*translated from Portugese

The relationship with the ball is one of the core competencies in the formation of the player, the essential thing that you cannot miss. So we need to attack this issue, because children need to get acquainted with the ball. But beware: the player will take time to become skillful. Why? Because skills like passing, kicking, control and dribbling, for example, require the context of the game. The game offers an unpredictable environment, full of uncertainty—mixed and even dependent on the ability of the players to perceive the environment and select a way to solve the problems posed. In practice, there are many elements affecting the player who has the ball - someone who wants to recover, others that request to attack, the space is occupied. In this context, even the best players make mistakes.

The soccer ball is controlled, passed and kicked in an unstable environment, unpredictable. In this respect, it is different from the control that the rhythmic gymnast performs on the ball. The environment, for her, is predictable. She holds the ball, throws, catches, handles and runs with it. No one will try to steal it. There are no opponents! Her routine is choreographed to the millisecond and what she must do is execute.

In the case of soccer, the player must adapt to every circumstance that arises. Adapting is responding. The player is forced to meet differing demands of the environment. There is the presence of the enemy, the teammate and the space which may or may not be occupied. The difference is how the environment affects the control that has to be exerted on the ball. In the case of the gymnast, the interference is low. In the case of soccer, the interference is high. The control of the ball by the soccer player is an open skill, that is, subject to environmental weathering. In the case of the rhythmic gymnast, it is a closed skill.

- In teaching soccer, we need to strive to create training scenarios that allow the player to develop his/her relationship with the ball so that he/she can develop the adaptability that is always present in the game. One must learn to respond every time the environment changes.

The player must learn to adjust to the motion, be precise with the adjustment, minimize or maximize speed. This is the REAL skill.

It is a priority that a player master the fundamental technical aspects of the game before their teenage years. The player must first have a personal connection with that ball. By regularly practicing the routines of the closed skills, the player’s ability to transition to open skills become more attainable. Without the consistent contact with the ball and repetition training of a closed skill, the player becomes sloppy in their movement. Their touch and time on the ball is diminished.

The Paradigm Shift

Routine skills training in a stable environment does not present any uncertainties. Without the uncertainties, players do not have the need to create new decisions in the moment with the ball. In other words, trying to perfect physical moves in a stereotyped way, devoid of the context forcing a decision be made, is less useful. The competitive environment presents nuances that require the ability to adapt.

The Way

In open settings, players learn to understand environmental change and adjust their movement with the ball. The player must realize that it is a cognitive ability that influences the choice of which move to use, where and when to use it. The skilled player has this. This is the real skill. That's what children need to learn. That's what the coaches need to teach.

The path to the formation of the skilled player contains a training scenario in which children learn to adjust their movements with ball. I would say that not only can a young player learn to relate with the ball this way, but even more it is the only way a player can learn to get along with the ball.

chris williams