Dure: Rained out? Use TV and YouTube to teach the game
As the streak of consecutive rain days in the D.C. area reaches Old Testament proportions, we give thanks for artificial turf.
Where turf isn’t available, we’re running out of ideas. How many toe taps can a kid do in the basement?
But there’s one thing youth players can do to keep learning the game. It’s a crazy idea, but it works for some people:
Watch a soccer game.
Watching in person is best. Watching on TV is OK.
You’d think this would be obvious. But you’d be astounded how many kids clearly don’t.
I realized early in my coaching days that I’d need to account for this problem. At the first practice one season, I asked a player to pass the ball. He picked it up and cocked his arm back like Peyton Manning.
Now I gauge their soccer acumen early, asking each player to name a favorite soccer player or team. Many of my players can’t name one, though I did have to give some credit to the kid this season who announced that his favorite player was Scott Sterling:
The lack of soccer viewing starts with the parents who send their star athletes into youth soccer but don’t try to familiarize themselves with the game. If you’ve spent time on a youth soccer sideline, you’ve seen and heard parents who have no idea that some shoulder contact is legal. Or they cheer wildly for “big boots.”
This video might as well be a documentary:
Twenty years ago, we couldn’t blame families who never saw a pro game. We’d get the occasional European game on ESPN, not necessarily at a convenient time. Then some MLS games. If you watched Spanish-language TV, you’d have a couple more options — if you didn’t mind explaining to your kids why the women in the ads didn’t wear a lot of clothes.
Now, there’s no excuse. The Premier League, Champions League and Bundesliga are all over the networks. MLS has a couple of broadcasts a week.
No cable? You can still catch a couple of games on the broadcast networks.
You can also find plenty of videos to teach and inspire kids. Start with former MLS player Jared Montz, who has the “positive coaching” demeanor we’re all trying to have. (Granted, he has an advantage when he’s making videos — he doesn’t have kids talking back, punting balls into the woods, etc.)
If you have enough interest in soccer to coach a team, none of this available content should be a surprise to you.
But have you mentioned it to your parents and kids? Do they know how easy it is to watch soccer today, or are they stuck thinking back to their own childhoods, where soccer was this exotic thing they did in foreign countries?
Coaches, especially at early ages, still need to be evangelists for the game. That means showing your kids there’s a world beyond Under-6 magnetball. Get your kids watching games, and pretty soon, they’ll come back to practice talking about favorite players.
They’ll get some intuition for basic tactics. They’ll start imitating pro players’ movements off the ball and maybe even diving …
Hmmm … actually, forget everything I just said. Or can we add a “D” chip to TV and YouTube?
Beau Dure’s book, Single-Digit Soccer: Keeping Sanity in the Earliest Ages of the Beautiful Game, is now available in paperback at Amazon and in electronic form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers. Read more about it at singledigitsoccer.com