Yesterday afternoon I worked at the inaugural TFC II Soccer Camp, run by the staff of International Football Club (IFC) a soccer development company and academy located in Vaughan, Ontario. I am very familiar with IFC, as I have been providing fitness assessments and on-field fitness training for them for over 3 years, since the Fall of 2012. They have expert coaches and very well organized programming, including a curriculum modelled after the Federazione Italiana Gioco Calcio (FIGC; the Italian Football Federation). Yesterday’s camp was focused on ball mastery and shooting, and the program included several different exercises in which players were required to execute different dribbling moves, fakes/feints, shots on goal, and one versus. one situations. The participants included boys and girls, aged U6 – U14, and many of them, although young, were very talented and hard working, making them easy to coach.
For me personally, this experience was very refreshing and a lot of fun. In the past 5 years I have been so specialized in my career and as a result I have moved away from coaching technical skills to youth players, even though doing that type of work was how I got started as a coach. While watching these young players train, I couldn’t help but think of the recent struggles to score goals experienced by our Canadian Men’s and Women’s National Teams, both in the Gold Cup (for the Men’s team); the Women’s World Cup (for the Women’s team); and the Pan-American Games (for both teams). Without getting into all of the details, we have been shut out in many important matches and even Women’s Head Coach John Herdman recently stated, following Canada’s 2-1 loss to Mexico in the Bronze medal match at the Pan-Am Games on Friday, that “we’re just not as clinical in front of the net as we want to be.”
In speaking with the IFC Academy Directors, Giuseppe Raso and Frank Iaizzo, I commented that I think one of the reasons we are not developing players who are clinical in front of goal, is that we are not teaching and training them to be that way. The types of exercises I was asked to run at the camp yesterday, as well as the others run by the other IFC coaches, required players to perform countless moves and shots on goal, with an equal number of repetitions done with both feet. There were enough coaches in each station to both encourage the players, as well as to ensure they were performing exercises properly and correct them if needed. The application of technical dribbling and shooting skills into controlled 1 versus 1 games was also very well run, with age-appropriate rules, good work-to-rest ratios, and of course plenty of repetitions from both sides and with both feet. Above all else, the players at International FC’s TFC II camp yesterday were clearly enjoying themselves, and it was very refreshing for me to see players working hard but having fun at the same time.
I cannot comment on what type of training that other clubs and academies are doing with young players across the province (or the country), however, when the end product at our senior National Teams is a lack of players who can score goals, clearly something is not working. Perhaps we will require more of a focus on the development of individual technical abilities, at the expense of attacking and/or defending tactics (and even at the expense of physical fitness!) in order to improve in this area.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.