By Sheldon Cipriani
I had lunch with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. He is a college coach still involved at the youth level, so we discussed a wide range of issues. The one that sticks out is the topic of mimicking. Young players all over the world learn through imitation and this only takes place through observation. Some of our young players do not look at soccer, and as a result, they have no frame of reference.
I remember growing up in my country and looking at soccer every weekend on television. I looked at players like Maradona, Careca and Alemao when they played for Napoli in Italy. I looked at Platini, Boniek, Zidane and Del Piero at Juventus. Marco Van Basten, Gullit, Baresi, Maldini, Donadoni, Ancelotti,and Rijkaard at AC Milan. To this day I still look at the game almost every day.
As a young player, this is what I took to the fields. I tried to be these players in my mind. This was the base from which my imagination grew. I did not have a coach until I was almost 14 years old, so I had to take responsibility for my fundamental development. This took place through observation and imitation.
The players today at my club that have some personality on the field all have a favorite team in Europe and they all pattern their play after their favorite player. Xavi Hernandez, Messi, Iniesta, Pato, Robinho, Neymar, Pedro, Ronaldo, Kaka, Rooney, Ozil, Robbin, and Schweinsteiger are just a few names. These players bring something extra. They do not rely only on coaching. They have their own ideas and a different level of game intelligence. Many spend time daily watching games or checking out their favorite players on YouTube.
One play sticks in my head from this past weekend. It was a bright spot to an otherwise dismal performance from one of my younger teams. We won a free kick and one of our players had the presence of mind to take it quickly. Another player in an advanced area saw his teammate break from the flank and instructed the kicker to find him. We created a great chance from this, but all of the players were not on the same page. These boys have obviously seen this done at the professional level, because at 12 years of age we do not spend much time on restarts.
Too many of our players are only good at following the coaches directives. Not enough of them have a feel for the game…a framework of reference based on observation. The result is players without personality for for the game.
As coaches it is important that we encourage our players to watch the game. Fox Soccer channel and ESPN carry tons of professional games from Europe. As I mentioned above, YouTube is another great resource for watching the pros at their best.
Equally important is putting your players in environments that foster game intelligence and creativity. Laps, lines and lectures will not develop players. Putting them quickly into situations that resemble soccer and allow players to find the answers is the surest path to intelligent players.
We have put together a soccer coaching guide to help coaches make this change in perspective with their teams. Ciplified Soccer 2.0 teaches this new methodology of coaching and includes tons of activities (drills) and practice sessions to help your players develop their skills more quickly.
You players will enjoy the opportunity to play more soccer and stand around less. Motivated players improve more quickly, and improving players get better results on the field.
We have put together a special video presentation that explains the thought process behind Ciplified Soccer 2.0 and describes what is contained inside of the guide.