Soccer Player Development vs Soccer Coaching

What is the difference between Player Development and Coaching Soccer? There is a huge difference and every soccer parent needs to know.

A good soccer coach is not necessarily a good soccer player developer. A good soccer coach may have a lot of knowledge about tactics and how to improve team performance. The coach may also have experience in playing different formations and positions. All of this knowledge has to be transferred over to the players soccer-ball-on-the-field-100184840so they can function as individuals on a team and perform well. The soccer coach is more concerned with team performance and outcomes. The coach may win a lot of games under that system and the players may perform really well. That is the sign of a good coach. He/she gets the most out of the players. In order to be able to successfully coach players, they need to be developed.

Player Development is similar to coaching and it’s the reason why the two are used synonymously. When working on Player Development, the goal is to get players prepared to play in a system or prepared to be coached. Although the Player Development phase starts out at a young age, it continues throughout their childhood and into their early adult life. The process is very long and it’s key to understanding player development. A coach can also improve player development during coaching, both tactically and individually.

The problem we face as parents is when we get coaches who want to coach at such young ages. Some coaches will attempt to teach tactics to very young kids that are not prepared to be “coached”. I have seen coaches on numerous occasions trying to teach a diagnol run to a 6 year old. The young child has never been interested in any of those tactics. At that young age, kids just want to kick the ball.child-soccer-player-100226365

Everyone can be a great player developer, it’s easy. We have to let nature take its course, and allow kids to be kids. Don’t teach young soccer players tactics when they are not prepared, instead invest your time and energy on player development. The young soccer player must first develop as a player before they can learn, execute, and/or understand tactics. I still see 12 – 14 year old kids who have been playing soccer for 6-8 years and they still can’t learn tactics because they have yet to develop their fundamentals. What this tells me is that their development process was broken. They started learning tactics at a very young age and they skipped the development phase.

To avoid this problem, make sure you know what you want to accomplish whenever you put your child into a class, team, or academy. The first thing you should be concerned with is to develop the player. This means you have to ignore goals and game scores. It doesn’t help if your son/daughter’s team wins every game and all you are working on is tactics. At some point the rest of the kids that are developing appropriately will catch up because they will understand and execute tactics better.

You will need a “good coach” when the child gets older and ready to learn about tactics. The most important thing during the development phase is to have a trainer/coach who understands development and is only concerned with individual progress, not wins or losses. The coach/trainer should have a healthy nurturing soccer environment. He/she should always be positive with the kids, always encouraging and challenging the kids to improve as individuals. The “team” concept won’t matter to kids until they get older, so don’t hammer this into them. It’s part of nature, kids are born selfish, and they only think about themselves until they get older.

If you are interested in learning more about soccer player development, you can listen to our Free Youth Soccer Evolution Podcast where we interview professional players about their development, or purchase my friend Mark Burke’s ebook, A Different Kind of Soccer Book. In this book, Mark (who played professionally for Aston Villa in the English Premier) goes into detail about training and development for young kids.

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator


Why Futsal is here to stay



Ok, so you’ve heard about futsal. It sounds like this foreign game played by foreigners. Well remember that was Football (soccer) before the immigrants brought it here. Now we are in love with that game, Soccer. Many people think of Futbol (which is Football in Spanish) when they hear Futsal. I’ve seen many people spell it FUTSOL. Others think that the ball is real heavy, while others have never even heard of it.

Well let’s look at the reason it’s called Futsal. Futsal comes from two Spanish words that were combined. Futbol (football) and Sala or Salon (indoor) were combined to make the word Futsal. In other countries they may call it Futbol de Salon.

Futsal was invented in Uruguay, but it was Brazil that adopted it and made it what it is today. Brazil started winning all the world cups and developing player after player, non stop. Everyone knew that if you wanted a good player, you had to go to Brazil. The one constant that was found was that Brazilians played a lot of Futsal and street soccer, which are similar. Futsal and street soccer were perfect for Brazil for several reasons that you can read about here. But just to name a few, there was a lack of funds for grass pitches, the fabelas were overpopulated, and the goals were smaller. So in the crowded cities, small concrete courts were used as their soccer fields. When the game went indoors, not much changed. The floor was smoother, the temperature was controlled, and the rules were modernized.

