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  • Writer's pictureErwin

The One Thing to NEVER Leave Out of a Training Session

by Erwin van Elst

As coaches, we are eager to pass on knowledge to our players.  We know players do not play enough on their own, outside structured training and games.  This leads coaches to believe we must take every opportunity to instruct, guide, demonstrate, critique, and influence every movement made by our players throughout training (and sadly for many, also during the game).  This approach on its own, is counter-productive to player development. It’s missing a key ingredient.

In an article that Horst Wein wrote, titled “The 10 Most Important Conditions to Develop Creative Potential Within Each Child’, he said:

“At most soccer fields, the young players are dominated by coaches who allow relatively little freedom of movement and decision-making to the young players whose opinions are practically not taken into account. For the coach it is important to always have everything under his/her control.”

A team shows up to train for 60 – 90 minutes and they spend their time in lines, drills, or activities, then go home once complete.

First and foremost, I believe a coach’s responsibility is to motivate players, and develop a passion for the game of soccer.  Once we accomplish this, players enjoy the training and game environment. Coaches are far more successful providing the technical, tactical, physical, and mental tools necessary for kids to become the best player possible.  As a result of an encouraging, fun, and player centered experience, players become eager to practice and compete without the supervision of a coach or adult.  The greatest gift we can provide our players is the love for the game, so they take initiative to play on their own and with their friends. This replicates the behavior of millions of youth players around the world – street soccer.

We should not forget the one essential part of soccer, is its unpredictability. This is an important reason why this great game is so fascinating for kids. Children need the opportunity to explore and discover through playing, to infect them with the creativity shown by their teammates and opponents, without having the coach intercede frequently. This time is imperative for players to develop.

What’s the One Thing You Can NEVER Leave Out of Training?

The Game!

Don’t get so caught up in your activities, that you forget to open the field and allow the kids to PLAY! As a coach, you need to provide free play where kids have fun, develop, and explore. As a guideline, 25% – 30% of your training time should be allotted for kids to play soccer. Coaches layer in points to provide structure, but do not dictate every pass, move, or shot.

  1. The game is the best teacher

  2. Lots of free play, little interceding from coach

  3. Players come up with their own solutions

  4. Encourage initiative and being creative

  5. Kids play in different positions

  6. Learning through trial and error

  7. Encourage them to try various moves & skills

  8. Everyone plays and takes part

  9. Play fair

This free play in training, not only allows players to implement what they have worked on, but more importantly, fosters the love and motivation for players to continue playing on their own, in the streets or park, where the best learning is accomplished.

Meulensteen Method instructs coaches to recognize the need for players to express themselves.  We coach the positive. “Encourage the will, Compliment the skill!” 

As part of our proven and successful player development curriculum, Meulensteen Method players develop the skill and knowledge necessary to be creative, confident players. Players who love to play and have passion for the beautiful game we call, soccer.

For more information, visit our website

Want more tips and insight into how to develop creative, confident players? Or, how to take your club to the next level? Subscribe to the Meulensteen Method e-newsletter or follow us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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