May 3, 2016


What Your Soccer Coach Won’t Tell You

They need help.

What your soccer coach won’t tell you is that they cannot make you into the best soccer player possible by themselves. They need help. They need YOU.

Now before we go any further, I just want to throw out a disclaimer. This blog post is intended for serious soccer athletes (regardless of skill level) that are looking to pursue soccer as their sport of choice. The players that see themselves in their High School Varsity teams, College Team, or yes even Pro. The players that value long term development versus the short term win.

Paying to Be Mediocre

In the U.S. we have essentially the highest standard of living in the world, but also have essentially zero soccer culture.  Sure, we love our USWNT, and every four years we watch the USMNT compete, but we certainly aren’t going to spend thousands of dollars on season tickets to our local professional soccer club.  We have football, basketball, baseball, and hockey too deeply embedded in our culture for that…

So why should you care?

Unlike Europe, we don’t have an elite soccer development system, but instead have a pay to play system.

This creates a soccer culture focused on short term wins versus long term development of the players.

Winning is important yes, but is it more important that getting better at your own game?

We also have a culture of fancy and instant gratification.  We pay for private lessons for players who don’t spend hours working on fundamentals on their own.  We have slews of kids with $150 boots who cannot trap a ball.  We have parents, and therefore we have coaches, who actually believe it matters if their 12 year old wins a soccer game.

We look for some magical solution, when time-tested fundamentals keep producing the top UEFA players…

Fundamentals such as getting touches the ball thousands of times a day, whether it be through an elite academy (Europe) or through playing pickup from sunrise to sunset (South America). 

Technical Development (Improving Ball Control)

You see in order to be the best soccer player that you can possibly be, you need to focus on technical development.

What is technical development?


Coach JR and Cody go over some Technical Development and Ball Control Drills


Does this scenario sound familiar?

You are in the middle of your soccer match, your teammate passes you the ball, and rather than playing it in stride or doing a give and go, you freeze up?

This is mostly do to a lack of technical development or lack of ability to control the ball. You can notice the players that suffer from this at practice or at games. They are thinking too much about what to do with the ball rather than just doing it.

Confidence is the differentiator and confidence is a byproduct of technical development, the ability to maneuver and control the ball with your feet.

Why can’t my coach help with this?

Well if they had all the time in the world, they would however they do not. You see, Club Culture Matters here in the US.

In America we face a dual edged sword, because of our small club system.

Parents and players want to win, so clubs compete for early developers and focus on direct soccer.

Direct Soccer:

  • Most passes are forward
  • “Passes” are really kicks into open areas
  • Idea is to get the ball behind a defender which leads to foot races
  • Throw-ins are aimed down field toward opponents goal or “down the line”
  • Long and vertical passes

You’ll notice that in this style only a few players are in touch with the ball while the majority of the other teammates are simply kicking the ball forward, down field, hoping those stronger players can produce a goal. In addition, there is a huge amount of change in possession. This is more of a run and gun approach.

This method is more aggressive and easier to “teach,” however it provides mediocre development to the players in regards to game dynamics and ever more so, their technical development over the long term.

Posession Soccer is about Technical Development and Ball Control as opposed to Direct Soccer


Regardless, direct soccer is favored due to how easy it is to implement and because it favors a win ratio as opposed to a technical development ratio.

Soccer has so many skills relative to many other sports, and also has a huge fitness component, which makes a 90 minute practice time spread thin if you try to coach Possession Soccer.

Possession Soccer on the other hand is what you see most European teams play.

Possession Soccer:

  • Passes made in all directions
  • Free kicks played to feet to keep possession
  • Throw-ins played to possess, often to back or midfield players
  • Smooth tempo throughout

This style of soccer is difficult to teach and master if you are only going to 3-90 minutes practices a week. However it accounts for what we call “The Beautiful Game” and confidence (technical development) plays a huge role.

In a possession style soccer, the players themselves have to rely on their technical abilities and understand their roles when it comes to the entire team. It favors a technical development ratio.

So what is a coach to do?

If your coach focuses on developing individual skills and plays possession soccer, you will often lose to teams who play a more direct game and have a few very good athletes.

Why? Time.

Unless your coach has enough time to focus on technical development and ensuring that each player at each position understands their role, possession soccer is out of grasp, even though when it is implemented well, it will win and control any game. Think of the past couple World Cup winners and the styles they played. All Possession. So your coach has to sacrifice wins for development.

Lose too many games, and your U14 record may not be great… as if that matters at all. But, in our current culture, players will leave that club and go to clubs who win and play in ‘better leagues’.

So, if your coach wants to keep players, they have to win. It isn’t their fault. Your coach literally cannot devote huge amounts of time to individual skill development each practice. Parents and players want to win. It simply isn’t possible. 

