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May 06

Running, Coordination, and a Flop

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Click on the picture to watch what happens in this PE class.

This is the state of athleticism for many kids. Watch the running form. Watch how she can’t judge the distance to the pole. Watch her fall down.

It’s pretty funny, yet it’s also sad. A lot of kids are like this.

And how was the coaching before the jump?

Did the coach teach them how to run? Did she teach them how to jump? How to set-up the jump?And how much time and how many repetitions did they get?

Obviously, not enough.

It takes lots and lots of practice (and failure) to get good at something. And even just ok. That pole isn’t set very high. She probably could have stepped over it.

Be sure to spend a lot of time with your kids working on athletic skills. They will carry over to many activities, not just sports. And they won’t make the highlights like this girl did.

To get help to build the strength, coordination and speed that creates athletes, click on Athletic Skills for Soccer.

May 04

Soccer Fitness, Safe Kids and Steve Young

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Steve Young, the great quarterback for the 49ers is urging parents to be careful of their kids injuries, especially concussions. What many parents don’t know is that soccer can lead to concussions too. It’s not just about football.

Soccer concussions come from head to head collisions, but they can also be caused by excessive heading of the ball; especially if the ball is moving very fast. Young teen soccer players have the ability to kick the ball very hard, but since their bones and muscles are not fully developed they are more prone to serious injury.

Here are three things to do to protect your child from these potentially life changing injuries:

  1. Coaches need to limit the amount of heading done in practice.
  2. Urge kids not to head the ball on power or long shots.
  3. If your child complains of headaches or other head and neck injuries treat it seriously. See a doctor as soon as possible.
  4. A strong neck is important to protecting the head. Doing forward and back bridges help build the muscles and the bones of the neck.

One final point. Many kids don’t have the athletic skills needed to protect themselves from soccer injury. They push themselves before their bodies are prepared. This leads to a host of injuries from ACL and other knee injuries to muscle tears and sprains.

To make sure your child is prepared pick up Athletic Skills for Soccer and learn how you can help get your child ready for the game of soccer and improve their fitness, strength and coordination at the same time.

May 04

Jumping Jacks Are Not For Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

I saw this article today about jumping jacks. Everyone does them as a warm-up and as a conditioning exercise. I don’t like them for kids and here’s why.

A few years ago, I took a BrainGym class and we did a version of jumping jacks to “turn off” our coordination. I couldn’t believe it but it sure did. A balance exercise on a ball went from being easily able to do it for 1 minute to not being able to do it at all. This was for myself as well as everyone in the class.

Fortunately, we did some other exercises to “turn on” our coordination. And they improved our skills in a numerous ways. The drills were all “crossing the midline” or “cross-crawl” drills.

Crossing the midline means your arm or leg will go from one side of the body to the other. Cross-crawl drills mean your right arm will synchronize with your left leg and the left arm will synchronize with your right leg (as in walking or running).

As a teacher, coach and a personal trainer, I’ve seen countless times where these two types of exercises have benefited kids and adults. I’ve also seen where jumping jack without doing something to counteract it led to worse performances.

Here is a quick and simple drill to use instead of jumping jacks. You can use it as a soccer conditioner or a warm-up. It’s called inside/outside.

1. Hop on your right foot and touch your right hand to the left foot in front of the body.

2. Repeat but this time, touch behind the body.

3. Now do the same thing but use the left hand and right foot. Notice how you’re doing cross-crawl and midline movements.

4. D0 10 to 20 of them. The more you do the more conditioning. You don’t need to do a lot to get the neurological benefits from them.

These make a great warm-up before a game…or even a test. Teach it to your kids and let them try it out. I think you’ll love it.

If you want more how to do articles on soccer fitness for kids order my “Athletic Skills for Kids” soccer program. It’s loaded with similar exercises that will help your kid be faster, stronger, and more coordinated.

May 02

A Snack Bar Menu. Warning: Not for Athletes!

