Monthly Archives: June 2017

Know More About The Most Dangerous Part of Soccer

It is my contention that players and coaches need to know about their game — more than just skills, more then just basic tactics.

Everyone needs to know when to run, when to stop, when to play fast, when to play slow (something UNC men’s coach Elmar Bolowich has told me many American players need to learn), when to tackle, when to back up, when to shoot, when to pass.

The players need options and need to be able to use those options so they don’t just play like predictable robots. The ability to execute those options is what makes the unpredictability of soccer so attractive and fun to play and watch.

But there are other things that coaches, players and referees need to know and to be aware of, so that such situations of not foreign and can be avoided, if possible. I am talking about injuries here.

Don’t you think if a player knew how an injury happened, that player might just be able to avoid that injury when the opportunity presents itself?

OK, pop quiz: What is the most dangerous part of the game? Heading? Running? Tripping? A professional foul? Any ideas?

There have been a number of studies of the mechanisms of various injuries. For example, knee injuries can be from either direct contact or from an awkward misstep while cutting or landing from a jump.

Head injuries can happen while competing for a head ball. For men, head injuries are usually elbow-head contact. For women, it is usually head-head contact. Ankle injuries can be from stepping on another player’s foot, or from unequal forces during a tackle.

How about shin injuries? Usually in close quarters while tackling. Foot injuries happen when a player reaches for the ball during a tackle and the opponent steps on that foot. A broken tibia or fibula is from a hard kick to the shin during tackling.

Seeing a pattern here? Got the answer to the pop quiz? Easily, the most dangerous activity in soccer is tackling.

More injuries occur during tackling than during any other activity. Wonder why? Any number of reasons has been mentioned. For example, players with mismatched skills playing against each other could have the better player being cut down by the lesser player.

Some of my worst injuries have happened playing recreational soccer with unskilled, inexperienced players. It could be poor skill. Some people think tackling is something innate in a player; you either are or are not a good tackler.

So, coaches who think this probably spend little time teaching and practicing the skill of tackling. Big mistake.

When I took the U.S. Soccer coaching school (many years ago), team defense and defensive priorities were an important part of the course. As a defender, I took to heart that my hierarchy of defense was:

  1. Cover the player so well that they won’t think about passing the ball to the player you are covering.
  2. If a pass is made, step up and intercept the pass.
  3. If an interception can’t be made, pressure the player so they can’t turn around.
  4. If the player turns, keep the player and the ball, in front of you.
  5. and finally, go for the tackle.

Tackling was the last option. In looking at how a team obtains possession of the ball, tackling is about fourth or fifth on the list. This might give compelling reasons to not teach tackling; low priority, don’t get the ball often. But the problem is that tackling is where the bulk of injuries occur.

The top three locations for injuries in soccer are the ankle, knee, and then the shin. Doesn’t tackling look like the problem now? It should.

There is one other factor about injuries during tackling. Game videos show that one player, usually with the ball, gets distracted for a split second around the ball, then when the tackle happens, gets hurt. Slow-motion videos show a player taking their eye off the ball when they should be concentrating on the ball.

So, what’s a concerned coach to do? While tackling is not something any one player performs frequently during a game, it still is something that should be practiced, practiced, practiced.

In addition, players must be comfortable on the ball to be prepared to take on players with confidence and skill in many situations so they can hopefully learn to concentrate on the ball and not be distracted.

So the more activities where the players have the ball means more opportunity for tackling practice; further reason to justify the use of small-sided games.

Soccer Tips for Beginners

Starting your life as a soccer player can be pretty intimidating, but there are plenty of things that you can do to speed up your progress. The worst thing that you can do is go in without a plan, which is exactly why we put this list together.

Below you will find seven very important tips that will help you develop into the soccer player that you want to become.

1. Always Have a Plan

It doesnt matter if you are on the practice field or in a game situation, you simply have to plan ahead to give yourself the best chance to succeed. Without a plan, you will greatly slow your development because you will be putting more effort into making things up as you go.

If youre practicing, you should know exactly why you are doing each drill to better understand what you need to improve. For example, if you are working on penalty kicks, you should be thinking about where you want the ball to go rather than on what the goalkeeper is going to do.

