Recently, I published an article entitled Part 5 - Juggling Training Methodology - as part of my series; The Playbook - My Strategy (So Far) for Raising an Elite Soccer Player. The feedback I received was great but it focused almost exclusively on the benefits of juggling. Overlooked, however, were my thoughts on how to preserve a positive relationship with my son while pushing him to get the repetitions necessary to become elite. The last thing I want is to hurt our loving relationship or destroy my son's natural love for the game. I want to share my tips with engaged parents who understand the need to supplement their child's training.
Managing the Parent-Trainer Relationship - The challenge for parent-trainers is delivering the high volume of training necessary without seeming overbearing or frustrating your child. There is no shortage of parents who have failed at this; which is why I devote considerable time ensuring that I strike the right balance. With that, let's first establish a few ground rules.
- Anything Worth Having Requires Hard Work
- There is no way around it, training your child individually is hard work for you and your child. There are going to be good days, bad days and great days - with a few tears along the way. In reality, unlike other countries, American kids don't free play as much. So it is up to us to ensure that our children get those essential touches on the ball.
- Your Child Must Love Soccer and Want to Get Better (per se).
- Without that intrinsic desire - you are wasting your time and your child's time. There are just too many ways to enjoy the game and enjoy life. I say per se because at the earlier ages, most children are not developmentally able to appreciate the benefits of repetitive training.
- My Child Loves Training - That's not true.
- No one enjoys the degree of training and the number of repetitions required to be a truly elite soccer player. Those that become elite, typically enjoy the benefits of their hard work more than sacrifices required to get there. So if your child loves training, they are likely not enduring the volume of repetitions required for skill mastery (which is totally fine, depending on their goals)
- There Are Obvious Benefits of Hiring a Professional Trainer - Thousands of Repetitions Are Not One of Them
- Children typically respond better to a coach than a parent - I get that. However, I want to make a clear distinction between training countless hours with you and a few billable hours with a personal trainer that is constantly looking at his/her watch. The hours required for ball mastery would be prohibitively expensive (for most families) if left to a personal coach. Pay for advanced instruction and motivation - not reps. Also, are they willing to drive to your house for a 10-minute lesson working on one skill?
Tip #1: 90/10 Rule (90% Reps and Memorization / 10% Teaching) - 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 and videos/apps that he can follow along with. This means that 90% of the session virtually runs on autopilot.
Special author’s note: Don't over-coach. Implement a system that doesn't lead to frustration and enables them to eventually own their training. The 90/10 Rule works for us - I encourage you to give it a try and experiment with your own ideas. Giving commands every two seconds doesn't make your child better and likely stresses them out - that I can guarantee.
Tip #2: Use Corrective Constraints (Not Verbal Commands) - Corrective Constraint is a method I use to achieve the results I am looking for without driving my sons crazy with verbal commands. If you have children, you know that they find it frustrating to listen to a barrage of verbal instructions, especially from a parent. Through trial and error, I discovered that introducing Corrective Constraints is the best way to motivate my child to work towards my desired outcome while avoiding a lot of verbal commands. Here are some case study examples of how I use Corrective Constraints.
|Parent Goal||My child juggles seamlessly with both feet.|
|The Problem||Child juggles exclusively with strong foot|
|Ineffective Verbal Commands||Son, I want you to juggle by alternating both feet. Son, the best players can use both feet.|
|Corrective Constraint||Do five extra juggles every time you use the same foot more than three times in a row.|
|Positive by product||The child does extra juggles.|
|Parent Goal||My child concentrates reducing mistakes.|
|The Problem||My child doesn't concentrate.|
|Ineffective Verbal Commands||Son, concentrate. Son focus. Son, the best players focus.|
|Corrective Constraint||You have 10 (cumulative) attempts to get 100 juggles which average out to 10 juggles per attempt. If unsuccessful you get 15 attempts - 20, 25 and so on.|
|The child does extra juggles.|
Other Examples Corrective Constraint Examples
- Reduce the amount of time instead of telling them to go faster
- Set up a square and add extra juggles if the ball travels outside the square instead of telling them to try and stay in one place.
- Add extra juggles each time they use their thigh instead of telling them to not use their thighs.
Corrective Constraints Video Example - Below are videos of my son's juggling warm-up to illustrate how I use Corrective Constraints
Time - My son is attempting to juggle a tennis ball for 25 seconds without stopping. It's easy to add or reduce time depending on skill level. The child benefits by knowing exactly what the goal is.
Box - I want him to control the ball within a confined space. Setting up a perimeter is better than my saying "Stop chasing the ball." I tighten the perimeter as he improves.
Game - Extra juggles are added when he does something incorrectly. For example.
- Two extra juggles are added when he stops.
- Five extra juggles are added if the ball leaves the perimeter.
- Two extra juggles are added if he uses his thighs
- Five extra juggles are added for handball.
- Two extra juggles are added if he doesn't alternate feet.
This game continues with a size one ball. Only this time, the extra juggles are increased.
The game continues with size three and four balls. Again, the extra juggles increase with each ball size. I also add more time with the larger soccer balls. However, he can get a good pregame workout with just 20 seconds per ball.
Here are the results.
Tip #3 Use Follow Along Videos and Apps - Unlike the past, there are apps and videos that help parents develop almost any training session imaginable. The best thing is technology doesn't get frustrated or lose its temper. In a previous post entitled Start Now! Every Player has an Extra 15 Minutes! I highlighted a few video resources I used. In a later post I will expand on these as part of my series; The Playbook - My Strategy (So Far) for Raising an Elite Soccer Player.
So, before diving into your next training session, remember the above tips along with a few extras below
Tip #4 Start Slow - Your child has a lifetime to acquire these skills. Training strengthens muscles and grows brain cells necessary for mastery. Allow this to happen naturally without adding pressure. For example, my son's juggling training began with a five-minute juggle catch routine at the bus stop.
Tip #5 Increase Training Slowly - I enjoy long distance running. All running plans gradually increase mileage over a long period of time. That's because adding miles too quickly could lead to injury and overwhelm the runner. Likewise, rapidly increasing soccer training may also cause injury, but equally important, will certainly discourage your child from continuing.
Tip #6 Increase Efficiency Before Increasing Time - I can't emphasize this enough. Two to three minutes of consistent practice is better than struggling through 15 to 20 minutes. As your child memorizes the routine, they will be able to do much more in the same amount of time. In essence, it's better to get 100% effectiveness out of five minutes than 50% effectiveness out of ten minutes.
Tip #7 Use Idle Time Wisely - Consistently squeeze a little training in before and after practice/games. In a previous post entitled Start Now! Every Player has an Extra 15 Minutes! I wrote about the importance of doing a little extra work before practice and games. Again, the child will barely notice the few extra minutes, but the results will speak for themselves.
Tip #8 Don't Over-Coach - The key is repetition, not perfection. Once you explain and demonstrate the technique, they will gradually improve with practice. The last thing you want to do is frustrate your child by over- coaching.
Tip #9 Provide Days Off - Mental rest and physical recovery are important.
Tip #10 Stick to a Standard Routine - The parent-trainer's job is to help your child get the necessary reps that they can't get during team training. In later posts, I will discuss how I add variety and teach new skills. Remember, however, 90% of the session focuses on mastering core skills.
I hope that some of you find this information helpful.