How did a younger, smaller, less athletic team WIN the League Championship?

SCHOOL: Anthem Middle School
– A first year school
– One third the size of other schools

TEAM: Anthem Middle School Girls Soccer
– Primarily 4th-7th graders (one 8th grader)
– Other teams had five to seven 8th graders
– Half the team had never played competitively
– Some teams ‘laughed’ at first sight of Anthem’s size (score ended up 8-1)

What did they do in training? How did they motivate players of different skill level? What did they do to win?

HEAD COACH: Doug Pillsbury

Game Day: We Won by Passing and Dribbling Around Bigger, Faster Players
Every team we played was bigger, stronger and faster than our girls. Our central midfielder (a 4th grader) is only 4’6″ – One game she played against a girl that was 6’1″! We had to rely on our individual and team skill to 1) Be able to dribble and get out of tight spaces, and 2) Be able to effectively pass around the bigger players. iSoccer gave us that technical base that really showed up in the games. By the end of the season, my girls were doing give-and-gos and passing the ball around the field. It was great to see how the training came to life in the games! [Check Out iSoccer’s Article on Passing and Receiving]

First Four Weeks: One Hour of iSoccer Everyday
iSoccer was the skill development program that we implemented at the beginning of the season. We would train for 1.5 hours a day: One hour of iSoccer and 30 minutes of small or full sided scrimmage. Over the course of the season, we did three formal assessments, while the other nights, we just used the iSoccer Space and 20 second work intervals. The difference in my players’ skill level was ‘night’ and ‘day’ by the end of the four weeks. Our better players were sharper with the ball while our more recreational players went from having basically zero control, to being able to control, dribble and pass effectively. It was incredible! [Check Out iSoccer’s Article on How to Use iSoccer in Training to Motivate Your Players]


My Players were More Focused with iSoccer

The 20 seconds and simplicity of the 16 assessed skills helped focus my players. For those 20 seconds, each player gave it their all – Maximum effort with maximum attention. As the weeks went by and I was able to correct the technique of each player, every one of my players kept getting better and better. And the number of touches each player was getting on the ball was amazing. 20 second work rate + high number of touches = My player’s skills were becoming faster, more accurate and more consistent. [Check Out iSoccer’s Article on 20 Seconds, Skill Isolation and Deliberate Practice]

My Girls were Fired Up about Raising Their Level


A couple of weeks into the season, I began to offer optional Saturday training that focused specifically on the iSoccer assessment. I was extremely happy when I got a little less than half the girls to come out on Saturday morning to do technical training. They wanted to ‘Raise Their Level’ and were willing to wake up on Saturday for optional technical training! To further motivate players, I gave out an iSoccer Outstanding Skills Award to one player who had the highest score and raised her level over the course of the season. [Check Out iSoccer’s Article on The 10 iSoccer Levels and The Psychology of Motivation]

Practices were More Structured and Effective with iSoccer

The first day of training I had 21 girls: Some played competitive club soccer while others had never played at all. I asked myself, how am I ever going to create an effective practice with players of very different abilities? I found the answer in iSoccer. By separating the girls in groups of three, working in the iSoccer Space and putting girls of similar skill level together, I was able to effectively teach and motivate each player. By working in the confined grid, the girls were more focused on beating their own scores, than worrying about what the other girls were doing. This was especially helpful in motivating the girls who were playing soccer for the first time. They could develop at their own pace without the pressure of others watching or seeing how far behind they were technically. [Check Out iSoccer’s Article on The iSoccer Space]

Brought iSoccer Reports to Regular Training Sessions
I would print out various iSoccer reports and bring them to practice. One of the reports shows the top scores for each girl on the team. If I heard a score that was higher than their highest score, I would publicly recognize them. This added a healthy, yet competitive element to the session because other girls wanted to be recognized. Being able to quickly reference scores and use them to motivate was very helpful!