I’m more than a coach

You are a mailman. Your primary job is to deliver mail, it’s to make sure countless bills, fines and the occasional postcard makes it to its required destination. Your job is not to speak to every person in the street and find out how their day was or why they keep getting their final written notice to pay their rent. 

What sets us apart from the rest? Well I’m not a postman of course, I’m a youth soccer coach. Most would say my job is solely aimed at coaching the boys and girls that are in my team and give them a general understanding of football. But is that where it should stop? 

I have a very privileged job where parents, who love their children , decide for a solitary hour twice a week, to leave them unaccompanied in my care. 

Realistically speaking…of all the countless boys I have coached over the years, at this current moment, one is signed in a first team in the PSL. There are about 10-20 boys playing at professional youth academies and the majority are still at feeding clubs waiting to grow older and prove their worth. 

I would be lucky to have five boys playing professional football one day, so what about all the other kids? What lasting impression do I have on them? What can they take from the soccer field into their life?

I am on a daily basis bombarded with personal information about these children I coach, whether it’s that they sick, being bullied at school or their parents are getting a divorce. What type of coach I plan on being would be based on what I choose to do with the information.

For example the other day, one of my kids was faced with a tragedy in his family and recently in the last two years I was faced with my stepbrother and best friend committing suicide for unknown reasons. I learnt about death and how one can possibly deal with it. Being a young boy I tried my outmost to help him understand why these things happen and why it couldn’t of been anyones( including his) fault.

One day I hope that he won’t only remember me for the countless hours of football we shared but maybe for that little piece of guidance and advise that may have helped him deal with his situation. 

I am not just a coach, I’m a father, an uncle, a friend, a role model and a coach. What I want to set me apart from everyone else, is the fact, that I am willing to be all these things. 

Regards

Coach Luca 

In environment fit for democracy

It is now 2015, 21 years into democracy. I was concieved in 1992, a child that was born into a ever changing country. I went to a nursery school and primary school and as a white male had very little, to no interaction with young black males or females that were my age. I breezed into high school and suddenly the demographic shift changed and there was a group of black males at my all boys school that although were part of my school still contributed little to my social life- not because there was anger or hatred in my heart but because both their and my comfort zones were in interactions with people of our same race. 

It’s a confusing psychology how people of the same education, same financial situations but different race choose to sit at different tables at break time. 

No one would really understand our new democracy, including the great leaders who created it until they came down to a training session at my Balfour Park side. You have all ends of the nation united. I have three black boys, four white boys and a coloured child. They have all different upbringings, some black boys wealthy, some white boys poor. 

They get onto the football pitch and it’s as if all the racist remarks made by different races, all the anger towards people from different countries and all the hate manifested from the past comes to a stand still. They all put on the same kit, their boots and pull up their socks and equality reigns. 

Football has no colour, it has no wealth, it doesn’t matter where you came from and in that moment little Thabang, whose mom is a domestic worker and little Paul whose dad is a millionaire hold each other and celebrate as if they were born in the same womb.

I really believe we could all learn a little bit from these young boys who see people for who they really are and not the colour of their skin.

What a beautiful game!

Regards

Coach Luca

Soccer, marriage and a full time job.

Soccer, marriage and a full time job… What do they all have in common? They require a certain amount of commitment. Of late I have been struggling with attendance from my under 12’s at training. The simple outcome of this problem is that your players don’t improve. My previous post on repetition and taking as many touches of the ball in training can not apply, if players don’t come to training. 

Kids do rely on their parents to a large extent to get to training. However they also hold power over their parents with where they wanna go because they are young and their parents don’t want to make them upset. So there is undoubtedly a need for both parent and player to want to attend training. 

My theory on the situation is that if a young boy of twelve years old can not commit to training twice a week for two hours at a time, how will they be able in the future to commit to a full time job( eight hours, six days a week) and to a marriage( 24 hours seven days a week). 

You look at the general development of soccer in South Africa, at a young age the demographic make up of most clubs, is in most cases around 50/50 between white and black. As age increases the demographic shift drastically changes from an almost equal mix to a almost non exsistent white group of soccer players barring a few exceptions.

The reason this happens, is quite simple. Commitment. The more affluent white members have a million things to do. Holidays, birthday parties, other sports, the list is endless… While the less affluent members go to school and play soccer. With what group of people do you think the commitment lies deeper?

It’s not as simple in South Africa as saying that black soccer players are better than white soccer players but it is safe for me to generally say that they are more committed. With that commitment comes more training, more development and the outcome is a more well rounded player. 

I don’t see black soccer players taking over the sport through racial means, I see them taking over the sport because from a young age they are putting much more in than the average white child. The outcome is better black players.

Regards 

Coach Luca 

What is the key to coaching youth football?

We are not dealing with adults here. This is a young child who has no idea what he wants to do with his life, past this week. He may learn something today and forget about it tomorrow.

The key is repetition just like anything else in our lives as a young child. A child goes to school everyday at the same time, does their homework religiously and patiently gets into a routine which educates them not only in the classroom but on discipline, dedication and hard work. This same principle and routine should be applied to football training. You do not learn to pass in one day, it is a technique which is groomed over time, that is slowly improved and refined.

Coaches need patience and repetition in their work. For the past few weeks I have been coaching two teams at Balfour Park football club. My younger scholars at the age of nine, have been learning the basic fundamentals of ball manipulation which takes up the majority of our session twice a week. The core technical aspects are knees bent,head over the ball(not to be confused with head down) and lastly toes pointing straight. We started off with toe taps and have slowly moved to more difficult actions of inside touches and pull-push. The key coaching points for this age is to make the sessions competitive and incorporating as many touches of the ball as possible.

These same fundamental technical aspects may not make sense to some people but are used in all technical aspects of football such as passing and shooting.

As important as the technical aspect is, I have been working tirelessly on the confidence of these young boys and with the improvement of their playing ability confidence will flow. It is important to remember at a youthful age that tactics are almost utterly useless because if they are not able to tackle the technique, then tactics will be near impossible.

Technique is the core of youth coaching. My tip to everyone out there, would be to get your son or daughter comfortable with the ball in the first instance before teaching them where the offsides line is. Exercises like ball juggling and passing against a wall, are exercises which require little space and only a single football.

Ps* don’t forget, soccer is played with both feet so don’t neglect that weaker foot.

Yours in football

Coach Luca