Tag Archives: Player Development


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.