Skill

ImageSKILL. Definition ‘Special Ability in a task, sport, etc.,esp ability acquired or developed by training’.

As an avid Soccer fan — be it as spectator, player or coach — skill is something that is always wonderful to see from players, especially in the game environment. With the UEFA Champions League resuming play it’s a great opportunity to see many of the most accomplished players in the world showing off their skills at the highest level.  Players like Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), and Robin Van Persie (Man Utd) are perhaps the more recognizable names we identify with when it comes to skill but these players – along with many others –  can be used as a visual aid for our youth players to strive towards in terms of skill.  At the highest level we see not only skill, but more importantly players performing at pace, whilst under pressure and showing great balance throughout.  As an active coach for players from the youth through collegiate level it is often the case that our players have ‘skill’ and show this in training at a comfortable pace, but when it comes to the game environment it is not always evident. The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States booklet states “The most fundamental skill in soccer is individual mastery of the ball and the creativity that comes with it”. To that end the focus of developing youth players should be to ensure our athletes have a sound technical base to allow them to apply the specific sports skills in the game environment. To give our players the best chance to succeed and perform in games, we as coaches should ensure every training session is well structured and follows suitable progressions whilst challenging our players to perform outside their ‘comfort zone’. There are a variety of coaching styles and methods, and it is important that a coach creates an environment that works for him/her and the players on the team. David Beckham was perhaps the most recognizable name in the professional game in the US in recent years and was famously quoted saying “I still look at myself and want to improve”. Hopefully we can encourage our youth players to have the same attitude and then enjoy the moments of skill that follow and celebrate them with our players.

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