When other countries started focusing on player development, they did what we all do today, go find what is working and copy it and/or make it better. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just do what is already working. Pretty soon Spain adopted Futsal as a form of player development and it was their success as well that increased the popularity of Futsal throughout Europe.

Today, Futsal is the fastest growing sport in the US. Futsal is here to stay in the United States, even though many people may still have their doubts. The US Youth Futsal Association now has leagues across the United States and is growing at a very rapid pace. Futsal is not only being played in the winter, but also during the summer months, as well as in southern states where winters are very mild. The US Soccer Federation has finally started their US National Team and US Youth National teams. Today Futsal is rapidly expanding across the US and this is great news for everyone involved with soccer because Futsal only helps you be a better soccer player. Keith Tozer, US Futsal coach, is at the helm and leading the charge. He is also the US Youth Futsal technical director.

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

Want to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator, get the Ebook!

The people that will benefit the most from this revolution is you and me. Parents and their kids who play soccer. Why? because Futsal will be played by our kids at one time or another due to its popularity. Playing Futsal will make a huge impact on their development. Futsal forces players to use their feet, control the ball, improve coordination, and play in tight spaces. These are all factors that contribute to increased player development. The ball is constantly played on the ground, it’s rare that the ball leaves the floor. This forces the players to use their feet and with that comes foot skills improvement.

Everyone that starts playing Futsal immediately falls in love with the fast pace of the game. The only players that don’t like Futsal are the ones that can’t control the ball.

If you have any questions about Futsal, send me an email . I currently own a Futsal league and train all of my players using Futsal.


5 tips to train a toddler in soccer

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

Coaching a toddler in soccer is very simple, but yet so many people get it wrong. Remember that kids at that age barely have any coordination and are just starting to learn to maneuver their bodies.
Tip #1 Understand the natural process of development
The object of the game is to make them fall in love with soccer and make them want to play. What I teach parents is to understand two things here. Reinforcement and Pairing. In Behavior Analysis, Positive Reinforcement is described as “The presentation of a stimulus that increases the future likelihood that a behavior will occur. It is important to note that “positive” does not necessarily mean “good” or “desirable”. Examples of positive reinforcement: 1) Giving a child a high five after they kick or dribble the ball increases the odds that they will want to kick or dribble the ball again next time”. (www.behaviorbabe.com). We do this all the time with kids, it’s the reason that they model us so much, they get praised. The second factor is “Pairing”, that is described as “The process of creating (or re-creating) an enjoyable, reinforcing, and pleasurable relationship between parent and child, where the child comes to view the parent as not just the giver of reinforcement, but as actual reinforcement”.
Behavior Analysis is my field of study, so it may be a little confusing. What these two definitions tell us about behavior is that in order for a child to “learn” to love the game, they must first receive some type of reinforcement from the activity (they must feel good when they kick the ball). Parents can provide positive reinforcement by giving a high five, cheering for them, and/or telling them how great they did (remember we are talking about toddlers, so everything they do must be the greatest of all time!). The child will then begin to PAIR the two, playing Soccer with dad is Fun.
Tip #2 Don’t force the Toddler to play soccer!
Never force your toddler to play. This can go very bad as the child could learn to distinguish Soccer with punishment. Wait for the right time. Remember that punishment will reduce behavior. The last thing we want is to reduce the toddler’s behavior of playing soccer or have a bad experience. During my consulting with parents and with my own kids, I have witnessed times when kids just don’t want to play, regardless of how much the game may mean to the parent or teammates.
Tip #3 Soccer Environment
To combat a child that doesn’t want to play, you need to set up an environment that can nurture soccer players. For example, buy a few soccer balls and leave them throughout the home. You can kick a ball around or just dribble and act like it’s a lot of fun. The child at some point will want to join and see what all the fuss is about. Why is the parent having so much fun? And they will want to feel that same Reinforcement. You can also watch soccer on TV or friends or relatives that play. The point is to demonstrate to the child that soccer can be fun, so that the toddler can try playing soccer. Once the toddler starts or wants to try soccer, that is your opportunity to use all of your reinforcement energy and provide the toddler with lots of praise, high fives, and cheering whenever he/she does anything remotely close to what could be considered soccer. You must make this enjoyable for the toddler so that he can start pairing soccer with Fun!
Tip #4
You can buy something inexpensive that the child may like. For example, my youngest daughter wanted a pair of indoor shoes like her older sister when she was 4. She said she wanted them to play indoor soccer just like her older sister. Of course we bought them because it was a minimal investment for another opportunity to create some positive reinforcement (Buy the shoes, she wants to play). But parents can use anything to create this positive reinforcement. One time it was a little soccer bouncy ball that cost a quarter. Again, what you are trying to do is create that environment and reinforcement that involvement with soccer is good and you approve of it. In general, kids search for the approval of their parents, so if you approve them being around and involved with soccer, the kids will appreciate that.
Tip #5
There is no need for structure at this age. Let them play wherever, whenever they want. And sometimes in the middle of playing soccer, they may want to play volleyball or basketball and start dribbling. As long as they continue to be engaged with the ball is all that matters. Eventually they return to kicking it, because it’s the easiest thing to do. You can model by dribbling the ball yourself or kicking it, just don’t make the child upset. We want them to enjoy playing with the ball. So dribbling with the hands is better than nothing at this age. Remember we are trying to increase their creativity, coordination, and love for the ball. Please do not get obsessed with technique at this time, they will have plenty of time to work on that when they gain some type of coordination. But you definitely want to reinforce when they do use proper technique. For example “hey that was a great job using the inside part of your foot” or “nice, with the laces”. It’s all about Fun!


