Doesn't everyone enjoy toys?

Well, Coach Ken sure does.

On an annual basis, Coach Ken finds a new toy to add to his equipment list.  Some of these toys enable Coach Ken to use a stopwatch to time activities, and then illustrate to the player how much she or he has improved during the season.  These toys can help players learn soccer skills in varied methods; thus, keeping the players interested in sessions and keeping things "fresh." Of course, the coach too must stay fresh.   :)  

 

Soccer Rebounder

rebounder

The Soccer Rebounder is used to help players on first touch control and shooting accuracy at pace.  The Rebounder is usually used as part of a Skill Challenge.  The Skill Challenge is set up like the shape of a "Y" with the rebounder at the bottom of the "Y".  Players kick at the rebounder, control and turn to go to one target (one tip of the Y), and then turn again to go to the second target (the other tip of the Y), which brings them back to the rebounder, which they shoot again.  This process is repeated five times.  The distances are the same every time this challenge is used during the season.  Players are timed, and they try to set a new personal best every time. Coach Ken would recommend eager players purchasing their own rebounder to use at their home.  They are much lower cost now, and could be purchased for around $50.

In 2015, during the year:

  • top U12 girl improved her speed by 30%;
  • top U10 boy improved his speed by 34%
 Quick Feet

quickfeetQuick Feet, as you may have guessed, is all about quick touches with the soccer ball.  Coach Ken uses Quick Feet as part of a Skill Challenge to practice passing the ball with accuracy and pace, with both feet.  Cones are set up on the outside of each side of the Quick Feet hexagon.  Players are asked to complete a set amount right foot paces into the rebounder.  If the ball returns to them with the correct weight, they make a second touch / pass.  If the player does not use sufficient weight to return the ball to them, they must retrive the ball, bring the ball back to the cones, and kick.  Learning the proper weight of each touch is an important skill in passing.  The player continues until a set number of passes have been made.  This Skill Challenge is timed and players try to set their personal best every time out. Players do one set exclusively using one foot, then another set with their opposite foot, recording two different (and also discussion point) time differences.

In 2015, during the year:

  • top U12 girl improved her right foot speed by 53%, left foot speed by 65%;
  • top U10 boy improved his right foot speed by 41%, left foot speed by 59%.
Kwik Infinity Mini Weighted Goals (4)

mini goals"They might be small but they are costly," this is usually what you might hear Coach Ken saying on the sidelines during a practice.  And, it is true, purchasing four mini weighted goals was a pricely investment; however, this investment pays out great dividends for the players.  The Infinity mini goals were high on Coach Ken's Wish List but needed more inspiration to purchase them.  Then, he attended Coerver Coaching in Montreal in the Spring of 2015.  He observed these mini goals being used exclusively in a series of skill building exercises.  When he returned to PEI, he ordered them, and he uses them in various skill development sessions throughout the year.  Having four nets offers the opportunity to having two groups players working on 1 on 1 skills at the same time; so, players wait much less in lines for their turn to participate.  In addition to 1 on 1 skill games, the Kwik goals are also used for small sided games, teaching defending principles, and accuracy (the smaller the target, the more emphasis on accuracy). These nets can be purchased with weights or un-weighted; although the un-weigthed are less pricely, we live in PEI, the birthplace of wind. The choice was obvious.

Feel free to check out this video of one night in the Winter 2016 session using these Mini Nets . . . Coach Ken is sure you will agree these Mini Nets are extremely valuable for skill development:

 

Sklz 6 x 12 Portable Goals (2)
skilz netThese Sklz Portable Goals provide any area into a potential place for a game.  They are very useful in holding soccer camps where a portable goal option is needed.  For example, during a camp last year, Coach Ken was able to use these nets to build a session around one-touch passing with neutral support on the outside of the playing area.  The field was very small, with the two nets within 30 yards of each other; since the goal was actually to build the confidence of the players by scoring more goals, Coach Ken used these bigger nets and not the mini nets.  In addition, these nets enable a small-sided game to be occuring with one group of players while another group of players are at a different station. One of the great qualities of these nets is the fact the balls will usually "pop out" of the back of the net (not stay in the net) after a goal is scored; so, the session can continue with collecting the balls outside of the practice area so the session is not interupted by stopping play to pick up the balls in the net.  Plus, the yellow looks cool (the player in this photo even had to coordinate his clothes to look as sharp as the goal).
Sklz Speed Radar Gun

sklz gunOkay, this one is really a toy for Coach Ken.  Seriously, a speed radar gun that tells players how fast their soccer kick is.  Priceless.  Coach Ken will bring out the radar gun when he is working on sessions on kicking or finishing.  All the players top kick speeds are recorded and players attempt to set new personal bests.  On the second last day of practice last season, the players had the option to do several different sessions; however, they preferred to line up and wait their turn to see if they could improve their soccer kick speed.  This tool is valuable as a player learns by using the correct kicking technique and hitting the ball correctly, it will result in an harder kiced ball.  And, aside from the one on one technique coaching provided on proper technique, it is fun.  Players like fun.  Shocker, I know.

In 2015, during the year:

  • top U12 girl improved her power by 31%.  
  • top U12 girl kick speed was 68 km/h;
  • top U10 boy improved his power by 25%;
  • top U10 boy kick speed was 63 km/h
Indoor Soccer (Futsal) Balls
ballCoach Ken believes better player development happens on the hardwood floor of indoor gymnasiums by using futsal balls (not regular soccer balls).  Although an additional expense, this truly is an investment in the players.  Futsal balls are specialized balls designed as a low-bounce ball.  The Futsal ball gradually eliminates the "lazy pass" as well as enhancing proper form to propel the ball (knee bending, turn hips, and sweet spot striking).  As US Soccer says, "[r]epeated touches on the ball eventually produce a motion which, when transplanted outdoors with a high bounce ball, translates into a firmer and longer pass . . . If one works during the offseason on striking a Futsal ball, then a larger bouncier ball is struck with greater confidence and authority in the outdoor game." 
Agility Tools
sklz agilityYup, Coach Ken also has some of these in his tool box.  From agility ladders, to velcro "come stick with me" waist grippers, a little bit of everything.  Agility Ladder, also referred to as Speed Ladder is one of the best agility training equipment that helps an Athlete to learn a wide array of different movement patterns. Ladders are multi-directional tool for improving footwork and help to move feet quickly through complex patterns. These are the ideal training equipment that forces the feet to adopt extremely fast patterns of footwork by repeating the exercises over and over and user can easily increase and decrease the distance between 2 rungs to learn different phases of movement.

Coach Ken's Wish List

And, if you are interested, Coach Ken maintains a Wish List of items he is interested in.  Considering a Christmas present for the good ole Coach, check out his Wish List (ranked in order of wishes).  :)