When you read interviews, stories, and biographies of all great soccer players - especially the ones from the past - there is always one common denominator; as a child they spent countless hours playing soccer in the street. The street is where they picked up and improved the technical, creative, mental and physical skills that formed the foundation of their successful careers. And even if they had spent many hours at a professional youth academy, those former players still believe that the street gave them many valuable skills that the academy would not have been able to provide them.
The most important value of street soccer was that kids were solely responsible for everything that happened. The kids decided what game was going to be played. They set the rules, picked the teams, and were the referees and coaches. They corrected a teammate who was a ball hog or a cherry picker (often in a not-so-subtle way!). They broke up brawls and stood up for themselves. They got yelled at when they made a mistake.
They also understood what their place was in the street soccer pecking order. Were you picked first, somewhere in the middle, or at the end? In order to move up in that pecking order, you had to play harder, tougher and better. It was that simple. You were celebrated for scoring a winning goal or for making a great save. Admired for pulling off great moves or for being able to play a precise long ball.
Because of the shoes you wore, the different surfaces you played on, and the variety of balls that were used, greater demands were made on technical skills as well. You did not want to fall on the pavement, or trip over a curb. You had to avoid running into a lamppost or a wall. And the street soccer player unknowingly improved motor skills, agility, and awareness as a result. The street was a fantastic learning environment - a place that was a ton of fun and free of charge.
Unfortunately, street soccer will never come back. Now the only place where young soccer players can experience street soccer and its benefits is at their soccer club. Clubs and coaches should therefore try to add street soccer elements to practice sessions and to their soccer facilities. Here are several ideas on how to add street soccer elements to your training sessions and to your club:
- Don’t wear pinnies during games. Both teams play in the same color. It improves awareness and scanning.
- Play with different types and sizes of soccer balls. It improves technical skills and creativeness.
- Let two players pick teams. A lower place in the pecking order should motivate players to train harder.
- Play on different surfaces. Play in the parking lot, or on high grass. Play on sand, or on a hardwood floor. It improves creativeness, awareness, technical skills, and motor skills.
- Mix up different age groups. Playing against taller, smaller, stronger players also improves creativeness, awareness, technical skills, and motor skills.
- Let the players decide which game they are going to play and what the rules are. This develops leadership, assertiveness, and cooperation.
- Play with a sweeper keeper. It’s part of the modern game and it’s also a lot of fun to play sweeper keeper. Kids who do not want to be a goalkeeper might now step up.
- Play without a referee. It develops leadership, assertiveness, and cooperation.
- Set up ‘Walls’ at your facility for players to kick the ball against. It improves technical skills.
- Set up a permanent soccer tennis or foot volley fields. This improves technical skills.
- Offer ‘Pick Up Soccer’ at your club. Open your facility for the kids during vacations and weekends just to let them play soccer on their own.
- Do not coach during the games at the end of your practice session. Just play.
(sources: De Voetbaltrainer)