How to coach U5 Soccer Players and Team

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

There are many soccer organizations throughout the United States that want to contribute to the soccer player development of young players. The issue that comes up is when trying to identify coaches for these teams. 99.9% of the time, a parent volunteer is thrown into this role because they want to help. The organizations are non-profit the majority of the time and have very few resources to pay a professional or trained coach. This is not a very big problem when dealing with U5 or U6 teams. Our problem in the US is that parents think that a 45 minute training is sufficient for kids to improve.
The other issue is that parents think that if a U5 player doesn’t have a professional coach, they are not going to make it.
The quicker a parent accepts and understands that soccer player development is a process that takes over 10,000 hours, the better off that child will be. At early ages, from 2, 3, 4, or 5 years old, the children need to “play” with the ball. Not necessarily play soccer, but just play with the ball. It’s ok if a 2 year old picks up the ball with their hand, they are trying to get a feel for it. The plan is to help each child fall in love with the ball and WANT to play with it. If they ask to kick the ball with them, go do it. You don’t need to hire a personal trainer or coach for this, just go out and kick the ball with them. If they want you to play Goalie, be the best, weirdest, coolest, goalie of all time. Just make the child connect kicking a ball with fun. This is called “PAIRING” in behavior analysis and it basically means that the child has paired fun with the environment you create. You can read more about Pairing HERE.

kidwithball Once the child has paired kicking the ball around with having fun with you (or friends), you have established Pairing. This now means that the child will be reinforced (or enjoy) by playing soccer. This achievement will bring about many other reinforcers to the development of the child. But for now the most important thing is that your child now loves soccer and WANTS to play. If your child is under 5, there is no need for long hours of structured play, just plain backyard kicking the ball around is perfectly fine. Once they do join a structured team or league, there is no need to obsess over the structure. For example there is no need to complain that the coach “doesn’t know what he’s doing” because he doesn’t have any good drills. The best thing you can do is to keep the child engaged in playing in a game that is somewhat related to soccer. So if they are kicking, punting, dribbling, or juggling the ball, that is good enough for that age, as long as they are having fun.
I recommend that you have a few drills with one ball per child. You can make it up as you go or just search for dribbling soccer games. You can have all the kids dribble to the moon and back, dribble between cones, under or around parents, with cones on their heads, through the goals, or just to the line and back. The most technical aspect to focus on here is the ball and the player. Each player should make an attempt to keep the ball as close to them as possible. That’s all you have to worry about! But too many parents and coaches will spend HOURS talking to a 5 year old about forwards and midfielders and making runs and clearing the ball, etc. That is completely unnecessary since the child still has to learn how to dribble before any of that even makes sense.
So don’t waste your time with downloading passing and shooting drills for U5 or U6 players. None of that matter until a child can learn how to dribble. This will take time, so be ready to spend the next 3-4 years. Remember this is a process and there is no single drill or coach that can teach a 4-5 year old how to dribble in one day.
• The keys to remember about coaching U5 or U6 players is that they are all selfish, so they want the ball, ALL the time! That’s why you are not going to teach them to pass right now, they don’t want to do it and they don’t want to learn.
• Parents and coaches should focus on Pairing. Make sure the kids are associating soccer with fun. To do this you must pair soccer with fun. Anytime they are at the soccer field or playing with a ball, it should be fun. So if the child doesn’t want to play, don’t make them because that’s not fun. You need to go back to square one. The child should be asking you to play, not you asking the child to go play.
• You don’t have to teach them everything today. In the next 3-4 years, they will learn to dribble, pass, receive, shoot, and LOVE the game.
• The kids should be playing at home and outside of FORMAL training. So don’t expect players to reach their max potential if they are not playing outside of formal training hours. The child must love soccer so much that they ask you to play, they ask their friends to play, and they enjoy playing with anyone.
• Remember that as a coach, even if you have no clue about coaching, as long as they kids continue to love soccer after the season and want more, you have done your job. Because it means that they will continue getting better in the next 15 Years!!! That’s how important those first years are. They must establish Soccer/Football as a game that they love to play.

