Thirds Of The Field Written By Mario Pereira
Realizing and understanding the game of soccer will evidently make you a better player. Coaches often refer to the soccer field as thirds, "Don't dribble in your back third" or "In the upper third take your man on". These are simple instructions, however, players have a tendency to play the same way regardless of their position on the field.

It is vital to understand that at kick-off you will have three different types of players in these areas. This is because there are different responsibilities and function to be performed during the game.

The back third is usually considered the defensive area. In this area when your team has possession you will have more time and space to be able to make intelligent decisions. The middle of the field is where a transformation takes place. Players in this area are usually very skilled and crafty. These midfielders need to come and receive the ball from the back third and turn it up to the upper third of the field. The space is not as abundant in the middle. The opposition will put more pressure on the ball and this is why when the space is less the time is less. The need for being skilled and crafty is vital to the success of a player who spends most of their time in the middle.

The upper third of the field is the area that most players enjoy playing, however, it is the area that the least amount of time and space will be available to a player. A player needs to realize that as your team penetrates the ball closer to score the defensive is in a high pressure mode, determined not to allow any opportunity to score. Usually in this third of the field time and space is very hard to come by. A player that knows where they are on the field will realize that he or she may have to play quicker and move more to keep the defender always adjusting.

What third of the field best suits your ability and style?

A Wall and a Ball Written By Mario Pereira
Today, soccer in the United States is loaded with instructions, organization and expenses. These things are not evident in the culture of other countries. Most of the other countries around the world utilize the ball and the game itself to motivate and develop players at an early age. Throughout the world today, many of the top-level players share some similarity about how it all began for them. A ball and a wall seem to be that familiarizing factor. Because of the conditions and economic situations in their country, so many of these stars spent their time kicking a ball against a wall. This is such a vital piece to the development of every soccer player’s skill. When a player strikes a ball against a wall and gets the ball right back, this is a simple wall pass. More importantly, this repeated action of striking and receiving the ball, will allow you to improve and develop technique. We need to understand that it is repetition that develops our technique. By playing against a wall you are increasing the amount of touches and developing your feel for the ball. As a result, you learn to anticipate how the ball is going to come off the wall and learn to anticipate receiving the ball and then reacting to play it again. This repetitive activity will raise the technical level of a player at a rapid rate and contribute to a more confident and attractive style of play.

Here in the United States, we have a tendency to practice as much as we play. In contrast, in many of the other areas of the world, a player will practice all week; yet, plays only one game on a weekend. Throughout my coaching career, I have had the opportunity to work with people that have played at high levels simply because of the conditions and economic backgrounds that they came from. These players were able to keep themselves entertained with a simple give and go against a wall. Any player willing to be self disciplined and find a wall can become a much better player because of the amount of touches that he or she experiences with the ball. Once again, I stress that when receiving the ball, a player must learn to anticipate how to play the ball. They learn positioning and control when gaining possession of the ball off the wall. With more practice, they learn to deliver it back with various types of passes. Playing the ball off the wall prepares you to deal with what comes next. This practice and repetition helps to develop coordination and balance, which are two extremely important aspects of the technical process.

Granted, a player needs to work on many different aspects of the game. But, it is important to remember that as a player, your skill is often measured by your ability to deal with the ball when it is played in your direction ( receiving ) and how you play the ball to the next player ( passing ). I believe that, for so many technical players performing today throughout the world, it all began with a ball and a wall. Certainly, receiving and passing are not the only components that make a soccer player. But, it is obvious that these are two criteria of the game that are so important to reach the higher levels of play.

  • No Fans
  • No Lines on the field
  • No Nike commercials
  • No pats on the back
  • Just a spot on the field of every team you wish to play for.

A "Black Bag" Of Skills Written By Mario Pereira
In the past we have addressed the skill of trapping as a means to better soccer. I also discussed the importance of balance, as soccer is the only sport where you perform most of the time on one foot.

This time around I would like to express the importance of developing your own personal "black bag". A medical doctor carries a black bag when he or she has to treat a patient. The doctor may have numerous patients, however, uses the same black bag and applies different remedies to each patient. In soccer the same can occur for a player. They may be under tremendous pressure to react quickly at any moment, and have time and space to make a thoughtful decision another time.

Your black bag is an invisible package of skills you carry around with you on the field. When you are forced to; turn, shoot, pass, trap, dribble, chip or cross you will be able to do this with ease if you develop you personal black bag. The more individual skills you can develop, the better soccer player you will become.

This black bag is your ticket to self-confidence. Self-confidence is one of the most important elements to successful soccer. When you believe you can achieve, because you have worked hard at developing your own black bag, then you will achieve. You will be prepared for anything that occurs in the game.

My advice to you is through you own ways, add more and more skills to your black bag. You will be a problem solving soccer player!

Good Luck!

