Lessons from the Cari-Samba classroom
Students enrolled in our program are working on a variety of individual technical and tactical skills to help improve their game. Though some students may train individually, as a small group or large group, the training plan for each player is based on an assessment of areas where the player needs or seeks improvement. Below, a sampling of what some of our students are working on and how they feel about their development in the Cari-Samba program:
It’s all about learning
The more I learned, the better I became. The better I became, the more I wanted to learn. As I learned more the game became more enjoyable. Like other professional athletes, playing any game at the highest levels of competition was still always about having fun. And playing the game of soccer is fun especially when you are learning.
Many parents typically equate fun in sports with just playing (and winning) and not necessarily learning. To some degree it is. Kids have fun playing in team sports, including soccer, as long as they are engaged, participating, and making a meaningful contribution. Young players can do this, and have fun too, as long as the other players around them are similarly skilled and physically constructed. This typically occurs when kids are very young, 10 and younger. At these ages, the playing field is pretty level.
As kids age, whatever sport they are playing seems to become harder or more competitive. They are and it is. What is happening is that over time some players have dropped off of the radar entirely or are less committed, and have focused on activities they seem to have more fun with. Those chosen activities, not surprisingly, are the ones they are more skilled at or successful in. So all youth sports get concentrated with more skilled and/or athletic players over time.
Around 11 and 12 years of age, there are stronger players on the field, though fewer kids overall, playing a sport. The skilled and athletic kids continue to be engaged, participate, and make a meaningful contribution to the team. Those kids who aren't doing this, the less athletic and/or those with fewer technical skills, are not having as much fun and, in time, will drop out of the sport.
When kids are learning a sport they are having fun. They can get immediate feedback on the field when they play. If they are incrementally succeeding in things they are trying to learn they are having fun. When they are not, this is no fun.
So fun in playing any sport has more to do with a player’s success in performing the skills that are required to play the game effectively. If a kid is not having success on the field, that typically means they are not learning new things and it becomes increasing more difficult be engaged, to participate, and to contribute. And there is absolutely no fun in that.
Soccer is such a simple game that is easy to learn and is easier to understand by the spectator parent. What most players, and parents, do not comprehend is that soccer is a very difficult game to master. It typically takes 10 years for young soccer players to develop their complete skills toolbox. This is about the time they are graduating from high school. That is a long learning curve and lot of time and commitment.
But any player can and will do this as long as the journey has been a learning experience.
Remember, the more you learn the better you get. The better you get the more enjoyable the game gets. And if you are like me, the better you get, the more you want to learn.
You learn to strive for perfection and catch a little excellence along the way. With learning comes great rewards and personal satisfaction. That type of success is also very enjoyable, at any age.
Asst. men's coach, Eastern Nazarene College
Director of Coaching, America FC