Collaborative Training in Youth Soccer: A Look at The Academy Training Model
As a Director of Coaching and Player Development at a Travel Soccer Club in Naugatuck Ct. for nearly 20 years I have been faced with numerous challenges.
Recently, numbers of players enrolled in the club have declined for various reasons. An informal survey conducted by our club president concluded that one of the areas of concern was that players felt as if they were “ not being coached” effectively.
Upon learning this information, I needed to implement a plan that would aid in effective player retention and provide adequate coaching to players in the formative years of the game, primarily the 7-10 year old age group. In our club this is considered the “in house” recreation group that participates in a Saturday morning league, separated into 7/8 and 9/10 year old divisions.
These players do not travel to other towns for games and is considered the most grass roots entry level of the game. This group was the area of most concern with respect to a need for an improved, updated and age appropriate coaching plan.
It is not usual that throughout the United States, many soccer careers began at this level with a model like or similar to the above mentioned. Furthermore, it's no secret that this level of soccer attracts a diverse group of coaches, primarily parents whose expertise in the game can range from a former professional player to a dad who never saw a soccer ball in his life.
With this comes the wide spread knowledge of coaching but as a general statement many of these parent coaches need help. Primarily in understanding what is important for kids at specific ages with respect to the technical and tactical components of the game.
They also needed guidance in how to run an effective training session and knowing that hill sprints or 45 minutes of throw-ins is not furthering the technical skills of an 8-year-old player.
Many of these coaches were unlicensed or held entry-level licenses.
I needed to create a coaching plan that would do the following:
1. Address the most coaches at one time without having to attend each individual practice session
2. Implement a way to disseminate information with a designed age appropriate curriculum to coaches
3. Conduct training sessions with all the players from one age group attending with their coaches.
From these needs the Collaborative Coaching Method was developed.
I’m sure has been used by other coaches before, but collaborative coaching has been used by us over the last year and proven to be successful, useful and well received.
The methodology requires all the players from one age group to train together on one designated night. The field is divided into 20x30 yard grids where each team will train with their team coach.
Prior to the session, two assistant directors and myself will devise the training topic that follows an age specific curriculum and a handout is created for each coach. We meet with the team coaches prior to the start of each session to go over the training plan, discuss any issues from the weekend games and to take care of any other team or club business.
These training sessions last for about one hour and ten minutes, once a week, followed by a game on the weekend. We run the warm-up footskills session that usually lasts about 15 minutes and then we run a demonstration of the first technical drill.
Once the teams break up into their grids, they have 20 minutes to work on this drill under our supervision. The coaches are then given a game related exercise that involves the topic of the day and that usually lasts 15 minutes.
Our staff go from grid to grid overseeing and critiquing the work being done by the coaches and players and providing necessary assistance.
Finally the coach has his own time to do what ever he thinks his team needs, or maybe just have a 4v4 or 5v5 scrimmage.
After reading this I’m sure numerous coaches are familiar with this concept and may have possibly used it before. As a DOC it has provided me with endless positives that I was unable to experience before.
When teams practiced on different nights it was impossible for me attend each session to offer assistance. This model affords me that along with two assistants who have been more than outstanding.
We are able to track player development through this method because all the players train on one night and if a coach is unable to attend a training session his session doesn’t cancel, he just sends his players and we oversee their session.
Most importantly we are developing coaches. Every week they are enthusiastic about the sessions, the planning, and the exercises their players will be doing. It has encouraged coaches to further their education through licensing and coaching clinics.
There is a hill that leads down to our training area, and from that vantage point we have looked down and it is pleasing to see all the teams and their coaches doing the same exercises and playing small-sided games.
I am no longer pulling into a practice seeing teams in lines doing drills or players running laps, and that’s a good thing!
In conclusion, this model enhances what we call our youth vision. Parents and youth coaches have a tendency to do what I call “think in the now” concerned with who wins an in house game on Saturday at 9/10, but we as coaching directors have to think with a foreseeable glimpse into the future.
I don’t see these kids as in house players on eight individual teams, but rather as a group of one who has trained, played and enjoyed the game together for 10 years.