Chasing Falling Leaves

These past ten days I’ve watched a lot of soccer. From Thursday to Sunday I watched rec U7, Jr High Boys, Girls Varsity, some Big Ten Men’s and the US MNT game as well as over 20 sessions in the Academy. ( Yes, I have the sickness.)

I had about five blogs in my head ranging from center midfield distribution, movement skills for turning and acceleration, player development strategies focusing on productive touches vs useless touches, the over-abundance of meaningless games and finally athletic development.

Yet I couldn’t find myself fully engaging in the total process of soccer development without ever mentioning athletic development and how it relates to body control, movement and ultimately creativity on the soccer field.

And thus the subject and title of this blog is about chasing and ultimately catching falling leaves.

I know, it’s a bit different, but when have you known me to be like everyone else?

During my prized morning of some quality family time we took the kids to the nature preserve for a hike around the lake, through the woods and grasslands on dirt trails and boardwalks.

Early on, my son was a bit bored with the smells and quality of nature and so I gave him a challenging task to accomplish during the walk: catch a falling leaf.

Now if you’ve ever tried to catch a falling leaf you can appreciate the utter confusion and irritation that is invoked in tracking a complex object down through the meandering air streams toward earth.

Not only do you have to track a series of complex patterns and compute, predict and anticipate where the leaf is falling but you have to coordinate your hands to grasp, collect and trap the leaf as it nears your outstretched arm.

Add in the excitement and uncontrollable urge to catch every leaf that is blowing in the wind and you have a phenomenal experience that relates speed of play in soccer, athletic development and good ole’ fall fun!

It’s not unlike all the complex tasks in soccer. There’s a lot going on and so how do you focus on what’s important and act quickly, efficiently and with purpose.

Or do you just get overwhelmed with everything and freeze?

The best way out of chaos is to act within it.

The best coaches guide students and players through the complex maze of problem solving in soccer not just by telling them what to do…but providing challenges that force them to solve problems with uncharacteristic answers.

For sometimes, it’s not more soccer that we need, but more opportunities to act quicker, think quicker and be quicker in our movements.

Ultimately it’s about being an athlete first, and a soccer player second.

As you are nearing your off-season training for the winter, ask yourself and your coaches: how are they making you a better athlete?

And while you’re at it… go catch five falling leaves and see if you don’t have any fun….

You’re bound to have a great time, your mind will have to act quickly, your body will need to move quickly plus… you’ll need to solve thousands of micro problems in a matter of seconds training your body and mind to be in sync with chaos!

Good Luck!