Like the fitness industry, more and more these days I see soccer trainers and coaches claiming to have the soccer training method that cuts the corners and produces amazing results in half the time. Marketed as "1000's of touches per session!" and using fancy names or special equipment, when I see these phrases I immediately think RED FLAG. More than red flag, I think someone wants us to buy some of their shit. There is nothing wrong with selling something of value to make profit while helping others, but what are we selling? New gimmicky technology? Slick taglines and catch phrases? False hopes? Or is there really a magic sauce to soccer training?
Small countries like Italy, France, Holland that produce amazing national teams are evidence to the fact that sound training methods and tactics matter. But as far as individual brilliance is concerned, there are great players all over the world who don't have access to the private trainers and high tech gadgetry. And I'm not just talking about Brazil (don't worry, despite their early departure from Copa Centaurio they still have a plethora of talent in that country) Costa Rica's success in the 2014 World Cup proved that with the implementation of great tactics and team belief they were able to top the group that included England, Uruguay, and Italy. I've been to Costa Rica and there was not a private trainer or fancy method in sight, just some pick-up games or friends shooting around at the park.
The question here is not whether individual training works or if private coaching helps. It does, and it is definitely better than nothing at all. In my years of receiving private soccer training (mostly training on my own or with friends, at college it was offered by assistant coaches and my club coaches), giving private training, and viewing it, I have seen several methods. For simplicity's sake lets break them down into the following:
- touches and footwork training
-the repetition method that can include hitting a certain number of long balls, shots, turns, etc.
-the functional approach which involves doing position specific activities for reps. Ie. receiving a ball as a right back and playing a ball down the line to a target
-competitive drills involving a low number of players
Within each of those categories the coach or trainer can look for ways to increase complexity (speed, difficulty) and work on weaknesses. Then it is a matter of offering feedback.
In the footwork drills it could be something about the surfaces of the foot used, body positioning for certain moves or cuts, the tightness of the body or maybe a comment about urgency.
With the repetition stuff you can go from a simple task to something more complicated. You can decrease the time the task is performed or minimize the target for more accuracy.
For the functional approach you can go from set drills to a more improvised approach with options and imagination before adding in pressure from an opponent if it is available. Ie. The outside back receiving the ball now has a defender or defenders closing him down and forcing him or her a certain way.
For the competitive stuff there are numbers up and down situations, field dimensions, and more to play around with. Feedback then could also be a technical/tactical thing like when beating a player 1v1 taking too small of a final touch to get around them.
Like the fitness industry, as much as we all want it there is no magic sauce to soccer development. Crossfit is the latest fitness craze and all they did was make what have been Olympic sports in track, gymnastics, and Olympic weightlifting available to the average gym goer. All of a sudden people are training harder and getting amazing results. It is not that they added any fancy equipment or special technology, they just did what the best athletes in the world were already doing for years. Simple human movements, just more of them at higher intensities. In my mind, soccer is similar. Soccer players don't need anything super fancy, they just need more quality reps and looks at the soccer paradigms at higher intensities. In other words, more work. Shooting on goal, serving a nice cross, hitting a good deep ball...they are very similar tasks to tennis or golf. Pure skill. The only way to improve them is the work at it. No secret sauce to be found. The players who can, did...in training, over and over and over.
Bottom line for me is this -it is the role of a good trainer and coach first know the game. Then the ability to really see (like, go watch your client play a real game) a player's physical, technical, tactical, and mental weaknesses, and come up with a training plan that improves upon them. And don't forget that the playing is and will always be the greatest teacher of all. In spite of the greatest marketing tactics, there is no replacement for the GAME itself.