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

I play basketball on Saturday mornings with “the boys”. It’s a great workout and stress reliever. I look forward to it for the exercise and comradeship. We play at a local parish and everyone there is extremely nice. And I would say easily 25% of the kids I see there are significantly overweight. It’s probably more like 50% but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

So last week, while taking a break (thank God for substitutions), I noticed the snack bar menu posted on the wall. This is what it was:

  • Soda (Get the sugar and caffeine in them early)
  • Gatorade (So the kids can feel like athletes)
  • Water (Yes!)
  • Coffee (Kids don’t drink this)
  • Hot Dogs (Gotta get your protein)
  • Pizza (Probably a step up from cardboard)
  • Cup of Noodles (Nutritious…I think not)
  • Nachos (Be sure to load up the Cheese Whiz)
  • Pop Corn (Think it’s the low fat kind?)
  • Cookies (Homemade from Safeway)

I tell you it was discouraging to see. No fruit or veggies. Other than the hot dogs (ok, maybe pizza if they have pepperoni) no protein. Everything processed, cheap, carbohydrate and fat loaded and crap.

What would it take to turn the menu around? What would it take to get every kid exercising and moving every day for 60 minutes?

And what would it take to change the knowledge, skills and habits of the families? Because after all, they are the ones bringing, buying and consuming the food.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen something worse or maybe you’ve helped turn a school or team around and got them eating healthy. Let us know what worked for you.

Apr 25

How to make any skill fun to a U8 soccer player

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Kids are cool, especially 7 and 8 year olds. They can get excited about just about anything. On the flip side they can get bored mighty fast as well.

In order to be an athlete or to be a good soccer player it takes lots and lots of practice. Lots of repetitions trapping the ball, touching the ball, kicking the ball. You can’t force kids to do it. (I guess you could but then you and I would have a lot of disagreements on the proper way to train and raise kids)

But you can make it fun. And anything can be made fun. It just takes a little bit of thinking like a kid again.

So put on your kid hat for a second and get silly. Here are five quick and easy things you can do to make any soccer drill or exercise fun.

1. Give it a whacky, silly or scary name. Instead of push-ups call them MONSTER Push-ups.

2. Make it a game or a story. Instead of dribbling around three cones, make each cone a city. They have to drive around San Francisco or Madrid.

3. Encourage them to be creative and whacky. You give them the drill…they make it fun. For instance, have them make animal noises while they are running.

4. Add something crazy that has nothing to do with soccer. We used to do a “fruit smash” drill where someone would get to throw a piece of fruit against a wall and everyone would get to see what happenes. I would pick different fruit. Besides being hysterical (and a bit of a mess to clean up), the kids remember it…30 years later!

5. Take a chance and try to use different voices or be a different character. Try giving directions as Goofy or Mickey Mouse. Or you could pretend to be an evil drill sergeant. It’s so off the wall that kids get lost in the activity and end up laughing and having a great time.

By thinking out of the box and taking chances your child or your team will end up having a great time. They will love the sport and build friendships. They will want to keep playing, practicing and improving.

And isn’t that what you want?

Apr 20

Amazing Slide and Athletic Skills

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Have you seen this slide from a high school baseball game?

It’s a pretty good display of athletic ability, though I do feel bad for the catcher.

But what I like about it is the athletic skills it displays. He had to get down for the slide and then quickly leap up over the catch. He had to time the jump perfectly to land on home plate.

This kind of athleticism takes a lot of time and work to develop. You get it by playing a lot of sports and being active. When you’re young you lay the foundations of strength, coordination, and speed. You develop the proprioceptive skills need to be an athlete.

If you have the foundation down then if the situation comes up you can apply the skills to make a great play.

It’s the same for soccer and for any other sport. You need the foundation.

If your kid needs some help laying the foundation down, then it’s up to you to help them. Athletic Skills for Soccer shows you how to get started on it. Will they be able to make great plays like this?

I don’t know. I do know that if they don’t have the foundation down, they will not be able to.

Click the link to get your copy of Athletic Skills For Soccer and start building the athletic skills necessary for soccer today.

Apr 18

What I learned video taping a U12 elite player (Part 1)

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

This weekend I video taped Darci, a U12 soccer player for Youtube, marketing, and product development. I hadn’t worked directly with kids at her level before and it brought back a lot of things I had forgotten. (Doesn’t that always happen?)

First, I want to thank Darci and her parents for letting me video and use the tape (should be up by the end of this week). She was very smart, helpful and easily coach-able. I think we made a lot of progress.

One of the things I wanted to do was to have her run a 100 yard dash for time. Then we would work on her running skills and then re-time her. I wanted to show how much faster running correctly is.

