Coerver Coaching: Review of Youth Diploma I Course

I attended the Coerver Youth Diploma Course in Arizona June 2015.   Charlie Cook was the instructor.  The same Charlie Cook who played for Chelsea and several other professional organizations.  What a wonderful guy.  He was free with his time and he allowed me to quiz him quite a bit.

This is a much different experience than a USSF course.  I hold a National Youth License (fantastic course) as well as an E (2008) and a National D (2013).  There was no assessment part of this course.   The ratio of classroom time to field time was about the same, but the Coerver coaches run all the sessions.  And, for every session, they had Coerver players present so you were able to see what youth Coerver players look like and how they respond to the activities.  That being said, they still need participation from the coaches.

I absolutely fell in love with the philosophy.  I am very picky about player evaluations and am generally unsatisfied with the level of focus paid to that aspect of soccer.  For me, the first thing I rate in a player is how do they touch the ball.  That is what I define as “technique.”  The USSF courses are big picture course – helping coaches to run a team session.  Coerver is laser-focused on ball mastery and individual skill, or what I refer to as technique (how you touch the ball).    In fact, it is the foundation of their philosophy.  Finally, I am among like-minded people.

So often I listen to coaches rate players based on obvious factors – speed and aggression.  I call those factors fool’s gold, especially at the young ages.  I appreciate those characteristics but, in my experience, those factors get nullified post-puberty if the kids are still playing.  Yes, there may be some with truly special speed, but, for the most part, evaluating players on speed and aggression pre-puberty is lazy.

So, Coerver is concerned primarily with how you touch the ball.  to help that, they believe in repetition with hundreds of different ball exercises.  You can download the app for free.  For $10, you have access to all of their moves.  If your idea of getting you players to touch the ball better is juggling, Coerver has a whole new world of ideas you need to check out.

Here is the biggest advantage Coerver has over regular coaching sessions – in every other aspect in our “pay for play” youth soccer world, your player is trained within a team construct.  Despite all of the “player development” talk that goes on, coaches are concerned with winning.  If their team is not winning, the parents go elsewhere. If the parent goes elsewhere, they lose their paycheck.  So, as a coach, while you may pride yourself on “player development,” you also have to perform for your employer (parents).  Coerver doesn’t have that problem.  Since they do not have teams, they are not bothered with team concepts in their sessions.  The focus is on the individual.  You are paying them to help your player improve ball mastery.

Here is a link to their site where they list the dates for the courses and itinerary.  Coerver Youth Diploma



Sebastian Giraldo: Behaviors of Elite Soccer Players

Another great article submitted by Sebastian Giraldo.  He has contributed several others before.  Thanks Sebastian!

Making it in soccer is difficult. Training programs and players have improved dramatically in the past 15 years. Worldwide exposure has grown the sport and our knowledge about the development of elite athletes is progressing every day. To make it to the elite levels of soccer it takes a combination of skill, resources, luck, and opportunity. But even on this treacherous development journey, a player still has a lot of control. Through observation and research, we have learned that elite youth athletes exhibit similar thinking processes and behavior.

As a professional trainer, I have numerous stories about players that have progressed to the next level. The problem is that anecdotal evidence is heavily biased and not necessarily accurate for generalization. But when on-field observation aligns with empirical research, then we know we are starting to discover important truths about the elite youth player. In learning and athletic development, research confirms that the best performers are successful at self-regulation. Self-regulation involves processes that enable individuals to control their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Effective self-regulators can adapt and control behavior/thinking to counter responses that might prove detrimental to performance. For example, a youth player shooting a penalty kick to win a game is a stressful situation. An effective self-regulator could probably calm their emotions, disregard parents screaming “kick it,” and rely on their training to execute the task at hand. As a result, this athlete would increase their chances of scoring the goal. In sport, effective self-regulators are typically the best learners. Athletes who better control their learning and environment are more often capable of maximizing their athletic potential and thus succeeding in high performance settings. This is relevant to elite sport where you are constantly battling to earn or maintain a spot.

