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Coaches Blog

Sam's Blog is a bi-weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer.


Consistent Performance

Sam Snow

"My son plays soccer well, when he wants to. The issue is that he is like a roller coaster and has great days, and lackluster days. How do I get more of the great days out of him?"  - Soccer Dad

Consistent match performance is a never-ending effort for players. One can watch a professional team and see dips and rises in the performance of highly talented players. This ‘ebb and flow’ of performance is a natural human characteristic. One must also consider the age and soccer experience of a player. The younger and/or the less experienced player will naturally have more obvious peaks and valleys in game day performance. Research in expert performance, in a variety of fields of endeavor, shows that it takes about 10,000 hours of training and playing to become an expert performer. The clock on the 10,000 hours toward expert performance starts ticking once a basic foundation is laid. That foundation is laid in the U6 to the U12 age groups (Zone 1 of the U.S. Soccer player development pyramid). The expert performance time line begins roughly at the U13 age group; so 10,000 hours is about 10 years of training and playing on a very consistent basis every week. This means a soccer player begins to achieve expert performance in their twenties.

Working toward consistent performance requires a player to go through trial and error as a part of the development process. To an extent ignore poor performance, but praise good performance. This is the behavior we want a player to repeat. Ask the player to replay a good move or a good training session or a good match over again in their head. This will help them imprint the performance in their mind. There is now a chance of it occurring again.

To achieve consistent performance a player must be self-motivated.  Only intrinsic motivation leads to expert abilities!

A soccer club can help establish the right environment for peak performance by continually educating the coaches, administrators and players’ parents on a proper developmental soccer culture, by providing free play (pickup game) opportunities at the club, by hosting skills school evenings, by playing small-sided games, etc.

A parent can help guide a player toward peak performance by teaching and modeling best off-the-field practices; i.e., good eating habits, proper sleep routines, deep hydration habits, personal exercise routines, etc. The parent can encourage the child to practice soccer skills at home. Parents and/or siblings can get out in the yard and play soccer with one another to deepen the passion for the game. Encourage the player to watch soccer on TV and to attend high level soccer matches in person.

But the most important motivating factor for parent to child is for the parent to let the child know that you love watching them play soccer.



awbilinski in White Plains, NY said: Chis. Thanks for the personal story. I hope your son gets acclimated to his new surroundings soon and it is good to hear your common sense approach. I just wanted to offer my two cents because the lead article seems to be about the pitfalls of sticking our kids into organized sports at such a young age. The game is supposed to be about having fun and staying fit; not about training to be a professional player or an Olympic contender. Unfortunately, it is this constant drumbeat about improving that will drive more promising kids away from the sports than will bring them into it.
13 February 2014 at 7:44 AM
chris in huntington beach, CA said: This article was perfect timing. We moved to California from hawaii, because my son was developing into a top notch player, for his age. He was always told he was the best anyone had ever seen, and was even scouted by large European clubs. As soon as we moved here, he developed a fear and started crying and underperforming. He told me he was nervous and that. he didn't like people watching him. Needless to say, I was stunned. He mentioned the pressure from and he speed of the kids got him frustrated and he wanted to quit every time he made a mistake. The issue has caused trouble for our family and a few clubs we were with. The fun had been taken from him and now he was sad. The lesson I learned was keep it fun. Reinforce the good. Don't pile pressure on ur kid or they will rebel. Thanks
04 February 2014 at 2:47 PM

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