Tom Byer’s ‘Connector’ Skills

I’ve already written about Tom Byer’s and his thoughts on developing technical skills here, here and here.

After reading the book, the deficiencies he points out are becoming more obvious to me as I watch kids and adults play.

Credit to him. It’s like one of those obvious things you don’t notice until someone points it out.

In his book, he wrote:

Soccer is a passing and shooting game, but passing and shooting has to come after learning how to control the ball. And passing and shooting comes so much easier if you do that.

I watch kids’ teams play soccer and despair sometimes. ‘How can they be so bad?’ I ask myself. Most kids can’t even move the ball from one foot to the other.

What’s the problem?

The problem is people don’t know what the problem is.

The problem is the lack of what I will call connector skills, which are the skills Tom describes in his book:

Passing the ball from one foot to the other. Turns. Pullbacks. Cuts. Moving the ball in any direction with both feet. Starting. Stopping. Protecting the ball. Changing speed.

Why do I call them ‘connector skills?’

Because they connect the moment a player gets the ball (e.g. wins 50/50, intercepts pass or receives from a teammate) and the next pass or shot.

Connector skills are the the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and on touch that players often need to take to move the ball away from an opponent and to find the next pass or shot.

Another thing I notice now, the skills worked on in soccer practices I’ve seen are primary skills — first touch, attack dribbling, passing and shooting.

Connector skills don’t get as much, if any, attention. Players do work on these as a natural part of the small-side games played in most practices, but I don’t think that’s near enough repetition.

Since reading Tom’s book, it has become more apparent to me in games that 30-50% of turnovers result from deficiency in the connector skills, which is big.

Connector skills aren’t about turning players into attacking superstars like Messi.

They’re about giving players the ability to ward off a defender for a few seconds to keep the ball with the team and set the next thing up.

Connector skills are learned through pickup play, small sided-games or practice at home, like Byer describes in his book.

They can also be worked on and demonstrated in practice so kids get ideas on how to work with the ball at home to work on those connector skills.

How are your connector skills?

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