Soccer Practice is Not Where you Become Great

It is simple. 2-3 practices per week does not produce excellent results. Half the time at practice you are scrimmaging and not focusing on technical development.

Lets look at it from a different perspective:

Can you eat cleanly two days a week and have a great physique?

Can you practice piano twice a week and be world class?

Can you practice soccer twice a week and be great?

Thinking that going to soccer practice alone is going to make you great is not realistic. There has to be more commitment from the players side.

RST Athlete Cody Performing Ball Control Drills (Technical Development)

European Players Are Better Than Us

Up to age 14 they practice three times per week, maximizing touches by focusing on technical development. By 15 they practice 5 days per week.

Practice is not ‘fun’. Practice is work. On off days, the players scrimmage playing pickup because soccer is the most popular sport. They play one game every 5-6+ practices.

They don’t play every weekend, with a huge tournament every couple weeks. Europe focuses on player technical development and possession style gameplay.

A European player by age 18 has had up to 10 times as many touches on the ball as a U.S. player. Do you really wonder why we have 350 million people and only a handful of UEFA level players?

How Can I Help Myself and My Coach?

You will need to find a way to do that technical training on off days.

If you have been following along, you know that your coach has a lot of pressure to win in order to keep players and keep parents happy. In addition, soccer practice alone is not going to get you to where you want to be. Half of it is spent scrimmaging while the other half is teaching you how to play direct soccer rather than possession. Yes, pickup soccer is fun, and helps develop your game, your style, your flair… but, since your development most likely lacks technical training, that must be your priority.

Think about it, if you get better ball control you gain more confidence, especially when it comes to game day. This in turns alleviates some of the pressure from your coach since they know have another player they can rely on. Your team will appreciate it as well. It is a Win-Win-Win.

So how do you do it?

Your focus should be a minimum of 5,000 touches per day.

For younger athletes, or athletes who aren’t conditioned, this may be half that number while tolerance is built up. This is still far less than many academy players get, but as a goal, this should be where you start. Learn the discipline to show up every day for an hour, and suddenly 90 minutes is an easy next step.

Ball Control is a huge part of those 5,000 touches.

We estimate that when a player is focused on technical development, they can get between 150 to 225 touches per minute depending on skill level.

Knowing this, we recommend 15 – 30 minutes of tight ball control work each day. If you add in a brief rest every few minutes, this means you will do sessions of 20 – 40 minutes depending on your age and development level.

By working up to 40 minutes on the ball, you can easily get 3-4,000 touches that encompass all of the following (which are NECESSARY):

  • Bottom of the Foot Touches
  • Top of the Foot Touches (Laces)
  • Inside of the Foot Touches
  • Outside of the Foot Touches
  • Pushing the Ball In, Out, Forward
  • Pulling the Ball In, Out, Forward
  • Ticking the Ball Behind Your Legs
  • Stepping Over the Ball
  • Scissoring Over the Ball
  • Feinting
  • Quarter and Half Turns with the Ball
  • Controlling the Ball with One Foot
  • Controlling the Ball By Switching Feet

Each of these areas must be worked in a progressive system that moves from:

  • Basic Rhythm and Coordination, learning to do the patterning, to
  • Precision (cone work) to master exactly where the ball is traveling, to
  • Timing work with a passive defender to learn spacing and a feel for when each technique can be used, to
  • Game Speed work with a motivated defender to finally master each technique.

Any Extra Tips For Improving Ball Control?

After Ball Control work comes first touch and controlled passing work on a wall. Wall work is simple, challenging, and is the fastest means to develop first touch I have ever seen.

We use over 100 drills in a full progressive system to develop first touch. By adding 20-30 minutes of wall work daily you will see untold differences in your game.

And finally you cannot neglect juggling work. Not goofing around juggling, but juggling work. Learning to be calm with the ball in the air, learning how much time there is while the ball is dropping from your chest or thigh to your feet is essential. Learning that a ball in the air is just as easy to shield and control as one on the ground… and sometimes expands possibilities.

The icing on any technical session focused on ball control is juggling work. We do no less than 15 minutes daily with ball ranging from a size 5 to tennis balls… and everything in between.

The funniest part of every player’s development comes after about their first 30 days… this is when they first truly notice a difference and carryover in their training. Suddenly they turn without thinking. They start pulling the ball across their body under pressure and find space. They feel pressure and escape touch away to create time to release the ball.

A funny smile comes across their faces when I say: I noticed you pulled off a quick outside star to move away from pressure. They look at me funny for a second, and then it clicks… a system is a system because it works!

