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Soccer. Two original, fun and unconventional ways to improve the skills and fitness of the players on your teams.

Besides soccer, I’m a great fan of golf and when I have time I like to play. In other moments, I like very much to walk in the woods and hills. I like golf as a sport and as a hobby because, unlike all the other sports, even when you get older you can still compete with youth players and very often beat them because, in golf, experience is everything. I also like golf very much because when you go to the field, sorry, to the course, to hole number one, whatever your day is like, in particular a bad day, in a few seconds you forget about everything and everyone! Walking is also great but with the enormous difference that you continue to think of the bad day and don’t have the ’joy’ of looking for your golf ball and not being able to find it!

From when we were kids, playing was the first thing that we learned. So, when I play golf, I really mean: PLAY!!! This is the basic meaning, or should be, of playing any sports. I said ‘playing’ because this is the secret. Play means to have fun. If you don’t have fun, implicitly you don’t ‘play’! You do whatever but, you don’t………………………… play and, consequently, you don‘t have fun!

Golf, like many other sports, has very antique roots, that go back through the centuries, if not millenniums. At that ancestral time, the shepherds, while walking with their sheep were just killing time, by hitting stones with their walking sticks. One can’t just walk, look around and talk with his dog (let’s not even think about talking to the sheep!) so, they found a way to do something fun. Through the centuries, they learned to hit better and better so, they were able to send the stones exactly where they wanted. Not easy! Coming closer to our times, they noticed that others were doing the same so, they began to compete with each other, to see who was hitting the stones better. The smartest, even prepared ‘sticks’ with different shapes, to better hit the stones according to the kind of landscape.

In the past, I always challenged my friends, without to much success, in doing this: instead of going to a golf course, let’s go outside and play something I invented and called, COUNTRY GOLF.

What is country golf? Easy! Every player can choose ONLY one club, no matter what number or kind. We can have ONLY one ball and position ourselves in a wide open area close to a hill and try to reach the top of the hill, with the least strokes possible, without loosing the ball! Whatever the vegetation is, whatever the landscape is, we continue to hit the ball, considering the difficulty, without loosing it. This means that sometimes we can hit the ball hard, because we can see where the ball will land, and some other times very soft, in order not to loose it. If in reaching the top of the hill, someone looses the ball, he or she is……………………………… out!

At this point, let’s transfer the concept to soccer.

Go to a park or in any outdoor situation and position all the players of your team (minimum 13 years old), one soccer ball each, at the bottom of a steep area, that leads up to the top of a hill.

The players have to reach the top, by keeping the ball under control, step after step, because if they chick it to forward hard and loose control, the ball will go down and they will have to start over. OUCH!!!

This way, their legs will become iron and their soccer skills will improve enormously, while staying outdoors in a great environment!

So let’s try to go up, touch the ball every step, control it by not letting it go back to the bottom and restart, try to beat the other players, stay focused, suffer ‘a little’ to get better and reach the top of the hill!

To make this more fun and challenging, every player, if by chance they get close to each other, is allowed to kick the ball of the other player, back down the hill. In doing this, obviously they will put their own soccer ball in danger so, WAKE UP, PROTECT YOUR SOCCER BALL IN CHALLENGING THE OTHERS.

When they reach the top of the hill, obviously someone will be there to make sure that they arrived with the ball to a defined target, now starts the fun part. GO BACK BY KEEPING THE BALL IN CONTROL!

This is the hard part!

Players have to arrive at the starting point at the bottom, with the ball in control so, they can’t just let the ball roll by itself, because they will be disqualified!

One step, one diagonal touch to slow the ball down, otherwise it will go down by itself. So legs bent, low center of gravity, great coordination and focus every second, because players, in passing by, can chick the ball of the other players down to the hill so, they will be out or have to start over from the top!

This up and down is a great fitness exercise and the improvements in soccer skills will be tangible. A couple hours like this are the equivalent of 10 hours of traditional soccer practices and, enormously less boring!

Continuing with unconventional proposals, try to do this.

Go into the woods and choose an area with many trees that have fallen down or are being cut. Create a path, using cones in a double line, that zigzags very tortuously through the trees that are collapsed on the ground. When the players arrive there, to continue their path, they need to softly ‘chip’ the ball across the fallen trunk. After that, jump the trees and continue following the path, with the ball under control and never go out from the cone path.

When they get the concept, let’s make it competitive. They start together, and complete the path, racing each other. Anyone who goes out from the path, starts over from the beginning! At the end, while they can rest a little, and drink, take note of the order of arrival.

Now, again starting together, those who arrived second, third and fourth, will try to beat the first. Those who were in the middle, try to gain a position. The one who was last, tries to not be the last again!

So, everyone will have a goal that could be reachable! The last, will never beat the first, but can reasonably try to beat the second to the last!

This will teach them a great life lesson. That there are ALWAYS standings and we are always in some position in that standing. Our effort has to be to set a reasonable target, that we can reach accordingly with our potential, and be happy when we are able to reach it!

Obviously, the target has to be a little hard, ahead of our actual potential, so it will challenge us to get better, without making the usual mistake that many parents make: to set a target that is to far away from the potential of their kids. This, and only this, provokes frustration, and not having come in last! Next time my goal will be to be the second to the last and not to win a race that, honestly, I can’t win!

Do these 2 exercises that are very fun, new, challenging and takes great control and the determination to start over if something goes wrong. Exactly what soccer is. You never know until the final triple whistle!

Be original. Be different and, you’ll be……………………………… victorious!

Coach Gianni

Posted on 18 Apr 2007 by coachgianni
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