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Need an Assistant Coach?

By Tom Butler, 08/17/12, 5:40PM EDT


Watch and Learn!

Have you found yourself on the side line watching your children play whilst listening to the coach's instructions, trying to understand what in the bobbins it is that your son or daughter is being asked to do? 

"Push up!"... "Go Home!".... "Over-lap!". 

Mom and Dad, you're not alone.  Most of these cliche terms are alien to the players as well. 

Players are fantastic at learning skills in the isolation of a 20 by 20 area, or by copying what the coach shows them. They can perform step-overs and drag bags until the cows come home. Learning the skill and technique is the first part of a soccer education. 

The second part is to learn when and where to perform these skills on the field during a game, under pressure, amidst chaos.

And the final part of the process is for them to then make their own decisions, to know when is the correct time in a game to perform the skill without listening to 35 screaming parents, and one lost voice of a coach, telling them what, when and how to do it. 

But how do players, and parents bridge the gap between the isolation of what their coach is teaching them in that coned out area and the chaos of a game on the Saturday? Simple: watch the sport!

Players will see things that they have been shown in their grids and begin to understand that whilst they may not be able to perform a stepover like Ronaldo, doing it in your own 6-yard area may not be the wisest idea. Parents will see that sometimes the game is more than just "booting it," that it may actually be more beneficial somtimes to - wait for it ... - pass the ball backwards toward your own goal.  

In 2005 when I arrived in the US, I could not stand 'American' Football - the NFL. The thought of watching a game that lasted 4 hours, played in 4 second bursts and involving players who needed to use an oxygen tank after making a 20 yard sprint was not appealing in the least to me. However, these opinions were formulated after having never actually sat and watched a game and tried to understand the method behind the madness. 

Many years later, and many NFL games having been watched, I now not only understand the game, I appreciate it. I understand what a "deep threat is" and appreciate the importance of having a 'tight end" like The Gronk. I have learned by watching.

As a young player growing up in England, I would watch "Match of the Day" with my Dad every Saturday night. I would marvel at Ryan Giggs flying down the line for Manchester United, Alan Shearer smashing in goals for fun and Tony Adams putting his head where most other players wouldn't put a foot. It was from this show that I found my idol, my hero, the player I wanted to be...David Beckham. 

I would use white-out to write a litttle #7 on my cleats, mirror his technique on free kicks (or at least try to) and buy ridiculous amounts of Brylcream. I wanted to be David Beckham and would copy everything he did on the field and off it. It provided me with a focus and helped me take what my coach was telling me, and identify what it should look like on the field of play. 

This culminated in me and every other young player around the world trying the to replicate the exact same skill on August 18th, 2006. The day prior, David Beckham scored his now infamous goal from his own half against Wimbledon. Every young player saw that goal and marveled at the audacity, the confidence, the skill it took and thought, "I want to do that." So on fields around the world the next day, and for weeks after we all tried, and mostly failed to replicate Beckhams wonder goal. 

So as the Premier League season is edging ever closer to kicking off this weekend, and other leagues around the globe finishing their preparations for the 2012/13 season, I encourage coaches, players, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters...everyone to simply sit, watch, learn and find your 'Beckham Moment'. 

And coaches, if you find yourself in need of an assistant coach, ideas for practice, or coaching resources, simply pick up the remote and tune in to the greatest show on earth.

Tom Butler is Youth Elite Soccer's Regional Manager for New England, and an avid fan of football, football fashion, and the New England Patriots.  Contact him at

Are you thinking about coaching youth soccer in the U.S. in 2012?  Do it!
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