Thinking about Private Soccer Training This Summer? Here’s What You Need to Know

School is out, the club soccer season has come to an end, and your kids have loads of free time.

Did that sentence make your heart skip a beat?

Summer offers the rest and recuperation kids need after a long school year, but it can also be a source of boredom. Studies show there are positives to children experiencing boredom, one bright spot being that it can ignite creativity. Unstructured time offers children (all of us, really) a chance to direct our focus to skills and creative endeavors we value or find inspiring.

That doesn’t mean we should overlook structured activities. Like many soccer moms and dads in the USA, you’re probably looking into soccer camps or private sessions, be it individual or small group (more ideas in The Soccer Parenting Handbook).

These activities are fantastic if you can afford them. Even if you can’t, try to be creative about bartering for services. These additional training sessions are so helpful especially if you ask the coach to provide “homework” exercises between sessions. A popular alternative is to organize 3-6 players where you share coaching fees. Some clubs provide supplemental training at affordable rates. Get some recommendations, try them out, and don’t be shy about making changes if it isn’t working out. Most club coaches are happy to provide personal training if their club allows for it.

Before reaching out to a coach for personal training, it's important to determine what your child needs. Player development models tend to focus on four pillars:

  1. Technical
  2. Tactical
  3. Physical
  4. Psychological

In an ideal world, your player will get all four of these elements in a private training session. Even still, it's important to identify specific areas of need. For younger players or those at the lower levels of competitive club play, a heavy emphasis on technical development through ball manipulation is the best alternative. More skilled players will benefit far more from a small group session with greater technical demands (remember technique is ball mastery in-game context) and advanced ball striking exercises. Adding tactical demands through small-sided games is a step up from simple ball mastery.

Tactical training doesn't happen exclusively on the playing field either. For high-level players, there's also the possibility of film study. With the guidance of a tactically competent coach, players can either have discussions or write reports about games or players. If they choose to write, the reports don't have to be very long. They can choose to write about one team's general playing style, a single aspect of the team's tactics, or even a player that's a close positional match. 400 to 500 words is more than enough to convey the most important points. In fact, coaches might prefer a shorter version, possibly giving the bullet point version of the report. It all depends on the time and preferences of the coach and the eagerness of the player. This is a great time for tactical study with the Euros and Copa America on the horizon.

From the psychological side, this, again, is something coaches can and should implement in their practices and personal training sessions. As parents, we want to know that our kids are learning to cope with frustration, develop a sense of resilience, take on leadership opportunities, and know how to be good sportsmen without experiencing a drop in competitiveness. Much like the physical side, players can now get training in this specific area of the game through sports psychology.

If your area does not have sports or performance psychologists, or maybe the bank account rules out that option, there are several great resources available online or through bookstores. Dan Abraham's is one of our favorite sports psychologists. He has several books, as well as his podcast, The Sports Psych Show. This is something many older players would benefit from. The books and podcast offer a unique opportunity for sports psychology and personal growth. Even if your kids aren't actively seeing a psychologist, developing their character is a top priority for us parents. They should be getting some of that at home through family life, but we also want to encourage our kids to take ownership of their personal development. Encouraging them to read performance and sports psychology books, and even listen to character development podcasts, is a great starting point.

One of the beauties of enjoyable, structured training sessions is that they inspire the kids to bring that joy of learning back home. Individual and small group training delivers at-home training ideas that kids can fall back on in times of boredom. Within the unstructured home training environment, there are ideas for ball manipulation, 1v1s with siblings or neighborhood friends, or even small-sided games.

Whichever direction you lean, finding an enjoyable coach who can offer a clear idea of skill development is the key. Your child will have an idea of their soccer skillset deficiencies. Speak with them, or a previous coach, to figure out summer training priorities. The better the experience the coach can deliver, the better a relationship your child will have with the game and the more they’ll take ownership of their soccer development.

Before you sign them up for camps and private training sessions, the best advice I can give is to make sure it’s something they want. Their passion for the sport and desire for development must be the driver. If the passion is there, feed it.

Private training is just one summer activity to help your child’s development. Head back to Scott Martin Media next week for more summer play and development ideas.