This Coaching Soccer Weekly podcast has a good discussion about isolated technical training (i.e. ball mastery work) during soccer practice and what he heard while taking a pilot USSF’s pilot Director of Coaching course.
The podcast host, Mura, took the pilot course and says that part of the rationale presented in the coaching course to not do isolated technical training at soccer practice, in favor of more game play, was to make practice more fun to keep kids interested and playing longer.
Soccer cultures that produce world level talent are centered on mastering the ball from early ages. Mastering the ball takes a lot of practice, against opponents and on your own.
U.S. Soccer culture is centered on participation with ball mastery at early ages as an afterthought.
The last 30 years proves that participation doesn’t improve top level talent.
If kids don’t think ball work is fun, then we are attracting the wrong kids or we need to come up with more fun activities that get kids enjoying working with the ball.
If you look closely at ball-centric soccer cultures, you see they have these activities along with knowledge transfer among large age bands (e.g. pickup game with ages from 3 up to adult), encouragement to learn (e.g. the worst juggler gets picked last).
I’ve seen this firsthand here in the U.S.