Snow Outside? Don’t let that stop you

This article and accompanying video were contributed by coach and parent Rebecca Thatcher Murcia and her two sons. Thanks for sharing Thatcher Murcia family!

A few days after seeing win a prize at the, I pulled out the flyer I had picked up at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America conference and showed it to my 12-year-old son, Mario.

“We could do most of these tests in our basement,” I said. “Do you want to try it and see if it would be good for the team?”

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He was interested but right away I hit an obstacle. I looked in my meager tool drawer and there was no sting or rope to measure out 2.5 meters. I wasn’t going to let this stop me. I’ve always thought the most important thing we can do with young players is help them develop good technique, especially the ability to use both feet. A fun and easy way to measure this seemed like a Godsend. I kept looking and finally settled on a piece of electric cord. With Mario’s help, I measure out 2.5 meters and marked a blue spot on the electric cord.

We started going through the tests for the first time and we found the directions well written and fairly easy to follow, except for the scissor test. The writing and the diagram are clear but since the routine is so unfamiliar, I had to read it several times before it made sense.

Mario has never been very two-footed. Like most kids, he prefers his right foot in soccer and his forehand in tennis. I’ve worked hard to become more two-footed, especially after a nagging right hip injury in 2001 forced me to use my left foot to kick the ball until a doctor finally made me rest it completely. Slight digression: I was trying to explain the importance of being two-footed to kids in Colombia, where I lived in 2007 and 2008. But I got confused between the Spanish word for left and pig, which sound a lot alike. “I’ve scored many goals with my pig!” I told the poor baffled children.

Mario was taken aback by how poorly he did at first when he tried the left-footed first touch test. He kept finding that his left footed touch wasn’t good enough to get off a quick pass. After struggling with it for a little while, he managed to do 9 passes in the 20 allotted seconds.

He was also mortified by the trouble he had juggling with just his non-dominant foot. It’s funny, because I’ve been saying that it’s important to be two-footed for years, but nothing hit home like having to put a 3 down in a little box on the computer screen.

We printed out the results and Mario was purple. But the second column of numbers, the scores he needed to get to move up a level, where what he found interesting. “I’m going to work on my left-footed juggling,” he said. “I know I can do better.”

He was inspired and quickly improved his left-footed juggling to 12. Within about a week he had moved up to green. The one test that was not easy to improve was the change of direction test. One day I stood with him in the basement for close to an hour as he went back and forth, trying to figure out if Cruyffing the ball on the right-footed turn is faster than just pulling it back with the bottom of the right foot. He went faster and faster but he could not break the 20. It would seem as if he was about to do it, then a little mistake would keep his score at 20 or even give him only an 18 or 19.

Finally we stopped. I wondered if he was discouraged, he didn’t seem disheartened. “I know I have to go all out to get to 20,” he said.

“I really want to get up to blue.”

By Rebecca Thatcher Murcia

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