2. Focus on Team Defense First

It is tough for new soccer players to put more work in on defense than on offense, but the truth is that doing so can actually make you better on both sides of the ball. Good defense also leads to the best offensive chances, so players who are less interested in defense can see it as a chance to get the ball back for their teams.

Defense is also the best way to develop chemistry with your teammates. There arent too many better feelings in sports than knowing that you accomplished a tough task as a team, and you will see that the teams with the best defensive chemistry are often near the top of the standings in their leagues.

3. Work Hard Off the Ball

You simply have to work hard to get better, and that includes when you dont have the ball at your feet. Some players save all of their effort for when they receive a pass, but that is a very small part of the game.

When your teammates have the ball, always work on getting into the best position possible for your specific position. Doing so will open up the field for your team and will greatly increase your possession numbers.

4. Take Pride in Knowing Your Teams Tactics

Many new players put most of their focus on what they need to work on as individuals rather than focusing on becoming a good team player. You need to realize early on that you have a better chance of improving quicker when you get a full understanding of your coachs tactics.

It’s a good idea to learn about all of the most popular formations, but you especially want to know the ones that your coach uses.

5. Dont Try to Be Perfect

It is true that you should want to be the very best soccer player that you can be, but that does not mean that you should put an extraordinary amount of pressure on yourself. Your main focus should be on developing into a better player, which means that you should recognize your weaknesses and slowly improve upon them.

6. Learn to Want the Ball

Unless you were born to play soccer (no one was), you will probably be a bit nervous when you first start playing. Your instinct may be to get the ball to more experienced players as quickly as possible, but that is the wrong mental approach to have.

You wont have too much talent when you first start out in soccer, but that is okay. As long as you keep wanting to get the ball at your feet, you will keep getting better with time.

7. Stay Positive

No matter what happens on the soccer field, you should always be learning (How to Become a Soccer Player with a Winners Mentality). Having a positive mindset will enable you to learn from your mistakes quicker and will give your teammates a boost as well. When you stay positive through all of the good and the bad things that happen on the field, you will see that you will make fewer mistakes in future games.

Avoid Being Offside in Soccer

One of the most frustrating things in soccer is being caught offside when your team could have had a great opportunity to score. This is why it is extremely important that you are a composed player at all times and take advantage of those types of opportunities.

Below are a few tips that every soccer player should get to know if they want to consistently stay onside.

Timing Your Runs

No matter where you are on the field, you always want to time your runs to keep the defense off balance and to give your teammates the best passing options possible. This takes some practice, but over time you will become more comfortable with the other players on your team and with the formations that your team uses.

One of the easiest ways to have well-timed runs is to recognize when your teammates have a good passing opportunity. If you notice that there is space in front of you that your teammate can pass into, then it might be a great time to run into that space. If you are running toward the middle lane, then be sure that there is enough space to keep the goalkeeper from reaching the ball before you do.

It’s a good idea to learn about the most popular formations to up your chances of staying onside when you make your runs.

Beating the Offside Trap

Unless you are used to facing the defense you are going up against, it can be pretty tough to predict when they are going to set an offside trap. Thats why you need to have a general understanding of why defenses set offside traps and when to expect them.

If the back line of a defense is able to keep its shape, they will constantly be looking for ways to keep opposing forwards and midfielders from getting behind them. They will step up together when a player attempts to make a run, and they will back up together when they have multiple players running at them. There are ways to beat this, though.

The best way to beat the offside trap is to run at angles through the holes in the defense. This is made a lot easier by staying on the outside shoulder of one of the defenders and taking off when the pass is about to be made. Once you have gained some chemistry with your teammates, they will recognize when you are about to beat the trap.

One mistake that soccer players make when trying to beat the offside trap is turning their backs to the ball when they are about to make a run. It is always good practice to turn your body so you can see both the ball and the defense, maximizing your chances of staying onside.

Staying Onside During Breakaways

During counter attacks, defenses are usually desperate to force players offside. If you have good chemistry with your teammates, you will find that these are the best times to get behind the defense.

The easiest way to stay onside during breakaways is to stay as close to the last defender as you can and keep an eye on the player with the ball. At this point, you dont even have to sprint past the defender because they are usually not in a great position to turn and run with you. Once the ball is played, you can simply get past the defender and go toward the goal.