or daughter that loves the game of soccer, do them a favor.  Give them a chance to train laterally through other sports.  It helps tremendously.  Sure they may like that other sport.  Remember, having fun is also part of learning these sports.  Every sport is just a game. 

If they end up liking that other sport so much that they quit soccer altogether, then perhaps they may have been pushed too hard to excel at soccer tot he point of burnout.   Remember.  Kids like fun.  Keep it that way. 

As for my boys, I cannot wait to see how this season rolls out.  Will they outperform the 14-2-2 record they compiled a season ago?  Maybe not, but based on Sunday's practice, that final record may not matter nearly as much as how well the boys overcome their moments of adversity, something that will have been taught to them through lateral training. 

Do Parents Understand?

In the past month, I have fielded several questions from parents in the community in the wake of their son/daughter completing another try-out with the area "travel" soccer team.  All of these questions stems from a bitter result at that try-out.  Here are some examples:

- The parent does not understand why the club would decide to move said parent's son/daughter to the lower level team as opposed to putting them on the highest level.
- The parent does not understand why the club would suddenly offer a "premier" team to parents (with a $300 up-charge) after try-outs are over and then expect a decision on playing at this level just two days before full payment is due.
- The parent does not understand why I would go out and create a team of my own when so many "travel" programs exist in the area.
- The parent does not understand...

Despite all of these questions and obvious frustrations, these same follow up this obvious frustration by begrudgingly writing a check in the amount of ~$1,500 - $2,000 to this club to cover the cost of the Fall and spring soccer seasons and some Winter activities.  In most cases, uniforms cost extra.

Oh, and they also get a car magnet to proudly show off that your son or daughter plays for that soccer team.

Parents, if this process affects you that much, then why do you even bother putting your child through this stress?  Think about it.  Your payment feeds into a multimillion dollar industry, most of which is being collected at this moment\l.  There are literally hundreds of soccer teams out there with professional coaches ready to take your money (by professional, I mean coaches that get paid to coach).  You have options, LOTS of options.  The local club with whom you have issues is not the only choice.  $1,500-$2,000 is a lot of money to pay to a club whose initial decision making process disappointed you.  Would you continue to go to the same restaurant over and over again because you have heard of the name yet you never cared for the food. 

If you truly want to find the club that is right for your son or daughter, you must first come to grips as to what matters more.  Are you motivated by your child being on the highest level team?  Are you more interested in social acceptance by ensuring that your child is on that local club roster in any capacity?  Do your research before deciding on a team.  Google "youth soccer".  Talk to the coaches.  Find out what their gold standard looks like.  What is their vision for teaching "travel" soccer?  Are they a coach or an educator?  By doing this, I can assure you that you will quickly uncover the difference between a high level club and one that is barely a notch above park district soccer. 

Maybe that car magnet means a lot more to you than you lead yourself to believe.