Updated: Apr 19
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When youth soccer players train on their own outside of organized practices, these players get better faster than the players who don't.
But setting up the right training plan and sticking with it is hard. Most parents don't know how to help.
There are times when your player is chock full of motivation. But usually, you can't seem to do anything to motivate them to train.
We've all been there.
It doesn't matter what age the player is. Lack of motivation to train independently affects almost all youth players even though research shows that training independently is one of the top ways to get your player motivated and gain the skills they need (and want) to succeed in soccer.
Yes, you read that right. Lack of motivation to train independently can actually be cured by training independently! The reason is that when players see the results of this independent training they usually want to keep doing it. Extra training also increases confidence. Now let's figure out how to get them to do it.
It is a fact that every soccer player and parent out there is going to struggle if you stay with the sport. How you get through these struggles is what matters. In a study performed on the dropout rates in youth soccer from the ages of 10-18, a whopping 25% leave soccer every year. But still, if your player loves the sport now, parents can play a vital role to keep it that way. And if players love soccer parents will too.
Have a plan for these inevitable struggles you're going to face.
Watch this video of 10-year-old Mason from Virginia. His dad, Cortez, is starting him out young. He says that he's teaching Mason how to dribble in our fundamentals course because the Captain Elite course, "not only focuses on the physical aspect of the game and improvement but also helps players develop a growth mindset." See the video of Mason working with Cortez below.
In this post, we listen to other parents describe ways they help their players learn how to make it through these struggles and continue to love the sport of soccer. You'll also hear tips on how to make a soccer training plan that really works and how to stick with it. Make sure to watch the before and after videos of their players. Hint: these players didn't start out as superstars right away.
We begin with the story of 9-year-old Miles from High Point, NC. His mother, Melissa, signed him up for a Captain Elite soccer training course when his whole team joined. Now let me say that normally a player this age would sign up for Dribbling Fundamentals but the coach saw promise in this team and so they all trained in Close Control Dribbling which is more difficult.
Miles and some of his teammates are pictured below at our recent soccer camp.
Melissa describes how Miles handled his first soccer training course with us,
"When we first started, Miles was motivated because his whole team was involved and participating per the coach’s request. He could see where he was and where his teammates were and that was very motivating. At the start of the 10 weeks (Close Control Dribbling), Miles was beating his best each week, which made him feel more confident."
Now let's watch a video of Miles in week 1 of the soccer dribbling course where he began at a skill stage of <1. His skill level is very typical of younger players who haven't worked on these types of drills before.
Here's where the struggles began. Miles was cut from his team during the training course. Melissa describes how it affected him and what she and Ed, Miles's dad, had to do to keep Miles on track with the training plan.
"As the weeks wore on (and Miles was cut from the team) he was less motivated and it became harder for him to beat his personal best. He started to become frustrated and less enthusiastic about the training. That is where we had to step in and help motivate Miles with the big picture and the long-term payoff, not just the instant gratification of beating his personal best and being on the top team. He worked VERY hard during the last few weeks of the Close Control Dribbling Program, and while he did not beat his best in the last week, he felt a sense of accomplishment and pride."
Miles won a Grit Medal at the winter soccer camp after the training was over which, Melissa said for Miles, "really made all the hard work worth it". (Captain Elite soccer coaches award grit medals to hard-working players they feel are standouts at the camps.)
With parental encouragement and guidance, Miles finished out the season at a skill level stage of 3.38 for this drill which is an incredible accomplishment in our college-level soccer dribbling course. Watch the video below to compare Miles's work from week 9 to week 1 above.
So why did Miles stick with the training? There are several reasons.
First of all, Melissa notes that, "see(ing) where he was and where his teammates were was very motivating". She is talking about the scoreboard and how players are able to see how they stack up against other kids doing the training. Many times soccer players cannot actually see if they are getting better or worse. Therefore, having a means of measuring improvement is critical. Numbers don't lie and will go farther in motivating your player to train than praise alone.
The second reason is because of Melissa and Ed's support and encouragement at home. How did his parents get him to stay the course when some days he really didn't want to train?
Melissa says, "There were certainly days that Miles did not feel like doing it, but again when we talked about goals and the importance of putting in work to reach our goals, he always decided to train. We never forced him to do it. We let him decide. There were days he trained for 4 and 5 hours and there were days he was done after 1 hour. We have learned to let him lead the training and to keep going or to stop. We have become a resource to enable him to train as much or as little as he wants. We do not hover, criticize, or force him. I think that has helped him. He is in control of the decision-making. There were times that were tough. There were times when he was so frustrated he was almost in tears. All I do in that moment is ask if he is finished for the day. Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes (more often) the answer was no."
Melissa also suggests that parents, "let the kids be in control of the training. Let them be the expert. I shy away from correcting Miles unless he asks for my help. He is more receptive to the feedback on Captain Elite than mine. PRAISE your child, be IMPRESSED by them, train with them (they will feel good about being better than you), let them meg you when they are getting frustrated (it brings them such a weird joy), let them play their music (even if it is the same song on repeat for an hour)."
Let's see how Melissa's tips mirror other parents' advice on what works for their young players by first watching a video of 9-year-old soccer player, Averie, as she begins training with Captain Elite.
Her dad, Corey, tells us how he gets Averie to train outside of club practice.
