We are all facing uncertain times that we need to react to and be proactive about in order to ensure that young kids who just started playing soccer do not miss out on developing the natural love for the game that is acquired through playing. We need to ensure that teenagers who are already involved in the game keep growing, learning, and developing themselves physically, technically, and mentally. And lastly, players who are preparing to play professionally or in the collegiate level need to be able to reach the peak of their development now, this year, this season, so they do not miss out on contracts, scholarships, and opportunities that they would have received in what we previously defined as our normal environment. We are now facing a new normal, but more importantly to us, a new normal for soccer.
This new normal will include no games at all, for some, and less games, for most. We have already read about leagues, conferences, collegiate programs, and clubs shutting down. This coming season players will not get the level of competition that every kid in the past has been able to rely on for their development as players, and as a platform to project their skills to scouts of better clubs, recruiters from colleges, and parents who simply want to watch their kids play.
Facing a season with less or no competitive games opens up an opportunity for technical development. Coaches, parents, and the players themselves can take a deep breath, and for once not focus on winning the next game, climbing positions in the conference table, or lifting the tournament’s trophy. Players and coaches together can use this time to work on the basic skills of soccer that they usually do not have the time to work on. Some parts of the country will not allow group training or full-contact sessions, which could have a negative impact on youth development, but could also be an opportunity to get as many touches on the ball as one possibly can, and improve one’s, so important, relationship with the ball.
The points above can all be tackled and taken advantage of by creating unopposed, contactless passing exercises and patterns, with or without teammates.
While not spending time (and money) on travelling, sitting on the substitute bench, or being restricted to a certain number of competitive games, there is a real opportunity for players to develop their own technical skills but also combine it with a high emphasis on bringing those skills to match-like situations in training sessions. Players could make the most out of this new normal and potentially accelerate their development.
For the first time in modern history players from all levels were forced to take a “break,” longer than they have ever had to take. Whether it was a Premier League superstar or a U15 academy player, they had no choice but to be locked up and isolated from the sport that their body was used to enduring and enjoying. Whether they liked it or not, players spent the last few months acclimatizing to small, confided environments, locked indoors, and probably sitting on a couch more often than not. Once they are back on the field, their bodies will not be used to sprinting, running for prolonged periods, landing on one foot after being nudged in the air by a defender, smashing a ball into the net – playing normal soccer on a daily basis. They have to prepare for the return-to-play in a responsible way and have an objective understanding of where their bodies stand physically, otherwise they will be risking their health, development, and future.
Not only have players taken a prolonged “break” from soccer, but they will also start playing at an intensity level that they are not used to, due to ignorance, excitement, and desperation to simply play the game. In order to prevent injuries and endangering themselves, players will need to be monitored individually, responsibly, and slowly re-accustom their bodies to be playing soccer at the intensity that they have always been used to and aspire to perform at.
The reduction or the lack of competitive games, tournaments, and showcases throughout the upcoming season will result in less opportunities for college recruiters and professional scouts to watch players perform. More than ever, they will be relying on video clips to determine the ability, potential, and suitability of players for their respective teams and programs.
Coaches and technical staff members know the type of players they are looking for to fill in certain roster spots. Filming games or training sessions is important, but not enough. These videos need to be clipped and served to the recruiters and scouts in a fashion that will appeal to what they are looking for. For example: A college coach searching for a dynamic outside-back who is fast and has the ability to cross the ball into the opposition’s box throughout the entire game, will want to see these attributes emphasized and expressed in the video he or she receives from the player. The coach will not be satisfied or have the patience/time to evaluate full-length videos for each outside-back candidate that he or she is examining.
In times of change, we, as people, must choose to react or we risk staying behind. Soccer players and athletes who desire to improve their game and develop themselves to become players at the highest level in their school, community, youth league, national league, or the highest level in the world, must all choose to react, be proactive and not let a situation that is out of their control define who they will become, as people, and as soccer players. The world stops for no one.