‘Wow! Where does this leave me? How do I know where to even begin as a player who wants to get better?’

Begin at the beginning.

This is where we have everyone start… the basics. Because every fancy video you ever see on YouTube is simply a stacking of basic techniques or not even doable in a game situation. And, even our All-State, ODP superstars come to us with technical flaws… they just have done enough work to get away with some small cracks in their technique.

Stop chasing wins and start chasing being a great player. Don’t pay to be only mediocre!!

Let us help you get started. We have made a quick 15-Minute ball control video for you. It is completely free and will allow you to see how this whole ‘next level training’ thing works.


The touches are easy, but the conditioning may get you. The first thing that most players comment on is that their lower legs aren’t used to so many touches in a small period.

Your soccer coach won’t tell you that they need help. So step up and take action by developing your technical ability. Get more touches on the ball. Increase your level of confidence. Focus on the long term development as opposed to the short term win. Help yourself, help your coach, and help your team.

Doing so will ensure that you have the best opportunity to get into your High School varsity team, college, or even go Pro.

So get started today!

-Coach JR


Renegade Soccer Training

About the author

Coach JR has over a decade worth of experience coaching athletes who love the game, and are ready to take their game to the next level. He trains them to focus on exactly the skills they need to improve, and then provides the framework and system to maximize their efforts. A certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and math nerd who is a life-long learner and coach.

May 3, 2016

  • Awesome article, just read it to my 2 boys they practice 4 times per week because like you said they want to be great soccer players!!!

    • Awesome to hear BD and kudos to you. It is super important for parents to be involved, it takes a support system to develop greatness. Keep it up and let us know if we can help. We have a workout designed to give players 2000 touches on the ball in only 15 minutes. If you’re interested, just fill out the form on the home page and we’ll send you the workout to your email totally free. Get those touches in!

  • Just wow. Absolutely wonderful article! My close friends and myself hold these conversations all the time, nice to see it actually on paper!

    • Thanks Dustin! Hopefully we can help you out with your goals. Stay the course and I wish you the best. Thanks for the reply!

  • I’m a goalkeeper and that is exactly the emphasis on my practices and my personal coach in the 80’s to accomplish great results in my games. I’m interested in coaching goal keepers and making a difference in their game. Thank you for your article.

    • Thanks Lisa, and great work with your players. It is hard work coming with a solid plan every day to improve, and MUCH easier to scrimmage half the time, but only one results in consistent progress. Keep up the great fight for our kids! Thanks!

        • Great Chuck! If your club gives all the players ‘homework’… exact exercises, skill drills, sets, reps, recovery periods, etc. to do when the players ARE NOT at practice, then they will be in the development game!

  • Hi Coach, please allow me to disagree, not with the need for an obsession with ball control and technique, but with the premise that Direct Ball is played in the US and that it leads to wins at the youth level. Also, the lack of time spent between practices with the ball is a function of our media obsession, replace the iphone and TV with a yard and ball, the extreme majority of top players in EUFA were poor and couldn’t afford these distractions. Here soccer is a rich kid sport. No coaches here teach vision and creativity which is what wins soccer games. Posession football is what has always dominated the game here. “pass it to my feet” as the ‘better’ players then try to dribble past the entire defense and shoot. I call this the Jozy Altidore disease. Not even Messi can do this but once in a blue moon, he is great because he creates unpredictable passes and finds space where noone else can. Teach that!!

    • Agree with all of these Alberto!

      Direct ball is totally necessary at the youth level, because youngsters just need to run and laugh. And definitely creativity comes from more free play during off days to build upon technique. If our USMNT players cannot even track a run through the back line(like any 7th grade pickup basketball player would do on a cut to the basket), we truly have work to do… And definitely Messi can make passes so many cannot, but much of that comes from literally thousands more hours playing free flow, and the ability to control the ball without staring at it… stemming from mastery of fundamentals. Thanks so much Alberto!!

      • Your post about training individually motivated me a lot. I have been practicing for approximately a week (besides training) and I can already see improvement. Thank you

        Petty there aren’t many trainers with such knowledge you possess.

    • Alberto, I agree with a lot of what you say, but not everything. There are a lot of coaches that preach creativity and vision, and thankfully so. There are definitely financial constraints too, and I wish that wasn’t the case, but a lot of clubs offer scholarships and funding for talented, dedicated kids. We have a long way to go but I have seen a lot of positives from a lot of clubs on development and possession over basic w/l. NorCal has some decent things going, especially Butte United Soccer Club, and I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of others. We’re on the right path, finally, but it’s gonna take a few more generations to get where we’re going.

      And great article Coach, thank you!

  • Wow thank you for the great words of wisdom about the high end soccer community. With passion and klowledge we as coaches can do great things with youth soccer . T. Y.

