- Close Repetition Drills
- Improvement Drills
- Heading Drills
- Juggling Drills
- Juggling In Pairs
- Juggling Circle
- Control Centre
- Match Preparation
Close Repetition Drills
Close repetition drills are designed to create results that are immediate, visible, permanent and measurable.
Give kids a ball and they will create a skill. Give kids 60 balls and they will invent their own drills. In the last ten years, Australian Freestyle Soccer kids have developed interactive smart drills (to learn about natural skills), fire drills, power drills and rapid fire drills (for shooting), test drills and precision drills (to measure improvement), fusion drills (to think, move, control mind, body and ball), and pressure drills (to tackle limits).
All kids are different and respond to different training. If we can develop different kids to suit the way we coach, we can develop different ways to suit the kids we coach. It’s not difficult to give kids the training drills that are relevant to their match skills.
Freestyle kids take responsibility for their own skills development and push themselves harder than any coach can. The most effective way to motivate a Freestyle kid is to tell them what they can’t do and then sit back and watch how they do it. Competitive kids like a challenge. They practise what they can’t do and discover what they don’t know.
These kids aren’t satisfied with a perfect system. They don’t want a stranger to tell them that they lack talent. They set their own goals. Close repetition drills provide thousands of ball touches. Kids who don’t like to juggle can still get 100 touches a minute and produce the same effects with wall practice or close ball control in pairs.
Most kids aren’t fussed by best practice. They want better practice.
We’re trying to improve kids without knowing what each kid needs to improve.
There are specific close repetition drills designed to improve and measure basic skills. The first step is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each player so we can develop the appropriate drill. A one size fits all generic training drill is ineffective for most players.
Each kid has different training requirements and different levels of intelligence, motivation, talent, confidence and experience. It’s time we developed a training system to suit the needs of our players not develop talented players to suit the needs of a training system. We don’t have to be scared of innovative ideas. It’s very easy to develop an individual training system so that players can actually see their improvement. Every small achievement inspires kids to reach for the next level.
Heading in pairs is the most effective heading drill in soccer, and it suddenly clicks.
Some kids are scared of heading because it hurts. The reason is as simple as a Liverpool Kiss. Striking the ball with the head is a lot different to striking the head with the ball. Kids who worry about getting hurt, close their eyes, brace themselves and naturally get hurt. Players need to practice with close repetition drills until they become more confident and can gradually extend their heading range. Initial practice should be short and simple, slow and steady, smooth and safe.
Heading is a serious issue. Some countries are already restricting the skill for younger players because of the long term risks of damage. Old leather balls often became wet and heavy. Fortunately, the introduction of synthetic materials has reduced the risk of concussion. We have a duty of care to be aware.
Little kids can develop confidence and coordination by throwing the ball into the air and heading it back into their hands without letting it hit the ground. Heading in pairs teaches kids to move their body into position instead of just sticking their neck out like mechanical robots. To avoid a stiff neck, heading practice should not exceed 15 minutes.
Some kids can make 100 decisions, take 100 steps and get 100 ball touches in one minute just by juggling a Soccer ball.
Kids don’t need to juggle a ball to play Soccer but they need Soccer skills to be able to juggle. Juggling improves their Soccer skills. If kids like to juggle they can set their own short term goals and keep a record of their improvement. If they don’t like to juggle, there are so many other simple ways for them to practice close repetition drills. It’s simple maths. The quality of control in a game is directly related to the quantity of control in practice.
Juggling is the most effective way to get kids up on their toes, using both feet to control a ball. It’s a basic motor skill that any kid can develop with practice. The secret to juggling is as simple as walking and running. Kids just need to alternate their feet with every kick so they maintain rhythm and balance. Too many kids struggle to juggle with one foot while they put too much strain on the standing foot. Ordinary players learn to stand around and wait for the ball. Freestyle kids always have a ball at their feet.
Juggling gives kids a chance to measure their performance while getting hundreds of ball touches. Jugglers will always attack the high ball while other kids keep both feet firmly on the ground.
Juggling in pairs
We spend so much time teaching kids what to do with the ball that we never learn what they can do without the ball.
One of the most common faults in Australian Soccer is the lack of movement and communication off the ball. A Juggling Circle (Control Centre) can identify this problem in 5 minutes. We place so much emphasis on striking, receiving and moving with the ball and minimise the importance of support play. The support player can dictate the moves.