Behaviors and cognitive (thinking) processes of successful elite youth athletes:

  1. High Self-awareness. They self-monitor consistently before, during, and after training/games. Critical of strengths and weaknesses and aggressively pursue methods to improve. Behaviors include seeking specific information from coaches, attention to detail in training, and belief in improving through training.
  2. Proactive learners. These athletes are fully engaged in their learning environment by asking questions and try to maximize individual and team learning during every session. Behaviors include coaching of teammates, passion during training, and verbally approaching coach during instruction and exercises.
  3. Willingness to expend and sustain effort over years. Soccer development is a long-term objective that can take many years (13+). Commitment, discipline, resilience, and social support are factors that facilitate progression in elite youth soccer. These athletes have a growth mentality where they are constantly working on improving in order to achieve long-term goals.
  4. Follow instructions and effectively perform in competition. Coaches’ perceptions of behavior are crucial because they are the decision makers on playing time, strategy, and tactics. In elite soccer, a player must be able to receive and apply instruction even in stressful environments. Effective youth players understand that listening to coaches is vital to success so they devise strategies to apply criticism and instruction (and other strategies to ignore obnoxious parents).

In our program, we have dozens of players that possess the skills and athleticism to be successful at the next level. The pertinent question always seems to be whether they have or are willing to develop the self-regulation behaviors and cognitive abilities to truly propel them on their path. As part of our philosophy, we treat the cognitive components of the game as the most important aspect in long-term performance success.

Improving self-regulation abilities should be top priority for any elite training program. The development of these skills comes from a complicated interaction between the athlete, environment, player-trainer relationships, and support systems. These skills should be taught and refined throughout years of training. As the athlete progresses into higher levels of their sport system, the better they will have to be at self-regulation in order to be successful. Teaching and educating on self-regulation can begin early with focus on improving these skills incrementally over the long term.

Our best players are committed, disciplined individuals who have found their own inner motivation to succeed. They train to the point of exhaustion and then ask what they need to improve on. They know themselves intimately as a player and honestly assess how they fit within the levels of competition. They accept that their development journey will be riddled with adversity but they are willing to give full effort over years and years of training. They know their role as a player and understand how they fit in the training environment. They breakdown sometimes and have effective support systems to help them cope. They are constantly competing and want to succeed. Conflict and adversity are motivators and rarely a deterrent. They believe they control their future.

The truth is that these athletes did not come to us this way. Not a single one. They developed and refined these skills over time. Now they have become elite youth athletes and their dream of playing at the next level is becoming a reality. The path is not an easy one, but players have more control than they think. If you want to be a top player, you must think and behave like one.

Sebastian Giraldo

Giraldo Elite Futbol (GEF)

US Youth Soccer and US Club Reach Concussion Settlement – Heading Restricted

I can hear it now … blame the lawyers.  Well, I am one and I applaud the efforts made to affect change.  I have posted many articles and links on this blog regarding the issue of repetitive heading for young players.  You all want to know how lawyers effect change … here you go.

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And here is the link.

Joint Press Statement

Basically…no heading for 10 and under and restricted heading for 11-13.  Love it.

Heading and Brain Damage in News Again

If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you will note that I repost or link to articles discussing the issue with heading in youth soccer.  Many “head trauma” articles as they relate to soccer focus on head-to-head trauma, head-to-ground, or head-to-post.  My experience has taught me heading the ball, particularly punted balls and long kicks, can be painful and damaging.

It all started in my third year of coaching.  I was coaching a U10 boys game in an Academy league that was really nothing more than recreation soccer with more emphasis on results (not a true academy experience — that is another topic).  So, we were playing the best team.  They relied on speed and punted balls to threaten.  Their keeper, likely selected for his punting prowess, punts a ball that is going to cross midfield.  One of our defenders, the biggest, strongest boy on the team, heads the ball.  He immediately gets dizzy, has to come out, and gets sick later.  That experience has shaped my perspective on this topic for years.

While I feel it important to teach proper heading, I discourage heading of punted balls or long balls (or balls at great speeds).  I coach mainly boys who play in the most competitive league in Houston so it can be tough.  But, I recommend this article to all who follow.  While it focuses on girls, my experience is boys head the ball more (yes, their necks are stronger, but still).

And, thankfully, now my U10s play in a true academy league where there is no punting, must play out from the back, and emphasis on passing and dribbling.

Heading In News Again

I love this sport.  I spend a lot of my free time on soccer fields.  I sure hope that we are not too stubborn to consider safety precautions to minimize risk of injury in it.  Remember, the old schoolers complained when shin guards became mandatory.  The old, old schoolers complained when the game changed from kicking the dribbler in the shins (without guards) to proper tackling….just saying.

Writing about youth soccer, player development, and the professional game.