    • Agreed Dustin. We all have to work to get better for the players… for the game. I learn every day.

      Thanks for helping develop our young ones!

  • It’s too bad that this thinking is only now catching on. I would add two minor points though – direct play is natural when kids are little. It should be used to build their confidence, and morph into indirect play as they mature and become willing to spend time on something like skills that give no instant gratification. And I too marvel at the European academy system and club structure, but it just ain’t ever gonna happen here. I think we need to commit to building an American tradition in soccer by incubating it not only in clubs, but in our greatest asset – public schools. A system that truly allows clubs and public schools to accentuate one another would be unique in the world.

    • Absolutely Chris! I see players trying to do Rondo drills when many cannot trap or quick touch pass yet… so definitely athleticism rules for quite some time until skill allows deception and the ability to move fluidly with the ball… or the ball to move faster than players travel.

      The HS system currently is brutal because of coaches trying to cram so many games into such a small timeframe. Off days are spent recuperating, and trying not to tire the players out, so instead of 5-6 solid training days per game, you don’t get a single solid session for weeks on end sometimes… frustrating really.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Plus, in Florida, I have seen great club coaches with certifications, and more importantly have proven ability to develop players and teams, passed over for teachers who played when they were in HS… A whole bunch of things would need to change, but yes, it would make us distinctly different if we could get high quality coaching in the high schools!

      Thanks Chris!

      • Coach,
        As the DOC at a club and a HS coach i can agree on many of your points here but i disagree on the HS System. While there is still the unqualified HS coach here and there that is becoming a more rare instance, at least in my area. Most HS coaches here are also club coaches and highly qualified. Also, I see many club teams, most i would say, that train 2-3 times per week and then play at least 2 games on the weekends, sometimes 3 or tournaments where they play up to 5 or 6 on a weekend. So HS teams in most instances get a better training to match ratio than any club team gets.
        At our club we are trying very hard to instill the technique required at the younger ages to develop more skilled and confident players at older ages but this take a commitment from all involved and a lot of parent education. Many other clubs will try and come in a poach the players promising more “Wins”. The points you make in your article are excellent ones and they take a change of mentality and a lot of buy in from the parents. Its a hard task to get parents to see long term results if it means some short term growing pains.

        • Thanks coach! Glad to hear that your area allows non-teachers to coach. Many don’t.

          Yes, the ratio is brutal, and the tournaments are definitely an issue. But, a training session that is 2-5 days out from a tournament can have much more intensity and volume than when a HS plays M/W/F and has an ‘easy’ practice on T/R, so they don’t crush a player’s legs. So, while the ratio may be better, the quality of practices is generally very low for many HS players. Sometimes it is more than a ratio. But, to your point, the clubs need to do a better job of managing the expectation to play so much versus development.

          No easy task, as you know!

          Thanks for the feedback!

  • My child and I played numerous nights in back yard passing, trapping, roll overs, dribbling, 1v1, whatever was taught from our pro Coach at U7, she worked on her touches on her own without being told. A LOT. She moved to boys U9-U13. I seriously believe all the WORK she put in at a younger age helped her development. She ended up playing for a major college D1 program playing in a College Cup. This past WWC, she either played with or against about a dozen players. Her younger club Coach told us about winning isn’t important at younger ages and we couldn’t agree more.
    I will disagree about club movement however. Every time she moved clubs it was for a better training environment. Not winning but training. She could of stayed at a U14G National Championship team, but left for Shattuck where her training to game ratio was 6 to 1. I do wish American soccer was cheaper for the serious female players. Like it is becoming with the boys side and the DA teams/clubs. Nice article Coach.

    • Thanks for the feedback Jim! Awesome to see your work being a great dad paid off for your daughter!

      Yes, when writing articles we generally have to paint with broad brush strokes, and many players do move for better training, but many move thinking the training will be better, because the other team plays in a better league or wins more… forgetting that many times a single goal scorer or great athlete can be dominant and skew that team’s results.

      The pay to play system seriously limits the ability for parents to get solid individual development training for sure… and limits the socio-economics of who can play high level competitive ball. Unfortunate. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Great article coach and totally agree with you. I played in Europe and I coached there also .I want to tell you that I felt right away ,coming to USA,that the majority of clubs are focused on having a huge amount of kids paying and less focused on developing them.All about money,unfortunately. Plus the system what we live in is not proper for soccer development. Let’s don’t forget that in USA there is not street soccer like Europe. Here we have to organize play date.and this is sad 🙁 . I think a coach should always to the players that is up to the player how far should go. The truth is they will go as far as many hours they put into personal development. Foot skill,ball control, Quickness, etc. Maybe homework in a fun way? Maybe parents organizing groups to train? Or just the kid getting the ball in the park ?