Trapping-The Most Important Skill in Soccer Written By Mario Pereira
Much has been written about the U.S. style of play. In comparing our country with other parts of the world, they have found that the United States is having a difficult time finding a style of play. At the youth level coaches have not emphasized enough the importance of possession. Most youth coaches spend too much time creating a game plan designed to beat their opponent, and little time on necessary skills needed for an attractive style of play.

The truth is that we have made many positive steps forward, but we have made very few toward teaching skills. Our young players need to focus their efforts on learning style of play. We need to do away with the hockey style of soccer, and incorporate more of a basketball style where possession is an absolute must. If someone were watching a basketball game and a player in the blue passed the ball to a player in red, he or she would consider that a bad play. However in soccer no one cares. The solution to possession is through the development of the trapping skill. With all the skills involved in soccer it is hard to believe that trapping would be the most important skill to develop.

Trapping is the skill most often overlooked. Coaches need to help players develop their trapping skills. Without it, players will never be able to control the ball when it is played in their direction. The advantages of having good trapping skills are endless, it enables a player to get time and space this will allow the player to make the proper decision with the ball. If a player is unable to control the ball.

Four Steps To Success Written By Mario Pereira
Now that you have practiced the skill of trapping the ball since our last issue, you can progress on to other areas of the game in order to develop your soccer future. Trap, look, pass, run are the four essential skills you need to perform over and over in a game situation. Regardless of position, all field players must execute these four steps in that order. Trap - to gain control of the ball. Look - up to see and study your options. Pass - because your intention is possession. Run - to an open space in hopes of receiving a pass and support your teammates.

In order to achieve a high standard of play much work needs to be done. You must continue to find some time to work on skills. You may not always have time to look around, and there will be situations when you will find yourself under pressure. You must then utilize other skills, such as; shielding (protecting the ball from an opponent) or dribbling past an opponent.

At the youth soccer level there are always those few players who are smaller than others. Skills technique is a must because there are some skills that do not have anything to do with size, for example shooting. The power and accuracy of shooting is a result of all your body parts working in a fluid motion, creating perfect contact on the ball. Michele Platini, a French national player, for many years was a perfect example of this technique. The balance he possessed while playing, magnified his technical ability, making his decisions with the ball appear effortless.

My message, as a coach, to all of you young players is to begin to incorporate these four skills into your game. Trap - look - pass - run; with this process you will help your team play better, and establish a competitive style of play that can be fun and attractive. All young players can reach this goal if you are willing to practice your skills.

Field Vision Written By Mario Pereira
In soccer making the proper decision and seeing the field is what separates the great players from the rest of the pack. Field vision is often a quality assessed in a soccer player when trying out for a squad. For a good player good vision is habitual. Good players know where their options are and will have options prior to receiving a pass. An inexperienced player will control the ball first then assess his or her options.

Good vision is something that can be developed over time and with commitment on the athlete's part. During practice, an athlete should condition oneself to always glance over one's shoulder and to the sides, before receiving the ball. Once again, we are reminded of the importance of ball control. The more comfortable you feel receiving the ball, the more time and space will be available for decision-making. The space available to dribble or pass and the position of one's teammates will determine the options for the player receiving the ball. Look at the next target before the ball gets to you so that you already know how to position your body or where you are going to pass the ball. Take a mental picture of the situation. (Glance). Secondly, a lot of players ignore half of the field. A player must know what is behind him at all times so that one's options are not cut in half. Players must observe the field constantly while the ball is in motion. Upon receiving the ball, decision making is easier because you already have a mental picture of where you should be placing the ball next.

My advice for players trying to develop their vision is to constantly glance all around. It will be very helpful if you improve your concentration and anticipation, so that you can become a player with better vision and a better ability to read the game.

Supporting Written By Mario Pereira
The action of players away from the ball is often as critical to the success of the game as to those with the ball. Players without the ball must continuously maneuver themselves into an advantageous attacking position where they can be available to receive a pass from the teammate with the ball. A lack of support or movement will force the player with the ball to over dribble or be forced to make a longer pass resulting in loss of possession.

Support must also be at a proper distance. When supporting too close to the ball, it will give the defender the opportunity to play both of you. When the support is from too far away, it will slow the play down. Longer passes are more difficult to execute and resulting in greater percentages of the ball being intercepted.

The support mostly overlooked is the one on the defensive end especially when the opposing team has a variety of players that have ball-handling skills. Supporting at too great a distance can allow the ball handler a chance to beat both of you, by giving him the opportunity to beat you one at a time. If you are too close he can beat both of you with the same move. Supporting can also be done in a delay or contain mode, this will slow the player down so that your midfielders and forwards can get back and get goal side, and support of the team defense.

Playing the game mentally is a big advantage to any player. On the defensive end a player should be cautious in moving in to double team on the ball. However when the opponent has possession of the ball on either side line, you must keep him on the side and whenever possible move in for the double team.

Little Johnny
When Does Soccer Become a Team Sport?

