# Monthly Archives: December 2011

Dec 16

## Why Running Straight Lines Is Not the Fastest Way Between Two Points

I was a geometry nut in high school. I loved the logic of it. I loved that it was very “physical”. You could almost touch and hold the lines, squares and triangles as you figured out the proofs.

Soccer is not about running in a straight line

One of the common theorems is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This is true for math…its not true for soccer players.

Here’s why…

First, very little of running in soccer is in a straight line. Your opponent is moving in different directions. The spot of attack is always moving. The ball is moving.

All of these variables mean that players will not be running in a straight line. They may run in zig zags. They may run in curves. They may run, slide to the ground, and then have to run again.

When I watch a game at any level, I rarely see kids running in a straight line. From U8 players up the collegiate, national and professional soccer levels.

Yet how much of running and moving in soccer practice is in a straight line? Most of it I bet.

What should you do as a coach or parent to help your kids prepare for the requirements of the sport?

Here are three creative ideas. Not only will they prepare your team for what they will need in a game, they are fun to do and add a nice bit of variety to practice. And remember, variety is the spice of life.

1. Use cones. When doing dynamic warm-ups instead of just going in a straight line, have the team change direction by going around every cone.

2. Have your team make a circle and perform all warm-ups while moving in the circle. Be sure to go in both directions. Also, when going in a circle for some reason the circle always gets smaller. You can use cones or reset the team after a few exercises.

3. Have the team run around the center circle at speed. This will get them to angle their body in a way they do in games but is hard to reproduce in practice. Of course, you want to go in both directions.

Of course, there is a place in soccer conditioning and fitness to work on straight line running. However, think out of the box a bit and incorporate running in different directions.

I think you’ll be happy with the results.

Coach Ron Usher is a youth fitness expert. His methods, tips and techniques help coaches, parents and teachers improve their kids fitness and sports performance skills. Learn how you can help your child and team be faster, more athletic and skilled at www.athleticskillsforsoccer.com

Dec 16

## What Soccer Skill Keeps Kids From Being Succesfull?

The best soccer players have a great athletic stance

Yesterday, I was watching the local high school JV team play. The home team was winning big in a lopsided 4-0 victory.

The kids were obviously not varsity level. They could run fairly fast, and they were able to dribble and pass proficiently.

What I noticed was that the visitor team (and most of the defensive players on the home team) were frequently unready to move.

They weren’t able to move because they were standing around with their legs straight. Their body posture said they weren’t ready to be aggressive. And if they were, they were always late to the ball or the point of attack.

Having a good athletic stance is the secret to being quick. Without a good stance it doesn’t matter how fast you are. That first step they take is the most important one.

And if you’re not ready physically to take that step you won’t be able to get there.

Take time to teach, practice and emphasize the athletic stance. Don’t assume that they will be able to perform it in a game.

The athletic stance is fundamental to all athletic movements; running, jumping, side to side, agility and quickness.

When doing drills, always have them start and stop from the athletic stance. That will reinforce the physical and mental skills needed to perform it.

Having solid athletic skills is the key to every soccer drill or soccer exercise. Want to learn how about how to improve your kid’s or team’s athletic stance? Here is a free way to get my ebook on the athletic stance.

If you want the entire program on improving soccer skills and soccer exercises to improve strength, balance, and coordination for soccer fitness than just click the link here.

Dec 16

## The Number One Key For Developing Athletes

What do you think is the most important trait for kids to become athletes?

Is it strength? Speed?

Perhaps it’s size…or toughness.

All those traits are important. But I don’t think they are the most important.

I think it’s consistency.

Consistency in practice, in getting outside and playing, consistency when having ups and downs.

Consistency to develop athletic kids

No matter how skilled an athlete is, they need to practice consistently. It doesn’t have to be the same sport (in fact for younger athletes it shouldn’t be). It does have to be every day.

The NFL has a program called “Play 60”, encouraging kids to get outside and play for at least 60 minutes every day.

I don’t think that’s enough. Honestly, I think that kids need to be active for at least 3 hours a day. That doesn’t mean they need 3 hours of soccer practice. It means they need to be outside with friends; running, throwing, kicking, climbing, and just playing.

By consistently getting outside and playing, or even physical playing and movement inside, then kids will be more fit, more healthy and more athletic.

To learn how you can consistently play with your child to develop their athletic skills and become a better soccer player (or athlete), click here.

Dec 15

## Dynamic Soccer Warm-ups for Kids

This is static stretching

I still see youth soccer teams doing the old style of warming up by stretching. This type of stretching is called “static stretching” because there is little or no movement.

There is a place for static stretching for youth soccer. However, it is not the way for kids to warm-up.