    • Thanks for the feedback coach! All very true.

      I can remember driving 20 minutes every night in HS to close down the pick-up basketball courts when the lights shut down at midnight… after weight room work during school, and 2 hour practices after.

      I wish this was the case with soccer in the U.S. Maybe we can keep supporting the trend!!

  • Sports science in Europe pointing towards a multi sport approach at foundation stage and beyond to develop fundamental movement skills and avoid overuse injury and burnout.

    • Correct, and I am a HUGE multi-sport proponent.

      Unfortunately, a certain level of skill proficiency must be achieved to be pulled into elite development opportunities here in the states. I am not clear whether an athletically gifted 14 year old with little touch would make an elite development squad or not. But, to your point, the ideal according to most literature is moving to 3 practices per week for 90 minutes or so until 14-15, and then moving to 5-6 practices per week. This isn’t necessary for sports requiring less skill development (where athleticism is even more emphasized), but for soccer the time with the ball is necessary… at least that is the thinking.

      Considering I was probably playing four hours of sports per day… closer to 5 or 6 if you included weight room, even soccer 5 days a week at 90 minutes each would have still placed it at less than 50% of my total sporting volume.

  • My five year old wants to be a “futbolista”. What can I do to help. He practices every day on his own. Anyway you could make this article in a children’s book?

    His trainers say he is a great and passionate player, what type of team should he be on at this age?

  • I’ve been talking about possession ball for years, and been brushed off by the “coaches” every time. Shared this with my son who has been listening to us from the start! Thanks!

    • Kate,

      Don’t be angry at the coaches. The incentive systems are all messed up in the states, so they are just good people trying to best they can for the athletes. I appreciate that you see there is a different way. Now, just make sure your son isn’t someone who ‘takes piano lessons, but doesn’t ever practice outside of the lessons’. Best of luck to you and your family, and let us know if we can help!

    • Thanks Jorge! Just trying to help out in some small way to get things headed in the right direction. Hope you are well!

  • As a high school coach and a club level coach I found this article very refreshing to read. Every year we have one or two HS athletes come up to us AFTER try-outs and say “What can I do to get better?”. My response to them almost always starts out with “Once the HS season is over…” I will tell them they need to get as many touches on the ball as possible from juggling to dribbling, etc ON THEIR OWN. Great players are made out of season. Once the high school season starts we have practices or games five to six days a week. It is difficult to get ahead once we start.

    At the club level we used to have a DOC who stated exactly what you said about controlling the ball instead of the Direct Approach. He said you will loose games in the early age groups of Youth Soccer as speed kills, but as the kids get older the “control game” will dominate a “speed/direct game” team.

    Thanks for this article!

  • Excellent article, however, I think you’re preaching to the choir. We need to get this message out to those parents who are chasing wins rather than focusing on the development of their child. I’m optimistic that with the recent changes and emphasis on small sided games, ie., playing out the back, will encourage teams to place more focus on technical skills, rather than the team with fastest and strongest kids playing “kick ball”. I believe educated parents can change the philosophy of a club.

    • Absolutely Coach! We send this to parents also… it is as much an article for coaches to read, as to share with your club parents. Thanks and best of luck!

  • Coach JR,
    Excellent article! You are so spot on. In general, this culture of instant gratification is really negatively impacting the fabric of American society. It’s making things more difficult at the end, esp as parents trying to teach kids the value of patience, hard work, humility, excellence, passion, vocation, leadership, sportsmanship and developing a firm foundation in all areas of life. I am a volunteer coach and a parent. Reading this article brings the key pressing issues of US Soccer into focus and I’m so glad that more parents are recognizing this. I really do think it starts with parents, as in so many areas of our society.

    A side story… last year the coach of the opposing team had a schedule conflict for one of our games and asked to be rescheduled. The League scheduler wanted to change to the day and time slot of our practices since most players would be there. Given the weather impact of a couple of our practices prior to that week and how valuable practice time is vs. game, it was an easy No for me and told them move to another day or cancel the game. Practices should really be given the priority, not games.

    Great job of spreading the knowledge and the good words, Coach! Thanks for all you do to improve the game, one American youth soccer player at a time! Love all the foot skill videos you posted.

    • Thanks coach! We keep pressing on and hopefully in my lifetime I can watch the U.S. pull home a big trophy on the men’s side to keep pace with our women!

