Victory United Kinetic-FC
youth organizationhttp://www.vuk-fc.com Gathering Oak and Rolling Oak, San Antonio, Texas 78260 (210) 343-1192
Last Updated: 24 Mar 2021
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Every child that is introduced to the game of soccer embarks on a journey of discovery, starting from the moment he/she first kicks a ball. Some children fall in love with the game and are drawn to it for life while others lose interest at some point and move to something else. There has been plenty of research on the reasons why kids play organized sports and why so many of them quit by the time they are teenagers. It is imperative for club leaders, coaches and parents to understand these reasons so that they can design programs that motivate and inspire kids to stay in the game. The ones that eventually develop into high level players go through the following phases of growth, generally in the sequence shown:
Phase 1 – Introduction to Soccer
This is their first experience of organized play, usually between 4 to 12 years old. It’s their first exposure to teams, coaches, practices and games. It’s also their first attempt at mastering the skills of the game. Soccer might not be the only sportplayed, as players dabble in many sports and leisure activities. If the introductory experience was fun, the player might move on to phase two. If the experience was not enjoyable, the player will likely drop out of soccer.
Phase 2 – Commitment to Soccer
If the introductory phase proves an enjoyable experience, the player will decide that he/she likes soccer and is keen to continue playing the game. The most common motivators for continuing to play soccer are: (a) discovering the freedom inherent in soccer, the players’ game - the freedom to run and do with the ball whatever the instinct dictates, (b) a noticeable or rapid gain in skill, (c) having a ‘fun’ coach, and (d) enjoying the social aspects of a team sport. It’s not necessary for all of the above four motivators to exist together for a commitment to be made. All it takes is one reason. And it’s not necessarily just the best players who make a commitment to soccer. Players of all abilities can fall in love with soccer and make it their sport of choice.
On the flip side, players who quit soccer cite one or more of the following reasons: (a) it’s not fun, (b) too much pressure, (c) coach didn’t like me, (d) I wasn’t good at it, (e) my parents took it too seriously. Research shows that more than 70% of players quit organized sports by the time they are 14 or 15.
For those who choose soccer as their main sport and commit to playing it on a regular basis, soccer becomes an integral part of the weekly routine and is ingrained into the family life. This marks the birth of the ‘Soccer Family’, the ‘Soccer Mom’ and all that it entails.
Phase 3 – Commitment to Excellence
Once soccer is chosen as the main sport, players begin to acquire soccer idols as they spend more and more time watching high level games. And with exposure to high level soccer, come the dreams about emulating their idols. At this stage, many players start to compare themselves to their peers and begin to wonder whether they are good enough to play the game at a high level. Unfortunately, some players quit soccer at this stage, when the realization that they are not as good as they thought they were hits home. But some develop an aspiration to become top players and make a commitment to work on their game. They are hooked!
However, American players as a rule don’t spend enough time with the ball. To start with, they don’t even have an idea how much training is required to become a top level player. Their coaches need to do a better job of inspiring them to work on their game and explain to them how to achieve excellence. Players who are committed to excellence need to train on their own in addition to the normal team practices. They need to watch games intently and learn from the best. They need to become self-analytical and strive to improve all aspects of their game. Sport experts cite the 10,000 hour rule which basically says that for athletes to reach elite level performance, they need to invest at least 10,000 hours into training. That works out to around 20 hours per week for 10 years. Players like Ronaldo, Messi and Zidane have probably accumulated the 10,000 hours by the time they were 18 or 19 year old since they spent countless hours juggling and hitting the ball against the wall and playing pick-up games from a very young age. Most American players don’t spend enough time with the ball beyond the normal team practices and games. Research by the US Soccer Technical Committee reveals that the so called ‘elite’ or avid American youth player spends between 3-8 hours per week training and playing soccer. By contrast, the average European recreational player spends between 8-12 hours per week and the average ‘elite’ European young player spends between 12-20 hours per week training and playing soccer. For this reason, very few American players reach the standards of ball control of the Europeans and South Americans.
Phase 4 – Commitment to Winning
This is the stage when a player reaches a high level of technical, tactical and mental maturity and, with it, a competitive streak. This player is seriously looking at a college or professional career in soccer and therefore, sets high standards, both for himself and for his team. The player who is committed to winning has no patience for slackers, wants to play with other players of similar ability and drive, and is looking to constantly challenge herself in practice and in games.