"Averie has always been dedicated to at least touching the soccer ball every day. Before Captain Elite she was hesitant to practice anything except juggling on her own. Looking back now, she needs to see actual numbers to see she is making progress, which is why she focused on juggling. She could tell us how many juggles she got, but she couldn’t as easily tell us how she improved in other drills. Once we started Captain Elite and (began) timing her, we saw her drive improve to get better times. Now, we time her for most drills she does. Once she can see she has improved her time, it makes her want to keep trying for a better time."
We see that Averie, much like Miles, is driven by the need to see improvement in herself when she trains. Both Averie and Miles are motivated to beat their Personal Best and that's how we design our soccer training courses because seeing these numbers and their place on a scoreboard can definitely be inspirational.
But how can young players possibly stack up against older players on a training scoreboard? Captain Elite's scoreboard is set up so that players are rewarded for the on-time and extra work they put in, not only by scores. Therefore, you may see a ten-year-old soccer kid at the top of the chart because they've entered their work on time each week and did a bit of extra work as well.
Now, watch Averie's video where she is performing the same drill after training for 10 weeks in our Dribbling Fundamentals soccer course.
Why did Averie get so much better in this drill? We've already heard from Corey that other than juggling, she never really trained on her own so why is she doing it now and how has her dribbling improved so much in only ten weeks?
Corey points out that, "she also doesn’t always have motivation to go out on her own and train, so we make it a family affair. I will help her train, or even just sit there and watch her and provide feedback and suggestions. She does not like being alone, so just having someone around to see her hard work goes a long way for her. Some days she does need more encouragement than others. But we have always told both our kids if you commit to something you will give it your all. Once it’s over, if you don’t want to do it again, that’s fine. But if you’ve signed up for it, you will give 110%."
Like Miles, Averie is more likely to train if a parent is nearby offering words of encouragement when needed. Most players don't want another coach. They want to figure it out with the parent assisting only when needed.
Other than being present and encouraging, parents do have another critical role to play.
Let's watch Seth from NC when he first started out in our First Touch and Passing course.
Joy, Seth's mother, believes that soccer players need a written plan to get better.
Joy says that "as with anything in life if you don’t have a plan, you will fail. I say this all the time to our kids. A written out schedule- when, how, where to train is essential. You can’t commit to 5 hours a week and expect it to magically happen. A plan helps motivate, builds routine, keeps distractions away. From (the) beginning, he had the time of day and amount of time written out that he would spend on drills. One thing for Seth, logistically helping on bad weather days- helping him plan ahead and have (the) garage ready or back porch cleaned off to set up cones."
Sticking with anything is hard. Therefore, the parent will often be the driving force to make sure a player sticks with the soccer training plan you've set up together. Allowing the player to simply drop out once they've committed to a training plan should only happen if players are sick or injured. Stopping when the going gets tough is not a lesson we parents want to teach our young athletes.
Our first touch and soccer passing course is challenging and Seth took it twice. Watch his video from the second time he took the course.
Some people think kids can get better when they have good drills to work on. That's simply not the case for 99% of the players out there. Training companies, coaches, and parents cannot simply give kids drills to work on and expect them to get better. It's almost never going to work. There must be a real plan on how to get better from the start. Coach Mike says players need a plan so they "Don't Think. Just Do." This means that kids already know the night before what they are doing the next day. If they don't have a plan to follow it's easy to find many other things to occupy their time.
Miles's mom agrees. "During (the) 1st Touch and Passing (course), we were back in full swing with school and training with two other soccer programs, so working in training time for Captain Elite was not as easy or as frequent as it was over the summer. During this training program, we really had to set a strict schedule and stick to it to get the training hours in."
Our last tip from parents is to always make it fun for players, especially young ones. Joy says, "(it) seems these days society is pushing kids at (an) earlier and earlier age to engage in high-level training- when really they haven’t even had a chance to have enough “fun” to want to try to get better. They aren’t developed mentally enough to realize their actions have consequences (not making connection of if I practice I will improve or visa versa)."
Melissa says, "HAVE FUN!!! If it is fun, they will want to do it."
Corey's family has an excellent way to keep Averie engaged and learning soccer while having a blast. "As far as watching games, this has recently improved too. We took her to UNC, UNCG, and Carolina Courage games over the summer. She likes playing midfield, so we told her to pick a midfielder and watch them throughout the game. Seeing their every movement live really resonated with her, as opposed to watching a game on tv where you can’t see the whole field most of the time. This helped get her interested in watching soccer. Then we introduced her to the English Premier League. We picked a team to cheer for as a family. We spend most weekend mornings eating breakfast and watching Manchester City play. We all got jerseys and make it a fun experience to watch a game!"
If you want your younger players (and older ones too) to get better follow what our parents recommend:
*Have a training plan.
*Be present (not a coach) to help your players when they need it.
*Be encouraging and supportive and make sure they follow through to the end.
*HAVE FUN! Parents are important and players need parents to show them it's fun.
At Captain Elite we know that soccer players get better when a good balance is achieved between parents and their players. If you want to train like the players in this post, join us for a 5 or 10-week training session HERE or a training camp HERE. Our players don't begin as stars, but with their parents' encouragement and our programs, they will shine!
Chat with us live today or email firstname.lastname@example.org We want to hear your soccer stories and learn how we can help your players reach their goals.
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