  • We use the Coerver system for developing touches on the ball regularly. They are simple for all ages to learn and easy to remember. You are absolutely right about the Pay to Play system in place. Parents are “duped” into thinking that some coach who Charges is some how better. The B.S. gets so deep, you need boots sometimes. We focus on player development and our club sends out many more kids onto college/universities then any other system I have seen. We are easily 9 to 10 times the national average of sending kids to college…..and we are FREE. It can be done…It is being in Yuma, Az. We have coaches who love the game and want to give back to the community so they do…simple. We have a program that works with the high school team, not against it. We also avoid the big expensive tournaments that place a high toll on the players bodies and parents pocketbooks. Your article hits the major points, well done!!!

  • Great Article! Can you touch on how the same topic of touches and training impacts goal keepers and any advice to them and parents? Goal keepers require separate training, coaching and drills. Top level team coaches focusing mostly on “the win” have even less time training keepers and after participating in 5 different leagues across 3 states, it seems that keeper coaches are not a high priority to leagues. Most leagues are luck if they have 1 true keeper coach and holds 1-2 practices a week if that.

    • Thanks Tom! I just talked with a Goalkeeper coach tonight… I will keep pushing to find one that will systematize something to follow each day!

  • hi. i am from germany and i visit every year my brother in brookings/sd. your artical hits the main problem of us soccer!!!!!!! 1990 the us made it to the world cup in italy. some us soccer
    responsible personen said in at least 12 yeasr we want to go for the world cup trophy. now we have 2016 and the us team or the us soccer hasen`t developed very much since then. i left the us in 1975 and since then i am living in germany. since 1975 – 2005 i played soccer in germany. since 1991 – up today i coach soccer in germany. the last 12 years in the academy fc astoria walldorf (germany). you just don`t have the leagues that will built up the sport soccer over here. i send 2 times a idea to the us soccer federation in chicago ( to Jürgen Klinsmann) with a plan how soccer can be sucsessful in the usa. i never got an answere. even jürgen klinsmann does not give a care about the development in the usa. he has the big money but nothing comes arround. i have been following the us soccer since 1975 and i know what i am talking about. i even offered (for no money!) to give interessted coaches here in the area brookings/sd a soccer seminar but either i had the wrong kontakt or their is nobody interessed or the coaches think they know everything about soccer and don`t need help. i just watch a high school game yesterday and that was age 12-14. my team in germany would send that team home with a high score easily. sorry to say that but thats the truth. i would like to get in touch with you personelly. please wirte to me. thx.

  • This is a great article and I agree. I coach 12-14 yr old boys and technique is the key to success and most boys at this age lack it. They are more interested in playing with electronics than getting touches on the ball. As for keepers (my son is one) very few clubs have a keeper coach and if they do they meet once a week at best. It is a very difficult position to get the training that is needed.

    If USSoccer wants to improve they are going to have to develop better coaches and do something to improve the school and club programs, which I don’t see happening.

    Thanks for the info and I do look forward to seeing the training session for keepers

  • I tell all the kids I coach – Winning is good, playing better is best. And there is no way they will be better with just the two practice a week they have with the coach.

  • Great article, I shared it with my U14 ayso girls, we only get one practice per night so I’ve been trying to encourage them to work on their technical development on their days off. hopefully they get to read the article and will work on improving on their own.

  • Coach while I agree with most of the points you are trying to make I have a few of my own:
    1. When you start out by saying these are things your coach does not want you to know you are making it sound as if coaches are holding back the development of individuals which is disengeuiness, I am constantly encouraging my players to work on their own by giving them Coerver moves to work on.
    2. I have been coaching for thirty years and your method is not revolutional, the Coerver method has been around when I started coaching, same as your methodology it emphasizes comfort on the ball by practicing specific moves then through repetition when a player can perform a move under pressure it then it becomes a skill. I used this myself to improve as a player.

    I totally agree with your comments about our culture compared to Europe and abroad since I played competitive with Europeons and South Americans but we are improving.
    I signed up for your program because I am always looking for something a little different to give my players, you may want to promote this as a coaching tool for coaches instead of targeting players. Just my humble opinion.
    Best of Luck

    • Coach,

      Thanks for the reply!

      We probably come at this issue from different angles since I work with dozens of clubs when I doing training, and talk with coaches and parents. I see what is said, and I see what is done.

      If we were really serious about development, we would provide an entire training solution for our children since only 1 club in 100 truly accommodates the intensification phase from a player’s mid development through early adulthood. Field space, and ad hoc sessions are the norm. Maybe not for you, but for many. I am not sure coaches, or players for that matter want to be at the field 4-6 days weekly during the intensification phase of development… and I have never heard anyone explain why. Partly because of the player culture, partly the coaching culture I would guess. This is what isn’t discussed, as well as the understanding that kids across the pond and south of us do touch the ball multiple times what we do… part culture, part system.

