Why Should Soccer Players be Training on Their Own?
January 11, 2021
Individual Training: Understanding the WHY
“Even if you are a trained electrician or plumber, but you only have one hammer and a few screws in your tool bag, there isn't much you can do. What we at United believe in is getting kids who have the full bag of tools.” - Sir Alex Ferguson, legendary Manchester United coach
It’s common knowledge that to become an elite soccer player, you need to spend time mastering the techniques of the game individually. At Techne, we help guide players in terms of what to do, how to do it, and help them to track their progress.
But when it comes to having the motivation necessary to spend the thousands of hours necessary with the ball, players need to deeply understand the why.
The Tools and the Confidence
Let’s look at what has to happen for a skill to be available to a player in a game situation, under maximal pressure.
First, the player must learn to perform the skill in isolation. Take striking the ball for example. There has to be time spent learning to lock the ankle, hit through the center of the ball, and with both feet. This happens when a player will go to a wall or take a bag of balls to the field and strike ball after ball, to purely master the technique. It’s nearly impossible for players to get enough repetitions in the team environment to master all the skills of the game. So this is where the unopposed repetition is key.
Next, a player can start to use skills in the team environment with the added pressure in a small group technical session or drill or a team training session where there are ample opportunities to practice various techniques. This could be a shooting drill with no defenders but where teammates or coaches are watching (sometimes even that audience is enough added pressure to challenge a player’s technique). With the example of striking the ball, in a group shooting drill and then in small-sided games in training, maybe the player would get 20 opportunities to practice the technique they had mastered. How many of the 20 can they successfully strike on target?
Only once a player can successfully perform a skill the majority of time with this ramped-up pressure, and only then, should they expect to have it available in a game situation. In the example of striking the ball, a player may only get 1-2 attempts in an entire 90-minute game. They cannot possibly expect to score a goal if the above steps have not been taken.
The individual practice not only equips players with the tools, but the confidence to know that they will be available to them as opposition and pressure increases. Read more on how to be a more confident soccer player.
“Training on my own is what helped me develop a deep confidence within myself. I began to believe that I deserved something more than others I was competing with because I was doing something more than everybody else. This translated off the field and helped me develop the habit of hard work and relentless self-growth.” - Hunter Gorskie
These days, so much of the youth soccer journey is set up for players. They get rides to training--sometimes upwards of 4x/week--where the fields have been rented, the sessions planned, the gear brought and set up for them. They may work hard, but it’s still vital for them to take a level of ownership over their own journey. What is their investment in all of this?
Individual training is when young athletes can develop the skills of discipline, commitment, and accountability, among others. These are the skills necessary to be successful in any field, and are just as important, if not more important, than the soccer skills they’re learning.
The three professional players on the Techne Team--Yael Averbuch, Molly Menchel, and Hunter Gorskie--often cite their individual relationship with the game as what has kept them involved and loving it long beyond their youth, college and pro playing careers.
Whether it’s watching soccer, playing pickup, or training on their own, players need to develop this individual relationship with the ball and the game. This is what helps to forge a long-lasting love and appreciation for the sport.
“Growing up playing the game, watching the game, and simply being around the game, left me no choice but to fall in love with the sport. I grew up a United fan because my older brother would have every single Man U game on TV when I’d wake up on a Saturday morning or when I’d come home from school on a weekday. I not only loved to watch the games, but I idolized the players. I wanted a left foot like Ryan Giggs, I wanted to be a workhorse like Wayne Rooney. I wanted my team to play the game like United did, and I wanted to win trophies. Whether it’s playing, watching, or coaching, the game brings out my passion, joy, and a rollercoaster of emotions that keeps me coming back for more.” - Molly Menchel
Their relationship with the game is what will keep players playing for many years, continue on through obstacles and disappointments, and/or continue on to coach, support teams, or work in the soccer world in other capacities. It should be every coach’s and parent’s hope that their players not only play the game for many years, but love it enough to always want it to be part of their life. This can only be achieved through that individual relationship and love that comes from their personal investment.