In 1997 US Soccer Federation unveiled Project 2010, (an initiative to win the World Cup by the year 2010). That initiative stressed the need to increase development at youth level in order to build a broader base of quality players to choose from, as well as create players with international level skills and sophistication.
To help in this initiative, Ferdie Adoboe, founder and president of Ferdie’s Soccer Magic Academy, thought it necessary to conducted research on youth trends, concepts, and habits that have shaped the game in America until today.
The research focused on the quality and intensity of individual relationships youth players have with the ball. Data was collected among all age groups of youth players across the country. We used both qualitative and quantitative approaches that included questionnaires, interviews, field studies at camps and tournaments, with observations and role-play simulation. We carried on a cross-cultural comparison with the data we collected, trying to establish the differences in habits between kids from American culture, and kids from successful Youth World Cup and World Cup nations-like Ghana, Spain, and Brazil. Ferdie hoped that the results of this cross-cultural research would provide some vital information to help bridge the gap and prepare us toward 2010.
Here are some of the results from our research:
1. The quality of the game is clearly driven by the quality of individual players on the field.
2. The quality of individual players is driven by the quality and intensity of individual relationships players have with the ball.
3. 95% of our youth soccer players play organized structured matches, and virtually no fun creative games on their own
4. 90% of youth players from other cultures play mostly fun creative pick up games and few organized matches thus, more creativity.
5. Our youth players would rarely play with the ball, ie just the ball, why? “because it’s boring” they claimed.
6. Throw a soccer ball to our kids and 90% catch it with their hands first. 44% of the kids from other cultures reacted with their hands first.
7. Give our kids a ball alone on a field and their first inclination is to kick it or shoot it. In other cultures they tried a fancy skill (usually one they could not do yet), or they juggled.
8. Over 80% of our kids did not know what to do with the ball when they were asked to “just play with it.”
9. When our kids go to a game and are on the sideline waiting their turn, only 20% want to play with the ball on the side. The 20% who played, played for no more than 3 minutes with the ball. In other cultures 68% played some kind of game on the side.
10. Of the number of our kids who claimed they love the game, 82% admitted they did not care much about playing with the ball alone. 30% of kids in other cultures admitted they would not play alone with the ball.
11. Most of our youth players did not like to juggle, asked why, most answered “because I’m not good at it”, or “it’s hard”
12. 74% of our kids who juggled used mostly their thighs. 80% of kids from other cultures used mostly their feet to juggle.
13. Asked who they would see to learn new skills, 90% of American youth players said coach. 78% of kids from other cultures said friends.
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This research has helped us pinpoint some of the main characteristics and habits that exist in our soccer culture. When we compared our kids approach to soccer with kids from other countries, there were differences. These differences exposed us to things we can do to raise the quality of soccer in our culture. Raising the level of soccer means raising the quality of players, which in turn means raising the quality of individual relationships players have with the ball.
In other cultures kids bring their game to coaches parents and the community. Here in America, coaches and parents bring the game to kids. Our players for some reason do not associate playing with the ball with playing soccer. They want to play the game, but want little to do with the ball when it is taken out of a match. Our kids love soccer- no question. However, there is a lack of appreciation for the ball, which leads to the lack of understanding that
1. The game is the ball.
2. To be good at the game means to be good with the ball.
3. A player’s skill level depends on how often they play with the ball. The more they play with the ball the better they understand the ball, thus the higher their skill level.
4. Playing with the ball does not require a coach or a training session, just the player’s love and passion for the game.
5. To acquire skills means to find time on their own outside of practice to play with the ball.
6. It is not their coach’s job to make them skillful, NO! It is the player’s responsibility to learn skills.
The conception that my coach teaches me skills and makes me good has stiffled the development process in American soccer.
Player development in American youth soccer will be expedited when we pass the primary initiative for acquiring skills to the player, thus, involving them in the development process, and equipping them with the knowledge, responsibility, and capability to help each other
Our job as adults will Just be to TEACH kids how to play with the ball., and set up environments conducive to growth. Without a relationship with the ball outside of team training, it will be difficult to acquire the skills necessary to enjoy the game and succeed at a high level.
At Ferdie’s Soccer Magic Academy it is very obvious to us that 90% of soccer playing kids do not play with the ball because they simply do not know what to do with it.
This research has helped us to develop concepts, products, and programs that make learning skills easier and engaging, but more importantly, social and cultural, and therefore more inviting and fun. FUN because the process is involving, the culture is aware and supportive, and the players experience joy. This is exactly why your soccer magic experience will be your best soccer learning experience ever. Guaranteed.
To implement any of our programs and resources with your players please contact us by phone at 1 972 442 9706, by email at Ferdie@ferdiesoccermagic.com, or visit our website at www.ferdiesoccermagic.com