Coach Brad · Coaching · Deliberate Practice · Development

Technical Brilliance through Deliberate Practice

18-1 and Maryland State Semi-Finalists – 2001 – Athleticism carried the day

“Not every good juggler is a good player, but every good player is a good juggler.”   Unknown

My dreams as a child (dating back to sixth grade) were to be a physical education teacher and high school athletic coach if my professional athlete dreams did not turn out (Dream Big!!!).

Following my experiences at Salisbury University of graduating as an undergrad and grad student, playing on the Varsity soccer team, and performing graduate assistantship duties in the Physical Education department, I was hired by the local public school system to teach PE and as luck happened, the Varsity girls soccer team needed a coach.  I was about to live my dream!

This happened in the fall of 2001.

We were very successful over the course of the four years in which I coached the program but I would not say that was because of our technical brilliance.  Being the big fish in a small pond on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we were able to out athlete other teams and use our limited number of skill players in the important scoring positions.  When playing the big dogs from the Baltimore area, we actually had to use our skills because they were just as athletic as we were and that often created winning issues.  By my fourth and final year, Coach Matt and I created a program for mental and physical training that led the group to the Maryland State Final but that will have to be discussed in a future post.

The teams I always played on during my high school and college years had individuals who were excellent soccer ball jugglers.  Everybody could get at least 25, besides the keepers (me), and a few players could always juggle for 100, 200 or all day.  These teams were all male.

The high school varsity girl’s soccer team I began coaching in 2001 could not juggle with a soccer ball at all.  The highest total any of them could get was 10.  We would try on a daily basis during that initial pre-season in 2001 to get better at individual juggling using all surfaces but success and improvement were not happening.  The rest of the year all juggling activities were performed in groups of four and it made me make an irrational statement.  I said to Matt, “I guess girls just cannot juggle.”  Interestingly enough, five girls off of this initial team went on to play at various collegiate levels.

As a young coach, I did not realize how many hours of deliberate practice or intentional positive interaction it took to develop expertise in a certain skill.  The boys I had played with had probably spent some time on their own away from training working on their juggling skills as a common belief was juggling would improve soccer skill.  The girls I began coaching in 2001 had not spent any extra time with a ball to become skilled at juggling which led me to that statement from the previous paragraph.

At Storm Soccer Academy it has been decided that performing deliberate practice over the course of hundreds to thousands of hours of soccer ball juggling will lead to expertise in juggling which will develop skills that can be used to create success on the soccer field.  By completing tasks and working through various levels to face new challenges, the players are constantly pushed in an individual manner to become better soccer players.  Many of our players success when in possession of the ball in a game situation is directly associated with their ability to juggle and complete levels within the juggling curriculum.

Having witnessed ability that I never thought was possible in controlling what the ball does and keeping it in the air for young soccer players, I must take back my statement about girls not being able to juggle.  Those individuals I coached in 2001 simply did not train the amount of hours necessary to become good at the skill of juggling.  With limited technical abilities, we had to rely on our athletic abilities and when other teams could match our athleticism, we were in major trouble.

Deliberate practice over the course of hundreds to thousands of hours will increase individual skill ability.  It will improve the technical ability of individual participants.  This seems to be the case for any technical skill that the participant is interested in improving. 

The real question at this time is how do you get players to become passionate and dedicated to skill development?  Without passion and dedication, the training hours will not be accumulated to reach a successful level.

A video below will demonstrate the quality technical ability for players within the Storm Soccer Academy program.  Please realize that this skill development has only occurred through hours and hours of deliberate practice.

Thank you for taking part in the blog.  We look forward to you playing an interactive role in future discussions and letting your friends know about this fantastic educational resource.  Have a great day!!!

Coach Brad

4 thoughts on “Technical Brilliance through Deliberate Practice

  1. I would like to share about my son Connor’s world of juggling in his first year of Storm ’03 Blue HHI. We didn’t juggle before Spring ’13. It was extremely frustrating for weeks as we attempted one bounce dominant foot juggles. We have the luxury of practicing on a flat perfectly manicured raised golf teeing ground free of bumps, debris and irregularities- in other words a true flat surface. What happened ? His first touches were erratic/awful, his count could often be 1,2 or 3 or in the teens or 50 +. The quality was dreadful the ball would frequently fly off- left,right, twenty feet above his head, forward or backspinning back to hit him in the face! It did not look at all like the many youtube videos offered by experts- he was running all over a huge area chasing the ball all the while trying to extend his toes or hook them back, whichever. Weeks passed and it was boring so we added in the non-dominant left foot. One day a bulb went off, for Connor juggling was the journey not the goal. His legs were strengthening, both of them, he was simulating receiving the ball like in a real game from any direction, at speed, at all heights. Unexpectedly he was juggling while running- he had to! The half empty glass was actually half full, a lack of control was actually a plus- for him. We solicited advice from anyone willing to assist and things started to improve. Our top tips : 1) the cleats for juggling are important , non-slick quasi leather ones offer a good surface area; 2) a well loved ball inspires confidence and having it be slightly underinflated helps ;3) slightly bent knees relaxes the lower torso;4) stay on your toes, be ready to move anywhere to make quick adjustments; 5) experiment; 6) get angry with the ball ;7) Just do it, then do it again. There is no way Connor could juggle at 5:30 a.m.- if woken he would hurt you! God Bless those that do, and those like them in swimming,skating,hockey etc.keeping antisocial hours. Connor needs his rest to accomodate his growing pains and that’s fine. As we have moved on to no bounce juggling, we are using a zero gravity juggling machine that Connor’s Mum suffers to be in the centre of the lounge. Costing around $100-150 with delivery it allows several hundred touches on any regulation size 4 ball during a thirty minute tv show. do it right and you do not have to look at the ball-perfect- just like a real game. So for Connor, juggling has been about unforeseen consequences , turning frustrations into benefits.Currently , a bit down on himself for his slow learning of fast footwork moves, i have reminded him of the many many hours he has juggled and of the many many hours he has to look forward to learning fast footwork. I enjoy watching my son at play, most of all I value the time we spend together. Only the other week, he sincerely related to his parents how he had played like Neymar throughout the previous night’s practice, sadly a rare moment that i missed, but am sure it happened- he said so!

    1. Michael,

      It is so exciting to me that you are spending so much quality time with Connor in assisting him to improve his juggling and find his passion. What a tremendous story and the tips are amazing!!! Good luck in the future with Storm SA and the juggling curriculum.

  2. You are not going to believe this but last night we took girls to GSU men’s soccer game…guess what Vivi did the whole time…juggle!! Gian and I just looked at each other and smiled! She and Helen both looked like they had been at practice by the end…double overtime! Thanks for all of your hard work and time you invest with these young players. My girls love every single one of the coaches…which has led to a love of the best sport in the world! Your impact on these young lives is huge. Keep up the great work!

    1. Michelle,

      I am amazed by the passion all of your daughters show each and every day at and outside of training. Thank you for such high compliments as we work extremely hard to set an environment of success for all training sessions and game events. We are so excited about being able to provide a bit of an impact on a fabulous family!!!

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