Our Academy Play designed for players ages 6 and up who are looking to challenge their abilities. By having larger groups that aren't necessarily age or gender specific it allows us to combine players into more even groups based upon ability. As we prefer a 6:1 ratio of players to coaches your child will get constant assistance and with our small sided practices your child will also spend plenty of time on the ball. Over the course of the season this means more time playing the game as opposed to watching everyone else dribble the ball on the far side of the field. This allows us to provide a more individualized coaching coaching experience for ALL players on the field.
While much of the time players are matched with others of the same level, we also encourage them to play against everyone regardless of ability as it allows them to learn from each other as well as from coaches. It's not uncommon to see our older and more experienced players helping the younger ones to learn their moves. It not only gives the younger ones the chance to play with the "big kids" but it also gives the older ones an opportunity to help teach the moves which then forces them to explain and fully understand everything themselves. It's a win-win!
Unlike many other programs, the crux of our plan is to have extremely technical players before moving on and learning the finer details like tactics and strategies. Learning in this order allows comfort on the ball and thus better decision making due to a decreased chance of panic when faced with opposition. Each player will spend numerous hours with a ball at his/her feet because we focus on the 1v1 abilities of each player. Therefore, it is imperative that each child have a ball at practice because we utilize individual dribbling drills throughout the season. We use positive encouragement to help give the confidence to be able to dribble the ball anywhere at anytime even if it means right in front of his/her own goal. There are no random kicks here! Everything is with a purpose to help improve field vision and decision making.
Our coaches don't necessarily "coach" players but instead EDUCATE them. Instead of the WHAT, we ask the WHY. You will sometimes see a coach ask a kid - while practice goes on around them - why a decision was made. There are no wrong answers because we know kids are smart and will either justify an answer or see why there were other (better) options. We want them to think for themselves because once they are away from coaches, they will need to rely on self guidance in order to succeed. Sometimes practices will look semi chaotic, but trust us, it's actually pretty organized and purposeful. Its constant "chaos" forces players to have their heads up and look around to focus on their surroundings in order to prioritize dangerous situations both with and without the ball.
We have three basic levels of education but no player is ever limited to just one at a time; it's pretty fluid once the basics are understood. It's completely normal for players to be more advanced in some areas than others. No two kids will progress in identical manners and we won't treat them as such. No robots or assembly lines here! As they mature some will naturally gravitate towards certain aspects of the game and that's perfectly okay with us because we know we gave them the tools and they decided it for themselves as opposed to a coach telling Johnny that from Day 1 he's a central defender for life.
Beginner - Technical Fundamentals
As with anything in life, it's important to start with the basic fundamentals. We do this by introducing basic warm-up activities to help improve the feel of the foot on the ball. The progression moves onto teaching simple take-on moves such as scissors and step-overs.
Instead of players kicking the ball away when it comes to them, we want players to dribble as much as possible. The more time spent dribbling the more comfortable they become with their abilities.
At this level we teach moves and use fun games to practice them in low pressure settings. Practice then moves onto trying the moves under pressure via 1v1 drills.
You'll see a lot of repetition because we know that in order to understand other aspects of the game it is imperative to have the basics down first. That old saying of "Practice makes perfect" isn't relevant here. It doesn't do anyone any good to practice the wrong way so we make sure the kids improve their mechanics so they can practice perfectly. You'll soon see your child able to do the fundamentals correctly without thinking about it.
Intermediate - Fine Tuning
Once fundamentals are established it's time to improve upon them and introduce higher order technical skills. Here we learn moves like the Matthews or Maradona. We also return to the beginner moves but work on the finer details to really improve them. Feints become faster and more believable at this level. As always, the 1v1 ability is important to beat the defender and therefore even more highly stressed even during scrimmages and games.
It is at this level when we introduce passing and spatial concepts.
Advanced - Tactical Awareness
At this level the players put all of their skills together to learn the large group skills involved in playmaking, tactics, and strategies. Players will start to understand when to dribble and when to pass in order to create openings for teammates or shots.