“Pairing” – The process of creating (or re-creating) an enjoyable, reinforcing, and pleasurable relationship between therapist and child, where the child comes to view the therapist as not just the giver of reinforcement, but as actual reinforcement. (www.IloveAba.com)


Youth Football (Soccer) Development Model with Horst Wein

Horst Wein is internationally renowned for his Football (soccer) development model. His insight into youth development and how training should be applied is simple, yet unique. He has worked in over 51 countries and with some of the top clubs in the world including Arsenal, Barcelona and Juventus, to name but a few. His coaching philosophy and training programs are used by Italy, Germany, and Spain among others. He has written numerous books on youth soccer drills, coaching, and development.

He discusses how soccer should be played with the mind first, then your feet. How yelling on the sidelines decreases creativity as the kids are doing what the coach says, and not making their own decisions. How the 11 v 11 game was made for adults, not kids. In just 40 minutes, Horst Wein, will make you rethink your coaching philosophy. He is known as the “coach of coaches” for a reason.

Leave a comment at the bottom and tell me what you think after watching the videos. I understand it’s an older video, but it’s very relevant today.

For further coaching education, visit Amazon and get his books. I recommend his Youth Football Development Model book for newer coaches. For advanced coaches, I recommend the Game Intelligence book.


5 Important Lessons From AC Milan’s Youth Soccer Development Academy

For anyone interested in knowing some of the factors involved in youth soccer development, this is a must see. Rarely do we get an opportunity to get up close and personal to these international programs. Here are 5 important lessons from AC Milan that we can all agree on.
#1 AC Milan philosophy: Fabio Grasi explains that the club’s philosophy on youth soccer development is that “you cannot become a good player if you are not a decent person”. That’s not only a great coaching philosophy, but also a great parenting philosophy. There’s no way any parent would not agree with this philosophy. It also demonstrates that the club is not only concerned about their player development, but also about their future. AC Milan’s approach is to get kids to “grow as players and humans, because if you are disciplined in soccer, you will be discipline in life”.
He also explains that they don’t just care about technical abilities of the children and developing those, but they also care about the kids and their growth as soccer players.

How to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

Want to Maximize Player Development as a player, parent, coach, and administrator

#2 Teach Respect: How does AC Milan reach this goal? Teach the kids about sharing spaces, respecting their teammates, the training equipment, and the opponents. They want the kids to build true friendships and trust each other. At the same time the trainer talks about building a relationship with the kids and getting the kids to trust him.
#3 Recruitment and Retention: The club admits that they scout for youth, which allows them to get motivated, elite athletes into their system, which helps with their youth soccer development.
Once a youth player is selected, they must spend an extra 15 minutes extra a day in their technical training program for about “3 years on average”. After those 3 years, the club will reevaluate the player.
#4 Create a Support System: The psychologist talks about creating a safe, healthy, and ideal environment for the kids to train and optimize development.
The kids that are interviewed explain that they must follow rules and get good grades. If they are failing, they have a counselor that works with the families. Additionally the club’s counselor also helps the families with social and economic issues.
#5 Coaches invested in Player Development: One player states that his coaches have “helped me grow as a player and person”. He explains that if he has friends on the field, they will trust each other and support him.
Fillipo Inzhagi was a great goal scorer for AC Milan and Italy as a player, but as a coach, he explains that he’s there to help kids reach their dream. He wants them to get to the field smiling and leave smiling. It’s about educating the kids about soccer. He explains that he scores goals today by helping the kids grow and mature. He explains that it will help them in their jobs and careers, whether it’s soccer or something else. Winning at AC Milan is giving your best effort.

