The “expert” soccer coaches online and off

At the risk of coming across as a bit of a prick, here’s an example of one of the emerging problems within youth soccer coaching at this time. Coaches who present themselves as “experts” or “pro coaches” and put together media or materials that purports to help “volunteer” youth soccer coaches when really there is nothing of any value in the material that’s being put forward or their coaching in general. Yes, this has the potential to stray into pot calling kettle black territory but I’ll take my chances.

Take Glenn, below, in a video produced by expertvillage.com. He’s been coaching for over 20 years and has his USSF B License.

He’s doing a video on a shooting warm-up exercise and he gets off to a great start saying “We’re going to use our laces, our instep.” These of course are two different parts of your foot. Maybe he means they’re going to use both but from the exercise they do it’s clear that he means laces despite saying both. His credibility is taking a hit by the seven second mark.

Next he says, “We’re going to use the proper technique, back and forth between each other.” What the proper technique is is never explained but he proceeds to essentially demonstrate technique for punting the ball from your hands while standing still – not something that happens much in games.

Then comes a real gem. “We’re trying to hear that nice sweet sound if we hit the sweet spot on the ball.” I think I know what he’s saying but it’s really more of a feeling in your foot when you’ve struck a ball well. You know very quickly when proper contact has been made and the ball’s going to move with pace and direction in the desired manner. It’s not a sound you’re going to rely on that tells you that and it’s not that the ball itself has a sweet spot. It is after all, a perfect sphere. It’s not an American football or rugby ball that’s going to behave differently depending on what part of the ball is struck. Like golf, the sweet spot is on the instrument striking the ball, not the ball itself. Am I getting picky? Maybe. But if you cannot communicate clearly and accurately when you’re working with kids, they aren’t going to understand what you’re saying. This can only be advantageous if you’re telling them something that’s entirely wrong. Either way, you probably shouldn’t be coaching if that’s the case.

“You’ll notice that these players are keeping the ball nice and under control.” No, actually quite a few of them are leaning back and the ball is more often than not bouncing off the end of their foot with no direction or intention. They’re demonstrating incorrect form and you’re not stepping in to demonstrate correct form.

The only direct instruction to the players comes at this point, “Let’s try to keep moving as we’re doing this.” Well, you’ve given them a drill that really calls for a lot of standing still, so asking them to compensate for the shortcoming of your drill is a bit much. But that’s the only coaching point Glenn makes. There’s no correction when several opportunities present themselves to do so.

Lastly, the puzzling, “If they make a bad touch there’s immediate feedback on it. If they make a good touch they get it right back again.” You can only assume that the immediate feedback from the bad touch is from a frustrated teammate who has to go and chase the ball repeatedly after several bad touches because, again, there is no feedback from him.

Glenn is already taking a beating in the comments for this video on YouTube so I don’t want to pile on too much but the real point is that there are far too many Glenns out there who dress themselves up in fancy sounding certifications, accents, and specialized training equipment.

If you’re looking to involve a “pro coach” in your team’s training, invite several to come and run a session for your team and explain that you want to get some idea of who is going to work best with this particular group of players. Give them a topic you’d like them to work on and see if they can put together a well planned, well executed training session with:

  1. minimal down time
  2. an ability to demonstrate the points they are trying to make to the players
  3. the ability to step in at the right time to make effective corrections without taking all day to do so
  4. effective, age appropriate communication

That’s the base from which a professional coach should be able to start from. They should be able to adapt quickly and be confident enough to either progress to a more challenging version of a drill or game or step back and make it easier if the players are not having success the way it is. Communication should be supportive but not confined to platitudes. Simple but precise instruction is always going to go a lot further to helping players understand what they need to change or what they need to do more of far more than cheerleading or generic shouts (“pressure!!”).

Still looking for a really good example of these traits on YouTube. Feel free to post links in the comments if you think you have one.

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