Every once in a great while a kid who peaks my interest comes to LeftFoot Coaching Academy who may have been referred to me from another student or parent. The player will come from left-field in terms of their movement. She (or he) has all the interest and ideals of the game but just can’t seem to move with grace and efficiency.

Obviously in our club system of wins, status and promotions this player will slide to the lowest levels of the club metrics. The fastest, most coordinated players who have developed early will rise to the top. The small, smart and skill-full ones will stay in the top pool as long as they are aggressive and quick. But the uncoordinated ones, with all the passion in the world will be placed on the lowest level teams with the least qualified to identify and teach them. And those are the Rec players the top coaches say. And there’s so many coaches who only want athletes to start with, but few coaches who can develop kids into great athletes.

This is one the passions of WHY I created the LFC Academy, but there have been some invaluable lessons along the way of working with these uncoordinated bunch of kids that I’ve come to understand as I take the next step in my vision of the building a premier youth development academy.

Let me start the next couple of weeks with the WHY before I get into the WHAT. Over the next several weeks I’ll introduce the reasons for the next steps of the Academy and why it’s important we work with KIDS from a perspective of developing into great athletes first and soccer players second and then how we create the conditions for more and more kids to reinforce these lessons. Even though we are still focused on creating special soccer players, HOW I do it is just as important as WHY I do what I do.

When these young kids, often ages 10-13, come to me I try to put them in a game, whether 4v4 or some tag like game. I used to watch their soccer skills, what they did technically, what decisions they would make, where they would hang out on the field. I’d watch their tendencies. I’d evaluate from a traditional soccer perspective and make the appropriate intervention in the game and their style of play.

Now I watch the movement of the player. I watch how they move. I watch from where in their body do they start their movements. I watch how they run. And it still amazes me how many players play soccer, but are not athletes.

What is an athlete?

I tend to agree with Brian Grasso of the International Youth Conditioning Association where I have several credentials: An athlete performs coordinated movement gracefully and under pressure within a variety of sports.

But then what is Coordination?

Coordination as defined by Jozef Drabik, author of many elite athletic development books is :

Balance – a state of bodily equilibrium in either static or dynamic planes

Rhythm – the expression of timing

Movement Adequacy – display of efficiency or fluidity during locomotion

Synchronization of Movement – harmonization and organization of movement

Kinesthetic Differentiation – the degree of force required to produce a desired result

Spatial Awareness – ability to know where you are in space and in relation to objects

And so when I watch players I look for these elements of coordination. A lot of it comes from my martial arts background where our stances and practices were oriented toward the graceful and efficient use of energy.

If you get a chance to watch your kids or even other players this week at the LFC Holiday Camp try and find how I integrate the session to include these elements of coordination. And look for yourself at how these fundamental movement patterns influence skill.

How do I try to work with a players’ spatial awareness?

What about their expression of rhythm?

Is there any synchronization and harmony of fluid movement?

Look for yourself and find the difference between LeftFoot Coaching Academy and the rest of the soccer programs in the state.

What we’re about to introduce will create the ONLY Academy of athletic development with the strongest credentialed staff in the state when it comes to YOUTH specific development.

The first step is to recognize that strength and flexibility are the basis of all movement in the body.

“These athletes were obviously in shape to run distance but when they had to accelerate at full speed and change directions, many times over they were thy least conditioned athletes. Not to mention they trained no skill at all. They didn’t drive their knees, stay low and change direction, or make tactical decisions to fake out an opponent coming straight at them. Plus they worked at slower speeds for many months therefore they had to be re-wired for quickness.”

Lee Taft- The Speed Guy

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