      I think that you directing players to the Coerver site is great! They have been around for thirty years, and did a great job of packaging and promoting many of the methods the Dutch used for years in the Total Football System of development. The reason we both know about Coerver is because they were good at marketing… which, is why you also know about Renegade Soccer Training. They weren’t exactly revolutionary either as taking a skill and teaching it from a base motor pattern from slow and simple, to faster and more complex, then adding passive pressure, to then game speed has been taught in football, basketball, soccer, etc. for the past century. Having coached three sports at the collegiate level, and being a strength and conditioning coach, the progression is used essentially by every coach I have ever worked with… It just wasn’t packaged and sold to the masses of coaches in an easy to comprehend manner. Again, marketing.

      I never claimed our progression was revolutionary, so… thanks? It couldn’t be since again, having read American football and basketball coaching books, as well as P.E. manuals from thirty years before Coerver, they all talk about the same things: no pressure, slow to fast, simple to complex, soft pressure to game pressure. Every one. Progression.

      I appreciate your suggestion, and we do target coaches, players, and parents. Once our core system is released we will be reaching out to clubs like yours to work with them, as unlike you, most coaches don’t assign exact programs with times, reps, exercises, progress tracking, weight room work, and running.

      I appreciate your feedback coach. Hopefully we can both, in some small way, move the guidance and culture towards what is producing amazing soccer players.

  • Great article, my daughter is a 03 Keeper and though you were talking about field players a lot of tbis still applies to her. Good food for thought. Thank you!

  • Great Article Coach JR. I subscribe to your newsletter and have a daughter who just moved from recreational to competitive soccer. I help her train whenever we can and her skill development were acquired solely from those one on one trainings. My biggest question involves her playing on the competitive team. It seems like the team has already decided on whom they want to play and they play her very little. This is a huge blow to her confidence as well as moral with the team. She’s tiny for her age but has the ball control and decision making ability. She likes to take control of the ball and dribble a lot (keeping possession of the ball) until she sees open players to pass to. I don’t think the coaches like that very much, but isn’t the point of playing the sport is to keep possession of the ball? If you see pro soccer players like Barcelona or other Pro Spanish league players, they keep possession of the ball and that draws the defender towards them which create pockets for their players to run to. I think most coaches fail to emphasize that because they just want to score goals only by doing long ball, not focusing on the child’s skill and ball development. At times, I feel I just want to train her on my own but the problem to that is, she won’t have a team or competitors to play with. Its a shame we pay about 2500 per year for this and she won’t be able to even touch the ball more than if she was at home. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Hello Dan!

      My 9 year old daughter does it without a hiccup. She is pretty athletic, but not an early developer. All legs and skinny, but pretty springy.

      She tolerates the volume without issue.

      I hope this helps!


    • It is a digital product, so you can just login and all your boys can train. We limit IP addresses, but it shouldn’t be an issue within a single family!

  • Great article. Unfortunately though most so called “professional” trainers/coaches need volume and frequency (including many tournaments) to make a living. In a development setting, competitive teams (with larger squads) really should have two trainers/coaches, but rarely does one see youth clubs adopt a 2 coach training system as they would have to split their fees. Instead parents are told if their player who needs some more 1-1 or a 1-4 ratio to work on special areas of their game, need to sign up (and pay again) for additional “professional” sessions.

    Don’t see this changing anytime soon!

  • Quick question – how much space is needed in your house to do the Total Control System? Also, how feasible do you think it would be to use an iPad to follow along while outside? Thanks in advance!

    • Thank you for the comment, Jessica.

      You can do the Total Control System on an 8×8 grid typically however it is designed for tight ball control so not much space is needed. If you need to challenge yourself, then a tighter grid would do the trick. If you are just beginning, then we recommend using a larger grid.

      An Ipad will work fine as long as you have the ability to stream the videos. If not, the downloadable MP3s of the program will work to help you train outside in the event you do not have the ability to stream the videos. Hope this helps!

  • This article was splendid and I can see myself playing on the field using these techniques. I learned a lot about how important ball control is!

    • Duh123, daily. Although, some days will be recovery based days and once every 7-10 days you will need a full day away to mentally recover.

    • Duh123, a direct kick means that the ball may be struck directly on goal, where an indirect kick must be touched by another player prior to entering the goal. Thanks!

    • A direct kick can be directed into the goal for a score without another player touching the ball. An indirect kick must be touched by two players (kicker and another player) before entering the goal for a score. Thanks!

    • We couldn’t agree more! Have you seen our programs? If not and you’d like to, just email at [email protected]. We are launching our affiliate program this week, and it would be an easy way to help your campers and bring in funds to support your mission!