Email me if you have any questions


How to Train Youth Soccer Indoors

This is a video of 7 year old Mayeli. She is allowed to practice inside her home during the Winter. She understands that she is only allowed to dribble the ball indoors. As a result, her dribbling has improved tremendously. In other countries, the kids get out of school and go outside to play with their friends, every single day, it’s what Ronaldo, Messi, and Van Persie did, so in order for us to keep up, we have to train indoors.

Dribbling indoors can help train youth soccer players, from the Toddler to the U18 player. Here are a few tricks to training indoors.

1. I recommend that you visit YouTube and search for a few easy dribbling lessons for your child. Notice the word EASY, nothing too fancy.

2. Introduce one or two to your child and let them decide which one they like and which one they want to learn.

3. Supervise them and encourage them to get better at it. I do this by acting like I get faked out. For example the “Pull Back” move, she holds the ball and I go after it, she pulls it back and is excited to know that I missed the ball completely and she “faked me out”. This is a great way to spend time with your child and they are practicing without even knowing it.

4. If you see the move being done in a professional game or during a match by older players, point that out and get excited, your son or daughter will want to see that same reaction from you when they do it.

You can do this with any skill. Your kids love spending time with you and they enjoy encouragement from their parents and coaches. They seek that approval from their elders. None of this costs any money. Anyone can do this. That’s why I say that you don’t need a special trainer or a special camp, you need to get involved with your children! Mayeli is using a Futsal ball for indoors so it’s smaller in size and has a lower bounce. You can get your own at soccer.com or click on the sidebar.

Here is another video that you may like

Let me know if you have additional suggestions or what has worked for you in the past. Leave a comment below or send me an email Thanks for reading.


Are Coaches Letting Players Down?

toshI recently had the opportunity to meet Tosh Farrell at a coaching symposium. Tosh is full of energy, ideas, and knowledge about training and developing young players. Tosh is the former Head of International Football Development and Technical Coordinator at the English Premier Club Everton FC. One of the things that struck me the most was his statements about accountability. Tosh explained that he was about 28 years old, towards the end of his playing career, when he was training and a coach told him to “check his shoulders”. He said up to that point, he had never heard “check your shoulders” before. No one had ever told him to check for the defender’s positioning before he received the pass. It just goes to show that even in a football rich country like England, there are things that can be overlooked.

My take away from that is that there are far too many coaches who just show up and repeat the same old drills that populate the internet, coaching coarses, and DVDs. It’s easy to do a shooting or passing drill to work on technique, but we forget to focus on the details. That’s what seperates good players from great players, the attention to detail. The complexity of the drill is not what makes it a “good” drill. It’s the coaching involved and in combination with the drill that will have the most impact on player development.


As coaches, we need to stop focusing so much on getting the newest and coolest drills to impress players, parents, and other coaches. We need to focus on the details of technique and the application of that technique. It’s not good enough to just teach turning, but also take time to focus on the details of each turn and the application. As Tosh explained, he had been through thousands of passing and receiving drills, yet no coach had ever taken the time to focus on the detail and teach Tosh to “check your shoulders” before receiving a pass. Then take it a step further by adding a defender to the drill and then having the receiving player check for the defender.

The next time you think you need to come up with a new drill, focus instead on the details the kids need to know. Ensure that they have all the tools and knowledge to succeed at something as simple as receiving a pass. Don’t let them down, make sure you share all of your knowledge.


How to Develop Youth Soccer Players

Parents are always looking for that secret or “new” invention that will help their child reach the highest level. What parents should understand is that the answer is right in front of them. There is no secret to player development, but you as a parent can make a significant impact on your child’s youth soccer development.