Now Darci is a pretty good runner. She puts a lot of power into her strike and did not overstride (one of the biggest mistakes kids do). Her arm swing was fair. I thought she could do a better job of leaning forward from the ankles as well as improve her leg recovery. She also landed a little flat footed.

So we worked on the running drills I cover in P.A.S.S. running. Some of them came very easy to her. But when we combined them, oh boy, was it tough for her. The combining brought forth all sorts of coordination problems. At slow speeds or broken down she was fine. As soon as we picked up the pace and started moving it got very difficult.

So the first lesson I learned was that these drills are not learned quickly or overnight. Even outstanding athletic kids don’t pick everything up right away. It takes time.

I should have known this from when I was doing personal training with young athletes. What Darci went through, we would spend a month on (once a week with daily practice).

So the take-home lesson for you as parents (or coaches) is not to cover too much at one time. Do a little, let their bodies and minds process it and use it. Come back a few days later and work on something else.

Soccer fitness is not developed overnight. Rushing it does not help. Stay tuned for Part 2 and what happened on the timed run.

Apr 16

Brazil and Youth Soccer

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Here’s an interesting article on why Brazil is so good in soccer.

Two reasons U8 soccer parents and coaches should pay particular attention to.

The first is that they play soccer all the time and on different surfaces. They play on the beach, in the street, at the gym and on grass. This gives the kids a lot of practice experiencing different looks and feels of the ball.

All those different repetitions (I call them modalities) add up and give players a huge advantage.

The other reason is that they don’t emphasize winning, especially at a young age. Kids need to play for fun, friends and fitness. They don’t need to worry about winning.

So take your kid to the beach, the park, the street…heck even in the kitchen. Let them practice with different sized soccer balls (as well as under inflated ones), tennis balls, footbags or hacky sacks. Encourage them to play, to move and to explore.

They will have more fun and more success for a longer time.

And that’s what it’s all about. Don’t you agree?

Apr 15

Charlie Chaplin and Youth Soccer Training: How Can Charlie Help?

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

What in the world could Charlie Chaplin and soccer training for kids have in common?

Charlie Chaplin wants to be your kids soccer coach!

Well a lot actually. You see Charlie had a way of making every day things funny and clever. He took a different spin on mundane things.

Exercise can get boring too. Let’s follow Mr. Chaplin’s lead and see how we can make exercise more fun.

Four Ways Charlie Chaplin Can Keep Your Kids Motivated

1. Do the Chaplin shuffle for warm-up. The straight legs and the off balance walk are a great way to warm-up for soccer. It’s silly and goofy true, but it also develops balance and flexibility.

2. One trick you saw in every Chaplin movie was when he’d get hit in the face and fall down. So here’s how to use it in practice: One kid swings SLOW at the other students head (missing by a wide margin). The other student falls down and then gets back up as fast as possible. This drill gets kids used to falling down, getting up, accustomed to a punch coming to the head (something all soccer players have to deal with at some time), and finally, is a great cardiovascular and strength workout.

3. Same as #2, but this time when the kid falls have them roll onto their back into a back somersault. Besides core strength, back somersaults improve preconception and again require kids to go from the ground to standing which is very demanding on their metabolic systems.

4. Finally, play Keystone Cops tag. One student is the cop and everyone has to run around like Charlie Chaplin and escape. Play for a few rounds, encourage silly movements and having fun.

There’s lots of ways to make exercise fun. Sometimes you have to think out of the box like Charlie Chaplin. Now go out and have fun!


Apr 15

How is the Parthanon the Secret to U8 Soccer Success?

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

The Parthenon is the symbol of strength and endurance. For 2500 years it has endured and represented the power of Greece.

Parthanon: The key to Soccer Fitness and Success






Just like the Parthenon, kids need a great foundation to reach the top and endure. For kids it’s having strength, balance, speed and coordination.

If they don’t have those skills all the ball handling ability in the world won’t help them. All the knowledge of offense and defense won’t help them.

And as they get older and get to higher levels of competition their foundation will be tested to greater degrees.

Coaches are always talking about building a foundation of success. It’s more than just learning your responsibilities in the game. It’s a matter of having the underling athletic skills so that they can continue and endure…just like the Parthenon.

The best time to start is when they are young. There is a lot for a U8 player to learn. The neat thing about developing athletic skills is it can be fun, doesn’t take much time and has long ranging benefits.

Start building your son’s or daughter’s foundation today.