The immense joy of teaching soccer fundamentals to youth and adults soccer students.
I often receive emails like this from parents:
I was referred to your website for help with my son by……………… He has been playing soccer since 5 yrs old. He is currently on a club team and plays for his school …………………- 2nd year. He has the basics down but he plays too politely, and he is overweight. Do you charge for a consultation so we can consider private coaching.............
……………………gave me your email and asked I contact you directly. His keeper is my daughter and she would like to learn how to play like the world cup champions. I'd like to have you evaluate her abilities and see if she has the talent to move up to the next level. What do you suggest as to where and when to meet?……………
Or from adult soccer players :
Hi coach gianni,
How are you? I receive your weekly email and I enjoy it. By the way, I might be interested in your training. I have played soccer since I was a little kid and I did really well in high school. Got the MVP from the school and got the CCS (California Central Coast section) award but I was kind of lazy and didn't play much in college (only intramural) and didn't play for a while after I graduated.
Got back into soccer when I was 29 and I have been playing in a league ever since but now I am almost 34 and I am feeling the age and I can't play as nearly as I used to be able to when I was younger which is a bummer.
Are you able to coach me to improve some skills? I am a midfielder on my team but I hardly start these days because I am not very solid with my performance. Sometimes I play really well, sometimes I don't. A lot of the times, I panic when I have the ball. I need to have the confidence back so that I can control the ball better and deliver nice crosses and passes to our forwards. I look forward to hearing from you.
So, at this point, the adventure could begin………………………or not!
Sometime yes, like this adult and the second kid above.
And, what adventure! I’m very lucky to be, on one side the teacher that transfers the information to the students but, other times, I’m just a spectator that enjoys seeing how they transfer my information into reality.
I recently started teaching the youth girl keeper of the email above. She’s 13. She is a kind of ‘sponge‘! She absorb information exactly like that. A sponge. Many times, even to do the most simple exercises, like the figure 8 with only one foot, for many students, even adults, it takes time and often I have to stay in front of them, and say “follow me” like an airplane at the airport, because there is no way to have them do the right 8 path, the ‘infinite’ figure, around the cones.
With my youth girl keeper, I just tell her, without showing her the exercise and she has already understood perfectly! It’s a joy to work with her. She throws herself in the mud, over and over, without complaining, repeating and repeating and repeating, with the enthusiasm of the first time, every time. And she gets better lesson after lesson, because she does her home work.
At 58 years old, I’m beginning to be deeply convinced, that one of the greatest characteristics of a great soccer player is……………………………….....intelligence. And this implies the fact that, if I understand this concept ONLY NOW, it probably means that, I’m not exactly really intelligent! But, finally I understand so, no one is perfect!
By the way, I remember that one time, I had a lesson with a boy 12 years old. Very talented. His mom brought him there and went away. The lesson was a torture for me. Everything for him was a ‘tragedy’! He sighs in doing every movement and it was as if he was doing me a favor. He never gave me the sensation that he was interested or cared about my teaching.
When I asked him, “are you here because you want to learn and get better, or because your parents forced you to do this?” “I like to learn.” he said, looking away at the trees and never looking me in the eyes. When his father came to pick him up, I told the kid, in front of his father: ”Listen, you are very lucky, because you have something that is inborn. This puts you in the perfect position to learn fast and become a good soccer player. I have the knowledge and the experience to teach you this and if you follow my directions, you could be good. Don’t make the mistake of believing that, because you are talented, you’ll be a good player AUTOMATICALLY. You need to work on improving yourself, otherwise the others, in a little while, will play better than you if you don’t get better. So, it’s up to you. Do you understand?”. He said: ”Yes!”, apparently sincerely, but looking at the trees!
To some players, it’s impossible to teach something because, they are uncoachable! (forgive this unusual word. I just invented it!)
The greatest characteristic of a soccer player is his ‘Coachability’.
Often we make 2 mistakes: mistaking arrogance for shyness and thinking that arrogance is something that comes with getting old. Wrong!!!! It’s something inborn or, sometimes, put there by a wrong education. Exactly like soccer talent! With the enormous difference that talent can be developed but arrogance, is already at the highest level at the beginning and can go down, not always, by growing up!
So coming back to my students, what an immense joy when they want to learn and get better by following the instructions.
With the adult in the email, in the last lesson we worked on improving his shooting technique. At the beginning I just let him shoot to see if there were some problems in the technique. So, great power, but………………… ball constantly over the cross bar!
Besides transferring the concept that it’s not important to make holes in the net, but to put the ball in the net and win the games, we began to work on shooting technique.
Put your not kicking foot beside the ball, bend the leg that holds your body, lock the ankle that kicks and snap your knee. Plus, look at the ball and hit it in the center!
The words seem simple, but these are 6 NEW things to do all together, and are not spontaneous and natural to do. The minimum that could happen, by having a lower center of gravity and locking the ankle, is to kick and hit the ground very hard and painful so, first do all of this really slow!
Little by little, piece by piece, with patience, all 6 things come together during the lesson.
I had put a big cone in the goal, that represented the keeper and two little ones, 2 feet away from the 2 posts as a target for the shooting. Always, shoot to the far post at the little cone. At the beginning it was very frustrating. On the best attempts, ball to the keeper. On the worst, on top of the cross bar!
Restart, repeat, freeze, repeat, analyze, do this, flex, touch the grass in shooting, repeat, freeze, do this, do that, repeat, over and over and over, from the beginning. Go through the ball, look at the ball, flex, snap, rest a little, drink, relax, lets talk, restart, push with the toes backward on the shoe, bend, snap, over and over and…………………………………… after one hour………………………… a soccer miracle! A great shot, from 15 yards away, powerful, on the ground, from the right to the far left post, hit the little cone perfectly and makes it fly away, with the ball, on the bottom of the net!
We embraced each other, like he, WE, scored the goal that permitted US to win the World Cup! And the sensation that I had, was exactly like that. We went from shooting in the sky on top of the cross bar, to perfectly scoring at the far post, on the ground, away from the keeper and two feet from the post!
What a goal and……………………………… what a victory! Learning to shoot like that at 34, takes passion, dedication, a lot of humility and the total absence of arrogance! The greatest quality of the greatest players is humility Clearly, the new shooting technique, is there just after the lesson and it will take many other lessons to make it PERMANENT but, the new concept is there!
Yes, to teach soccer, is unbelievably great and……………………I get paid, too. Could I ask for anything more? I don’t think so!
Posted on 18 Jan 2007 by coachgianni