Part 6 - "Skills of the Week" Training Methodology

Part 6 - "Skills of the Week" Training Methodology

This is the sixth installment of my series; The Playbook - My Strategy (So Far) for Raising an Elite Soccer Player. Today's topic discusses how I use Skills of the Week as a method for teaching new techniques to my son during individual training sessions.  In a previous post entitled Part 4 Training Methodology I explained that I divide our technical sessions into three primary groups following a 90/10 rule. The groups are:

  • Juggling/aerial
  • Skills of the Week
  • Follow-along Soccer Videos/or Apps

To recap, I normally begin and end each session with a juggling warm-up and cool down.  I vary the length of time and difficulty depending on the situation.  Check out my post entitled Part 5 Juggling Training Methodology to learn more. Next, we jump into the Skills of the Week portion. The Skills of the Week make-up the ten percent of teaching and learning while the focus for the other 90% is mastery through repetition and routine.

Why the 90/10 Rule (90% Reps and Memorization / 10% Teaching)? - Firstly, the benefits of routines for children are rooted in science.  Check out this article in Aha Parenting where the author explains how routines give children a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.

In soccer, repetition is the key to mastering difficult techniques. As a parent, I am mindful that giving too many verbal instructions 1) adds little value, 2) frustrates my son and 3) hinders self-discovery. Through a lot of trial and error, I decided to focus 90% of each session on maximizing repetitions in the shortest amount of time. One key is using routines that he is familiar with. This means that 90% of the session virtually runs on autopilot and is aligned with the benefits of routines.

Why Skills of the Week? - We have all heard the mantra, “Crawl Before You Walk” - that is the intellectual foundation of Skills of the Week.  It’s better to master one thing before adding something else.  Too often I witness parents and coaches becoming frustrated with a child who is unable to grasp the multitude of instructions and techniques that appear easy to the instructor.  

The Military Model - Rooted in my military experience, I believe that the most effective (and least frustrating) way to teach something is by breaking the information down into extremely small chunks - then allowing the person to master one chunk before moving on to the next.

For example, in basic training, a soldier might spend all day learning about his helmet. They may spend the entire next day learning about their boots - the next day learning about their jacket, etc.  By the end of the week, those soldiers will know everything there is to know about their uniform. Skills of the Week is based on this same principle.

Special author’s note: Your child has their entire life to master these skills. Don't overload them with information or demand that they get it right immediately.  Most great players (and I mean great players) utilize a few variations of only a couple of moves.  In essence, it's better to master a handful of attacking moves that they are comfortable using on either side than to stumble through loads of moves that they will never have the confidence to use in the game.

See this video where my son uses a simple fake and take move. Rarely will he need more than this to create space in the open-field.

How it Works - Before we hit the field, I teach my son the skill. Since I never played soccer a day in my life, I usually use the aid of a video or phone app. During the training, my son then spends a week practicing that single skill before moving onto the next.  Each week we add a new skill while reviewing the previous skills. By the end of the fifth week (the ideal spot considering endurance and memory) my son will have acquired the skills and memorized that particular routine. After the fifth week, we start the process again with a single skill which builds in a natural reduction in workload. 

Another benefit is that the process creates an intuitive vernacular between us. When leaving the car, I simply have to say, “Start with your juggling warm-up and then go into the Skills of the Week”. He knows exactly what to do.

Memorizing the Skills of the Week routine, removes the guesswork, makes the session more efficient and cuts time. You can use the Skills of the Week methodology in every area. For example, he may simultaneously be doing Skills of the Week for 1v1, agility and cone dribbling drills. Together, these make a nice training session that again he has memorized. Below is an example of a typical 1v1 Skills of the Week session.

  • Week 1 - Body Feint (6 reps)*
  • Week 2 - Scissors (6 reps)
    • Body Feint (1 rep)
  • Week 3 - Stepover (6 reps)
    • Body Feint (1 rep)
    • Scissors (1 rep)
  • Week 4 - Stanley Matthews (6 reps)
    • Body Feint (1 rep)
    • Scissors (1 rep)
    • Stepover (1 rep)
  • Week 5 - Zidane Roulette (6 reps)
    • Body Feint (1 rep)
    • Scissors (1 rep)
    • Stepover (1 rep)
    • Stanley Matthews (1 rep)

    *Divide reps equally among right and left.

    Special author’s note: I do multiple skills of the week per training session - some of which include ladder drills, cone dribbling, turns, 1v1 and even jump roping.  I do Skills of the Month with my U6 son.  I discuss changes to routines with him off the pitch. Many children don't respond well to sudden changes to a routine in the middle of a session.

    Finally, this is the portion of the training that I talk to him about game situations. Also, the goal is to use the skill of the week (when practical) during the week of training and games. For example, during week four, I will remind him to try and do the Stanley Matthews during training (even if he is just playing around with his teammates before practice).

    Technology - In addition to YouTube videos I highly recommend the following apps for conducting skills of the week.

    Dribble-up Smart Soccer BallThe Dribble-up app has nearly 100 individual soccer moves with video demonstrations.  Each week, I set up a playlist that includes only one soccer move. Following the Skill of the Week methodology, my son practices that single skill all week. The next week, we add another skill while reducing the time for the previous skill to ten seconds.  Over the course of five weeks, he will have mastered those five skills. After the fifth week, we start the Skill of the Week process again with one skill.

    Special author’s note: The drills in Dribble-up are divided by left and right foot. This means that he is getting intense training with his weak foot as part of the Skills of the Week by default. Contact Dribble-up to request access to the "Coaches Portal" in order to assign custom playlists to your child.

    Another new feature in the Dribble Up app is that you can do the drills without actually owning a smart ball. When you choose a playlist or drill and click Start you come to the screen where you scan the smart ball. On that screen, there’s a button that says “Continue With Any Ball” that lets you do the drills without a smart ball.

    Check out this video review to learn more.

    Sportsy Phone App - As a parent who never played soccer, I rely heavily on apps that provide video demonstrations.  The Sportsy app is a great resource for demonstrating loads of drills across a spectrum of soccer areas. I really like the variety of drills found in the app. Again, my son would do one skill per week, following the same Skill of the Week format.

    Check out this video review to learn more.

    Special author’s note: Remember that your child does not have to do multiple skills of the week. For example, beginners could start with just Dribble-up or just Sportsy.

    YouTube Videos - There is virtually an infinite number of video demonstrations on Youtube.  Again, I prefer my son's master one skill before moving onto the next.  View the below video as an example. In this case, he would do one technique per week - not try to execute all 13 of the techniques in the video at once.

    I hope you find this post helpful. Remember support Sporty Slaps during your child's next birthday.

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