The most effective drill to teach kids control and support is Juggling in Pairs. It’s an intensive close repetition drill that conditions kids to move, call, think and evaluate their own development while getting hundreds of ball touches. This drill teaches kids to pass and move (give and go, hit and run) instead of just standing there waiting for the ball. Freestyle kids limit themselves to one bounce, one touch so that they learn to position themselves and position the ball. When space is limited before a game, juggling in pairs enables kids to get 200 kicks before kickoff.
Soccer kids need to discover that they can make and communicate their own decisions.
Put 8 elite Soccer kids in a circle with one ball and ask them to juggle while you count the number of passes they make without dropping the ball. The first thing you notice is that they can’t put 10 passes together without losing control. The next thing you notice is that they don’t move, they don’t say anything and they don’t make any decisions off the ball. The challenge is to observe why they lose the ball. Put two balls in the circle and you can quickly identify the ball watchers. Their soccer skills are fine but their natural skills are not.
Kids look great when we tell them what to do but they get lost when they have to think for themselves. We’re teaching perfect technique to kids who don’t know where to move, what to call or how to think. The problem with a perfect coaching system is that it doesn’t leave much room for improvement. These kids have a high degree of technical skill but there’s something missing. They all have minds and bodies of their own but they can’t exercise them until we activate their natural skills and give them the freedom to think for themselves.
The key to the future of Soccer is not how easy it is for kids to improve in 15 minutes but how hard it is for adults to take any notice. Adults who think they know better, should know better.
The Juggling Circle is a Control Centre where kids can practice their skills. It’s an Entertainment Centre where kids can have fun with the ball. It’s a Communication Centre where kids have the confidence to talk to each other and listen to different ideas. It’s a Coordination Centre where kids can integrate their Soccer skills with their natural skills and create their own moves without worrying about mistakes.
It’s a Correctional Centre where kids can identify the cause of mistakes and adapt their training. It’s an Observation Centre where coaches can learn about players. It’s an Activity Centre where kids can activate their talent and deactivate their fears. It’s a Research Centre where kids can evaluate the effects of various drills. It’s an Information Centre where players can measure and record the performance and improvement of kids. It’s a Media Centre where coaches can video specific training themes.
For 30 years, Australian Freestyle Soccer kids have known that they need 30 kicks before kickoff.
The average Soccer player gets 10 ball touches before every game. Players who stand around in a circle sharing one ball are not actually warming up. The 30 minutes before any game is the most important time of the week because it determines how well a team is going to play. Each player should get at least 200 touches of the ball before kickoff, so that they eliminate mistakes before the game.
Any coach who gives a 15 minute talk before a game should give a 5 minute test after the game to see what the kids actually remember. A team needs two general tactics so they know the game plan and each kid needs two specific instructions so the coach can monitor their progress at half time. Too many kids lose a game before it starts because they worry about the opposition or the referee. Some teams warm up with their coach as the key player in their drills. He gets a better warmup than they do. Kids don’t need a coach to feed them. They’re old enough to feed themselves. The team captain can take control and take responsibility.
Do we correct kids because they make mistakes or do they keep making the same mistakes because we keep correcting them?
All Soccer kids make mistakes. That’s how they can learn. A team coach will stop the mistakes and correct the techniques. Kids spend years repeating the same simple mistakes and coaches spend years correcting the same simple techniques. A personal trainer only needs 5 minutes to observe the mistakes and identify the underlying cause. When kids head a ball at training, the team coach looks at their head so he can correct the heading technique. An individual coach observes the players closely and learns that their feet are glued to the ground. Experts see what they’re trained to see. Kids explore everything.
A lot of Soccer kids make mistakes because they worry about making mistakes in case they get corrected by the coach or ridiculed by their mates. If we tell all the players to make as many mistakes as they like, they will stop worrying. As soon as they stop worrying, they will stop making mistakes. Most coaches are too scared to try this. Kids are fast learners. If we keep correcting them for missing their shots, they soon learn to stop shooting and pass the problem to their nearest team mate. Every Australian kids needs the freedom to fail, fall off, make mistakes, miss, get it wrong, and drop the ball so they can use their own intelligence to solve and overcome their own problems.