Former U.S. Soccer Youth National Team Coach On What Youth Soccer Players Can Do During Covid-19 Pandemic
Diane Scavuzzo asked former U.S. Soccer Youth National Team Coach and two-time Coach of the Year what youth soccer players can be doing now when the Coronavurus COVID-19 has shutdown soccer clubs around the country. He had a simple answer.
One of the most respected youth soccer coaches in America, Shaun Tsakiris is an expert in player development. Tsakiris left his role with U.S. Soccer as U17 / U 16 National Team head coach in December 2018 and pledged to continue to make a difference in American youth soccer.
A graduate of UCLA, Tsakiris has been responsible in many ways for developing for America’s soccer future. Experienced and intelligent, Tsakiris is one of the leaders in American soccer and always been highly revered.
As the Technical Director of Los Gatos United, Tsakiris works with players on many levels and knows what it takes to advance to the next level. Formerly responsible for selecting our country’s best players for the U16 / U17 National Boys teams, Tsakiris believes that players who want to make an impact on the game have a relationship with the ball.
Los Gatos United has developed a series of player development videos to help kids work on their development on their own — perfect for when hundreds of thousands of soccer players are without coach guided practice sessions.
SoccerToday Diane Scavuzzo’s Interview with Shaun Tsakiris
Diane Scavuzzo: At a time like this, when games and practice sessions are canceled, what can a youth players do if they want to advance to the next level?
Shaun Tsakiris: We have never seen anything like this before — with soccer games canceled around the world — and, we will get through this better if we all work together. At Los Gatos United, we are having conversations on how to take care of our coaches, our employees, our players, and everyone in our community.
In general, kids today are not spending enough time on the ball … players need a special connection with the ball.
It’s Simple. Players need to spend time on the ball.
And spending time with the ball is not about being at soccer practice. A player needs to have a relationship with the ball, love the ball … Only then can you fall in love with the sport — the foundation is the ball.
Diane Scavuzzo: Can you give me an example of a player who is in love with the ball … what do they do?
Shaun Tsakiris: After finishing a training session that was very demanding, I watched a player go off to a small area of the field with a ball and just juggle. After 20 minutes, when the player had finished juggling and then stretched, I asked what they were doing.
“It was relaxing to zone out and just finish by juggling.”Youth soccer player
Many kids tell me they want to be a top footballer. I always ask them, ‘What are you going to do to separate yourself from everyone?’ A player who wants to get ahead has to train harder.
At Los Gatos, we have created a video library for our players. Here is a video on Separate Yourself – Agility-Skill-Strength.
Diane Scavuzzo: That player is clearly motivated by a love of the game and a desire to be their best. So what should players do now that their youth soccer team’s trainings are canceled?
Shaun Tsakiris: Players should use this time to work on their craft.
This is a great opportunity for kids to go outside and spend time on the ball.
Since soccer practices are canceled, players can use this time to maintain their fitness and conditioning as well as work on their skills.
Players will separate themselves by doing what it takes when it is much easier to veg on the couch.
When we return to practices and games, it will be clear which players worked hard.
At Los Gatos, we have created a series of videos to simply give players guidelines but we must be very careful to not give this generation too structure.
One of the benefits of this pandemic could be the opportunity for players to re-establish their relationship with the ball — one that is not forced or rehearsed but desired.
I have been a soccer coach for nearly twenty-year, but I am also a husband and a father. I hope this information helps kids with ideas of what to do, but let’s not lose sight of what is really important.
The biggest take away is to HELP and SUPPORT each other in this difficult time.
Please, everyone, take care of yourself and each other.
Here is a video on Individual Player Plan – Warm Up – Ladders
Diane Scavuzzo: So the bottom line? What should youth soccer players do since clubs have suspended soccer practice?
Shaun Tsakiris: You don’t need hours and hours. Maximize your time — spend quality time with the ball.
Think of how you are separating yourself.
Note: This video above on ball mastery series consists of five different skills, taking ~20 minutes to complete all five. Each skill should be executed 2 times for one minute each. After every minute of work, rest for 1 minute.