Football doesn't need individual training, U.S. Soccer does

A player is a collective construction; no one learned how to play by playing alone. That being said, we must respect, discover, and maximize the player’s already constructed interaction capabilities and not impose the configurations which do not respect their qualities.
— David Tenorio

Football is a social sport. It requires two teams comprised of individual players working together to achieve an objective. Under the constructs of the sport, football needs social interaction between the people participating in the sport. In this way, football is by all intents and purposes a social sport.

That being said, as coaches why would we waste our valuable time and resources training a sport, which by definition is a social sport, in an individual manner? We are not training athletes to run or swim in the Olympics. The conditions of individual sports do not depend on the actions of anyone else but the individual competing. There are no variables that must be perceived which could change the course of action in a 100 meter sprint.

Football demands the ability to detect what is going on around you, and according to the perception that your brain has made, your body must react accordingly. On top of this, to be successful in football you must make decisions which coincide with the thoughts and movements of your teammates. For this to be successfully accomplished, players must engage in verbal and non-verbal communication. To return to my previous question, as a coach of a team, why train individually?

Recently, I was listening to David Copeland-Smith, founder of Beast Mode Soccer. His company works in training players individually to improve their technical abilities. They have had great success having worked with players like Alex Morgan, Landon Donovan, and Ali Riley, as well as thousands of young players throughout the United States.

Read: The United States Men's Soccer Team Will (Probably) Never Win a World Cup

In a recent interview on The Coaching Journey, he begins by describing himself as a trainer, not a coach. This is a brilliant statement which says everything about him and his success. There is a major difference between a trainer and a coach. Personally, I see what he does as the same as what a personal trainer would do for someone that is trying to get fit. He is the guiding light illuminating the path towards the individual’s desired destination.

In the case of a personal trainer, they provide the client with effective exercises, psychological and moral support, further insight and knowledge into the human body, and development of emotional intelligence all for the purpose to reach their goal. Beast Mode Soccer does the same for their players. They provide them with technical exercises, development of important traits like discipline and commitment, tactical insight, and lifestyle changes. Copeland-Smith understands that he provides just a small part of what comprises a quality football player and that the rest is the player’s responsibility.

Beast Mode Soccer’s success is largely due to U.S. Soccer’s mentality within youth players and parents. As David Copeland-Smith mentioned in his interview, players are no longer playing in the streets and in their free time as they once did, or as they do in other countries.

Currently I live in Spain, and I have seen firsthand how children here are constantly with a ball at their feet. I have seen how many children go to school with a ball just to play with their friends in between classes, and how they dribble the ball to and from school. There is no need for companies like Beast Mode Soccer here.

David Copeland-Smith is right. In the U.S. this mentality and complete love for the game doesn’t exist yet. Kids do not take their ball to school. They don’t play two on two in the street. The reason: they are not obsessed with the sport like they are here.

It’s important to emphasize the difference between a trainer, like David Copeland-Smith, and a coach of a team, like many of us are. Copeland has the obligation and necessity in the United States to provide youth players with the individual training that will improve their technical abilities. As coaches of team sports this is not our primary focus. When a player comes to a team training session, our job is to provide them with games and exercises which develop the social aspects of football.

I’d like to come back to my original question. As coaches of a team sport, why would we train our teams using individual based exercises?

We cannot waste our valuable team training sessions putting the players in lines to dribble in between cones back and forth as other players wait their turns. We must improve their passing technique in accordance to the movement of their teammates. We cannot have 18 players each passing a ball against a wall. This is a waste of their time and ours. Yes, there are many skills that make up our beautiful game, but they are just parts. Our players come to training sessions to participate in the sum of all the parts, the game itself.

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