Monthly Archives: June 2011

Jun 28

Soccer Fitness and Coaching: The Most Important Assessment

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Take some time out so this doesn't become you!

I’m frequently asked, what’s the most important assessment I should do?

The answer to that is easy.

You should be continuously assessing yourself and your coaching.

There are a variety of ways to assess yourself. You can measure how much time you spend:

  • Working on soccer fitness with the team
  • Planning workouts, seasons and conditioning programs
  • Communicating with parents, team and kids
  • Learning new coaching techniques, strategies or skills
  • Taking care of yourself mentally and physically

Working with kids and youth soccer teams is a lot of fun. It is also very stressful. Be sure to allow yourself time to recoup and relax.

By taking a few moments every day or every week to go over what you’ve done and what you’d like to do better will help keep you on track.

And taking some time to yourself will help keep you on track as well.

You probably know that our bodies and brains develop during periods of rest and sleep. If you don’t get rest, recovery and relaxation you won’t be at your best.

And your team and kids need that.

What do you do to relax during the week? What do you do after a stressful experience with a parent or player? Put some comments in the box and share with other coaches and parents.

Take some time to plan your R and R. It is best for your team and you.

One thing you can do to take the stress off your job is to have the parents help. Let the parents help with their kids fitness at home. The extra time spent on soccer fitness will have a huge benefit for your team and their long term success. Find out more about developing kids soccer fitness by clicking the link.


Jun 28

Soccer Fitness and Coaching: Ways to Assess Your Team

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Assessing kids keeps them improving and developing

There are a variety of ways to measure your team’s progress. And as a coach and teacher you should be constantly measuring and testing.

You could do it on wins and losses. I think this is the worst way.

You could do it with formal tests. This way is time consuming and can be stressful for the kids. There is a place for it though, especially at more competitive levels.

And a few times a year, you should do fitness tests with your soccer team. Test for strength, speed, endurance.

It isn’t that you want your team being competitive with each other on these tests. It’s so that you can see if they are improving.

Sometimes it can be used to see if they are over-trained and need more rest as well.

There are a variety of soccer skills tests that can be assessed.

  • Dribbling around a set of cones for time,
  • How many toe touches on a ball in a minute,
  • Kicking for accuracy and distance.

All of these things can be measure.

Another way to measure progress is to have a check list of skills that each kid should be able to do. This you can keep with you and if you notice a few children are behind you can spend more time with them helping them master the skill.

This is an easy way to monitor soccer skills. It takes some time to figure out what you want to assess but doing it is simply a matter of checking things off.

Soccer fitness and developing soccer skills is a matter of using progressions. For a complete description of exercises that will build your child or your team’s soccer fitness, click the link.

Jun 28

Soccer Fitness and Coaching: Three Things You Always Need to Assess Your Team

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Coaches need to asses their team in a variety of areas

Always assess your team for improvement

As a coach you need to be assessing your teams progress and development daily.

This doesn’t mean you have to give them tests every day.

It does mean you must watch them and see if they are improving.

Sometimes you might have tests or other ways to measure how their soccer skills are coming along.

Let’s look at a variety of soccer skills that can be assessed and a few ways to measure them.

You could measure individual fitness. For instance;

  • Timed runs in the 100 yard dash and the mile run;
  • How many push-ups can they do in a minute;
  • What’s the average distance per kick out of five trials?

Obviously, there are a ton of things to measure and it would depend on your philosophy, the kids age and experience and the time of season that you would measure.

You can also measure practice stats as well. How many come to practice? How long does it take to get practice going? How much time is spent on warm-up, strategy, scrimmage?

And of course, you can measure game statistics. The worst thing to measure is how many wins you have or how many goals. This tends to make you focus on the outcome of the game rather than then the process of learning and improving.

The next post will be about different types of assessments and some of the advantages and disadvantages of them.

Hey, if you read this, you might be wondering who I am. My name is Ron Usher and I’m a kids fitness expert. I help parents, teachers and coaches work with kids for fitness, health and sport. You can read my complete bio here by clicking the link.

Jun 27

The Reason Kids Need Fitness for Soccer

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Kids need to get outside and play to develop

I really believe that if kids got outside and played more, there wouldn’t be such a need for additional fitness training for our athletes.

If kids were outside running, jumping, climbing, wrestling, throwing, chasing, playing games and doing hard work it wouldn’t be necessary.

It certainly wouldn’t be necessary for the majority of kids who just want to play and have fun. And this is 100% of U8, maybe 80% of U12, and 60% of U16. I think at the older age groups the kids that are playing are more competitive and might want some extra soccer fitness training.

(I wish there were more opportunities for older kids who DON’T have the desire to excel and just want to play for fun and fitness. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really happen till we get to be adults.)

But the kids I see (and I see a lot) are behind in their physical development. They don’t run correctly, they fatigue easily, they lack strength and basically don’t have the physical skills that kids 20 years ago had.

