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Coach's Corner

Letter Home : Solstice Summer League

posted May 26, 2010, 8:55 PM by Tad Albano

We get there, sign in, and greet our friends. We are sitting in a
tight group under a few tents relaxing, stretching, talking,
limbering-up.  There is not a soccer ball in site.  Coach Tad is
laying out orange cones on a patch of grass far from the tent.  Coach
Simon is leading us through a series of stretches and movements, same
as last week and the week before.  I'm getting so that I know the
routine and what next to expect, but that first day it seemed like we
did a thousand stretches.

Now Coach Simon is taking us on one of our slow jogs out to where
coach Tad has planted all of his beloved cones.  When we get to Coach
Tad, he has us run though his courses without the ball and then with
the ball.  Sometimes he times us; sometimes we race.  There are
multiple lines running parallel and simultaneously, so that everyone
is moving for most of this activity.  Then we slow jog back to the
tent, to hydrate and change in to our soccer flats or studs.  Since
the ground is still holding some water today, I will go with my studs
for better traction, less stride resistance.  (The first week here I
was so glad to have my Multi- studs (a multi-studded soccer shoe made
for hard ground), I heard other kids say their feet hurt.

Once we are a "cleated-group" we return to the area where Tad's
beloved cones have sprouted into size 1 soccer mini-balls.  This is
the part of camp devoted to ballwork and ballfeel, (although we have
gone right into 5 versus 2).  I heard coach Tad say that originally
this "ballfeel" method has been given credit to someone from Holland
named Coever, or something, but that Tad overheard it described to his
father by Rudy Goetzinger, a Center Half from Germany who played for
the first team of the Schwaben AC well into his forties.  I heard Tad
talk about Rudy, once, and the stories he tells make the man sound
like an amazing soccer player.  Schwaben Athletic Club is the German
soccer club Coach Tad played for in his youth until his sophomore year
in high school.

We have three stations today.  With Coach Tad we are working on
defensive shape, Coach Simon (finishing coach) has us attacking the
goal from a Corner Kick, and Coach Brad (dribbling coach) is teaching
us two new moves. I always like Coach Brad's station because, it lets
me try different things with the ball.  Brad has said to get really
good at a few moves, and I like two of the six we have done already
this summer.

Back in the tent the second time means we have a break before we play
our game for the evening.  I can text my friend Alex to tell her I
"nutmegged" her brother and my mom to tell her to bring dry socks.

Since my team won last Wednesday, we "get" to wear the orange pinnies
today.  Coach Tad swears he washes them, but please...

Our game is a good one even though we lose.  The best part is, now I'm
done with camp and I have no homework to go home to.  I can chill with
my dry socks (thanks mom!) and rtrn 2 txtng and playing FIFA South

The Benefits of Personalized Training

posted May 4, 2010, 7:30 PM by Tad Albano

What I have learned from my first week of hosting one-on-one sessions with players has amazed me.   Even though a few of the sessions rained out and had to be rescheduled, the few I conducted taught me the value of this specialized time between coach and player. 

1) Each new student who begins the program, gets an initial evaluation of speed, coordination, ball touch, footwork, posture, etc.  A file is created in order to track timed test results and to record observations on the player's strengths and weaknesses.  This new program has allowed me to see players in new and different ways and to understand what can make them better.  That information then gets passed on to the parent.

2)  Individual training is for all players.  One of the best parts about this program, is that you can specify precisely the skill to be coached.  This isn't like Cable Television, you have ala-carte and carte blanche.  I see players who have learned some skills but need instruction before they can master them.  The player who has trouble making a straight pass or a hard enough shot may be a few hours away from learning the skill.  Within the first session you get a verbal evaluation; parents often watch the sessions and can stand-in for the explanations so parents can understand too, what the player is being coached to do.    

3) Proper soccer technique is a bit of a challenge to teach.  This is one of the reasons training one-on-one is important to me.  The one-on-one  learning environment has the necessary focus to foster clear communication. 

4) One-on-one training has specific advantages over group training in some key areas.   The learning environment is unique.  I also believe that personal training instills confidence, or should rather.  The confident player and the player who could use more esteem benefit from personal training because their skills improve and the sessions are about their work and their progress. Players who struggle with confidence issues in groups have a training environment where the communication is personal and positive.  The work is about soccer, naturally, and the work is about nurturing the self-confidence of the player.

Here is a list-in-progress of some of the areas potentially coached in one-on-one soccer sessions.  If you would like to add to this list, please send your additions to tad@athenssocceracademy.com.

