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Jan, 2019

I Can Help You With That ... The Genisis of Revo Part 1

"In the rush to play all those games no one is learning how to play simple games really, really well..."

Simply take a few seconds to read that again and take a few more to really think about what is being said.

This is perhaps the most honest and profound observation about soccer in the US and the most overlooked assessment as well. It really doesn't have to be that way for the majority of those hoping to learn how to play well but the current options are far from being optimal if were truly talking about teaching children how to play soccer.

Rec (recreation) soccer is the way to start games with minimal skills and is where most of the bad habits start. Club (traveling) soccer is slightly better but the focus is actually more on creating several teams, playing numerous games, traveling more than is necessary and focusing on short term achievements as opposed to really doing whats best for the majority of the players.

Although the above statement seem a bit harsh, what were talking about is actually focusing on developing an entire group instead of focusing on the few top athletes and few top teams. The larger the group is ... the less likely this will happen.  More details about the shortcomings of typical Rec and Club soccer development models will be discussed in Part 2. For now please consider this article -

Good Soccer Takes Patience

That's an article by one of the best coaches in the US written in 2011 and the same problems discussed then are still prevalent today and will still be relevant in the next decade for most Clubs, teams, and players. We are still producing far too many players with very little technical ability and even less soccer IQ ... and it's not their fault!

The REVO approach is a more patient, logical and methodical process and carried out in a more enjoyable environment. Higher level training, plenty of time to soak in the lessons and in a fun and enjoyable manner. Basically it's the opposite of what is offered elsewhere. Not at all like Rec where players start immediately playing games even with the lowest level of skills and instruction. Also different from traditional Clubs which, among many other problems, mostly have too many games as well in the beginning years, not enough training sessions and not of the highest quality. Simply put, the game/practice ratio as well as the trainer/player ratio is far from being optimal at most Clubs.

Now about the Genesis of Revo or how the idea started. In a nutshell ... for most starting to play soccer, too many technical details are neglected, too many trainers/coaches played soccer which has very little to do with teaching how to play and the most played a crude, unsophisticated style and it's still being taught that way unfortunately.

After 3 Rec seasons in which very, very little was learned, my son started to play Club soccer as a U8 player. Towards the end of the fall season we played a team with one small player and with the basic ability to simply use both feet to just change the direction of the ball while advancing he eventually had all 4 goals and we lost 4 - 0. A very basic skill set that was very effective. Having watched all our sessions that fall it dawned on me that if our entire team  had just spent 10 minutes at every practice on that simple activity the players would have acquired, to a degree, the first steps needed to go around obstacles as opposed to always trying to go through them. That is, learning how to see, think and then manipulate the ball verses bulldozing through the heard - Force or Finesse?

The truth is, our team didn't really even know how to properly push the ball forward, didn't have the ability to use the weaker foot very well and now looking back ... they didn't really work on many technical aspects in a productive fashion. The team was created and players were positioned according to their strengths and the focus was to start winning with what we had. It's was not to create well rounded long term players.

That winter break I became very interested in what I would call simple soccer fundamentals. Although one could debate what these are ... there are, as with any sport, the building blocks or beginning steps and with most sports these are understood and addressed properly. With soccer, it's obvious a young group of kids can play a game or what we call a game ... at almost any age with minimal skills. "Just run and kick the ball forward."

So it was fun and rewarding to work with my son, slow down a bit and start to work on the small details. What I first realized was that like most kids he was athletically competent with the ball but everything was almost being done improperly to a very large degree. I was able to notice this after having become very curious about the smallest details, spending time researching about different teaching methods and making connections with very knowledgeable people on line. I was becoming a student of the game in the simplest sense and at that time I admit I knew very little. Also, this would become an ongoing process over the last decade almost.

It was during this winter break that while on the fields doing our sessions I would watch and observe other young kids and at times see if they would kick the ball with us a bit. As I was learning about the little details of technique and how to help my son correct a few things I started to realize that most of the kids we would bump into during our winter sessions also had very sloppy technique. It was just an observation at first.

Then Spring arrived and the second Club session starting. We would continue working on the smaller details of technique while he did his Club sessions. Not in an overloading manner but just working on the basics on days when there was no practice. What was interesting during this spring session was that now, being ever so curious, I would start to watch the training of several teams as I could sit on the hill at our field and really observe numerous sessions going on at the same time as our training. Coinsidentally, I just started reading a book about the typical problems of our training sessions in the US since soccer really wasn't part of our culture and why we were struggling to actually develop players properly. It became very apparent that the steps needed to help players become more technical were non existent for most of the kids on the field and the typical training problems were visible for most teams observed ... too many lines, too much standing while being lectured and several drills that were not really useful when compared to modern training methods.

Most sessions on most fields at most Clubs are of a very mediocre quality. The reasons are worthy of another post which will happen in the near future. It was one thing to realize that Rec sessions were basically useless ... parents were simply trying without any knowledge and for about $50 what could one expect. But to realize there were still significant shortcomings with training sessions now that we were at a Club paying much, much more was an unfortunate and unpleasant reality. It wasn't that I expected a transformation to happen in two seasons with my son or his team ... but after a season of watching our Club's sessions, a season of watching our games and actually glancing at many games while at tournaments, games of all ages ... it became blatantly apparent that we create hundreds of teams, play dozens and dozens of games, travel unnecessary distances and most playing are very technically deficient at every level and the games are of a very crude nature.

The typical excuse is "they should be practicing more on their own." This is very true to a small degree but it's not the real problem. Too many games, too many tournaments, poor sessions and a poor vision of how the game should actually be played are the much larger set of problems.

So summer came around and we continued working on things as usual and then the U9 fall season started. We went to a different Club since a well respected trainer would be working with the U9s. He was actually a very knowledgeable trainer but at this Club trainers trained and coaches coached at the games. Coaches were not the trainers ... they were parent volunteers ... almost as bad as Rec in many regards. Sadly, even though we had a well respected Dutch trainer that everyone admired ... none really listened to his advise and he was not responsible for establishing the curriculum for the Club at that time. Such wasted potential if being perfectly honest.

So a fall season, winter futsal and then a spring season. Again, working on our own to supplement my sons training, acquiring youth development knowledge on my own and the usual observations of Club training sessions, game observations and Tournament game samplings ... of various ages. Since Tournaments consume the entire weekend there's plenty of time to watch other games while waiting for our games.  Another year of observations and now I was watching with a much keener eye and even better understanding of my observations. And yes, still the same problems and concerns.

In our first U8 year I noticed that many players were technically lacking ... players of all ages that I typically saw. Now in our second year at U9 while seeing similar problems with lack of technique, so-so training sessions and the poor quality of most of the games for most kids at all levels  ... it was then when I had two profound realizations.

Since in a game a player literally spends less that 2 minutes with the ball I started dreading the games because I could see he was learning so much more during our sessions. Even 1/2 an hour kicking the ball against a wall was so much more beneficial in so many ways at this stage in his development. I'm not saying games should be eliminated but when tournaments are added to the regular schedule too many hours are spent traveling and playing producing almost the fewest touches possible.

As for the obvious lack of technical ability of so many on so many levels I kept wondering to myself while witnessing this ...

"Do they not notice ... or do they not care?"

This was about the trainers/coaches running the typical sessions I witnessed throughout the year. At times something might be "barked" at the group about a deficiency of sorts ... but rarely was a proper demonstration given (instruction) or a drill (solution) set up to really help solve the problem.

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