Two Kinds of Fun
A few years ago I had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time with a coach named Tim Hankinson. Tim has spent nearly his entire career working as a soccer coach with high level collegiate and professional soccer players. Despite this background, he had great insights to the youth game. One of the concepts we discussed was “Two Kinds of Fun”:
- Spending time doing something that’s social or silly to relax and pass the time (for example: playing Wii, a game of HORSE in the driveway, riding skateboard with friends, etc.)
- Spending time doing something that’s serious which is challenging or self-improving (for example: working on a school science project with classmates, climbing a 14er, etc.)
Some soccer players and their teams fall into the first kind of fun. Others fall into the second kind of fun. Joining a BSC Blast team means a little of the first, but mostly the second. The aim is to have fun, but to do so while working hard to learn and improve, always seeking the next level in our game.
Playing competitive soccer won’t be easy. Practices will be tough and we’ll be out in all sorts of weather: hot, cold, wet, dry. But the effort will be rewarded over time with increasingly skillful play and the satisfaction that comes with learning to do something and to do it well.
As a coach, I have high expectations for all my players and emphasize a number of things:
- Commitment: I expect Blast Competitive players to prioritize soccer over other hobbies and activities with the exception of school commitments. If there’s a conflict, soccer should win. We all need to make choices about how to spend our time and spreading our attention across a lot different things usually means you may get good at those things, but certainly not great. Becoming great means focus and for a Blast player, that means soccer should get more attention than other spare time options.
- Effort: I expect every player to work hard and do their best. All the time; every time. There are many things you cannot control, but one thing only you can control is how hard you work.
- Motivation: Competitive soccer players need to drive themselves to succeed and improve. As a coach, my ability to develop a player is highly dependent upon how much motivation the player has to develop themselves. I cannot force a player to do something they don’t have an inner desire to do. Players need to take individual accountability for their development: you get out what you put in.
- Collaboration: Soccer is a team game. I am very focused on helping each player reach their own individual potential, but that is impossible without other players. Each player needs to work with their teammates, be it through shared learning; by pushing one another to improve during training and matches; or by encouraging a teammate who is struggling. If everyone works together, everyone succeeds together. If players (even just one or two) are doing their own thing, most likely everyone will fail… together.
- Health: You are no longer a little kid. You are now a young athlete. Over the next couple years, your body will grow (sometimes a huge amount). You will also spend more time being very active as practices will be tougher and matches will be longer. All of this adds up and means now, more then ever, it’s important that you take care of your body. You need to eat healthy with a properly balanced mix of carbs, fats, fiber and proteins. You need to cut back on sugary foods and drinks full of empty calories that won’t help you make it through practices and matches. You also need to get a good night’s sleep every night. And you need to take care of yourself during times of the year when we aren’t practicing (see the Off Season Fitness section below).
- Decisions: A huge part of soccer is making decisions. Assess problems, determine solutions, make decisions and make them quickly. This is a topic that will come up in nearly every practice and every match. I will constantly ask you about your decisions, good and bad, and expect players to learn and improve their decision making over time. To me, this is the best part of soccer: it’s your game, the player’s game, and you need to decide what needs to be done and when. I will teach you to see and recognize opportunities and traps, but only you can learn to make good decisions.
Finally, players should review, understand and follow the RESPECT guidelines found in the BSC Code of Conduct Young Players RESPECT 2014 document.
Each season, every player will receive a written evaluation and be offered the opportunity to meet with me to discuss the evaluation (with or without parents depending on what you would like to do). Evaluations are nothing to be afraid of as they help players understand both their strengths and their weaknesses and discuss ideas for continuing to build on those strengths as well as ways of improving upon weaknesses.
Beyond evaluations, I will provide feedback to players constantly during both practices and matches. I am also able to meet outside formal evaluation periods if players are bothered by something or just have questions they don’t want to ask during a practice or match with other players around.
As part of evaluations, from time-to-time we may complete iSoccer assessments. iSoccer testing consists of performing a series of standardized soccer movements during a timed period. This helps players and coaches see very specific technical skills and identify areas for improvement.
For a competitive soccer player, “off season” does NOT mean “no activity”. It means rest, recovery and healing, but it also means you need to take responsibility for ensuring you maintain your fitness while taking a little time off from scheduled team training. As a coach, I don’t want to waste valuable practice time at the beginning of each season forcing players back to a reasonable level of fitness.
I expect players to remain active and return to practice able to meet the following fitness standards adapted from the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. The pair of activities outlined below are based on running fitness which is obviously the #1 thing a player needs to be able to do in order to play soccer.
Mile Run Test
|One Mile Run (for Girls) (min:sec)|
|%||10 yrs||11 yrs||12 yrs||13 yrs|
Standard: All players are expected to be able to complete a One Mile Run at the 85th Percentile pace or faster.
Reference: One_Mile_Run-Walk_for Girls_2014
Shuttle Run Test
|30′ Shuttle Run (for Girls) (sec.tenths)|
|%||10 yrs||11 yrs||12 yrs||13 yrs|
Standard: All players are expected to be able to complete a Shuttle Run at the 85th Percentile pace or faster.
Reference: Shuttle_Run_for Girls_2014
Coach Dave’s Running Club
At the beginning of each season, we’ll complete both the Mile Run Test and the Shuttle Run Test. Players that aren’t able to achieve the standards will be required to join Coach Dave’s Running Club (the Club is optional for those players that are able to meet the standards). The Club will meet following each practice and will complete a Mile Run Test and the Shuttle Run Test. A player’s membership in the Club is temporary and can end once the player has achieved the standard. It’s called Coach Dave’s Running Club because I will also be a member of the Club and will run with the players until everyone has achieved the standard.
Avoiding Coach Dave’s Running Club
Clearly, being in Coach Dave’s Running Club sounds like a ton of fun. But it’s possible being in the Club is something a few players might like to avoid, so here are some off season training tips for doing just that:
- Organize pickup soccer games. Boys or girls, it doesn’t matter. Just play!
- Organize two to three runs each week with your neighborhood friends or teammates that might live nearby. Ask your parents to help map out a course that’s 1 mile long and time your run to see how you are doing. If you aren’t quite at the standard, keep up your running sessions… you’ll get there! It may be useful to mix in a few longer runs (1.5 miles or 2 miles).
- Do you have a dog? As long as you are out for a run, take your dog with: your dog (and your parents) will appreciate it.
- Join the C.A.R.A. Track & Field program in the summer and / or play on a basketball team in the winter. Give GO Soccer a try!
- Participate in off season soccer activities outlined in the “Off Season” section on the Practice page.
- Workout at the Paul Derda Rec Center (if you are 11 or older, you can take a certification course which will allow you to use the weight room and running track without a parent).
- Play hard during gym class at school!
- Practice the Shuttle Run Test on your own. Instructions can be found HERE.
The key is to do something every day.
Competition is a central element in a player’s development. At the youth level (ages 6-12), however, a competitive environment should not be a result-oriented environment. The differences must be clear. A competitive environment at the youth level encourages decisions from player and coach alike that focus on performance rather than outcome (favoring ball skill and inventiveness as the means to find success within the rules and spirit of the game). The result is just one indicator of performance and at this age, not the most important one