This is a dynamic stretch if not held for long

A good warm-up for kids should do three things:

1. Get the muscles ready to play.
2. Improve flexibility and range of motion.
3. Simulate movements used in the game.
4. Provide some physical, skill or mental benefit for improvements.

Dynamic warm-ups provide the three benefits. First, because there is movement it warms up the body and the muscles.

For very young players, flexibility and range of motion are not an issue. However, many players 9 years old and over (certainly teenagers) have tight muscles and low range of motion. By improving range of motion and flexibility athletes can prevent injuries as well as improve performance.

By using movements that are similar to a game, young athletes get extra repetitions in gaining neurological and muscular benefits. For instance, doing leg swings is similar to kicking a ball. Twenty leg swings off of both legs improves balance and strength. It also improves kicking.

The fourth benefit is that it provides coaching and teaching opportunities. Practice time is extremely precious. By using warm-ups as a teaching time you make it much more efficient.

Here are five soccer drill warm-ups which are dynamic, simulate soccer movements and are fun to do. There are also plenty of variations to keep it interesting and add challenges.

1. Leg Swings: Forward/back, side to side, circular.
2. Hops on both feet: forward, back, side to side, 90 degree turns
3. Hops on one foot: change direction. Hold the raised leg in front, to the side, or behind the body.
4. Lunge and touch the ground: One hand, both hands, add a twist.
5. Skipping: forward, backward, high knees, add a twist.

Use some of these movements every day. Create your own. Mix things up to keep the kids guessing and interested. Choose a short distance; five to twenty yards.

Warm-ups should take five to ten minutes maximum. Then they are ready to move on to any activity and more intense work.

Warm-up is a critical part of every practice. It prepares the body and the mind for the rest of the practice. By using dynamic warm-ups your kids and team will be better prepared physically…and mentally.

Coach Ron Usher is a child fitness expert. He shows parents, coaches and teachers how to improve kids fitness and have fun at the same time. For more information, on soccer tips and drills be sure to read his blog at www.athleticskillsforsoccer.com.

Dec 15

Just a quick blog post today. With a quick tip to help your team or child be faster.

Here is the tip…

Instead of trying to pump the arms faster, push back harder, or just work more, this simple technique of picking up the feet will have a large immediate effect on their running speed.

Picking up the feet quickly, means the feet will spend less time on the ground. Less time means they will have a quicker stride.

As always, introduce the technique in a progression. Here is one possible progression to use:

1. During warm-ups have them pick up their feet quickly while walking in place.
2. Next, have them try it while running in place.
3. Repeat this procedure while they are running. First, slow. Then faster.
4. Finally. have them try it with drills and scrimmages.

If you do nothing else to try to improve their running speed, this tip will have the biggest and fastest impact.

Give it a try and leave some feedback on how well it worked!

Click the link for more soccer and athletic skills tips

Dec 13

## Three Ways to Give Positive Feedback to Athletes

Not the best way to teach or parent

The stereotypical coach is always yelling at his (or her) athletes.

I’m sure we’ve all seen parents yelling and screaming at their kids for every type of youth sport. Even if it’s encouraging…it’s still yelling and screaming.

What’s the best way to give feedback to your team or kids that will result in better performance and happier kids?

Here are three techniques that I try to use every day. The more I use them, the better my team does…and the less aggravated my son gets with me.

1. Catch them doing something right and ignore what they are doing incorrectly. In any performance, there are things that are correct, good and what should be repeated. And there are always ones that are incorrect, poor and should be eliminated.

No performance is perfect…and none is so bad that something good can’t be pointed out.

Sometimes it takes some creative thinking and observing to find the right thing. It also takes knowledge (which is one reason experienced and good coaches are worth their weight in gold).

When you see what you want to have repeated, then you proceed to number 2…

2. Give specific feedback. Instead of saying, “good”, or “nice job”, be specific. Say, “that was a great tackle because you timed it perfect”, or “I liked the way you kept your balance on the shot”.

The more specific the feedback the better. Good, nice job, excellent, are all positiveÂ  statements but they aren’t specific.

3. Say what you want them to do instead of what they did wrong. Always state it in the positive, not in the negative.

For instance, “You ran too slow”, or “You need to run faster” don’t tell the athlete what to do.

Better instructions would be, “Lean forward from your ankles to run faster”, or “Keep your eyes on the ball when you run”. This tells the athlete what to focus on instead of what NOT to focus on.

Using these techniques will not make you a Pollyanna. There is a place for discipline and pointing out the negative things in a performance. However, I feel it is too often used.

It should be a very infrequent tool in your motivational and instructional arsenal.