Eight years ago, I coached a girls swim team where 15 out of 18 girls could not jump three feet. That’s sad.

The lack of play time is because of many issues; not safe outside, parents fears of letting them play unsupervised, schools afraid that if kids run they will fall down (so?), and of course video games, Satan’s spawn for kids fitness.

As a coach and parent you must help develop these skills. You need to make them fun and game like. You need to challenge them and encourage them. You need to provide them with lots of variety and activities so they love it.

Besides having a better chance of success on the soccer field, they will be more likely to be fit and healthy adults. And that’s what it’s all about.

To learn how to help develop your child’s soccer fitness, click the link. Start working on soccer fitness today!


Jun 27

Soccer Skills: Anticipation Part 3

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Anticipation requires core and leg strength

The third and final part to being able to out anticipate an opponent in soccer is to have the physical skills to do it.

First, soccer players have to be able to know when to move. Then they have to be ready to move.

The third key is to have the correct athletic skills and conditioning to move correctly.

This is where most sports specialists and speed coaches spend their time. It’s a lot of fun to come up with ways to have the kids move.

But without the other two, it’s pretty much a waste of time. Hopefully, you’re working on the first two techniques.

There are two secrets to being able to change direction quickly:

1. Stopping quick.

2. Starting quick.

The secret to to both is to keep the knees bent and apply the force only in the direction you want to go. This takes leg and core strength.

Simply put, you have to keep the body and legs aligned. If your core collapses and the body can’t stop you won’t move quickly. And if you do, you’re going to pull a muscle or get hurt.

If you don’t have the leg strength to keep the body level when you change directions you waste a lot of time moving up and down. Again, not fast.

A lot of soccer drills that address these issues can be developed at home or on their own. Young players should be working on developing the athletic skills need to have the leg and core strength so that they can move quickly.

If you want to learn some great soccer fitness exercises and ways to teach them to your child or a team, then click the link.

Some kids will pick this up naturally. Others will never get it unless they are taught. Give all the kids on your team a chance!

Simply put, this means not to

Jun 27

Soccer Skills: Teaching Anticipation. Part 2

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

In the previous post, I mentioned how important it is to be ready to anticipate where the ball is going to go or where the player is going to go.

Of course, there is a lot more to it than I gave. I hope you’re able to take the technique and the soccer drill and apply it appropriately to the age and skill level of your team or child.

The next step is to have the body be ready to move.

It is one thing to know which way the ball is going or the player is  going. If you’re not ready to move it will be too late.

The key to this step is to be in an athletic stance. If you are running or jogging there are ways to make the body be ready to move as well.

A good athletic stance will have these three things.

  • The head will be up, eyes covering the field;
  • The knees will be bent, ready to move;
  • The weight will be on the balls of the feet and shifting.

The same basics apply to athletes moving as well. If they are running and their head is down they will not be able to see the pitch or the players…

If they are moving or running with their knees bent then they will not be able to change direction…

If they are running with their heels first they will be slow and not able to keep up.

Parents and coaches should teach the basics of the athletic stance early and it needs to be reinforced through lots of repetitions on soccer drills and when working soccer skills.

For a complete description on way to teach it, it’s in my athletic skills for soccer book which teaches parents and coaches how to develop the athletic skills necessary for soccer fitness and success. Click the link to learn more.

Jun 27

Soccer Skills: Anticipation…How to Teach It. Part 1

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

A master of soccer anticipation

Soccer is a game of anticipation. The player that anticipates the next move or where the ball is going to go is most likely going to be the first one to the ball…or to be in the right spot at the right time.

There are three main features to being able to out anticipate an opponent. They are:

  • Being able to know the situation and what you should do. This is mental and learned.
  • Being ready to move. This requires both mental and physical skills.
  • Being able to move quickly. This requires physical skills and practice.

The concept of anticipation has to be taught to the kids. Even U6 soccer players can start to learn how to anticipate.

The first soccer drill is to have them line up for a pass. Bring your right leg back so that the only way you could kick the ball is to their right.

Ask them which way they think the ball is going to go? They will quickly learn to observe body position changes and location/speed of the ball to make the right decisions.

This technique can be used in a host of other soccer drills and skills.

It will take time and practice to master, but it is well worth it.

This is also a great drill for Mom or Dad to do with the kids. It’s a guessing game and fun. They can also play it with you, though they will soon be tricking you because that’s pretty funny. As their soccer skills improve (and yours) the game will get very challenging.

For more ideas on how to work with your child to develop soccer skills, click the link. Playing with your kid is one of the greatest things about being a parent. Learn how to do it so that your son or daughter develops a lifetime love for sports and fitness.

Jun 27

Talent Code Lesson #1. What Can Youth Sports Coaches Learn From This?

