The program overview
Our program should be viewed as follows:
Intramural Program – A program designed to learn soccer while developing a fundamental skill base that can form the foundation for future development.
Travel Program – An additional program for those who wish to have more exposure to soccer. This program builds upon and reinforces the fundamental skill base being taught in the Intramural program along with introducing advanced techniques.
Top Corner, much like any educational program, follows a curriculum. This curriculum is based on the current "best practice standards" set by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body for all soccer in the United States, as well as my own experiences. My curriculum is based on my coaching experience for 17 years, staying current with certifications/qualifications, an educational instructor for Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association as well as my experience in Manhasset the past 6 years as a trainer for travel teams. My resume can be viewed here
The Top Corner curriculum is based on a philosophy of maximizing the time we have with the players through economical sessions that are ball, skill and individual centered. We feel this is vital for the player's long-term development, which is our end goal and not how the 'team' performed over weekend. We are facing a crisis in all youth sports as players are leaving at an alarming rate.
Please read the attached article and watch the video, which goes into this and how it relates to soccer, it is very important.
As you can see from viewing these videos, the USSF philosophy, and Top Corner philosophy, player development should be the forefront and most important aspect of the players' experience and our program emphasis this 100%. The Top Corner program has proven to be successful in Manhasset as noted by trainers, coaches and the parents of older soccer players who have been trained by myself and/or the Top Corner staff. Even from early fall to now, the majority of parents with younger children in the program, have approached me about the huge improvement in their child's individual ability and their comfort with possession of the ball.
The biggest hurdle to player development is the game day experience.
We unfortunately cannot control the game day environment; there are too many variables with opposing coaches, trainers, referees and parents. All of which have differing ideas on what constitutes success. To summarize, we see three very different game-day scenarios:
Philosophy 1) Play to win –
These groups throw development out of the window.
Their style of play consists of getting the ball down the other end of the field as quickly as possible. Usually accompanied by screams of boot it, kick it or send it.
Players treat the ball like it's a hot potato, no one is comfortable in possession and it is hardly surprising because as soon as they have it they are consumed with loud noise and commands.
Defensively they will sit back inside their own half, these players will only be involved when the ball comes to them, and when it does they boot it back to where it came from with little thought or purpose.
Offensively they have their fastest players up top to chase down said boot and score. This player never develops anything other than chase and shoot. When players develop physically and this player is no longer as quick, they don't have any 'Plan B' and become one-dimensional.
- The 'team' wins games
- There is no individual development.
- The players become uncomfortable on the ball and in most cases don't even want the ball.
- Players end up watching one or two players play and don't get the touches they need necessary to improve.
- The players on these teams quit soccer when it becomes too hard.
Philosophy 2) Positions and Passing
These groups believe that the most important aspect of development is being able to pass the ball and stay in positions. Players are set an area of the field that they must stay in regardless of where the ball is. When the ball comes to them, they must pass it to another player standing in their set position. Usually on command by the coach with specific directions "Pass to Derek!"
- It looks good
- Players can pass the ball
- Although pleasing on the eye it is pointless and counter productive. The players don't get the touches they need in the pressure situations the game environment provides.
- Children this age lack the cognitive development necessary to understand special awareness. Why go against their natural progression and force something they are not ready for?
- This philosophy develops robots, programmed to pass the ball all the time. There is no creativity and no penetration, two of the major principles of attack. Teams struggle to break other teams down, as they get older.
Philosophy 3) Ball Mastery
This is our philosophy, again, reflecting the current trends in youth soccer and based on the United States Soccer Federations' Player Development guidelines.
It is centered on the players getting the touches they need in the situations they need them in in order to reach their full potential.
It uses the players' natural progressions physically and mentally to the players' advantage. Players are encouraged to think for themselves on the field and participate rather than spectate.
- Develops individuals comfortable in possession of the ball
- Fulfills the amount of touches needed for a player to reach maximum potential
- Is all inclusive and develops problem solving and creativity
- Uses the cognitive development of the players to the advantage of development, we are not fighting natural urges of players but instead using them to aid development
- We don't' always win
- Can look messy at times
A good measure of the games shouldn't be, who is winning and who is losing?
But rather, Who is developing?
Watch the games closely. What are our players doing with the ball? Are they merely kicking it away, watching the game or are they dribbling, taking touches and being involved?
Coaches and Trainers
The style we want our coaches and trainers to adopt is one where the players make decisions on the field.
Even this weekend I saw players have possession of the ball and look to the sideline for guidance. This needs to stop.
No command or instructions should be shouted towards the players' only encouragement and questions.
Top Corner trainers are aware of this and will provide three areas of focus before the game and reinforce or change the goals at half time. Outside of that they provide guidance and encouragement but you won't see them yelling at your children or providing constant intruction. That is seen as counter productive to development and the idea that the players make decisions for themselves.
Winning vs Long Term Development
We are concerned with the long term development of our players, focused on long term goals not the short term.
For those of you still not convinced please take the time to read the following article
And please come down and watch any of the older girls teams that we train - U10, U11, U12 or U13. All of which went through the same curriculum.
They don't have issues with 'bunching' Not by design but due to their cognitive stage of development – U8's & U9's don't have the concept of direction/spacial awareness, they are in a transitional phase and by the age of 11 they will have acquired the skills necessary to begin to apply the concepts of space.
They weren't trained with 'shadow play' sessions at 8/9 years of age, which can be boring, involving inactivity, instead the time was put to better use, developing foot skills and fundamental techniques needed to take their game to the next level, making them comfortable on the ball and therefore being able to enjoy the game at older ages.
When we put a plan together that encompasses all the above, combined with the limited time we have with the players
All of this leads to sessions focused on the following:
2 Player combinations
For those of you asking why we don't work on set pieces, corners, free kicks etc the answer is simple.
It is low priority.
As the players get older the dynamics of these aspects change completely leaving it pointless – players can kick the ball further, harder, in the air etc.
The fundamentals of these set pieces, how to take them, when to take them is all covered in the intramural game day that the players should be attending in addition to their travel sessions but also we believe in learning as they play.
The game teaches the rules and responsibilities.
We don't train players in set positions, we want all players to learn all positions. As players all develop physically and cognitively at different rates it is pointless defining them in roles. Players strengths and weaknesses will fluctuate and change over time, just because a player is the fastest player now, doesnt necessary mean they will be the fastest in 2 years from now. It is important we develop all aspects of their game and fully prepare them for the years to come.
We hope that this was informative and useful for those of you wishing to understand why we do what we do. We appreciate your interest in the development of the players and trust that you will be patient with the process and therefore enjoy your players' development and progression.