The following is from a recent 3Four3 podcast with guest Mike Woitalla of Soccer America.
Here Mike discusses an observation from working with kids in a Soccer Without Borders program, which helps children of immigrants to the U.S. participate in soccer (from about the 30th minute).
What I really enjoy about these Soccer Without Borders kids is that their skill level is incredible. They’re from all over the world. A lot of them are from refugee camps in Africa or Asia, a lot of them came from Central American countries.
And very few of them were ever coached and their skill level was just absolutely incredible, simply from playing, which kind of confirmed what my belief has always been, that coaches are overrated when it comes to the technical part of soccer. Brilliant soccer comes from kids playing and exploring on their own terms.
This is Tom Byer’s point of what culture, and only culture, can do.
But, what we consider to be incredible technical skill is as normal for folks from soccer cultures as throwing and catching baseballs and shooting hoops is to us.
I made this point to a fellow coach and friend. He played HS basketball.
We were coaching a group of soccer players who did nothing with the ball on their own outside of practice, making progress on basics, like receiving the ball, very slow.
I said to him, “Basketball coaches have it much easier.”
He asked, “How so?”
I responded, “Did your basketball coach have to take up so much time in practice working on basics like this?”
He thought about it for a bit.
“No. I learned on the driveway with my brothers. I had the basics before I joined the team. The coach just ran our asses off to get us in game shape and taught us X’s and O’s. If we didn’t know how to play, we wouldn’t have made the team. He wasn’t there to develop our individual skills. That was on us.”
I could see the veil lift and he asked, “What are we doing?”
After that, he texted me photos of kids he saw playing soccer on their own near where he worked, in a part of town that brought soccer culture from other countries.
He saw several groups of kids playing daily and it was a constant reminder of why our players struggled to complete more than a handful of passes in a game.