When does the game of soccer transform from little kids chasing a ball and trying to score as many points as possible to the structured team game that it is? So often we watch the U-5 through the U-10 age kids and we see many parents cheering “Go Johnny, Go Johnny”. They feel that it is important for Johnny to score four or five goals a game and everything is about him. They may even feel that if he plays on a Saturday and only scores one goal, then Little Johnny had a bad day.

It is important as parents to realize that team play is a concept that children need to learn. Many of the victories at the U-5 through U-10 levels are based around individual play and statistics and not the overall performance of the team. Many coaches will use the stronger, bigger and more dominant players as an advantage over their other players.

So, the question still stands, when does this become a team game? When do we recognize that it’s all about the different responsibilities of each individual position? Soccer is an intricate game, much like the game of chess. Each week, the chess match becomes a different game because the opponent and the pieces vary.

Obviously, when you are looking at the U-5 through U- 8 age levels, these children do not possess the knowledge or understanding of the game to play different formations. They have not grasped the concept of positional play and they probably do not understand individual responsibilities. But, as a player gets older, and he develops his skills, then it is time to incorporate team play. As players begin to recognize their responsibilities, then you’re able to change formations and tactics from one week to the next. By doing this, you may be able to play five backs or four backs one week or maybe even going into a flat back.

Being able to change responsibilities from week to week can change your game. One week you may play defensive minded and stay back and protect your goal. The next week you can be very offensive minded and attack the other teams goal. This is the stage when players begin to understand that they have a role on the team and that they are a part of the team puzzle. This begins to appear around the U-14 / U-15 age groups. At this age, teams are holding on to players for longer periods of time and they are able to explain these players that they have different responsibilities. This is similar to building a home. It is not just one person that builds the home. It takes many different people with many different skills to put the whole project together. When the project is done, you have a variety of people that helped to build the final masterpiece.

This is the same for a soccer team. You have all of these different positions; sweeper, stopper, defensive midfielder, striker, and goal keeper. It is important to recognize that these players have different responsibilities from one game to the next and coaches need to teach the players how to adjust to the different teams that they play. Coaches have to teach players to change their game according to their opponents. Some teams may be strong, so the coach may need to play a defensive style, while other teams may be weak in certain areas, so the coach should point out those areas that the team could exploit.
As you progress in the game of soccer, Little Johnny no longer has to score five goals. What really matters is that every player walks off the field feeling that they fulfilled their positions responsibility and helped out the team. The end result is a great feeling of team pride and a sense of unity.

So, I guess when you’re young, and parents are out there supporting Little Johnny, their main objective should be that Little Johnny has a great day on the field. We all make big deals over individual efforts because kids need the self-esteem and a little push. But, parents should know that soccer is a team sport. It certainly is ok to walk off the field and pat your own kid on the back. Eventually, as these young players get more mature, they need to realize that each player has their own responsibilities and has the opportunity to play a role in the success of their team.

Movement & Change of Pace Written By Mario Pereira

Soccer players are constantly working on new moves to add to their personal bag of tricks that will help them perform while under pressure. The ability of a player to create space between them and their opponent gives them more options with the ball….dribble, pass or shoot. Players should continue to maximize their touches at training in order to develop more self-confidence and a better touch with the ball. During the course of a game, only one player possesses the ball. What happens to the other 19 field players without the ball? Very little training is put into this situation of a player without the ball. Movement and Change of pace are two elements that separate and define an average player from the top players on the field. The top players are the ones that end up making a significant difference during a soccer game. A player without the ball needs to find space to receive the ball and move to leave space for teammates to take over. A player that is constantly moving will create difficulties for the opposition. Communication between defenders becomes more difficult and the concentration level of the defender is challenged. A player that does not move is predictable and easily marked. This player will also have to perform under pressure all the time. So, how do we train for this situation? How can we develop good fundamentals without the ball? One of the first steps to moving without the ball is to be totally fit, so that you can be constantly moving. The more fit a player is, the more determined he or she will be to move during the game. This physical conditioning will develop a players' mental attitude towards movement. And movement creates space. Every time the ball moves, you need to remind yourself to move and get into a better space on the field. Often players will tell themselves "move, move, move," so that it becomes second nature. Movement is very important for success on the field however, change of pace is a necessary element in order to play at the higher levels. Players need to develop different speeds of play. Too many players play at the same speed. Unfortunately these one tempo players are easily marked and find difficulties finding space to make quality decisions on the field with the ball. Well planned changes of tempo and rhythm are the mark of top individual players and top teams. The ability to condition a defender to slow down and then quickly surprise them with a faster pace is imperative to becoming a better soccer player. Change of pace creates more options for you and your teammates. This is the trade mark of Thierry Henry of Arsenal, one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. So, if you want to become a better player, get yourself physically and mentally fit. Next, practice with "move, move, move" in your head, until it becomes part of your game. With time, you will become one of those players that is difficult to mark and a menace to the defense.