The SSC Academy is dedicated to placing an emphasis on development. Academy coaches utilize a curriculum that breaks technical development down into seven (7) areas. Combined, these seven areas create a soccer foundation that provides the fundamentals that each soccer player will need to be well rounded and to succeed at higher levels of soccer including competitive and high school soccer.
What follows is a breakdown of these areas. This includes why these skills are important and a brief summary of how they are taught within the Academy.
Movement & Agility
Every athlete in any sport must have the ability to stop and change direction in a moment’s notice. In soccer this ability is taken to a higher level. While other sports allow athletes to handle and carry the ball or other item with their hands, in soccer players primarily use their feet to maneuver the ball down the field. This adds a level of difficulty to running, cutting, stopping, and maintaining balance that is overcome in soccer by learning a new and unique way of running and moving while the ball is at your feet.
This skill is taught using a series of movement circuits and is usually taught in conjunction with dribbling and passing skills. Because it is considered a foundation skill, most players are expected to come into the Academy already equipped in part with this skill so the focus on this skill is minimal except where needed. Players will be taken through movement circuits usually as part of a warm-up at the beginning of practice in the younger Academy groups. After a player’s first year in the Academy this skill is typically learned and coordination has been solidified.
This skill is considered by most coaches to be the foundational soccer skill. The more successful a player is as a dribbler the more success that player will have in other soccer, specific skills like passing and defending. This skill is also important because it is the primary means by which a player will beat opponents, and successful dribblers are more confident, more creative, and more aggressive than those players who are not.
This skill is taught through a variety of methods and is emphasized in every age group in the Academy. Academy coaches want the players they work with to be the most successful dribblers possible, and this emphasis is obvious. Players are trained in this skill through repetition of moves which require players to use various surfaces of the foot. Players are expected to gain a large repertoire of moves which they can utilize to beat opponents in a variety of circumstances while both facing and with their back to their opponent.
Passing & Receiving
The art of passing the soccer ball opens the gate for a coach to be able to teach tactics. Soccer tactics rely heavily upon a player’s ability to receive and pass the soccer ball, and players who cannot perform this skill cannot expect to be successful tactically. In older age groups passing and receiving is the primary way by which the ball is moved up and down the field. It is also the best method a team can use for maintaining possession of the ball.
This skill is taught in phases as each kind of pass becomes appropriate. Players first learn the basic pass which utilizes the inside of the foot to pass and receive. Later, players learn to pass with the instep and outside of the foot. Even later, as players are physically capable, the skill of passing the ball in the air is taught. Passing sessions include a technique component where emphasis is placed upon the proper form for a pass and a tactics component where players are placed in scenarios and games where they must make decisions about when and how to pass.
1 v 1 Defending
This skill is probably the most misunderstood skill in soccer. Most people believe good defending amounts to “winning” the soccer ball from an opponent by aggressively tackling the ball away. Unfortunately, this perception of defending has often led to more goals scored on the defending team than it has balls “won.” In reality defending is a game of discipline and patience. Good defenders do three things:
First, they delay their opponent.
Second, they corral their opponent.
Third, they frustrate their opponent by forcing them to go backwards.
In doing these three things a defender causes her opponent to eventually make a mistake either by taking a poor shot, making a bad pass, or by making a mistake while dribbling. When one of these things happens, the defender “wins” the ball.
This skill is taught first by teaching proper jockeying and tackling techniques. At the same time players are taught how to use jockeying to effectively direct an opponent in the preferred direction. Players learn about how to use the sideline and goal line to their advantage as well as how to force an opponent to dribble towards a defending teammate that can provide extra help. Players are also taught about marking opponents “goal side” and how to give and close down space as the ball approaches.
This skill is not all that unlike passing, and yet, while every player on the soccer field at the upper levels knows how to pass, only a small number of those players are good goal scorers. This is primarily because shooting is as much a mental talent as it is a technical one. Good shooters are able to stay composed while under the pressure that comes with taking a shot on goal.
When teaching this skill an equal amount of focus is placed on both the technical and mental elements of this skill. Players are taught the proper forms for striking the ball including when each kind of shot is best used. Along with this, though, players are placed in a variety of stress situations where they must learn to deal with the pressure that comes with shooting. By creating situations that closely mimic game stress the players learn to become comfortable while shooting the ball which leads to better technique while under pressure.
Dealing with Air Balls
The soccer ball will always be easier to control and maneuver while on the ground than it will be in the air. Yet, despite a team’s best efforts to play with the ball on the ground, there will be moments when the ball takes flight. Players must then learn to deal with the soccer ball while in flight, and in older age groups a player’s ability to control an air ball is often a mark of superior ability. Effectively being able to control, shoot, or pass the ball while in flight will add an element to a player’s abilities.
This skill must be taught at an appropriate time. If the ball is not spending significant time in the air during games, then this skill may not be appropriate at that time. When the time does come, players will focus on controlling the ball out of the air with their chest, thigh, and foot. Additionally, players will learn to head the ball as an effective way of passing, shooting, or clearing and volley the ball also as a method of passing, shooting, and clearing. This skill also has a mental component to it as some players will be intimidated by the ball while in flight and may shy away from contact with it. Through a gradual process players are made more accustomed to handling a ball that is in the air until they have successfully conquered their fear and are able to handle the ball appropriately.
Small Group Tactics
Top soccer coaches have often said that 11-a-side soccer is little more than multiple 2 vs. 2 and 3 vs. 3 situations unfolding on the soccer field over the course of the game with the winner being the team that can best exploit those situations. Professional and national teams spend exceptional amounts of time playing 4 v 4 and 3 v 3 soccer in training where they can become effective at making the most out of a small group scenario.
We believe that small group tactics are the foundation of larger, team tactics, and that before a player can understand the movements and tactics of 11 people on the field that player must first be able to effectively attack and defend within a small group. This is achieved through methods not unlike those practiced by professional and national teams by placing players in 3 v 3 and 4 v 4 scenarios. In these scenarios players are taught both defending and attacking principles. Defensively the players are taught about support and recovery and how to properly delay while help arrives. Offensively players are taught about the decision to pass versus the decision to dribble and how to create 2 v 1 situations. And all of this is taught within a framework where the players are allowed to make the choices, not the coach. Academy players must be thinking players because soccer is a thinking game. Players are given tips on how to read the field which will give them insight into which decisions to make when.