Dr. Dina Gentile
Youth Soccer Insight: What Coaches Can Learn From Other Sports
Across the country, we are seeing that once one season ends, another begins. Our children move from the traditional outdoor season to the indoor soccer season. Some of our children will play winter sports like ice hockey, volleyball, and basketball. In other areas the summer/fall sports never seem to end. We, as students of the game of soccer (and sports in general), should take advantage of these opportunities to learn from not only the techniques and tactics of other sports, but from coaches of those sports.
Back in my college coaching days, I would arrive early to my training sessions to watch whichever team was scheduled before my practice. Some days it would be football and others it would be the men’s soccer program. I went with my notebook and pen in hand and tried to sit in a spot where I could hear the words and phrases used for the instruction given to the players throughout the activities. I was eager to learn new ways to teach skills, techniques, and tactics to my players. I would always be looking for the terms that I could collect that could be incorporated into my training sessions to more effectively reach, engage, and connect with my team.
The explanations I can provide to my athletes at practice are for me a central method for how I instruct. So, if I find new tools and methods to reach my team at a different or even higher level, then that transfers into better knowledge acquisition for players and we end up reaching the outcomes set for the program and practice sessions.
Basketball as a teaching tool:
Whether we are coaching our children in basketball or attending the games as fans there are a number of transferable coaching tools we can extract from the sport.
|Michael Jordan, one of the world's greatest basketball players
Small sided games: Basketball is the ultimate teacher for understanding the structure and importance of small sided games. The natural 5 v 5 structure allows us, as soccer coaches, to visually comprehend the roles of offensive players and defensive players. We can see roles develop on the court when the 1st attacking player has the ball and the 1st defender on the scene reacts (by moving to the player or even calling out “I got ball”). To me, the 5 v 5 basketball structure is the ultimate coach educator. From basketball, we can learn and develop our own teaching tools and apply those ideas and activities to our soccer team practice sessions.
I often will use basketball as a teaching reference when I am coaching. I will indicate to players that we learn how to adopt a good athletic stance from basketball. The athletic stance allows athletes to be able to have a positive center of gravity and be able to move side to side and front and back quickly.
Defensive stance and sliding into position: I often use the defensive movement we see in basketball to explain forcing a player to one direction or another. Showing a player how to get low and use their body position to dictate the passing and or dribbling options of an attacking player develops often during small sided games and in particular in basketball.
Using your voice: We expect goalkeepers to be loud and provide direction to the players in front of them. I spend a great deal of time forcing my players to say “I got ball” or “ball” when they are on defense which is a powerful phrase that provides the team with direction and also serves to alert the offense about how prepared we are defensively. When we ask the first players on the scene defensively to articulate that they are responsible for the player with the ball, it builds a level of confidence and keeps our athletes focused on their responsibilities on the soccer field.
Movement off the ball: The give-and-go is a terrific and easy tactic that can be used in basketball and in soccer. I have explained the give-and-go with players holding the ball and in their hands and passing the ball to a teammate in order to simulate the movement off the ball and to develop positive execution of the skills. I have used the give-and-go to also demonstrate how we can defend when a pass goes from one player to another player with one touch. So instead of following the ball, we can take a drop step so we can still see and keep the play in front of us (another one of those transferable basketball skills).
Become a student of the game
Think about how you can incorporate the sessions from another sport into your soccer practices or games. I have used team handball to teach my players how to spread out. So, players would be asked to throw and pass the ball with their hands. They are allowed to take two steps before they pass off the ball. This activity opens up the field of play, as players feel comfortable using their hands. Next, I require the players to play soccer. I will stop when the field of play gets crowded or congested, using the teaching moment to provide a coaching point. I try to show the players the difference between when they used their hands to spread out and open up the field of play versus when the ball was placed at their feet. It really can become that “ah ha” moment we are looking for from our players.
My favorite team locker room to peek in on during game days was basketball. I loved to see the match-ups listed on the board with the 4 or so plays that the team needed to execute in the game. How does that transfer to soccer? We may not be able to control every play of a game (especially at the youth level) like basketball allows, but we can teach some of the structural aspects during our practice sessions.
Of course we can run our set pieces from corner kicks to indirect and direct kicks. We can also use the Xs and Os to create plays and options of plays for the start of the game or any kickoffs. We can name these plays, just like our basketball counterparts.
I am always frustrated with throw ins and how many of my teams would lose possession from these set plays. So, I decided to create a number of plays and variations of runs and movements off the ball for my teams so they can be set in how they execute the throw in to help us actually maintain possession. I spend a great deal of time in my practice sessions explaining the field space and what happens when we are in the defensive end of the field, what happens when we are at midfield, and what happens in our attacking third.
I create scenarios for my players and we run activities that simulate what could occur (or what typically occurs) during the game so they have already experienced the pressure. This is similar to what basketball coaches do; we, too, can cover the “what ifs” when we organize and create our practice sessions.
So, whether or not there is a break in the soccer action, take some time to watch other sports and effective coaches of other teams. Listen to the words and phrases they use to teach many of the similar concepts we can transfer to the soccer field. Never stop learning and absorbing new ways to communicate and methods to enhance our instruction. We can all learn from others.
Related Article: The Power of Coaching and Creating Real Winners
SoccerNation News is proud to welcome Dr. Dina Gentile as our newest contributing writer. Dr. Gentile is a Professor of Sport Management at Endicott College. A volunteer youth coach herself, Dr. Gentile understands from both practical and theorectical experience what happens on the soccer field.
Gentile has also coached the Endicott College Soccer Team for 11 years. Gentile is the owner/director of Precision Soccer, LLC, which operates camps, clinics, and coach education training throughout the year. She is a former All-American and Academic All-American at Adelphi University. Gentile has been inducted into the Adelphi University and Endicott College Halls of Fame. She is the Pre Kindergarten and Kindergarten Coordinator for Beverly Youth Soccer Association. This season she is the proud coach of her daughters 1st Grade team in the Wilmington Youth Soccer Association. Gentile is also a Soccer Ambassador for Korrio.