As a parent, the first task is to introduce your child to soccer, in a fun atmosphere so that the child can start enjoying it.  This can happen as early as between the ages of 2-5 years of age.  Do NOT try to make your child play soccer, you can always encourage them, but don’t make them.

Once you have introduced your child to Soccer, and they enjoy kicking the ball, start introducing some dribbling skills on your own. You do NOT need a special trainer or special system for this. All you need to do is watch a short clip on YouTube and watch how easy it is to kick a ball with the inside of your foot. That skill alone will be used about 60 percent of the time the ball is touched. You don’t need special training to learn how to do this.

If your child is still enjoying kicking the ball around and playing with friends and family, AND they are over the age of 5 or 6, it’s time to get them into a recreational team. The team or league does not need to be extremely structured or with licensed coaches, just a parent or coach to SUPERVISE, no need to start coaching right now. Let the kids use “free play” and “guided discovery” to figure out things on their own. If you don’t want to help or volunteer to supervise, you may have to pay in order to have your child join, but it should be a small fee. You should also continue working on “playing” at home. Simple skills are appropriate at this age, passing, receiving, and dribbling are the most important. Continue working on these skills and let your child play at home, at the park, or anywhere else you have room.. You must be very careful not to try to put them into any type of competitive leagues or teams, there is no need and the benefits are few, if any.



At around 8-10 years of age, start introducing your child to YouTube clips of soccer players around the world. Kids don’t just learn by doing, they also learn by imitating others. It’s imperative that your child connects emotionally to the sport; this will help him/her enjoy the game longer and get a desire to improve to be a better player. I can’t overstate the importance of the drive and determination some kids develop. If they are emotionally vested in a team or player, they will want to watch and see how that player is performing. This will start the wheels of creativity in their own minds.

Expose them to the players, teams, leagues, or coaches that you like. Let your son/daughter make the decision on who or what to follow. This will create the emotional connection that is required for them to set goals on their own. Always encourage your child to continue practicing and improving and offer to help. Don’t make them train or practice at an early age, but give them the option by asking them if they want to play in the backyard or, if they are young enough 2-6 years old, inside the home.

Continue with this philosophy until you see that your child has an actual interest in playing soccer, competition, and improving. AYSO or other recreational programs are great for young kids. Do NOT invest hundreds of dollars on a club unless you know your son or daughter is actually interested in playing. Winning at the club level is even more emphasized, so your child needs to be mentally prepared for additional pressure.

If your child is doing well in the recreational program at the age of 8 – 11, and they show an actual interest in playing, watching, winning, and/or improving as a player, it’s time to have them join an academy or Soccer Club. It is not necessary to get them into a large club where you are paying thousands of dollars just so they can play 7 v 7. Every club will claim that they have “the best coaches”, just go to any soccer club website and you will see what I mean. The practices should consist of a lot of one on one with the ball. A lot of small sided games like 1v1, 2v2, 3v3. The coach should not be asking any player to specialize in any position, even the goalie. The coach should always be positive with the kids, even when they make mistakes. The score shouldn’t matter, the goal scorer shouldn’t matter, the only thing that matters is that your child continues to improve, has fun, and has the desire to get better.

At this age, the kids are starting to dribble on their own; they get confident with the ball and want to take players 1 v 1. They also begin passing and have an increased perception of space, width and depth. Their personality is starting to show and the kind of player they will be starts to emerge. This stage is important because it’s when the child will identify the desire and motivation to continue playing and getting better. They are now starting to get a hunger for competing and winning.

At around 11, 12, and 13 years old, the child starts growing and hits puberty. Do NOT get over excited because your child grows 10 inches in a year. This does not mean that they are ready to play a year above their age. It just means that they hit an early growth spurt. Do NOT confuse this with talent. Understand that your child’s advantage will only last for a few years or months until the rest of the kids catch up to their growth development. This also goes the other way, just because your child is a late bloomer, does not mean that he/she will be inferior. Stay focused and let them continue playing soccer because your child loves to play, enjoys being on the field, loves competing, and is motivated to improve. Winning games and scoring goals at this age does not mean that it will translate to High School or College; it means that your child is on a team that scores a lot of goals. What you must assess is the child’s ball control, vision on the field, confidence, and ability to take defenders 1 v 1.