Defensive skills:

Defensive Body Posture    Defensive Positioning   
Defensive Techniques         

    Goalside marking     One-on-One Skills    Defensive Heading        Goal Kicks

        Defensive Covering      Standing Tackles    Slide Tackle 

            Defending Against Dribble           Defending Against Pass

Offensive Skills:

Short Dribbling    Long Dribbling    Footwork     Offensive Heading    Finishing

    Crosses    Ball Control    Shielding    One-on-One Skills Attack    Corner Kicks

        Volleying        Offensive Skills    Fakes    Free Kicks   


Short passing
    Long passing


Receiving Low    Receiving High    Thigh Control    Foot Control    Chest Control   

    Receiving And Turning    Receiving Into Space 

Position Specific:



Low Saves    High Saves    Catching    Deflecting     Boxing

    Distributions Rolled    Distributions Tossed    Distributions Kicked      

        Goalkeeper Footwork    Foot Saves    Setting The Wall

                Positioning    Communication    Corner Kicks     Penalty Kicks   

Skill games:


Soccer Tennis

                PK Shootout  

Chipping Notes

posted Apr 28, 2010, 5:51 PM by Tad Albano   [ updated Apr 28, 2010, 6:31 PM ]

Hey Coach, I see players from the United States National Team kick a ball 60 yards in the air and it lands right on the teammate's foot.  My kid rarely kicks the ball in the air, any suggestions? 

Coach: Chipping takes time to learn, but there are some helpful hints to keep in mind.  First it helps to understand what chipping is all about.  Though there are different types of chipped balls, the idea is to loft the ball high and have it fall to the ground in just the right spot.  Sometimes defenders chip balls over the defense for their teammates to run on to. Many Corner Kicks involve a type of chipped ball.
The chip is also a way to service a ball, or to set up a teammate for a one-touch shot on goal.   The chip is what the golf club can do well but the pool cue usually can't.

A chip is a wedge that strikes into the bottom of the ball, causing it to jump up and away.  The ball should climb quickly and should arch across the space to where it lands.  The highest point in flight should be roughly midway between you and where the ball lands. While the ball is in flight, look for a backspin from top to bottom.  This spin and the fact that the ball falls almost vertically to the ground, sometimes gives the chipped ball a stopping effect. 

Some things to keep in mind while making your foot into a wedge. 
1) Approach the ball at an angle
2) Support foot <the one you stand on while your other leg is doing the kicking> is about an arm's length away from the ball.
3) The effect of #2 above is that the body and the leg will approach the ball at an angle to the earth.
4) The toe is pointed down, and the ankle <as always> is locked.
5) Take big steps
6)Take a good back-swing with your kicking leg.
7) Strike the underside of the ball.
8) Foot Striking Surface is hard wedge-like bone <We were born to chip> along the laces.

Practice with a partner.  Chip over a small structure (garbage can, recycling bin, not your neighbor's rose bush).  Start 40 yards apart.  As you get better you can chip over higher, non-breakable structures.  As you get better, you can hone your awareness to know where the chip will land.  You will be able to send a ball 60 yards and have it land on a dime or on your teammate's foot.


Coach's Corner #1: Keep Our Shape

posted Apr 26, 2010, 2:24 PM by Shauna Switzer

Question: Hey coach, what do you mean when you say we need to 'keep our shape?'

Coach: Shape is the way we line up at kickoff, roughly speaking. Shape is the dynamic structure a team plays in.  Shape means like, viewed from above we appear in such an arrangement, and as we play we keep that basic arrangement and return back to it when we have been forced out of our shape.  If you are a player on the field, shape implies players being at certain angles from you in order to offer you support and likewise.  When a player crosses the field in chase of the ball, that player has compromised the shape.  The gap that has been created by a player's vacancy opens up space for the other team to attack, not to mention depriving certain players the support that position is designed to provide.  When everyone chases the ball so that it begins to look like a moving beehive, there is no shape.  No one is where they are by design, but utter chance.  Support is incidentally given at best.  The players know just to kick it "that way".

In contrast, shape puts certain people in certain parts of the field to perform certain duties.  For example, the right back (defender) should #1 delay #2 force the play out of the middle, to the sideline and #3 prevent passes through to areas behind the defense, and #4 win the ball.  These tasks seem nuanced, but are made simpler as a player settles in to a position and begins to be taught what the role of that position is to the overall team strategy.  A team may best utilize their strategy by defining clear roles for specific players (as described above in the example of the right back).  A more complete description of a role would look like something like the above plus:

I (coach Tad) want my right back to do a number of tasks including:

A) getting wide and in proper position (stance) to receive an angled pass from behind

B) getting wide and in proper position (stance) to pass at a forward angle or down the line

C) keeping goalside on their marks (opponents near our goal)

D) tracking their marks

E) denying forward passes

F) forcing the play down the line

G) chipping into space behind the defense after dribbling into attacking half

H) slotting a ball (hard ground-pass through a close gap) through to behind the defense.

That is still a partial list, but notice how difficult most of these roles become if a player roams over the entire field...this is why coaches will say, 'we need to keep our shape'.

Coach's Corner #2: Sweet Moves

posted Apr 26, 2010, 2:23 PM by Shauna Switzer   [ updated Apr 27, 2010, 10:40 AM ]

As a soccer coach I have checked a fair share of soccer instruction books out from the public library.  A good many have a section illustrating the signature soccer moves of internationally famous players from the past.  The German player Franz Beckenbauer led his team to World CupDiego Maradona and the Englishman Johann Cruyyf. Consequently soccer players go to summer soccer camps to learn 'the Beckenbauer', 'the Maradona', and the 'Cruyyf'.  victory, as did the Argentinian,

As a youth soccer coach I see my players concoct moves that work for them time and again.  These signature youth moves, two of which I shall introduce and illustrate here, make coaching a joy and a pleasure. 

