The method to the madness
"Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate."
— Johan Cruyff
Why Group Training?
At Footwork Labs, much like the best professional youth academies in the world Ajax of Amsterdam, INF Clairefontaine in France, La Masia in Spain(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUoICVx5Jhw , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAL2PB9RNWc&t=2s), we believe in maximizing touches and decision making through small group training (preferably no more than 8) and 4v4 small sided games. Why? From the ages of 7 through 14 the most important part of development in soccer is technical ability on the ball. Don’t believe us? Check out one of the most respected developers of young soccer talent, Arsene Wenger, describing how to build a soccer player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G8E01bn7J4. Footwork Labs will first evaluate your player using an objective set of criteria. From that evaluation we will recommend a comprehensive program for your child to include a group (we call them Test Groups) of players at a similar level (not necessarily age or gender specific although we will do so when we can) to train together once or twice per week and play throughout the year in 4v4 leagues, tournaments, and other small sided tournaments in the area, State, and Nation.
What is Small Group Technical & Tactical Training?
Each and every position in the game of football ( soccer ) must have mastery of a few basic elements of technical ability. First touch, dribbling, passing, and shooting are the 4 core elements that all players must possess. Think of this as the sculptors tool kit, or the music theory that the musician learns before starting to write and perform original pieces. These are the bread and butter of any footballer. Soccer is a thinking game and we at Footwork Labs believe that every player has the potential to affect the game in any moment in a positive way. The disconnect that exists in many young players is that their feet can not execute what their mind sees. This is the disconnect or gap that Footwork Labs seeks to correct with our unique small group format. We believe that the success of a child's creative interpretation of the game is dependent upon the mastery of his or her technical ability. With that said the focus of Footwork Labs is not solely upon the technical mastery. The game of football begins first in the mind. The feet are just the tools. In order to be a truly special player the mental decision making aspect of the player must also be trained.
The full field game has 22 players and two coaches with which a player must be able to deal. There are dynamic moving parts all over the field and information to interpret at any given time. Unfortunately, for many players trained in traditional club settings, "paralysis by analysis" happens all too often. Players have a hard time both interpreting what they are seeing and making a decision upon that information. How does a player make any decision at all within a game like football where there is complete freedom? This is a question many players struggle to understand even as they mature into young adults and move on to college and professional levels. In fact, it is the question every player and coach spend their careers trying to master.
We all understand that all players need those 4 core pillars of technical ability to step on the pitch. But how do we train the mind to choose wisely and spontaneously? After watching countless hours of this game (professional, collegiate, and youth levels) and through research of the best youth academies in the world, that answer became obvious to us at Footwork Labs; Small group training that emphasizes technical mastery and tactical awareness with a heavy dose of 4v4 game play mixed in with gradually larger sides as they develop both physically and mentally. Why you ask?
How many times do you see Messi or Arjen Robben score that same far post whipping finish? Or how many times do you see Andrea Pirlo play the most exquisitely weighted 30 yard pass and drop it on the toe of his teammate in full stride? This is no accident, and though the technical ability may be impressive we assure you that at a point long ago in each of those players' careers, the technical skill became second nature and it was the tactical awareness need of the game that became the driving force. In ten minutes of watching highlight videos you can prove what I'm about to say for yourself on youtube. Every team has a style of play dictated by their formation, the strengths of the individual players and the interpretation of those two factors by the coach. Football is a game with complete freedom but in the organized game a player's options are narrowed down by the tactical context of the game. That means that when your child receives the ball in the heat of the game there are far fewer good options than bad ones. This is what we call "playing the numbers". Why is it that professionals turn over the ball so infrequently? It is because they understand that certain choices have a higher or lower success rate depending on the tactical context of the game. Why is your child losing the ball or not seeing the "obvious" pass? Why is he or she not shooting when the opportunity flashes? In our opinion it is always going to be one of three possibilities. They either don't have the technical mastery, don't understand which tool pull out of the tool kit for the occasion, and/or they don't understand the function of their role in the team due to the fact that their coach has not adequately explained it to them. There is a phrase that is popular in the culture of this game.
"Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is"
At Footwork Labs the training takes these elemental aspects of the game into consideration. Here we aim to build top quality players who's tekkers ( Technique) are just as surgical as their minds are calculating. We strive to make sure that players not only learn to control the ball, but how to read the game. We do technical training with a focus on the tactical contexts that your child will encounter in the real game! We want style and but not without substance, we want form but not with out function. We want to develop players that feel comfortable problem solving in pivotal moments during the game where space is limited and the margin for error is thin. At Footwork Labs we build players with technical precision and intelligent lucid problem solving ability.