Youth soccer players are in a phrase where learning is critical and students learn through various methods. One that is critical to youth soccer is demonstrations. You can tell a youth player 100 times and they may still not understand the skill until they get a visual. Visual learning is key to successful youth soccer programs. How do we get this visual learning concept? A visual demonstration put together with the auditory commands we ask kids to do every day will connect the missing elements and often have kids have a much better understanding.
Hear, see, do the best way to think of this process. An auditory explanation (1-2 minutes max so we don’t lose attention) and then connect the explanation of what you said with a demonstration. As the demonstration is going use target words from the explanation to the demonstration.
An example is the receiving and dribbling of the ball. You can spend the explanation portion of what is desired to go a little more in depth of the body position, receiving with the proper foot position, body position of the dribble, and then the actual dribbling. Now during the demonstration you want to use target words that are going to be burned into their minds as they do this skill. Don’t go in depth during the demonstration, use target words. “Body, receive, body, dribble.” These target words can be used as you demonstrate. Call the words out as you transition throughout the skill. Then when it is there turn, do the same and call out the target words.
Target words can be used for all drills to help align youth players with the expectation of the drill. Will this go fast at first? Oh gosh no, but as most things in youth soccer it will be a slow start. Once the kids get the process there will always be that connection and this will pay off tenfold in the end. Each time we do a drill we can spend the 1-2 minutes to cover what is wanted and what target words they will hear.
Why break the drill down using key/target words? It makes the opportunity to coach so much easier. Johnny, gets great body position when he is getting ready to receive, he even receives the ball correctly, but his body position when he tries to transition is wild. Now when Jonny is up for his turn at the drill we can remind him what is desired on the second time he hears “body” and we can spend 20 seconds to reinforce that one aspect of the drill.
Target/key words help break down a drill into several sections and really helps the coach teach the smallest of fundamentals in youth soccer. The more we can break down the fundamentals of a skill the better and target words make it easy for the coach, the player, and is a huge benefit to the game of soccer.