  • I came into high school and had never played soccer before in my life. I tried out for the team, made it by the peach fuzz on my chin, and like this article said, practiced the little stuff at home a ton. Now, coming into my junior year, I am going to be on the starting 11. it’s amazing how much the minor, “useless stuff” (according to some) actually helps. This is a well written article, and just helps me confirm my belief in lots of ball touches. Thanks for writing this.

  • Coach.

    First off good article as I did not grow up around soccer and didn’t really get involved with the sport until I married my wife, whom I met while stationed in Europe. We have been going back and forth over spending the money to put our son in the local travel club vs. a personal trainer. I know there are many opinions on this but I would like to hear yours. Thanks in advance.

  • Great article! I’m new on all this. My daughter is dating a soccer player at school and he’s 17 from Argentina. I never thought I was going to like soccer till I started going to this young man games. I love it! I will love to help him to make it far not only because his a great young man but because I see something special in him. I believe he has lots of potential. He practices 5 days a week twice a day. However, I think he needs more positive vibes around him. He’s dad is his greatest fan but Dad thinks he knows it all. And honestly I don’t like the way he talks to his sons. He can be very agregan sometimes. But anyway I love to help this young man. Please advise me what can I do to help him become Pro. Thank you and God bless.

  • Sorry but the US will never get it until we actually see more immigrant population making it to the top. The US sports system as a whole is not focused on Sports outside of the tiditional US only sports leagues. Within that bubble the youth to highschool to collage progession works ONLY because every player in those sports are doing the same thing and they compete only vs other US athletes ( only a few outside the us in baseball and hockey exceptions and the rare basket ball player) in soccer (football) the best players the US have at youth level and that get the best instruction and development at a young age are in communities with a large immigrant population. But after youth level these kids never go anywhere but pickup and Sunday league ball. Why? Because of the pay to play. And the fact that soccer is a mostly suburban privledge youth sport when it comes to the so-called development clubs and leagues. If your a player at High school age sorry it’s too late to work on fundamentals now. Shit a good footballer of that age outside the US is already under a professional contract. The focus must be finding and cultivating the best players we can find at the U12 -U15 age groups before that it should be all about developing bal control. The popularity of the EPL and other European league in the US shows there is a pocket of football culture in the US it’s just not in the triditional sports systems. High school ball is where the players that will never be top professionals go to play after they have been sorted out of the picking order. Nothing wrong with playing in highschool or youth leagues or even adult pickup and Sunday league ball for the amateur athlete. Great fun but just don’t have any faluse hope your kid playing highschool ball will be the next Messi. The number one reason the US will never ever win a World Cup is NOT lack or athleticism or even talent it is developing talent too late and when the tactical awarness of our top players. Our best players MUST be scouted younger and not to win youth leagues and youth turnement teams. They need to go to European club academies at least until the MLS developers enough as a league to offer domestically what European clubs offer. Frankly I have little hope of MLS ever being a quality development when the first team players are ether overseas stars at retirement age or from poorer CONCACAF nations. I could find 10-20players that now play Sunday league ball in there 20s that at 12-13 years old had the ball control and technical ability of any European youth player problem was their parents were poor And they never even played highschool ball never mind collage. They never made a PDL team or played in a organized youth league or so called elite US soccer development team. Nope by 16-17 they stopped playing to work to help support their family and play on weekends with their days pickup or Sunday league team,

  • Good point. Americans play Quarterback soccer. Kick the ball forward, down field, hoping those stronger players can produce a goal.

  • Hi,
    nice article except a few things that I have to disagree with.
    First, there are not many teams (except Pro Club Youth for example Youth of Bayern Munich, Barcelona…) that practice more than 3 times a week in EU. Most Leagues in Europe have only one game a week. There are exceptions when you have to play some Cup games. What makes the biggest difference is that kids sleep, eat, play, dream of soccer. When I lived there we played soccer in the morning before school, during the long brake, and could not wait to come home and get out of the house to play more.
    Also, the monthly membership for most clubs is around $12 so for about $150 a year you can play soccer at a club level. Ranked! You also get a jersey from the club. In the US, depending on the club the charges go up and up. Currently my we are paying around $2000 a year for my daughter. That is not including tournament fees, and hotel rooms….

    • Correct. Our kids in the U.S. don’t play… almost ever… at anything.

      The players who make it pay for everyone through the rights clauses. So Messi paid for all the youth players within that club when his rights were sold. It is pay to play in Europe… it’s just that the parents don’t pay… only the best players end up paying for all the players who fall by the wayside. If we allowed clubs to have the rights to our youth players, much of the cost could be offset… but tell soccer parents that their child has to go to Chilean second division to develop instead of college…

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