At the age of 13, 14, and sometimes 15 years old, you should have a good idea of how motivated and interested your child is about soccer. If they are to take the next step to playing in College or Professional, they will need specialized training from a professional coach. See my other post on How to Develop a Serious Soccer Player.


10,000 Rule Explained and How Parents Can Benefit

In this post I will discuss the 10,000 Hour Rule and how we as parents can use it to our advantage if we understand it correctly.

Many people believe that the secret, to becoming an expert in any field is to train/practice/work in that field for 10,000 hours. There are many arguments by scholars, coaches, and parents about this topic. Here is a link to Daniel Coyle’s post regarding the 10,000 hour rule which made me want to write this post.


Although I believe that the 10,000 hour rule has a place in our coaching philosophy, I don’t believe that you should become obsessed with trying to get to 10,000 hours. Instead you should do as much as you’d like, as long as you are enjoying yourself. Daniel Coyle touches a little on why he feels that the training should be “sharp, focused, high-quality practice” instead and focus on quality of practice. He explains how the Barcelona youth system “La Masia” trains only 70 minutes a day…

                  ” For example, at La Masia, the training academy that has produced the majority of Barcelona’s world-beating soccer team, the schedule calls for organized training a mere 70 minutes per day — a figure that most U.S. travel soccer coaches would scoff at as being insufficient.  But here’s the thing: it’s a world-class 70 minutes: a razor-sharp, full-tilt, meticulously planned session with far more content and engagement than any mundane, exhausting three-hour practice.”

I believe that the 10,000 hour rule is, for the most part, true. What parents and players have to understand is that it will have different effects on different people. Remember we are all different. In terms of elite athletes, we have to understand that there is plenty more that factors into becoming an elite athlete. DNA, mental and physical health, environment, passion, coaching, and many other factors will play into the make up of an elite athlete. What parents have to understand is how much they can control.

For example, if Lebron James only did 5,000 hours and my next door neighbor did 10,000 hours, Lebron James was still going to be a better basketball player. Why? because he’s 6′ 9″, weighs 270 lbs, is physically gifted, is a better athlete, and LOVES basketball more than my neighbor, who is 5′ 7″, 140 lbs, and could care less about basketball. No one has control over their height, weight, or athletic ability. Parents need to understand this when they pay $1000 to play 8 games of travel soccer. Just because your coach is Jose Mourinho and you train for 20,000 hours, it does not mean you are going to become a professional athlete. Sorry. There are many variables that play into that. However you will have a lot of knowledge about training and soccer after 20,000 hours.


The 10,000 hour rule is useful in that it creates a reachable goal that CAN be attained and controlled. You can’t control how tall you are, how fast you can run, who your parents will be, where you will live, but you can control how often you watch soccer on TV or internet, your own motivation, how hard you want to train, etc. So as parents we need to interpret the 10,000 hour rule as a tool that helps us understand that if you want to reach the highest level possible in any sport, you have to spend a lot of time doing something related to that sport. We also need to understand that even then there is no guarantee that you will be an elite athlete, however you will have a lot of knowledge about that subject and you will maximize your talent. It’s a reminder that we will only get better by being a part of the process. Too many parents want to take a child to a camp for 3 days and expect that child to return ready for MLS, it’s not going to happen. It takes time, practice, motivation, encouragement, support, and even then the ceiling may be limited.

Tips: 10,000 hours in soccer does not mean you spend every second in structured practices. You also need time to be creative. You should watch your favorite players or teams on TV, help coach your younger brother or sister, talk about the game with your peers, get involved with “free play”. All this has to be completed in a non-pressured environment.

If you take a look at Christiano Ronaldo’s childhood, you will find out that he would sneak out of his house to go play, everyday. So he was clocking about 4-5 hours a day since he was about 6 yrs old, that’s about 2,000 hours a year. So you can see why he became one of the world’s best players. He reached 10,000 hours by the time he was 12! It also helped that he is physically gifted (some great DNA).

If you want to learn more about the 10,000 hour rule, read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers“. It’s a great book about athletes like Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and other non athletes like Bill Gates, John Rockefellar, among others. He also explains how LUCK plays a part in many athletes reaching the elite level. I will touch on this later in another post.