Youth Sports Conditioning Principles
Soccer is no different than any other sport at the youth level – and I am not
inferring that anyone suggested otherwise – but every youth coach of every
sport, seems to think that the technical nuances of their sport are some how
more intricate or specialized than the skills of other sports… and that is not
And you can replace ‘Soccer’ with ‘Baseball’, ‘Basketball’ or any other sport
in the above paragraph.
The point of the Goal Confusion article can be summed up in one sentence –
Coaches and Trainers must learn how and when to apply certain teaching
techniques and when to let kids ‘learn’ things for themselves – and that is
especially true when we design drills in which we tell our players that the
success of a drill is based on the outcome rather than the form.
If you have been a subscriber for any length of time, you know exactly how
I feel about teaching skill – it is imperative and an ability that frankly, many
Coaches and Trainers lack (when in consideration of pedagogical science
and individual player temperament).
Having said that, by not letting young kids simply ‘have at it’ on their own
once in a while or at certain phases of development, we risk limiting free
nervous system adaptability at large – and this has been a prevalent problem
in North American sports for years.
We over-teach our youngsters and do not allow them free exploration
(which is at the crux of sport development) but then marvel at how much
more ‘naturally skilled’ international athletes often tend to be.
In Canada, the best hockey players are not in organized competition at a very
young age or under the technical instruction of a coach, they are playing on
the pond or local outdoor rink with their friends or family and doing little more
than guided discovery.
The same is true of Latin American baseball players and Brazilian soccer
If you are not familiar with Guided Discovery, it can be best summarized
as the pinnacle of outcome-based coaching.
It is when an adult (coach, big sister or Dad) simply presents a youngster
with an idea.
“Here Johnny, I’m going to set out some cones. I want you to take this soccer
ball and use your feet to bring it with you around and through these cones –
when you get through them all, see if you can kick it into the net and aim for
the lower right corner of the net”.
Now… let the kid (or kids) have at it. Offer encouragement and positive
feedback, but let them learn the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s of making that drill work’.
At a certain point, if quality-coaching instruction is not entered into the
equation, the potential of that young athlete to excel in the sport in question
will certainly diminish.