I see soccer coaches on Twitter and real life snipping at each other all the time about things they don’t think helps players develop.
It’s common to see spats about unopposed training, juggling, fake moves, kicking the ball against the wall, 1v1s, small-sided games, toe taps or whatever.
In my opinion, it’s all good and all has a place. It’s not either one thing or another. What sport is?
The fact that we even have these spats tells me the soccer culture is still in its infancy.
Unfortunately, I see that attitude rub off, which takes away the players’ chances to discover what they can make out of these activities and how much it can help them.
I have never heard a basketball coach complain about kids playing OUT or practicing dribbling on their own.
I also bet soccer coaches in Europe or South American don’t complain about their players wasting time juggling.
So why do we?
I farted around on the basketball court a lot as a kid. Basic games like Around The World or OUT got me started. Over time we built off those basics using our creativity to come up with versions that were even more fun for us.
For example, I had a few different versions of Around The World that I played that kept me shooting when my friends weren’t around (like the Superman, which was flying around the world 7 times as fast as you could go).
I do the same with these basic soccer games. For example, I have a handful of juggling game variations that I cycle through. I started with the basic one that all American kids, except Christian Pulisic, and some coaches seem to hate with passion (how many can I get in a row?), learned a few version from others (e.g. how quickly can I get to 100) and made up a few of my own (e.g. left vs. right, my left wins more often than you might think).
The key isn’t WHAT activity.
The keys are doing an activity, having fun with it and being invested enough to use creativity to mix it up and make it even more fun.
It’s through all of those variations that kids might come up with fun versions that end up going viral and doing more to improve American soccer than the USSF, club or coach could ever do.
Rather than poo-poo’ing these things, we should let it happen.