Play On: Ask The Coach
By John Plevyak
My daughter is heading to college this fall but was not recruited by the school to play soccer. What suggestions do you have to help her make the squad through open tryouts?
Your daughter should first contact the coach and inquire what the criteria are for making the team. Most coaches have either a written or mental standard they wish their players to possess, and they should be able to communicate that to your daughter.
Also, be sure to ask what positions need to be filled. There is more of a chance to make the squad if she is the fourth in line for a forward position than is she's the eighth person in line for a defensive position.
In lieu of what the coach is looking for, your daughter can also make sure she stands out in the first few sessions by doing the little things coaches appreciate. Make sure she understands the importance of being the first on the field and the last off. A coach and his staff cannot help but notice a player that is giving her all to try and make the team.
Your daughter should use whatever time is left this summer to intensify her training sessions. Ideally, she should work out with a friend to help motivate her as well as to give her the necessary touches needed with ball-skill drills.
My best advice is for her to be positive at all times and hustle, hustle, hustle.
My son is his high school team's main goal scorer. What do you recommend he work on this summer to improve his scoring ability?
There is never a better substitute for practice, so obviously he can begin by shooting as much as possible. You must stress to him the importance of repetition. Hopefully, he has some workout buddies that will go to a field each day and practice their skills.
He needs to take advantage of these summer days to have as many balls as possible (the fun runs out quicker when you have to keep chasing one or two balls every 30 seconds) in front of a regulation size goal and to practice “shooting the ball” instead of just kicking it hard toward the goal and waiting to see the results, a common mistake by young players.
Too often, a player going to goal with possession wants to kick the ball as hard as he can with no real target area, thus resulting in a missed opportunity when the ball sails over the goal or into the goalie’s chest. To minimize the misses, a forward will attack the goal with a purpose and “aim” his shot to the area he believes has the best chance for a goal.
It is always better if your son practices with a goalkeeper in the net. He should work on assessing the keeper's positioning before shooting, target shooting to the four corners and heading the ball down on crosses. Scoring is a skill based on attitude and that is only gained when the scorer has confidence in his ability to beat the keeper.
I am a high school coach that wants to improve my team's conditioning in the limited time we have from the start of practice to the season's first game. Any suggestions?
Ideally, every coach at every level would like the practice season to begin at least two weeks earlier just to help condition their squad.
The most important factor in your team’s early conditioning is how much the players have individually prepared over the summer. It is unusual for everyone to be at the same level of conditioning, so it is important to assess their overall fitness on the first day (with health safety in mind) and plan accordingly.
I have always found the best way to condition my teams early on is to incorporate the conditioning in fast-paced drills that the players enjoy. Possession games in a small grid, transition games going to goal and relay races, with the losing team having to perform an extra conditioning function, are always better than just running laps around the field.
If your team has not come to camp in the best of conditioning, you may want to pick a future target date as the goal for ultimate fitness. Since you do not want to sacrifice team play and tactics until the team is in game shape, pick out an early game on the schedule as the goal for conditioning achievement.
I have a daughter who is playing high school JV and a son who will be a backup goalie on varsity this season. What are the best drills for high school goalies?
Goalkeeping drills and techniques have been the impetus for multiple books and DVDs that provide excellent options for your kids. The key is to find the exercises that will provide the best results in relation to the opponents’ skill level. Ideally, for the high school keeper, you want them working on their "ready position," foot skills, handling crosses, distribution and shot-stopping. Pick the drills that are most functional for their ages and skill level.
It is great that your children can work out together, but you still want them to have players of their own skill level shooting the balls and making the crosses during practice. Your daughter could become discouraged if your son keeps blasting shots by her at a force she would not see during her JV games, and your son will need someone with a strong cross to help him get ready for the older, stronger boys at the varsity level.
The key is to practice as much as possible to help train muscle memory and attain the confidence needed to be the keeper. Don’t forget to stress communication skills that will help separate them from the keepers who are skilled but too quiet in the net.
John Plevyak is the head coach of the men's soccer team at Villa Julie College.
Issue 2.30: July 26, 2007