The very first time I saw Josh G. step on the ball and let the defender run by, I noticed that there seemed to be no limit to the number of times he would try this consecutively on the same player, and it would work, over and over again.  I have seen many a young player, who typically invite their close friends to games so that they can show off, get duped into overcommitment after overcommitment as they chase forward then backward, then forward again.  The affair could be viewed as a comedy sketch, if it weren't for the other coach screaming madly to his player to be patient and to stay his ground.  

One aspect, too, that must be maddening to opposing players is that this part comedic part dramatic chase rarely involves just one individual.  As any well coached team knows, when a player with the ball becomes isolated, that is cut off from any reasonable chance for support from his teammates, the time is right to double-up, to try and sandwich him.  Typically, when this happens to Josh G. he executes his signature move ad-nauseum and as the defending players begin to gather around him, the group takes on an appearance similar to a school of fish darting and changing direction seemingly randomly.

The whole affair ends quite abruptly as Josh G weaves through the stumbling crowd on his way to the goal they have organized to defend.  Out of this chaos comes a lone dribbler, with a mere semblance of the defenders still on their feet in desperate pursuit.  Nine times out of ten, what results is a shot on net, either back post or near post, or a leading pass to a teammate.  Often, after this step-on-the-ball move (I will temporarily dub 'The Josh'), the next time the defending team touches the ball is when they gather it out of the back of their net.

'The Josh'

'The Josh' is a move done while dribbling at speed and with a defender on your shoulder in-chase.

1.      In this situation the ball is being played forward by the furthest foot away from the defender, the body and the other leg is acting as a shield. Simply step on the ball as the defender is mid-stride and immediately turn to dart the other way.  The move can be a touch applied to the top of the ball with just enough weight on the ball to stop it still.  Or the ball can be pulled back against the way it was rolling, effectively doing a 180 degree turnabout.  Proper balltouch is key.  Done with mercurial quickness, this move can leave defenders one-to-two steps away.

2.      Explode in to space!

Rory plays for my U10 team.  She is an athletic girl.  One look at Rory and you think, 'athlete'.  Her entire family cycles, and her brother plays for the U8's.  When her mother, who comes to every training session and every match, sees Rory execute a particularly cunning move, she exclaims with a tinge of pride in her voice, “that a girl!” 

On occasion I will referee when our club team plays.  My assistant, Sam, coaches the team as usual, and I run around on the field, trying to stay out of the way and watching what I hope to be a good game. On the occasion of the second day of our Travel League, a game between Athens Soccer Academy and the hosts Alexander Soccer Club needed a referee. My State Referee badge is up to date, so with the consent of the Alexander coach (who incidentally schedules the referees at that site), I stepped in to do the middle.

It was a great game.  One of the arrangements our league the Southeastern Ohio Soccer League, has made in order to round out the U8 schedule is to have the U8s play some of the developing U10 teams.  In this game the result was a fantastic contest.  The Alexander club has a very skilled U8 team Anchoring the back-line for them is a very quick sweeper; the sweeper has good ball control, wide vision, and excellent decision making ability.  The team also has a very good  technical skill base and a number of key attacking players.

In this game Sam had Rory playing right wing.  Sometime in to the second half, Rory received a ball forward.  She dribbled first touch to the right and then abruptly cut back to left and exploded into the space behind the defender.  She left a very smart defender standing.  As the center referee I was behind and to the left of her within about 10 yards.  The coach inside of me wanted to yell out “that a girl!”, however, since Rory performed this just as she entered the attacking half she happened to be right in front of her mother, who did the yelling for me. She sliced through a gap in the defense, splitting defenders, and headed for goal.

So the second signature youth move I would like to declare is called 'the Rory'.  The move involves the following actions with any ball acceptably spherical. 

1) Push the ball forward at an angle to your right (about 45 degrees right but as you improve, you can make the angle sharper!).  This can be done with the inside of the left foot, instep, laces, etc or the outside of the right foot.

2)      Step across your body with your left foot as though you intend to explode into the space at your right. (The defender is thinking you are going to his left and so explodes in chase of you).

3)      Immediately cut the ball back to your left.  To do this simply reach around the ball with your right foot and kind of chop at the far side of the ball to make it kind of pop off the ground and squirt backward from the direction it was rolling (to your left, the defender hopefully has over-committed and has exposed a gap of space to his right).

4)      Explode with a leading touch into the space you have created by 'juking-out' the defender.

All really simple, really...At least it looks simple to the kids who can perform it.  Like Rory. Like Josh G.   For me it is an uplifting experience to see athleticism.  To play well is not only a physical triumph, it is a mental feat as well.  Perhaps that is why it stirs the spiritual in we who are inspired by it.

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