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Are these kids on the road to athletic success?

In my never ending quest for new information that can be applied to sports, kids fitness, parenting, coaching, teaching or business, I read a book called “The Talent Code”

It’s a great read and recently I discovered the author, Daniel Coyle’s, website. The blog posts are very interesting and go into some detail about various institutions that are using deep practice to enhance their programs.

One such program is  the KIPP-Heartwood School in San Jose. This is interesting because I come from San Jose and never heard of it. I have heard of the area of town they come from. And it’s not good.

In the article Coyle talks about the three traits that the school does extremely well:

Continually creating and reinforcing the ultimate goal. In this case to go to college.

Coherent program. Everything in the program works together for the common goal.

Stop and fix. If there is a problem in the program or with a student’s behavior they stop and fix the behavior. Even little things.

They find that doing these three things all the times is the key to a successful school and student.

The take away is what can you do with your coaching or your program to incorporate these three traits? What would it look like?

What is the ultimate goal? And is it communicated to the team, the parents, the coaches and even the community? What methods do you use to communicate the goal?

Is there coherency in your soccer program? Are the drills the same or use the same terminology? Is the strategy and athlete development consistent throughout the program.

Do you stop and correct frequently? It’s tough to do with soccer and it can be difficult to do with a lot of kids…yet it can be done. What do you need to have to do it? More coaches, more individual time?

Maybe enlisting the help of the parents?

Interesting ideas for soccer coaches and all youth coaches.

If you want to have the parents on your side, working with the kids to develop their athletic skills such as balance, strength, agility and speed, then encourage them to pick up the Athletic Skills for Soccer program.


Jun 26

How to Practice Celebrations for Youth Soccer

By RonUsher | Uncategorized


The sound of the announcer screaming goal is ringing in everyone’s ears…

The crowd is going crazy as the game winning score is made with only seconds left…

And on the field, the forward who is now the national hero runs towards the adoring fans…

sliding on his knees with his arms outstretched and his head back in victory…

while his teammates mob in…

Practice celebrating with your kids

Yup, this happens all the time. But do you have your team or your child practice it?

Everyone needs to know what it feels like to score and to celebrate an outstanding shot. Not everyone is going to be able to do it…but everyone should know the feeling.

And if they don’t know the feeling, they are less likely to do it.

Occasionally have your players take a shot on goal. When they make it let them create their own celebration victory dance.

They can make it as wild as they want. Let their teammates get in on it too.Make it as much fun and real as possible.

Youth soccer players need to know what it feels like to celebrate. After doing it a few times as a kid who knows where it could lead…they might be doing it someday on international television!

Imagine how that would feel!!!

Working with kids is challenging. Especially if you’re a new coach or parent and looking to improve your kid’s soccer skills. There are lots of great books and programs on what and how to do it.

One program which should be in your library on developing kids soccer fitness and athletic skills is Athletic Skills for Soccer. When kids are athletes they will learn faster, be quicker and are more likely to continue to play into high school and beyond.

Learn how you can improve your kids’ soccer fitness by clicking the link today.

Jun 26

Variations on the toe tapping drill for soccer skills

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

I’m sure that every soccer coach uses the toe tapping drill for their kids. It’s a good drill for getting a lot of touches on the ball, as well as building endurance.

Soccer Dribbling

But any drill needs to be adjustable for difficulty. Maybe it’s too hard for some (especially U5 soccer ) and too easy for more advanced players. Here are some variations you can do to make it easier…and more challenging.

Here’s the basic drill:  Give every player a ball, and at your signal, have them tap the ball with the sole of each foot, switching feet, as fast as possible. Continue this for 10 to 30 seconds or so, then take a break.

While older kids should pick this up right away, younger players will need more time to get the coordination of this drill down. Typical variations are to move the ball forward, back or to the side. But even that limits the players ability to challenge themselves and have fun.

Try these variations and be sure to experiment. Have fun with it and ask your kids to come up with new ways as well.

To make it easier:

  • Hold on to a wall or fence.
  • Hold on to another player.
  • Use balls with less air.
  • Use a Koosh ball that doesn’t roll.

To make it more difficult:

  • Face a partner. Hold each others shoulders and go at the same time. Great for getting kids use to physical soccer play.
  • Add a hop before touching the soccer ball.
  • Jump up and touch the ball with both feet at the same time.
  • 10 touches, run around ball, 10 touches, run other way.
  • One toe touch, circle foot around the ball. Repeat other foot.
  • To make it more physical and conditioning add an exercise or a run after a set number. Push-ups, jumps, burpees, etc.

I hope this is enough to get you thinking out of the box on ways to have fun and teach at the same time. It’s really what great coaching is all about. If you want more ideas on progressions and modalities which is what this is, be sure to get my Athletic Skills for Soccer.

As always, leave your comments for others. Got other ideas? Let’s share!